Updated: Mar 16, 2021
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.
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.