It’s often said that candle magic is one of the oldest forms of magic in human history. Whether or not this is technically correct, it’s certainly true that fire was sacred to our pagan ancestors, who honored and supplicated their deities not just with candles, but also torches, balefires and even flaming wheels. Given that fire was the only available source of illumination besides the Sun and the Moon until relatively recently, it’s easy to see why the flame has been a symbol of sacred power throughout our known history.
Of course, this reverence for the inherent energies of fire has continued long after the invention of modern lighting. Many religions today continue to make use of candles, whether in formal religious services or in the practice of lighting votive candles for specific intentions. Even in the mainstream secular world, we pay homage to the transformative power of fire by wishing on birthday candles before blowing them out.
Perhaps this familiar custom is what makes candles so attractive to people who are curious about magic. There’s just something about a candle flame that conjures a pleasant atmosphere. We feel peaceful, more at ease gazing into the flickering, dancing, living light. In fact, lighting a candle is one of the easiest ways to begin shifting out of ordinary reality and connecting with the unseen energies all around us, whether or not any spellwork is on your agenda.
Beginners’ “Luck” in Candle Magic
For anyone just beginning to explore spellwork, candle magic is indeed an excellent starting point, and many Wiccans who practice magic are particularly fond of this form. Simple, elegant and straightforward, basic candle spells can help you build and strengthen your “magical muscles”—in other words, your ability to focus and direct your energy into your intention. After all, it’s really the power of thought that lies underneath both the simplest and the most complex forms of magic.
More specifically, magic is the art of sending a particular thought, into the spiritual plane to be manifested and returned to the physical plane. For those just starting out, candles make for particularly helpful “messengers.” The request being made (also called the intention) is sent through the medium of the flame. As the candle burns, it disappears, leaving the material plane and joining the ethereal one, carrying with it the message of the intention. This physical example of transformation is particularly useful to beginning magicians, who can use it to help them visualize the manifestation process.
As a symbolic object, the candle is a well-balanced representation of the Elements. The wick and the base of the candle represent the Earth Element, which is necessary to keep the flame both grounded and able to stay lit. The wax, which transforms from a solid to a liquid and then to a gas, represents the shape-shifting characteristics of the Water Element. The Air Element, in the form of oxygen, is necessary to keep the flame alive, and is often made visible in the smoke emanating from a burning wick. And the flame itself, of course, quite literally represents the Fire Element. Add the Element of Spirit, or Akasha, by charging the candle with your intention, and you have a magical tool that embodies the totality of the Universe in one small package.
The Magic of Color
Along with their excellent symbolic qualities, candles allow us to work with the magical properties of color in a direct and focused way. For centuries, certain colors have been associated with certain intangible qualities or events, like love, luck, wealth, and death. It seems that red has always been associated with love and passion—the color of blood and therefore of the heart. The color green has long been associated with abundance, due to the predominantly green colors of Earth during the growing season.
Utilizing these color correspondences in candle magic reinforces the particular intention of the spell, and candles designed just for this purpose—often called “spell candles”—can be found in just about any color. Click here for a brief table of candle magic colors and properties.
Taking it Up a Notch—Herbs, Oils and Sigils
In addition to choosing the color of your candle deliberately, you can enhance your spellwork in a number of ways. Anointing the candle with a magically charged oil (single oil or oil blend) is a long-standing tradition, and it adds the benefit of magical scent to the equation. Many practitioners like to follow this up by rolling the anointed candle in corresponding herbs to add even more magical power. You can also inscribe the body of the candle with one or more sigils—magical symbols—that correspond to your goal. Try experimenting by adding these steps in one at a time over the course of a few spells to see what resonates with you.
Once the spell words have been spoken and the candle has been lit, many people like to watch the movement, shape and size of the flame for signs of the spell’s potential success. In some traditions, if the flame is high and strong, the manifestation is proceeding quickly, while a low, weak flame indicates that not much spiritual energy is being invested in the cause. It’s also said that if the wick produces black or thick smoke, that there is active opposition to the work. This could be coming from a person, an unknown set of circumstances, or even the unconscious mind of the person working the spell.
Once the candle has burned all the way down, it can be fun and interesting to “read” any melted wax left behind. This is called ceromancy, and is well-suited to visually creative people who can easily see visions in clouds, crystal balls, scrying bowls, etc. As you gaze over the melted wax, look for shapes and/or patterns that suggest anything about the forces taking shape around your request. In which direction did the air push the wax as it melted? What does the “mood” of the overall appearance of the wax seem to be?
Don’t overthink these things, of course—you don’t want to muddle the energy you’ve already sent out through the spell by trying too hard to get information just now. You may need to work several candle spells before you get your own personal sense of how (or whether) the flames and wax are communicating with you.
Candle Magic: Safety First!
Many, if not most candle spells call for allowing the candle to burn all the way out on its own. And yet it’s never a good idea to leave a burning candle unattended. If you absolutely must do so, be sure to place the candle in a sink or tub, far away from any flammable materials. Take care as well when using anointing oils, as these can be highly flammable and you don’t want to burn your fingers!
If you approach candle magic with the appropriate cautions, as well as a sincere and directed focus—and with harm to none, of course—you will soon see success that will have you exploring the magical arts even further. If you like, you can start by trying this candle spell for beginners.
Want to learn more about magic? Check out Lisa's beginners' guides to Herbal Magic and Crystal Magic.