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Candle Magick 102: Selection and Programming

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Candle making with herbs and oils

As most of you know, I am a lover of candle magick. A very large portion of my workings are candle magick and I also make candles. To expand upon my most recent YouTube video Budget Witch DIY: Candle Making Tutorial (see below), I thought this week I would start a series on candle magick beginning with selection and programming (aka fixing).

Disclaimer: Before reading further, please realize that I do not stick to one specific candle magick system. I have learned a variety of techniques from a diverse amount of magickal practices and this article, in no way, asserts that this the "right" way or that this is the "complete" guide to candle magick. It would be nearly impossible to cover everything, from every candle magick tradition, in a singular article.


tealihgt and container candles

Pillar? Coach? Container? Figural? Chime? Tealight? Votive? Taper? AHHHHH! So many different options when it comes to selecting candles. The truth of the matter, which hardly anyone else will say out loud, is that the type of candle you select really depends on your witch style or tradition and your comfort level. There is an alternative to every method in candlemancy. What you can do with a pillar can be done with a container, just differently. All types of candles can be used for all types of workings. However, that doesn't mean it'll be the best possible type for a particular kind of working and the candle may even need to be modified to suit your purposes. For example, if you don't have figural candles and you want to do a working for two people, you can cut one large candle into two. The truth is you can use any type of candle for any working. However, below are the best uses I've found for each type of candle without any modification to the candle itself within my own practice.

Pillar - great for generalized workings such as purification, relaxation, joy, etc.

Coach - great for specific and targeted spells both beneficent and malevolent

Container - great for generalized, specific, and targeted workings; great for long workings, vigils and deity devotionals

Figural - the best choice for sympathetic magick systems

Chime - great when you're short on time, space, or are in the broom closet; can easily be hidden and work great as elemental representation candles for rituals; short burn time

Tealight - I don't recommend these for spell workings but they are great at providing extra ambiance for sacred bathes.

Votive - great for candle magick in which children may be involved; not to short and not to long and can be placed inside a votive holder to ensure safety if placing in a child's bedroom

Taper - I've really never used these for magickal workings so I have no opinion


Programming any magickal item is necessary. Whatever your using in magickal space needs to know what you want it to do. Programming is also known as loading, dressing and/or fixing. There are lots of ways to program a candle to instruct it to do exactly what you want it to do. The complexity of your candle ritual will depend on your intention most of the time. You can use as little or as many programming methods as you choose but you should always program your candle before use or else you've just purchased a car that has no fuel, no engine, no ignition switch, and is basically your newest lawn ornament. The way the programming is implemented onto the candle depends on the type of candle your're working with.

So what are the different ways to program a candle?

Colors, Aroma, and Herbs - A little well know magickal secret is that a white candle will work in any situation. However, selecting or making a candle that is colored to correspond to the working that you wish to do only increases and enhances the candles connection to your intention. Color in candle work is similar to the style of a car. What color you choose makes a statement. For candle magick, color allows you to visually declare your intent.

Similarly, choosing or creating an aromatically infused candle helps to affect the subconscious of the practitioner, bringing their intended work to the forefront of their mind before, during, and after the candle has been burned. This technique I like to say is like the photo album from a great road trip. Each of the aromatic notes in the candle prompts different emotions from the practitioner to remind them what they are working and why they are working it.

The use of herbs in candle magick allows the plant spirits to add their medicine to the working. Herbs can be added during the manufacture of the candle whether mixed in the wax or placed on top. Herbs can be added to pre-made candles by rubbing oil onto the candle and then rolling it in herbs (pillar, coach, figural), remelting the top of the candle so the wax solidifies around placed herbs (container), or you can create craters in the candles to place herbs into (pillar, coach, container). This process is known as loading. Think of the herbs as your gunpowder. This is what is going to give your candle magickal punch!

Oils - Oil blends and singular essential oils are rubbed onto candles in a specific way to tell the candle if you wish to bring something to you or to cast something away from you. While singular oils will work for dressing ritual candles, I don't advise it. Why? Probably the biggest reason is because oil blends are also a means of pre-programming. Let's say for instance you want to do a prosperity spell to draw money to you. You could use cinnamon essential oil which is known for its money drawing properties. But. what a lot of people don't realize is that singular oils are meant to do things usually in a certain way. Cinnamon produces money but it's not very good to use unless you have a business from which you are the sole collector of the profits or you are trying to sell something. See cinnamon works on the subconscious of consumers enticing them to buy what you're selling. When you add oils together in a blend you are more likely to cover a variety of bases. The same working would be better suited with a money drawing oil blend. If herbs pack the punch, oils provide the accelerant.

