Candles and Lanterns are the tools of the element of spirit, or akasha, or void (whatever you want to call it). It is that which flows through all things, that from which all things come forth, and that which is composed of all elements. It is a hermaphroditic element, being both completely male and female. Fire’s physical representation is the flame. Earth’s physical representation is the dirt in the ground. The physical representation of spirit is what we call in modern magical practice energy. Energy is invisible, but it is still sensible and quantifiable. Energy is what makes up your aura, your shield, it makes up the majority of your astral body and a good deal of your physical body. Energy manipulation is one of the basic magical abilities, and the vast majority of magic is dependent upon it.
The element of spirit is both active and passive at the same time, which also means that it is also neither active nor passive at the same time. It is a hermaphroditic element, being both masculine and feminine (and being both completely masculine and feminine). Spirit is seen as the first of the five elements, and Fire and Water spring forth from it (with Air and Earth coming forth from Fire and Water). Spirit is seen as the divine force. The element of spirit is also associated with our connection into the spiritual realm. Spirit is what connects us to what lies beyond our physicality. It also connects us to the divine source. And it connects us into every other thing in the universe.
It is actually the flame upon the candle or lantern that is representative of the element of spirit. This can get confusing because common sense would dictate that we should use a flame to represent fire, so candles and lanterns should be elemental tools of fire. However in practice a flame represents spirit.
Unfortunately energy, which is the manifestation that we attribute to spirit, is not recognized by the mundane world. Although energy can be sensed, manipulated, identified, and quantified by an experienced practitioner, the average person can only sense energy and only in a very limited way. Although energy can be quantified, it can not be quantified in an empirically quantified. There is no purely objective way to sense, identify, and categorize different energies. Because of this it is very difficult to find something which can be associated with spirit.
We use a flame because a flame seems to exist halfway between the two worlds (like energy), being as much physical as it is spiritual. A flame has no weight. When we light a torch, it doesn’t become heavier. It doesn’t have a physicality. We can pass our hand right through a flame. In this sense, a flame seems to be completely spiritual. Yet even the uninitiated with no ability to see spirits can see a flame. And if we touch a flame, it hurts. In this sense a flame is a very physical thing. This is very important to how we use flames in magic. Flames bridge the gap between physical actions and spiritual effects. Also if we burn something, it ceases to have a physically and instead ascends into a spiritual form.
Also of interest is that flames cast light. Since spirit is connected to the divine, this light is often associated with divine light and spiritual truth.
Using candles in magic
Candles are by far one of the most powerful and versatile magical tools. In fact it would be beyond the scope of a single blog post to completely explore the many uses and nuances of candle magic. Others have tried to condense the subject into large books and have still failed. If you’re looking for a book that goes over the basics of candle magic, I highly recommend The Magic Candle by Charmaine Day. If you’re already adept at candle magic, don’t expect to learn anything new from the book. It covers very basic theories and ideas that are key to understanding how to use candles in spellwork and ritual.
It’s important to remember that in ritual candles, particularly their flames, represent several things. They are a connection between the physical and the spiritual. They are a source of energy. They can also represent fire.
Another very important attribute of candles is that they burn. If you were to put something, like say energy, into a candle and then burn the candle, what was put into the candle would be released into the universe. If you were to carve a word or sigil into a candle, that word or sigil would go out into the universe once it burned.
Some Cool Things You Can Do With Candles (Far From All Inclusive)
Release a thought or idea into the universe: You can put a thought or idea into a candle. There are a couple of ways to do this. The simplest is to put energy into the candle containing the thought. Alternatively you can concentrate on the candle and try to push the thought into it. Then once the candle is lit and burns it will release the thought into the universe. So how is this useful?
As an example suppose you wanted someone you liked to ask you out. You would take a thought that would promote this, like “Rob is so hot” or “Rob would make such a great boyfriend”; or even something more direct like “I should ask Rob out” or “If I asked Rob out, I’m sure he’d say yes.” You concentrate on this thought and you concentrate on the person you want this thought to go to. Then you burn the candle and the thought will hopefully pop into their head.
