The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
Candle magic, also known as “the philosophy of fire,” ranks among the most beloved and popular magical arts. It is not an ancient art: wax candles were once rare and prohibitively expensive. Until the twentieth century candles were not readily accessible to the average person. With the development of paraffin wax, however, candle burning developed into one of the most prevalent arts. Many modern witches might not be able to conceive of casting a spell without the incorporation of candles.
Candle magic involves the use of candles in spell-casting. Candle magic spells can be extremely simple or incredibly complex. The simplest candle spell involves holding a candle in your hands while focusing intensely on your goals, desires, and aspirations, then lighting the candle.
A complex candle spell might incorporate several candles. Color and style of the candle might be dependent on various astrological, magical, and spiritual correspondences. Individual candles might be lit at a specific moment (not necessarily all at the same moment), left to burn for a specific period of time, then pinched out and lit again at specific intervals.
Before wax, there was tallow. Comparatively inexpensive candles were crafted from animal fat. Tallow candles smoke heavily and have a strong aroma, however some prefer them for magical use. Tallow candles can be found in stores catering to Latin American magical practitioners.
Modern candle burning derives primarily from two sources. The first is the ancient art of the magic lamp. Before there were inexpensive candles, there were oil lamps. Cotton wicks were floated in small terracotta pots filled with oil. These wicks were lit, observed and interpreted. Magic lamps were popular throughout Asia and Africa; they retain their popularity in India and the Middle East. Magic lamps based on this concept also remain popular in the French Caribbean and in New Orleans Voodoo.
The second source is ecclesiastical use. For centuries, fine wax candles were reserved for church use. Among the first innovators of candle magic were theologians who secretly dabbled in magic. Other people stole candles from church in order to obtain supplies. This was very dangerous; if caught, they would be vulnerable to charges of heresy, witchcraft, and Satanism for daring to use church property for personal gain.
Candle burning is associated with many types of magic and many different traditions. It is now considered part of mainstream Western magic but for a long time was specifically associated with New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo, where candle magic is known as “setting lights.” Thus someone will “set lights” to achieve health and happiness, for instance.
A vast variety of candles are now available in different shapes and colors. Candles are chosen to suit the specific spell. That said, a white candle may always be used in any spell, as the equivalent of a magical blank slate.
Although there are many methods of candle magic, the following is a standard method based on Hoodoo tradition. Candles are crafted by charging, carving, and dressing them.
Charging the candle means magically transmitting one’s goals and aspirations to the candle. This is done by holding the candle in both hands, closing your eyes, and focusing intently on your desires. This is deceptively simple: the key is to achieve a level of focus and intensity. Take as much time as you need.
Some charge the candle at the beginning of the spell, prior to carving, others when the candle is fully dressed, and others at both times and at various periods in between as inspiration hits.
Carving a candle means using a tool to write words, sigils, and symbols in the wax or to draw pictures or images. The goal is to personalize the candle. Thus a candle intended to provide distance healing might be carved with the spell target’s name, birthday, astrological symbol, and perhaps a phrase encapsulating the spell’s goal—something as basic as “I am healthy now” or “I am cancer free.”
Magical arts in general, and candle magic in particular, are not compatible with multi-tasking. A spell cannot be effectively accomplished unless it has your completely undivided attention. So turn off the cell phone; shut off the television. Lock yourself in the bathroom, if that is the only place where you are assured privacy. The candles, oils, and herbs incorporated into candle magic are merely devices. The magic power that ultimately turns the key to success derives from within you.
Love spells frequently utilize a candle to represent each partner. Each candle would thus be carved (personalized) with that person’s name, birthday, identifying information, and so forth.
The candle may now be dressed. Don’t start crocheting little clothes; it’s not necessary. Dressing usually indicates rubbing the candle with oil; however it may incorporate further embellishment such as rolling it in herbs or glitter or anything that can be safely burned.
Oils are selected to magically enhance the goal of the spell. Hoodoo has an elaborate science of what are known as “condition oils” (because they’re intended to cure your condition). These once mass-marketed formulas have specific names and ideally are crafted from authentic materials. Commercial products are often little more than mineral oil and food coloring. It’s best to craft one’s own oils or only purchase from reputable practitioners and manufacturers.
The candle may now be charged again, if desired, and burned. The basic philosophy behind candle burning is that matter never entirely disappears. When candles burn they appear to disappear but (metaphysically speaking) in the process are actually transmitting the candle’s goal (its “charge”) to the powers that decide such matters.
Candles may be burned all at once or at intervals. Reaffirm the spell’s goal each time you light the candle. It is considered bad metaphysical manners to ever blow out a candle. Pinch it out instead or smother the flames with a candlesnuffer or small fireproof plate placed over the flame until it goes out.
Professional magical practitioners and stores that sell occult and spiritual supplies make and sell candles to suit the needs of individual spellcasters. Some people prefer to have a professional craft their candles, although the advantage of doing it oneself is that one transmits one’s own energy into the candle at every stage, thus enhancing its power. However, some professionals are expert candle-workers and may have access to a wider range of botanical and other materials. Should one purchase a candle crafted by another, the spell-caster should still personally charge it, as intensely as possible, for optimum chances of success.
Candle burning, as perhaps befitting its early church background, is an inherently spiritual art. Candles are often incorporated into spiritual petition. Candles are color-coordinated to match a saint or deity’s sacred colors, thus candles for the orisha Oshun are customarily yellow.
Spirits and saints possess specific sacred colors; those heavily incorporating astrology into their craft might choose colors based on astrological correspondences. Beyond that, however, perceptions of colors are intensely personal. If green symbolizes romance for you, then incorporate that color into your romantic spells, even if that is not the conventional correspondence. Candle magic is a very personal magical art; the more vividly one personalizes any candle the more likely it is to achieve success.
That said, the following are traditional color correspondences:
Black: fertility, healing, prosperity, protection. Black candles are burned in malevolent spells but also used in defensive magic to counteract another’s negative intentions
Blue: healing (especially emotional and psychic healing), protection, the power of the Sacred Mother; blue banishes malevolent spirits
Brown: justice, stability, prosperity
Gold: wealth, glory, victory, solar magic
Green: growth, prosperity, fertility, financial success, healing especially for physical ailments including cancer and other serious maladies
Pink: self-love, self-confidence, youthful romance, spells to benefit children
Purple: personal power, self-confidence, sex
Red: luck, protection, self-defense, prosperity, healing in terms of general vitality, love, sex and romance, menstrual magic, fertility
Silver: lunar power, personal fertility, success, lunar deities
White: creativity, initiating new projects, lunar magic. White candles can be used to substitute for any other color if necessary or desired
Yellow: Love, romance
Once upon a time, you were lucky to get a plain wax candle versus the omnipresent tallow; today candles come in every imaginable form, some so beautiful it’s impossible to burn them.
Candles are easily handcrafted as well. Wax molds are available to make sophisticated shapes in addition to the standard candle-crafting materials and tools. Sheets of beeswax can be rolled and folded to form beautiful, exceptionally fragrant candles.
Candles now come in an almost unimaginable variety; part of the fun of candle magic is searching for unique ones as well as letting the candles find you.