Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.
– William Arthur Wad
There are certain key factors that have moved the progress of human evolution along throughout the course of history.
Stone tools, discovering how to turn raw metals into all manner of implements and adornments, the shift from hunter-gather cultures to agrarian ones, and scores of others.
One of those, unquestionably, was humankind’s ability to create and control fire.
As quickly as a warm spark hitting tinder, we forever changed who we were as a species and, perhaps moreover, what we would be able to accomplish going forward when this capability was discovered and utilized.
Evidence from locations such as Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa points to our distant ancestors harnessing the power of fire for their own purposes about one million years ago. Both there and at a handful of other sites around the globe, it thought that the purposeful use of fire may potentially stretch back as far as two million – or more still – years into the past.
There are various theories and schools of thought regarding how and when we stopped viewing fire chiefly as a threat in our environment (i.e., a blazing wildfire headed towards your small communal group’s present living or hunting area) and realized that we could not only use it for such revolutionary concepts as cooking food, but that we could – with a small number of essential components – create it on demand.
The hominoids that are believed to have first intentionally used fire were Homo erectus.
It would be a good many generations and developments on the journey to our present species (Homo sapiens), however, before we branched out from fire on the ground to taming this mighty force all the more and creating ways to generate light (and by extension a measure of warmth) in smaller, arguably more controlled, iterations.
It is likely that relatively soon after our ancestors discovered and began to make fires, they created and used torches not only to start new fires or rekindle those that were waning but to light their way through the dark.
Conceivably, creating torches or similar means of transporting fire (for example, by “collecting” a flame on a piece of wood, dried planet matter, etc from a small bushfire) may actually have led to the creation of things like fires on the ground that could be used to help keep wild animals at bay, roast a meal, or warm chilled bodies that were never far away from the elements.
It is almost impossible to adequately stress just what a profound turning point in our species’ history taming fire and putting it to work on our behalf was. Had that not happened, it is exceedingly likely we would not be even a fraction as advanced on countless fronts as we were today.
Fire not only blazed a path forward for our forebearers, it quite literally lit our way straight on until the development of artificial light sources such as gas and electric lighting.
In the interim, we came up with concepts such as lighting various oils as a means to create small, contained fires that could be used more flexibly than stationary fires.
We put flame to reeds and rushes, sometimes combining materials such as these with sources of fat from animals, seeds, and plants (including creating a product called rushlights that were used for many thousands of years in various parts of the world).
In many respects, rushlights and their kin were the precursors to candles. Though the two were often used concurrently in various locations throughout history.
We are unlikely to ever know who made the first product that we would today readily call a candle.
Historians debate when candles blazed their way onto the scene, but we know that cultures such as the ancient Egyptians were using rushlights and oil lamps at least 5,000 years ago.
Meanwhile, a touch later on in human history, the industrious Romans are often credited with being the first to create candles with wicks.
They did so by repeatedly dunking or dipping materials such as papyrus into heated and melted beeswax or tallow.
It is important to keep in mind that numerous other cultures – from China to India to some of the indigenous peoples of North America – also developed candles or products similar to candles as well. (In China, for example, rice paper was a key comment in their early candle-making process.)
From the distant days of those cultures and numerous others onward, many societies around the world have continued to utilize candles.
Even today, when a sizable percentage of the world has at least one form of artificial lighting in their home, a good many of us still adore, buy and/or make, and use candles for myriad different purposes.
The Pagan sabbat of Imbolc will soon be upon us again.
While it is safe to say that candles are a mainstay for many who observe the sabbats all throughout the year, perhaps no other sabbat is, in the Western Hemisphere, more associated with candles than Imbolc.
As I talked about in my recent Elegant Winter Meets Spring Colour Palette Imbolc Card post, though Imbolc may transpire when winter is still going strong in many locations, it is a celebration of renewal, rebirth, light, warmth, and the journey to spring’s majestic return.
Even many of the colours – white, cream, ivory, yellow, orange, and gold – linked to Imbolc relate back to the traditional colours of candles and of flames the world over.
At the beginning of February, those who observe Imbolc often chose to focus on the importance of light and warmth in our world.
We may live in homes that are heated by things such as electricity, coal, gas, and wood, but we are not so far removed from nature that we cannot appreciate the profound importance of light and warmth in the ever-turning Wheel of The Year.
In this post, beyond the brief overview of the role of fire in the development of our species, we are going to take a peek at what candle magick is and then delve into an extensive list of books on the subject of candle magick.
What is candle magick?
Humans have involved candles, rushlights and the like in religious and spiritual contexts for thousands of years.