Now suppose you didn’t concentrate on a person. Suppose you just put the thought “Rob would make such a great boyfriend” into the candle. Then you could take the candle to a crowded place, like a party, and light it. Now the thought might go into the heads of several different party guests.
As an offering to activate an altar: Candles are commonly used on altars. The main reason we do this is to attract the attention of whatever the altar is made to and activate the altar. For example if the altar were to a god, then we would be requesting the presence of that god and their energy in the room. Most of the time when a candle is lit on a deity’s altar the deity will show up. The candle can be put out before it finishes burning if needed, but if the candle is put out be careful to remember that the candle was used as an offering and who or what it was used as an offering too. The candle can be reused, but only as an offering to the same entity. If the candle was made as an offering to a deity I would highly recommend that it be reused until it is finished instead of throwing it away.
Summon a fire elemental into it: A candle has a flame on top of it so we can summon a fire elemental into it. In fact this is one of the best and easiest places to evoke a fire elemental. Fire elementals are very useful and there’s quite a lot that can be done with them.
Energize a seance: Candles provide a source of energy. This energy can be taken and used by spirits to manifest in different ways and perform different tasks. We see this done a lot in seances. Dead spirits are typically very weak and the candles provide a source of energy they can drain in order to materialize into this world to various degrees.
Sense some entities: One trick to discover certain kinds of spirits is to turn off all the lights at night and light a single candle. Move from room to room carrying the candle. If you notice the flame dramatically decrease to almost nothing you have a spirit in the room.
This is an old trick, and it only works with certain kinds of spirits. Once again this goes back to the energy in the flame. The spirit is trying to eat the energy, or in some cases trying to eat the light, and this causes the flame to go down.
The energy trick: The energy trick was actually taught to me as a party trick, but it can be used in other ways. Basically you can push energy into a candle to charge it. You can also leave it on an altar to charge it. In either case, the candle will fill with specific energy. Later you can burn the candle to release the energy.
With this method a candle can be charged over a long period of time and release very large amounts of energy when it is burned. The first time I saw this done was by a fellow who charged and dressed a candle every day for three months on top of a Martian altar (the candle was also left on top of the altar wrapped in cloth when he wasn’t charging it). After the three months he took the candle to a party and lit it. The effect was cool to say the least.
Burn on top of a symbol: One trick is to burn a candle on top of a symbol, the idea being that the energy from the symbol will be released upward as the candle burns. One of my favorite things to use for this is tarot cards. You can find certain decks (including the Rider-Waite) online. You can print the card out on to paper, cut them out of the paper, then use them in this ritual. You can use any symbol you feel comfortable with though. You can even write a word or phrase on a piece of paper and burn that.
When doing a spell like this, it’s helpful to empower the piece of paper containing the symbol prior to burning the candle on top of it. Charge the symbol with the proper energy. Meditate on the symbol. Concentrate on the symbol and its meaning.
Trap a spirit into it: This is a fairly basic attack. You can push spirits into things to trap them. You can push a spirit into a candle and trap it inside. Then you can burn the candle with the intent of causing pain to the spirit as the candle burns. Once the candle finishes burning the spirit will be freed, albeit harmed (this is important for me because I consider it unethical to permanently imprison things and recommend not doing it except in extreme circumstances).
You can grab a spirit’s energy and directly push it into a candle. An easier method though is to first pull the spirit into yourself, then push it out of yourself into the candle. The disadvantage of this method is that it leaves you very vulnerable to both attack and possession. You have to be able to overpower the spirit and keep control of your person once the spirit is inside of you. Once you push the spirit into yourself, retaining complete control over the spirit is the only defense you’ll have against it.
Wax divination: After a spell is performed you can divinate into the candle wax. Look into the wax and see if you see any shapes or forms. Often times these shapes will be related to the target of the spell, what has happened with the spell, and how successful it may or may not have been. Unfortunately wax divination isn’t always possible due to many modern candles being designed to burn evenly so they leave little to no wax when used properly.