Magickal Writing - Magickal writing, whether carved into wax or drawn onto glass, are the necessary codes to specify what the working is for. They can be simple or elaborate depending if the spell you're doing is targeted or generalized. Runes, words, numbers, sigils, symbols, Ogham, Enochian, and any other form of written word will work. The trick is to tailor the writing system to you and your practice. The magickal writing on a candle is the structure of the spell. Can't very well work any type of machinery that is only half put together.

Chanting, Affirmation, Song - Using your voice or musical instruments while fixing or making a candle brings the candle to life with intention. You can do this through spell recitation, chanting, repeated affirmation, drumming, shaking a rattle, or by selecting music which aligns with your intention. You will need to be focused on the candle and your intention to imbue the candle with magickal fuel. This step of the process is what activates the candle to do what you've fixed it to do. This is your ignition switch.

Below are the 4 main types of candles I use in my practice on a regular basis.

Pillar - most generalized pillars are pre-programmed when they're made - at least the ones in witchy shops. If you're making them yourself, work herbs, oils, and chants into the wax. If you are picking up a pillar at a general retailer you can look for scented or colored ones that match your intention. You can also dress the candles by applying an oil blend to the outside of the candle and rolling it in an herbal mixture to suit your intention. Keep in mind that I'm only talking about generalized workings here. Workings to affect an area, not a specific person. If you want to a magickal writing system on a generalized pillar, the most effective practice is to carve it into the outside of the candle.

Coach - My favorite way to program a coach candle is to load it with herbs from the bottom. Specifically because coach candles have a knob on the bottom of them meant to be placed into a holder. You can easily remove this knob to carve a crevice into the bottom of the candle and then remelt it back on. To do this, carve a two inch by two inch hole in the bottom of the candle. Place your herbs into the bottom of the candle. You can choose to pre-mix them or layer them. Once you have your herbs in the crevice, you will need to seal the bottom. Do this by either remelting the wax you cut off or carved out of the hole back onto the bottom. You can also use wax from another source to complete this task. Sometimes to do this I use wax I have in stock or hot wax from a tealight candle. I also recommend carving to program with any runes, sigils, or other magickal writing systems.

To dress these candles, you'll want to place oil on the outside of the candle from top to bottom (to draw to you) or bottom to top (to clear away from you). Once the candle is dressed in oil, you can now roll it in an herb mixture of the same herbs you used to load the bottom of the candle.

Container - Just because it's in glass doesn't mean this limits your ability to program it. If you are working with a container candle, you can load it with herbs by using a small screwdriver to drive an inch deep well into the top of the candle. If you have purchased a fixed candle that has already been pre-programmed, you can choose to do this or not - it's really up to you. Once you've made a well in the top, place an herb mixture into the well packing it tightly. To dress with oils, dab a bit of oil onto your index finger and move in either a clockwise (to bring in) or a counter (anti) clockwise (to cast away from) direction.

Sometimes container candles can be more even more specifically programmed than any other type of candle for the sheer fact that you can use a permanent marker to writer on the glass. This allows you to use magickal writing systems, place personal information, and even place markings onto the glass with dates to show how the candle reacted on different days if you're working long candle magick or candle magick for clients.

Figural - This type of candle, in my experience, needs the least amount of programming because it has already been created in sympathy. That means that if your using erotic shapes for sex magick, they already represent the emotions and thoughts tied to phallic representations. If you are buying figural candles, the odds are pretty good that you have a specific request in mind. Be it a person, an action, or etc. You will need to identify what the candle represents by carving it somewhere on the candle. You also may want to dress it in oils and herbs.

This particular type of candle benefits from being on an "altar" space all it's own. Since they are not in glass, most people place these on a plate (one that cannot catch fire) and decorate the plate to reflect their intention. This is seen a lot in Hoodoo, Voodoo, and other African diaspora traditions but it also exists in many folk magick practices. This can also be applied to any other type of candle you may have if it interests you.

For some practitioners candle magick is one of the most potent means of magick that exists. This is especially true if fire is your go to element. Thank you for joining me in this first installment in the Candle Magick Series. The candle magick series continues next week exploring candle magick correspondences like times of day, moon phases, colors, and more! Other articles in this series will include candle magick divination, candle magick safely, and more. Until then...

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