Popular images of magic and witchcraft often depict robed figures in the dark, illuminated by candlelight. Dark rituals lit by black candles are common in the public’s imagination. New Age shops sell candles to devotees of all religions, be they plain, in votive jars, anointed with oils, or even wrapped in paper inscribed with spells to speak over them.
And this image is not unjustified. Candle magic is a very popular, adaptable, and effective techique for sending your will into the Universe. From adding mood to a greater ritual to acting as the vehicle for magical energies to be focused for a particular purpose, candle magic is highly useful to any witch or magician looking for a simple and powerful tool.
Candle magic is an accessible, effective, and adaptable form of spellcasting. While there are some cases where candles are not practical, there are several reasons why candle magic is a suitable method to employ.
One obvious benefit to candle magic is that your materials are readily available. Candles can be found all over and in all shapes in sizes. There are elaborate specialty stores with hand-dipped candles available, or Wal-Mart is right down the street. Essential oils and herbs to anoint candles might be a little harder to come by, but can still be found fairly easily in most supermarkets or organic food store.
Candle magic can take a while, as can other magical work or ritual. From a practical perspective, it simply takes a while for candles to burn down. But candles can be prepared for magic in a relatively short amount of time and then be burned at your discretion. The advantage of this is that you can cast a spell or do candle magic in the company of others and disguise what you are doing as a decorative or mood setting act. This assumes, of course, you are in control of the environment enough to be able to burn candles, but would work very well if unexpected company came over, or if other family members were not open to magic but fine with accent candles. Just be cautious: hiding magic in plain sight like this comes with the risk of others blowing out your candles before the magic is done!
Candle magic has another interesting and very useful aspect: it can be used to augment the environment where other magic is being performed. A ritual or ceremonial magic can be attended by candles anointed or charged in such a way that they lend extra power to whatever magic is underway. Group rituals can be greatly enhanced by this, as individuals in the group can charge their own candles which are then burned at the same time, or similarly candles can be passed around with everyone adding energy to them.
Candle magic is very versatile, and can be implemented many different ways and to many different effects. While the techniques for using candles in magic are certainly vast, there are three basic methods that seem to underlie the others in some way.
The simplest method of candle magic is what I think of as “imprinting.” The candle is charged with energy and some manner of intent or instruction, and then lit. As the candle burns, the energy is released and the instructions are free to manifest. This action can be enhanced by including other people, or by using stones and herbs to raise more energy to put in the candle.
Candle magic can also be performed by employing candles of particular colors in certain relationship to one another, and even changing that relationship (for example, moving two candles toward each other to bring something to you). Research must be done to select the appropriate colors and combinations, but many quality resources exist to find these associations. (I recommend Tina Ketch’s Candle Lighting Encyclopedia. She also has extensive information of angelic correspondences and planetary hours. And she’s Catholic!) Scented oils can be used the same way, as well as herbs corresponding to the desired result. Anyone skilled in the art of crafting their own candles has an advantage here, as herbs, oils, and coloring can be included while the candle is created. Indeed, the magical charge may even be added at such a time.
Another means of using candle magic is to use the candle as a base for a sigil. (Much good information is available on sigil magic. It is a simple means of rendering instructions into a form that your magical mind can use effectively.) Essentially, you render a statement of intent as an abstract image and carve it into the candle. The sigil is then charged, as is the candle. The candle is then lit, with the understanding that the energy released will activate the sigil and “launch” the spell. (A variant of this technique is to leave the sigil on a paper which is then wrapped around the candle or tucked under it. This works best with tea light candles.) This can actually be done fairly quickly, and the larger the candle, the more energy it can “hold.” I have used this technique on the fly to cleanse rooms and buildings from negative influences, to establish basic wards, and for healing. This is probably my most often used candle magic technique due to its simplicity, versatility, and effectiveness.
And of course, these techniques are not mutually exclusive. The third technique actually employs the first to some degree, and a sigil can easily be carved on a colored candle that is then anointed with oils. One simply has to consider how much preparation time and what resources are available. How elaborate you get is up to you.
Using candles as a base for magical spells — especially charged sigils — presents another useful technique: preparing spells ahead of time. The charging of the candle can take place at an optimal time: during a full moon or a certain astrological configuration, for example. Or candles charged with healing energy can be prepared while in full health. These candles can then be stored and activated when needed at a later date, when the time or energy to perform needed spellwork may not be available. (I strongly suggest this for healing candles — it’s hard for me to raise the energy for effective healing magic when I’m sick, which is when I need it most.)