Some Common Types of Candles
Pillar: Pillar candles are the most common types of candles for spellwork. They’re easy to find, they come in a variety of colors, they’re tall enough to dress, and they’re usually big enough to carve words and symbols into. They also lie flat on a surface which is good if you want to burn a symbol under them.
Taper: Tapers are almost as common as pillars, but they’re a bit less useful. Tapers need special candle holders designed specifically for taper candles. Tapers can’t stand up on their own, so you can’t burn them on top of symbols. Lastly it’s difficult to carve words and symbols into tappers because of how thin they are.
Tea Lights: Tea lights have very limited use in ritual and spellwork. They’re small, they burn out quickly, and they’re in those little metal cases so you can’t carve into them.
Image: Image candles are candles in the shape of a person (either a man or woman). They are one of the more useful candles out there. If you want to cast a spell on someone or a spell that will affect someone, even yourself, image candles can help make the spell stronger. The idea being that we connect the candle to a specific person, then we either physically do to the candle, or enchant the candle, in the way we want to affect that person, then we light the candle and let it burn until it finishes.
7-Knob: Seven knob candles are candles that have seven different parts, the idea being that you light the candle at seven different times, each time burning off a different part. Knob candles are typically used for week long spells. Part of the ritual is performed every day over a seven day period and the candle is lit and one knob is burned. At the end of the seventh day the ritual is complete. Typically this extra attention will make spells much stronger and much more successful.
Black Candles: If candle color is important to you, black candles can be very hard to get. Magic stores are the only places that stock them year round, and they often charge more for their black candles, meanwhile their normal candles are already over-priced. From late August through the end of October is the only time of year that normal stores stock black candles, so it’s a good idea to stock up for the entire year during these two months. It’s also a good time to buy orange candles (which are also usually difficult to find).
Other things to get for your candles
Lighter: I recommend getting one of the long plastic lighters that are used for lighting grills. They’re cheap and easy to find and are great for lighting candles. Cigarette lighters don’t work very well because they’re made to be lit for only a short period of time and to be held upright. Many times a candle’s wick can take a while to light, and a disposable cigarette lighter will heat up pretty fast, burning your hand. Likewise a cigarette lighter is meant to be held upright. When you go to light a candle with it usually you’ll need to hold the lighter at a downward angle. This causes the flame to come up and burn your hand.
I do not recommend using matches in spellwork and ritual. The reason being, if you work with fire elementals they can hide in an unlit match and lay dormant for a very long time. You probably won’t even notice they’re hiding in there until you light the match. With a fire elemental inside the entire match can become engulfed within the flame and burn your finger almost as soon as it is lit. Then you panic and try to blow out the flame, but the flame’s too strong and blowing on it won’t put it out. But the bottom part of the match, which is on fire too, is weaker than it should be and weaker than the top part, and when you blow on it you can snap the top half of the match off from the bottom. Now you have a ball of fire hurling across the room until it hits the wall and lands behind the very heavy entertainment center. Then you have to frantically pull things off the entertainment center and move it so you can put out the fire behind it before it does too much damage. If you think this is too specific to be hypothetical, you’re right. I’m speaking from experience. Matches are a bad idea.
Candle Holder: Metal and wood candle holders are best. Which you choose is really a matter of personal taste. Metal holds energy better but wood will absorb it better. If you’d like to get a better idea of the specific properties of metal and wood I talk about them in greater detail in the articles dealing with Knives and Swords and Wands and Staves.
However glass candle holders are not the best choice. Glass is very fragile, and when you put lots of energy into it, it can vibrate a bit. When a glass candle holder is regularly used, sooner or later a spell is cast that is so powerful it breaks the candle holder.
Candle Snuffer: Basic candle safety rules suggest using a candle snuffer. Blowing out a candle causes it to burn unevenly when it is relit.