Whether to light temples or churches, to burn offerings to deities, in ritual ceremonies or for various other reasons, something called to our ancestors to hold the power of a flame in great reverence and to combine that with the respect (and sense of awe) they often held for the gods, goddesses, or source of Spirit that they believed in.
Much as we do not know with exact certainty when the first candle was invented, it is as good as impossible to speculate when candle magick burst on the scene.
That said, it too almost certainly dates back for thousands of years.
As with many components of witchcraft, today’s candle magick may share points in common with that of earlier humans, but we cannot make any solid claims that the two were unwavering the same by any means.
Candle magick is one of the most commonly employed, best-loved, and easy to utilize forms of magick.
So much so, in fact, that candle magick has frequently been the first type of purposely undertaken magick utilized by many who are new to areas such as Wicca and Witchcraft.
Candle magick is inviting. It can also be peaceful, zen-like even at times – as can be the act of burning candles in general (aka, both inside and out of a magickal capacity).
Candles are an extraordinary representation of the Elements, as each is present in a candle’s form and function.
Fire, the most obvious of the Elements involved with candles, is there in the initial spark, the burning flame, and both the heat and light generated by candles.
As well, fire is one of the most powerful representations – and in some instances, literal forms of – transformation. This in turn is often the catalyst for important changes, personal growth, achieving our goals, and many other positives that we are well served by throughout the course of our lives.
Air, that most ethereal of Elements, enters the picture via the oxygen that is needed to both keep the candle lit and, if blowing it out, to extinguish it when the time comes to do so.
Earth, stable, ancient, malleable presents itself via the wax – as well as the wick (particularly if it is made from a natural material).
Lastly, while the Element of water might not be the first that one associates with candles, it too joins the team and is represented by the melting wax (a solid rendered in liquid form by the addition of heat) as well as utilized, in some instances, to put out a candle’s flame.
In addition, I personally feel that Spirit / the divine is present in candles as well. It is there in the history of this important source of light and warmth. In the connection to deities and Source that countless cultures and belief systems have long associated with candles (and fire in general), and in that enchanting element of mystery and magick inherent to candles the world over.
At its core, candle magick really just requires one or more candles, a heat source to light them with, and a specific intention or desired outcome that you wish to have come to fruition.
Beyond that, one can utilize candles for endless purposes when working magick.
They can be anointed with oils and/or herbs and/or spices (cinnamon, for example, is a much loved warm or “fiery” spice on this front), combined with small crystals (chips, tiny stones, etc), woven into colour magick, utilized as offerings, situated on one’s altar or other sacred space, used to represent fire as a whole, placed in windows to light the way for ancestral spirits, the fae, and many others, as well as being a common component on sabbat tables – including during dumb/silent suppers.
Some who employ candles in their magickal workings believe that candles used in such a context should be snuffed or doused out (with water) instead of extinguished with one’s breath. The logic behind this is that you may risk blowing away the intentions and/or energy of the spell that you have just undertaken.
I feel it is up to each practitioner of candle magick to determine if they sense this holds true for them personally or if they are okay with blowing out spellwork candles.
Candle magick also has the wonderful benefit of being a form of witchery that can be done quite discreetly. This may be particularly important to those who reside in environments where they want, or need, to keep their craft private.
After all, countless millions of people – a sizeable percentage of whom are not witches or Wiccans – the world over enjoy burning candles for a wide array of reasons, so this act is not overly likely to arouse suspicion in many types of settings.
In addition, one can involve candles as part of their meditation practise or for fire divination (for example, carromancy, which is divination involving melted wax), and you can even use a candle’s flame as a method of scrying.
I have a theory that part of the reason why we as a species have not parted ways with the use of candles even in the (glowing) face of artificial light sources is that there is something inherent to us as species that enjoys – and perhaps even needs – to retain the ability to create and safely keep fire in our homes.
Witches, Wiccans and others of our ilk are no different on that front and it is not the least bit surprising to me that candle magick is one of the most popular types of magick in the 21st century.
Other components contribute to its widespread use as well. For example, many of us grew up in environments where candles were routinely utilized – be it decoratively, functionally or both.
We may associate candles with special occasions and settings. For example, the candles on a birthday cake, the small votives or tealights we ignite and place inside carved jack-o-lanterns, or elegant taper candles set out for a romantic dinner.
Candles are readily available in many parts of the world and while some high-end luxury brands cost well into the three figures apiece, many others can be had for less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee (and everywhere in between those two points).
As well, candles have a perpetual sense of mystery to them.
Even though in the modern era we understand the science behind how candles and fire in general work, they still continue to have an air of the unknown and of things both of and beyond this realm.
