How to Look at a Candle

© Copyright 2018 Stephanie Palumbo, Ryerson University.

The flickering flame that burns brightly when you light a candle can represent a myriad of occasions: celebrating a birthday; honouring a loved one; or for the magically inclined, perhaps a ritual or spell. No matter the purpose, they have a remarkable ability to trigger emotions and memories due to the vast array of colours and scents they are available in and the shared acknowledgement that they are a symbol of hope. They can be as simple as tapers or as elaborate as hand carved masterpieces, but the sensual appeal transcends any level of extravagance.

quinntheislander. Pixabay, 27 June 2016, photograph.

Versatility and the common presence in most households has made the candle one of the simplest forms of casting magick, and its role in spell work is often associated with purification, meditation, and transformation. A widespread method of releasing negative energy is to burn an object, typically something fibrous that will easily ignite, like writing on a piece of paper and burning the paper. “Each element has two sides, creation and destruction”, but in this type of spell the destruction is beneficial as it acts as a cleansing of the unwanted association the subject shares with the object (RavenWolf 409).

AmberAvalona. Pixabay, 1 Jan 2000, photograph.

Witches recognize the destructive power of fire and treat it with respect while working with it. They understand that a candle’s flame can easily grow out of control even though it may be small and contained. This makes it extremely pertinent to learn fire safety measures because when practicing meditation or divination the practitioner may be unaware of potential dangers once deep in their work. Silver RavenWolf pays close attention to including candle safety in her book because “burning items can emit noxious fumes and wax images can billow into an inferno” (409). She clearly identifies six things to look out for and suggests methods to ensure the lowest risk of an accidental fire. Also, it is never a bad idea to brush up on specific safety practices when dealing with open flames.

Sadly, according to the National Candle Association, “nearly 10,000 residential fires are caused each year by the careless or inappropriate use of candles”, with an average of around 25 being reported per day (Fire Safety and Candles). While it is hard to give up the aesthetic of the candle, the risk of losing your home should be enough of an incentive to take the proper precautions to prevent any such disaster.

There are multiple ways to customize a candle that will heighten the impact of a specific spell or ritual. Colourful layers can be achieved through the process of hand dipping candles. Hand dipping is the method with the most historical significance as well, since it is the most ancient technique and for centuries was the most commonly employed (Butler 5). A witch can carve meaningful symbols and designs, like runes or pentagrams, into the candle due to the soft, yet durable, nature of the wax. Notches can also be grooved to represent the passing of time.

However, candle magick is not exclusive to witchcraft; just think of blowing out a candle on your birthday and making a wish; “this tradition is based on the three principles of magick: being concentration, will power, and visualization” (Sorita). There are many other religions and cultures that celebrate through candle rituals, even if they are not labelled as such, as candles are a basic way of connecting with the spiritual realm. Candle magick is practiced in many day to day traditions, and most of the time go unnoticed due to how natural and ingrained into a culture they can be.

With 5,000 years of history behind it, the candle continues to light our way through the dark times and into the future. So next time you light a candle, instead of lighting it only for that wonderfully intoxicating smell, perhaps hold your own form of ritual in honour of something or someone special to you.

Work Cited

AmberAvalona. Pixabay, 1 Jan 2000, photograph.

Butler, Joseph T. Candleholders in America, 1650-1900: A Comprehensive Collection of American and European Candle Fixtures Used in America. Bonanza Books, 1967. Print.

quinntheislander. Pixabay, 27 June 2016, photograph.

RavenWolf, Silver. Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation. Lleewellyn Publications, 2003. Print.

Sorita. “Candle Magic.” The Pagan Library. Avalonia Books, 12 June 2016. Web. 12 Feb 2018.

Unknown. “Fire Safety and Candles.” National Candle Association. Kellen Communications. Web. 10 Feb 2017.


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