When working magic a candle snuffer becomes even more important. Magical spells can do weird things to flames. Lots of practitioners develop the ability to manipulate fire, at least to a small degree, and make flames do things they shouldn’t. Lastly fire elementals can cause flames to get very high or move and jump in strange ways. In all of these cases it’s not the brightest idea to put your face close to the flame to blow it out. In some of the worst cases practitioners have had fire elementals force the flame into their mouth while they were trying to blow out the candle.
Of course it’s very rare that anyone suffers any kind of injury from blowing out candles. Most of the time nothing bad happens. Still candle snuffers are cheap and easy to use, and many practitioners (myself included) consider it a worthwhile fire safety practice.
Hurricane Glass: Hurricane glass is a piece of glass, usually shaped like an upside down vase, that you put a candle inside. You use hurricane glass when you want to light a candle inside of a draft, either from your air vents or a fan or an open window.
Dressing Cloth: A dressing cloth is a piece of cloth you use to dress a candle with oil. Generally you can use each corner to dress four different candles with one cloth, but the cloth needs to be washed after every use. These things end up being a pain to clean all the time. Most of the time I usually just use paper towel.
Dressing Oils: If you use unscented candles, you can buy oils to dress your candle with. Generally we use oils that are either associated with the type of spell we are casting, or we use oils that are associated with specific elements or gods. As a general rule, the associations for the various oils are the same as the associations for the various incenses. Just about any scent of oil can be found as an incense, and vice-versa.
Remember that essential oils are pure oils, and they need to be diluted before use. Also be careful because some disreputable companies sell already diluted fragrance oils with brand names that include the word essential, so make sure you read the small print on the bottle.
Herbs: You can make your own oil out of herbs. I plan to go into more detail on how to do this in a future post (it’s quite simple actually). Whenever you burn herbs, even as an oil around a candle, you need to be sure that you know everything about the herb you’re burning, what its effects on people are, and specifically what effect it may have on you or anyone else in your home. Even if a particular herb is normally safe, you can still have a potentially fatal allergic reaction to it.
Dressing a Candle
Dressing a candle is rubbing oil (or some other substance, like say blood) on the candle with a cloth. A lot of people prefer to charge a candle with energy while they are dressing it (for most people this makes charging the candle easier), but not everybody does this. You take your cloth and dab oil on to it. If you plan to use the cloth for more than one candle, then you would dab only one corner of the cloth. You either start at the top or the bottom, and you move the cloth around the candle in a spiral motion. Typically if you’re going down you go clockwise, if you’re going up you go counter-clockwise. Dressing a candle downward symbolizes putting something into the candle, like charging it with energy. Dressing a candle upward symbolizes something coming out of the candle (typically when it will be burned later in the ritual), like the energy the candle has been charged with being released into the room. You can also dress a candle downward, and then dress it upward, in order to symbolize something going into the candle and then coming out later on.
Candle Energy Manipulation Tips and Tricks
-One commonly used candle charging trick is to put your hand over a candle and push energy out of your fingertips into the top of the candle. While doing this move your hand in a clockwise motion over the candle. Moving your hand in a counter-clockwise motion meanwhile will discharge the energy.
Remember when you work with screws that have normal threads on them, screwing it clockwise will make it go into the hole, and screwing it counter-clockwise will make it come out. It’s a process that seeps into our brains (unless your the sort of person who routinely uses screws with left-handed threads) and we associate clockwise with going in and counter-clockwise with coming out. Also because they’re opposite motions, most of us will subconsciously come to the logical conclusion that they should have opposite effects and one should undo what the other one does.
-A lot of practitioners use specifically colored candles to help with energy manipulation. I’m going to go into more detail about this later with a post on the relationship between color and energy. It’s not as important to candle magic as some people make it out to be. Cheap candle dyes are a relatively recent invention, as is the popularity of color coded candle magic.
If there is any doubt about color, white candles will work with just about any spell. White is a blank color. All it will do is magnify the power of the spell and help push whatever is within it outward into the universe.
Many magicians are very bad with fire safety. You should probably buy a fire extinguisher prior to doing any candle magic, because if you practice magic there’s a 95% chance you’re the kind of person who will set their home on fire once a month or more.
