Dear Ms. Q,
I’m going to address your question on candle working and the different style of candles.
Candles have a unique place in our society today, and are also an incredible link with our past. Candles are unique in that they convey messages of romance, warmth, spirituality, secret wishes, and brightness. As a source of light and illumination, they are beautiful and romantic; as a tool for prayer, meditation and magik, they are mesmerizing and powerful.
From Earth, Air, Fire & Water by Scott Cunningham. "Indeed, the changes that occur when fire is touched to wick are extraordinary. The candle itself, unlit, represents the element of Earth. When touched with Fire the candle melts, producing liquid wax (representing the element of Water) and the smoke (the element of Air). This seemingly miraculous process is another reason why candles are an accepted part of folk magick."
Candles have existed for nearly as long as humans have mastered fire. Before the affordability of candles, oil lamps and lanterns were used to light homes, markets, temples, and shrines. Instead of today's neat taper or pillar made from petroleum wax, candles consisted of a shallow clay or wood vessels filled with wax or crude oil from animal fats and other natural resources.
For years most candles were made out of tallow or the fat of animals, during the ages when candles were much in use, they were regarded as precious, for the making of a candle took considerable effort and resources.
In early times, during the yearly slaughter, all the animal fat or tallow was collected and boiled down to make the years’ worth of candles & oil. These candles were used judiciously as there was no extra tallow during the winter months to make more candles, for many people to save on burning candles they would read, repair, sew and write by firelight.
Then there was bees wax candles used in churches and in homes of the wealthy or nobility, very expensive to make mostly from the used hives of bees but they burned cleanly.
Early Asian candles were made with wax from insects and plants- a more exact process that didn't make as much smoke when burned. As the techniques for making candles progressed, they became more refined.
Another that was made and also expensive are Bayberry Candles Settlers in New England used the technique of boiling and skimming over one and a half quarts of bayberries to obtain enough wax to make an 8-inch taper, this is made from the natural wax of the berry part covering of the Bayberry, it has a slight lovely scent and a faint green color and was also very expensive only the most wealthy could afford them.
When Electricity became the mode of light, candles became less important. They were used for vigils, celebrations and to represent milestones in life. And in the case of emergencies an immediate mode of lighting, in every house or apartment there should be matches and emergencies house hold candles, because sometimes batteries die out.
Then there is in magical uses, there was the “Hand of Glory or Gory” this was made out of the hand of a hanged criminal usually a murderer and covered or dipped like a candle in his rendered body fat, legend has it that when this hand candle is burned it renders a person invisible so they can steal or commit a crime without being seen. (This is only a legend).
But now a days candles are far more affordable because they are made from petroleum by products, although bees wax and bayberry candles can be purchased they still are on the more expensive side, and there are candles made out of soy, which many people consider to be a very healthy alternative.
Only you can chose what you want to use, or even go so far as learning how to make your own, which is fine if you have the time. Most practitioners, because they have mundane jobs don’t have the time to do this and are forced by circumstance to purchase their candles.
So what to choose?
There are the free standing candles that one inserts into a candle holder, they come in various sizes from 4 to 15 inches the most common size is 6 to 8 inches
They have different names: House hold candles, Pillar candles, taper candles, chime candles, votive candles, jar or glass candles.
Chime Candles are about 4 inches tall and about ½ inch thick and will burn for 2 to 2 ½ hours Perfect for Small Altars, and ritual use. They can be done is a relatively short amount of time, unless you are planning to do a much longer ritual, then a candle about 6 inches tall is preferred.
Taper Candles range from 6 to 15 inches in height about 7/8 inches thick and will have a slender tapered end at the top. The 15 inch candles will burn 6 to 7 hours, 12 inch 4 to 5 hours, less then 12 inches will burn for about 4 hours
Common household candles are about 6 inches in height, and 3 /4 ‘s of an inch thick with a more nub type top they will burn between 3 to 4 hours, and come in various colors like those listed above, they are used not only for religious work but also for household and emergency candles. The one’s listed for emergency use in Stores will burn longer and are typically white in color.
Pillar candles are thick candles ranging from 3 to 9 inches in height and from 2 to 6 or more inches across, they will have from 1 to 3 wicks in them depending upon ritual use and purpose. They can be expensive but will burn for a long time as much as 4 to 7 days, in some cases as much as 14 days.
