(Update 1/10/2018: Interested in more about this ritual? Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)
I think we can all agree that fire is a really cool thing. I mean, who doesn’t like fire, or burning things, or setting things on fire? I’m not just talking about the romanticism of bonfires on a summer or autumn night, but even simple candles that can give light to a dark room. Fire is kinda important to us, not just as magicians, but as humans. With fire, we bright light into the dark, enabling us to see what we could not previously; we can cook food, nourishing us and allowing us to eat better and safer; we can warm ourselves, staving off cold and death when there is no heat. From a spiritual standpoint, these are all really important things, and more; fire is considered holy in many traditions, not least Zoroastrianism, which actually venerates fire. After all, it always burns upward, toward heaven and God. Notions of light, illumination, and enlightenment are kinda big in Hermeticism, too, and the element of Fire is associated with the Mind, the Intellect that allows us to know the Intelligible according to Cornelius Agrippa (book II, chapter 7). Fire, among all the elements, is one that in a lot of ways is “alive”, and its special spiritual properties make it more than suitable but almost a mandatory requirement for much spiritual work. Of course, the most I usually do with fire is light candles, but it’s not all the same depending on why I’m burning candles. When it comes to burning candles for ritual work, I tend to classify candles into three groups: offering candles, work candles, and consecrated candles. I treat each group differently in their preparation, purpose, and burning.
Offering candles are those I use as sacrifices for spirits and gods; unlike incense or wine, I will always have at least one candle burning when I make an offering to a spirit. Everything else is optional, but not some sort of burnt offering. I typically use unscented white tealights, with the exception of my ancestor altar, which I use a 7-day white candle; if a particular spirit prefers or asks for a specific color or a scented candle, I’ll give that to them instead, but unscented white tealights are the norm. When making an offering, I light the candle, formally dedicate it to the spirit I’m making an offering to, and leave it to burn out completely on its own; you can find an example of such a dedication in this offering ritual I posted a while back. While I won’t formally prepare the candles ahead of time as I would consecrated candles (more on that below), I may wipe them down with a bit of Florida water or holy water to clean them and make them pure and fit for offerings, assuming the spirit being offered it would like that.
Work candles are those that I use in a non-conjuration ritual to boost the power of the working; these are your general magic candles. These will typically be colored candles, dressed with an oil, and engraved with names or symbols. Candles used in most forms of magic nowadays (like for money or love spells), and especially most 7-day fixed candles you’d find in a hoodoo store or botanica, fall into this category. The type of candle used, including color and oil and inscription, is heavily dependent on the ritual at hand. I’ll usually leave work candles to burn on their own unless a particular working determines otherwise.
Consecrated candles are those I burn as part of a ritual to bring the light of God/Ain Soph Aur/Source into a formal ritual or as protection in a room or home. These are always unscented white candles, either candlesticks or jarred 7-day candles. I always keep one burning on my devotional altar (where I make most of my daily prayers, especially to God), and I light one on my Table of Manifestation (magic altar where I do non-conjuration work) as well as in conjuration rituals (which acts as the primary source of light and Light in the ritual). With the exception of the candle on my devotional altar, I’ll put out consecrated candles either with a candle snuffer or a soft puff of breath at the end of a ritual. I haven’t found any difference between putting them out with a candle snuffer or blowing them out, so this minor detail is up to you and what you think is proper.
I prepare my consecrated candles more-or-less according to the Key of Solomon (book II, chapter 12). The way I prepare my consecrated candles requires suitable candles (obviously), holy water, holy oil (I use Lucky Mojo’s 7-11 Holy Oil, but high-quality olive oil works fine), and incense (frankincense at minimum, though I prefer a blend of sandalwood, myrrh, frankincense, and cinnamon), as well as having an already-consecrated candle lit and present (if possible). In a day and hour of Mercury during the waxing Moon, I engrave or write on the candles the following symbols:
If it’s a candlestick, I engrave these symbols directly onto the candle (downwards from the top) using a stylus; if it’s a jarred 7-day candle, I write this in marker on the UPC of the candle (may as well put that sticker to good use, especially since they’re difficult to remove in my experience). After this, I set a censer with the incense and light the incense, and set the candles around the censer in a circle. Then, I say Psalms 150, 103, and 117, then say the following prayer over the candles:
O Lord God, Who governest all things by Thine Almighty Power, give unto me, a poor sinner, understanding and knowledge to do only that which is agreeable unto Thee; grant unto me to fear, adore, love, praise and give thanks unto Thee with true and sincere faith and perfect charity. Grant, O Lord, before I die, and descend into the realms beneath, and before the fiery flame shall devour me, that Thy Grace may not leave me, O Lord of my Soul. Amen.
I exorcise thee. O Creature of wax, by Him Who alone hath created all things by His Word, and by the virtue of Him Who is pure truth, that thou cast out from thee every Phantasm, Perversion, and Deceit of the Enemy, and may the Virtue and Power of God enter into thee, so that thou mayest give us light, and chase far from us all fear or terror.
After this, I rub the candles with holy water (the whole candle if it’s a candlestick, or the top part with the wick and around the glass if it’s a 7-day), praying that the candle might be cleansed and purified; I rub the candle with holy oil (the whole candle if a candlestick, or the top part with the wick and inside the glass if it’s a 7-day), praying that it might shine with the light of God; and I suffumigate the candles in the burning incense, praying that it might be filled with the spirit of God to aid me in all my works. Then I let the incense burn out, let the holy water dry on the candles, and set them aside until I need them.
When I light a consecrated candle, I use the following prayer to sanctify the light:
I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing. Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire +, and sanctify it that it may be blessed +, and that it may burn for your honor and glory +, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All. Amen.
Versions of this are found in the Heptameron as well as the Key of Solomon and even Trithemius’ Art of Drawing Spirits into Crystals. I use the one from Trithemius, with a few modifications to bring it more in line with the Heptameron. At the + signs, I make a cross over the flame.
I’ve found that, in pretty much every working I do, I like to have at least one consecrated candle burning throughout the ritual, whether it’s a consecration of a talisman, conjuration of an angel, or the blessing of a home. In that latter case, I’ll light a consecrated candle and use that flame to light a whole bunch of other tealights; I set the consecrated candle by the hearth (or kitchen, if there’s no fireplace), and each of the other candles in each room of the house. Not only does this bring Light into the house, but it also helps to weaken any darkness or defilement that may have taken up residence. In this function, consecrated candles act as a kind of protection-by-holiness, which can be helpful in many cases. In conjuration, this has the effect of keeping bad stuff out of the conjuration circle, and forces whatever’s in the conjuration to be truthful and to stay away if they’re trying to deceive or lie to me. In other workings, it simply acts as a connection and representation of God, from which all power derives.
What are your thoughts on burning candles in magic? Do you have other uses of candles besides the above (and besides burning them for how pretty or warm they are)? Do you have a different candle consecration ritual, if any at all? Do you have a favorite type of candle-based spell? Let me know in the comments!