Sometimes because of magical practices we have to do things which go against general candle safety rules. We might have to let a candle burn for many hours, and we won’t be available to watch it for this entire period. We might have to light two candles right next to each other. We may put nails or other objects into the candles (note that I am not suggesting anyone do these things. These are all unsafe candle practices that no one should do. Do them at your own risk, you may burn down your home).
A lot of magic fires are due to a lack of common sense though. Don’t light candles near walls or curtains. Always use candle holders. Don’t light a dozen or more candles right next to each other. Don’t light candles in the middle of a breeze or draft. Keep flammable liquids (including Bacardi 151) away from candles. Don’t wear loose fitting clothing or robes to ritual, or if you do keep a good distance between yourself and all lit candles. Only use stable candle holders that won’t fall down when lightly tapped. If you’re saying ‘duh’ to all of these suggestions, congratulations, you’re in the top 20th percentile of all magical practitioners.
I’d also like to reiterate my other suggestions, which are specifically in regard to magical candles. Don’t use matches (because fire elementals can hide in them) and buy a candle snuffer.
This is far from an all inclusive candle fire safety list. I’d suggest extensive online and offline reading on the subject before working with candles. Granted most people in the world, by the time their parents let them use a match or lighter, know enough about candle fire safety to light a candle. However since you practice magic, I’m assuming (based on general trends) that you are not one of these people, and have no clue how to light a candle without setting yourself and home on fire.
Finally we get to lanterns, and by lanterns I mean oil based lanterns that have a flame. Electric lanterns, like electric candles, aren’t all that useful in ritual work.
Lanterns are cool magical tools, but most people don’t use them. In a lot of ways they serve the same purpose as candles. The main advantage to using a lantern is that a candle is disposable and lanterns are reusable. Every time we use a magical tool, it becomes more powerful and stronger. Candles we only get to use once. Likewise if we invest the time and energy into charging and enchanting a candle, once the spell is over with the candle is gone. But if we do this with a lantern, after the spell we still have a charged and enchanted lantern.
The main disadvantage to lanterns is that they aren’t disposable. One of the reasons why candles are so useful in ritual work is because the burn up. The candle, and anything we’ve put inside of it, goes out into the spiritual realm of the universe. If we put a thought into our lantern (using the same method we would with a candle), we now have to set our lantern on fire in order to send that thought into the universe (at which point we no longer have a lantern, and they cost more money than candles). So what a lantern can do is actually quite limited, which is why so few people use them.
Lanterns can be used as sources of energy during a ritual. The flame provides a constant source of energy. Meanwhile most lanterns are metal, and metal is very good at holding a charge. If there is glass on the lantern, that can be used to amplify the energy. As the lantern is used more it becomes more powerful, and it can send out more energy when lit. A good lantern, when lit, can fill a room with strong energy.
You could, if you wanted to, enchant the lantern so that produces a specific type of energy when lit. The lantern needs to be compatible with the type of energy you want it to produce. If you continually charged the lantern with that kind of energy again and again, eventually it should naturally produce only that kind of energy. If you’re a little more advanced with energy manipulation, while you’re charging the lantern you can go into it and change it’s bias so it only produces that specific type of energy. This is just a quicker method of doing the same thing.
Some reasons why you might want to enchant a lantern like this: You can give the lantern a generally favorable energy, like joy or love or calm, and you can light it when you have company in order to promote a better ambience and mood. If there’s a specific energy you prefer working with when you do your rituals you can set up your lantern to produce this type of energy for your rituals. You can also make the lantern more active. If the lantern had an aggressive and purifying energy, for instance, it could then be lit as an attack when cleaning a house of unwanted spirits. There’s actually quite a bit you can do with a lantern by modifying its energy.
You could also enchant the lantern with a thought or message so that every time it is lit, it blasts that thought into the minds of everyone near by. This really isn’t all that useful though, mainly because the message would be so specific that the lantern would probably be useless most of the time.