Indeed, in some respects, candles are liminal entities. The small space separating the flame and wax is an in-between realm that works as a conduit between the magickal worker’s intentions and the solidity of that desire (hopefully!) manifesting into being.
Naturally, candles are adored by countless individuals across the world. And while they are by no means the sole domain of witches, Wiccans, and Pagans, those of us who identify as such do often have quite the propensity for candles. 🥰
And, by extension for candle magick and candle spellwork.
In addition to the ways mentioned above to take candles beyond their basic state, one can also carve signs, symbols, words, numbers, and signals into the wax of candles before setting them alight.
Candles can be used (employing the utmost of fire safety at all times) to concentrate, cleanse, and symbolically burn away or banish unwanted elements from one’s world.
So long as safety, speaking of such, is employed (including keeping lit candles away from flammable materials, kids, and pets if there is even a minute chance that injury and/or the uncontained spread of fire could occur), there is pretty much no right or wrong way to work candle magick.
You can purchase small candles that are often called chime candles or spell candles in a multitude of different colours, use the largest pillar candle your town has for sale, create your own candles, source local beeswax offerings from artisans in your area, pick up a wide array of candles from dollar stores, shop for endless varieties (and scents!) of candles online, receive candles as gifts, and more.
As well, there is no shortage of candles on the market today that are specifically sold as “spell candles”. Premade creations that have been crafted with the intent of using them for a specific kind of spell or other type of magickal working. For example, love spell candles, money spell candles, good mojo spell candles, sea magick candles, and many others.
There are also zodiac sign-specific candles on the market, too, such as those from the immensely popular Etsy shop, The Madam Phoenix. Just as there are candles pertaining to things such as the sabbats, moon phases and esbats, different planets, ancestor work, chakras, handfastings, and various other witch/Pagan-centered purposes.
Much as with other types of candles geared towards witchy folks, places such as Etsy, metaphysical shops, Instagram and TikTok sellers, and in-person public witch/Paganism centred gatherings can be great places to find spell specific candles.
While some types of candles are, objectively, better suited to certain kinds (and durations) of spells, by and large, there are no set-in-stone rules. It is often the intention brought to, and energy created/strengthened during a magickal/spiritual working, that matters more than the colour, size, scent, etc of a given candle.
Indeed, many witches and Wiccans keep a healthy stock of neutral coloured candles (such as white or cream) on hand to use both in situations when they are specifically desired and for those when one might not have a certain colour or type of candle to hand.
White and cream colours are viewed by many as being universally acceptable for nearly all types of candle magick.
Beyond that, those wishing to engage in candle magick may want to pick up an array of different colours, including – but not limited to – pink, red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, black, silver, and gold candles.
Multicolour candles can be great too, especially if all of the colours they house correspond to the magickal working and desired outcome of one’s candle magick spell.
Many creative souls sell handmade candles, including plenty aimed at witches, Wiccans, and Pagans. Sites such as Etsy, various online and real-world metaphysical stores, and some craft fairs can all be excellent places to source candles that have been created with magickal folks squarely in mind.
Most, understandably, cost more than your average dollar store, big box, grocery store, or chime candle. The candlemaker needs to not only cover the cost of the materials involved and their time/labour, but to make a reasonable profit in the process.
Whether mass-produced or handmade, many people prefer to use plant-based and soy-based candles. These types of candles are sometimes more environmentally friendly (and potentially – though not always – contain less undesirable chemicals such as parabens and phthalates) than certain other types of wax such as paraffin.
Beeswax is another naturally sourced material that is popular for spellwork and witchy candle-related purposes in general.
Understandably, those who are vegans or otherwise prefer not to use candles made from animal-derived sources will want to forgo genuine beeswax candles.
Ultimately, you do not want to break the bank when buying candles. It can be lovely to splurge on candles made from high-quality ingredients, but at the end of the day, a plain white $1.00 votive candle can work every bit as effectively in a witchy context as a scented $50.00 wood wick soy candle.
And on that note, if you are sensitive to scented candles, opt for unscented ones or those that you have not experienced negative reactions to in the past.
By the same token, if you are sensitive to the burning of even unscented wax, LED candles can be used in some instances in lieu of wax candles.
Naturally, however, LED candles do have their limits in terms of candle magick. For example, they do not (or at least, they should not!) generate enough heat to burn anything involved with a given spell such as bay leaves or small pieces of paper.
On the plus side, they carry much less risk of fire, often have batteries that long outlast the burn time of a wax-based candle, and do not generate any smoke or discernible heat.
Another point in favour of candle magick is that it can be undertaken quite quickly in many cases and in turn, the outcome of one’s magickal working may make itself known fairly speedily as well.
