Magic without Candles by Michael Furie
Pick up almost any book on magic or read just about any article or web page on the subject of spells, and you are very likely to run across the instruction to light candles. Most formal spellwork involves the use of candles or fire in some form. It is a powerful means of changing the atmosphere and releasing energy, but what if you cannot (or choose not to) strike a magical flame for your working? What do you do as an alternative to using candles if it is during the heat of summer or your smoke alarm is too sensitive or you’re just out of candles?
The four physical elements of magic (air, water, earth, and fire) each have their own qualities and mechanisms of action, but all are capable of transmitting energy and intention. Though fire is expansive and light-emitting, thus transferring its message at a fast pace, the smoke of incense can be just as effective. Incense has been used since ancient times to carry our prayers and intents to the gods, and while this may not be the focus of every form of magic, this principle can still be applied. If the incense, whether raw, homemade, or store bought, is infused with the energy of your specific magical intention and then lit to smolder and release the smoke and the magic directed toward your goal, this can be as effective as any candle working. The power of fire is still being utilized in this scenario, as it is the catalyst for the incense smoke. If your desire is to move away from the fiery element altogether, effective magic can still be worked through the other elemental forces, such as harnessing the power of water.
Witches cooking up a brew in a cauldron situated over a fire is a classic magical image and, while a bit of a stereotype, is still a legitimate practice. Infusing the essences of perfectly aligned herbs into pure water and combining this mixture with your intention can be a great way to unleash magic toward your goals. The resulting brew can be poured out onto the land or in a moving body of water to send its power out to manifest the magic. Brews, blessed pure water, and salt water can all be used as anointing liquids as well. Dabbing a bit of the liquid on the person or object to be affected can transfer the magic directly to them through the power of the water element. Anointing a symbolic object that is then used as a talisman can be an effective means of manifesting something physical without using formalized ritual. The power of water in all its forms is one of motion, adaptability, feeling, and magnetic change; water greatly helps draw things in as its means of manifestation.
The earth element, however, is related more to solid stability and physicality—the completed power of elemental condensation. In most magical thought, the earth element is the final formation, its solid nature being born of the other three forces. This nature usually means that earth is the slowest element to bring manifestation but that it also can be the most complete and satisfying in its scope. Here are two powerful methods of utilizing the power of earth in your magic.
Make a Bundle
The first option is to make a bundle, sachet, or charm bag to suit your intention and bury it in the ground to release its energies into the earth to manifest the magic. Filling a biodegradable pouch with herbs and items that correspond to your magical goal, charging the bundle with your intent and gifting it to the land to release the magic is a powerful means of spellwork that is less often discussed today.
The main focus tends to be in burying the remnants from other types of magic as a final task, but this method is the complete method of magic. A key point is to make sure that the items going into the bundle are safe to be placed in the ground. Adding a bunch of salt, toxic ingredients, or synthetic fabrics would not be advisable. Simply make sure that all the ingredients align with your goal, such as basil and sage leaves with some marjoram and mint, brought together in a gold cloth pouch for prosperity. With your need written on a piece of paper, add a coin, seal the bag, and bury it in the ground. This technique can be used for any purpose. Change the herbs, items, and fabric colors to suit the goal and proceed as usual.
A second means of tapping into the power of the earth element is by way of stone magic. With this technique, you have the choice of selecting a crystal or gem with traditional properties corresponding to your goal, using a clear quartz crystal in your magic, or enchanting a “regular” stone from your local area.
Choosing a crystal that carries a natural alignment to your goal, such as rose quartz for love or green aventurine for prosperity, can help to speed up the transmission of your magical intention and can be a great option if you have the necessary stone on hand. If, however, your crystal supply is limited or your goal is more complex and spans multiple intentions, a clear quartz stone is an ideal choice. The energy of clear quartz is wide-ranging and useful for projecting any and all intentions. When the magic is related to locality, the spirit of place, safety, return travel, and so forth, a stone gathered from your local area can be invaluable. In a similar manner, if you desire to move or travel back to a specific place, a stone from that area can be charged as a talisman of your desire; the only caution would be to avoid taking anything from a protected, private, or dangerous area.
To charge the stone, hold it in your hands and visualize (and/or remember) the land you seek, filling the stone with this energy. Focus strongly upon your intention and mentally transfer this into the stone. Carry this stone with you as a talisman or send it to someone you know in that area (if any cooperative people are available) and have them keep it as a magical beacon to draw you back to that place.
Substitutions for Candles
Finally, if you already have a spell or ritual in mind that would normally require candles and you need to modify it (for whatever reason) and substitute for one or more candles, there are a few simple options from which to choose. Flowers emit a strong energetic power and can sit in place of a candle if needed. A single red rose, carnation, or tulip, for example, can replace a red candle in a spell. Small pots (or bundles) of fresh herbs can also be used as stand-ins for candles. The herbs can be chosen according to their alignment to your spell’s goal, or a single plant can be utilized. One such herb is mullein (Verbascum thapsus). Old folk names for mullein include “candlewick plant” and “hag’s tapers,” and these names are related to its prior use as wicks in early candle making. Pieces of the stalk used to be occasionally made into wicks for candles, but the plant itself can also be used as a substitute for the whole candle. The stalks can be charged as if they were candles and set on the altar in their place (unlit, of course) to hold the energy of the spell.
One last option for casting a spell without the use of traditional candles is a thoroughly modern method: the use of artificial candles. Though these electronic, battery-operated lights are not the same, since they have been crafted to resemble candles and do generate an ambient glow, they can be used to help lend the appropriate atmosphere to magical workings. Some Witches, such as the late Marion Weinstein, have used them in instances when regular candles would not be safe or advised, such as outdoors or around small children or animals. There are some types that are coated in actual wax and have a “realistic” flicker to them, and these are the best to use for magical purposes. They can actually be charged with intent and though they might not function in the same way, the electric candle will still emit the energy of our intent out through its light.
Even though candles and, indeed, the power of fire in general are critical components of most spellwork, having an open flame (or several) is not always feasible for a variety of reasons. Even if we cannot kindle a magical fire, that need not be a stumbling block to the casting of spells. Magic is a gift that is not strictly tied to a single practice or procedure. We have the power of innovation and experimentation on our side, and with these abilities we can develop new avenues for our magical expression so that our power to manifest our goals remains strong.