Not always, of course, but certainly at times – especially if the spell pertained to something quite immediate.
Before beginning a candle working, it is generally a good idea to cleanse both the space that the working is being carried in out as well as the candle itself.
If you made the candle from scratch, the latter may be unnecessary, as far fewer hands – and in turn, other peoples’ energy, will – have come in contact with that candle. Though you can do so all the same either way. There is rarely such a thing as over-cleansing when it comes to magickal workings.
Given the widespread availability of candles, the fact that plenty are available for very reasonable prices, and the love that witchy folks tend to have for things with a sense of mystery to them, it is no surprise that candle spells rank amongst the most popular types of magick practiced in today’s world.
In turn, it should not shock many folks to learn that a decent number of books about candle magick have been penned over the years.
Most of these books delve into the spiritual significance of candles, ways to involve them in your magickal workings, and provide various candle magick spell recipes for readers to either follow to the letter or use as a jumping-off point for their own take on a certain spell.
In the spirit of Imbolc (and its Southern Hemisphere partner, Lammas) – when candles are lit to symbolically represent the sun and its radiant light – let’s take a gander at a considerable number of the books that have been written to date on candle magick.
Naturally, as with most lists of books, I am not claiming that the following selection includes every title on candle magick ever created (be it in English or any other language). And, of course, it stands to reason that more will hit the shelves in the future.
Candle magick is such a beloved and frequently used element of many witches’ and Wiccans’ practices that it is highly unlikely interest in this type of magick is going to be snuffed out anytime soon. (Pun intended. 😄)
Candle Magick Books
Like a lot of us who came to witchery in the latter decades of the 20th century or start of the 21st, I cut my teeth in regards to candle magick largely based on personal experience, nuggets of how-to wisdom gleaned from various books on witchery and Wicca, and in the earliest years of the 2000s, Raymond Buckland’s now-classic offerings on the topic.
Other early entries in the field included D.J. Conway’s “A Little Book of Candle Magic” and Phillip Cooper’s “Candle Magic: A Coveted Collection of Spells, Rituals, and Magical Paradigms“. Both of which remain wonderfully informative and solidly useful decades after they were first released.
The sphere of books about candle magick and candle spells has grown considerably since I was budding witchingly. Today, those looking to learn the fundamentals or explore more about the topic now have a fantastic selection ready and waiting to meet that need.
Below you will find a roundup of a good many books on candle magick and candle spells. Most are still in production, but the small handful of them that are not can often be found for sale secondhand on sites such as Amazon, Thrift Books, and Better World Books.
Candle Magic for Beginners: A Complete Guide to Discover the Secrets of Candle Spells and Rituals to Attract Healing, Abundance and Love in Your Life
Candle Magic for Beginners: Tips, Tricks, and Candle Spell Secrets for Love, Prosperity, and Abundance in Life
The Enchanted Candle
Do you know of any other candle magic/magick books that are not listed here? If you do, please feel free to share them in the comments below and I will update this post to include your suggestions.
By the same token, I will keep my eyes open for future candle magick and candle spellwork books and aim to add those that I encounter to this list as well.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
(The fact that this line comes from a gospel song called This Little Light of Mine is not lost on me. I believe that one can enjoy and appreciate music of all kinds, regardless of their spiritual path and though an ardent witch, I have long enjoyed this beautiful Christians tune.)
Candle magick is a welcoming, versatile, effective, and often enjoyable form of witchery.
It does not have to give your wallet a workout, can be done (weather and setting permitted) both indoors and outdoors, taps into humankind’s long-standing utilization of fire for a wide range of purposes, has a great deal of versatility to it, and can be a very welcoming way for those who are new to spellwork to cut their teeth, so to speak, in this area.
Though it is, of course, not necessary for witches and Wiccans to undertake candle magick or to otherwise use candles in any capacity, a good many of us delight in doing so.
We could scarcely imagine our practice without at least a few basic candles at the ready. Just waiting for their moment to quite literally shine in a magickal context and to, in the process, keep the age-old act of utilizing fire in spellwork and/or spirituality shining brightly.
This Imbolc, why not treat yourself to a new candle, book on candle magick, or the materials required to make your own candles?
Or, simply take some time to gaze at a lit candle and reflect deeply on what the remainder of winter + spring’s upcoming return mean to you, your life, and your own beautiful spiritual path.
May you each have a glowingly warm and wonderful, Imbolc, dear friends!
Is Imbolc the sabbat that you most associate with candles? Do you involve candle magick in your practice or otherwise use candles in a spiritual context? 🕯️💛🕯️