Votive candles are about 3 inches or less in height with a thickness of 1 to 2 inches, with an approximate burning time of 15 hours, you will usually see these burning in front of a saint’s statue but they are also used in ritual work as well and can be found. They can be found in various colors and infused with various scents so selecting one for the right ritual use will take a little time but add a wonderful atmosphere to your ritual area.
Tea light candles has a 4 Hour Burn Time. The versatile tea light candle is a great value. It is a candle and a candle holder because they sit in a non-burning inexpensive candle holder, most of the time they are plain white, but some do come in colors and scents, much like the votive candles, tea lights have the advantage of all in one easy to use and very inexpensive package, you can put them in glass jars to burn safely, affordable, can be easily dressed very lightly with an oil and easy to inscribe with a needle and no one would suspect that you are using them for ritual use.
If one is in a hurry one can use white birthday candles for a quick and dirty spell or ritual, but since they do not have holders it’s considered very dangerous to use.
Besides those there are Candles that come in clear glass jars either plain clear glass or with pictures pasted or silk screened on to them.
These are called Jar candles, there are those that will burn for 50 hours or just a little over 2 days if burning continuously and there are those that are called 7 day glass jar candles. With a burn-time of over 50 hours, these jar candles come in a 3 3/4" jar that makes them easier to clean up, and safer than votives or taper candles.
With the 7 day jar candles they come in a glass jar are about 2 inches or so thick and about 8 inches in height.
About 7-day Jar Candles their uses and safety precautions
Seven-Day Jar candles are used by parishioners of many faiths as tools for prayer, devotion, ritual, meditation, protection and healing. They are easy to use and well liked because they tend to be safer from fire hazards due to their enclosed nature. They are often used in conjunction with other spiritual products, but many people also use them alone.
Although they are called Seven-Day Jar Candles, the amount of burning time varies do to several factors. Length of candle burning depends on the energy in the environment where it is burned and what has been added to the candle (such as oils & herbs).
How a candle burns is also subject to interpretation as candles both free standing and jar will talk or do an action that will tell you how the ritual or spell is working or not working. That will be covered in another post.
Make sure to keep out of reach of children or pets. Place burning candles in a pot or aluminum tray with sand to avoid any accidents. You may also fill the bathtub or sink with a few inches of water and set the jar candle in the water- this way if there is an earthquake or you have to leave, it will put itself out if it falls over.
Make sure there is no cloth items near it as well such as dish cloths, curtains not even sponges all of these are flammable materials.If you have to leave and cannot leave the candle burning safely, snuff the flame out with a candle holder never blow the candle out, and then when relighting it you can re-active it by visualizing your intent.
PROGRAMING THE CANDLE AND COLORS
All candles when purchase come undressed or “virgin”. They need to be programmed or prepared by you prior to lighting it. They can be programed by the supply shop but it carries far more energy when you do it.
With the ones in clear glass jars you can paint symbols, anoint with oils and carefully sprinkle herbs also for your magical workings.
This procedure is called “Dressing the candle.” I will explain about how to dress a candle in a separate post.
In the color choice I have on a separate link the meaning of colors and their traditional intent. To do a ritual in which you are going to do a candle working or spell, it is important to chose a candle color that is close to meaning and intent for you ritual. This takes it one step closer to programing or dressing the candle for your ritual.
Remember the most important thing is what “feels right” to you. If you are distracted by the color of your candle- you will not be able to focus well in your work. In that case it’s best to use only a white candle.
With these types of candles (House hold, pillar, jar etc.) you can chose what colors you want to represent your magical workings, (see my link to the list of colors and their meanings.) You can carve symbols, roll them in particular herbs, anoint with ritual oils or waters.
In the old days before candles became colored, usually it was the type of herbs, or waters or oils extracted from the herbs that was used to program the candle along with any symbols or names carved on them.
Now with color it adds an extra dimension to the spell work.
As early as the 1930s, spiritual suppliers provided what was called offertory candles and in addition they provided figural or "image" candles for special uses.
More expensive than plain offertory candles, figural candles caught on and became preferred by many practitioners when working unusual or extremely strong spells, the reasoning behind this is their visual symbolism is easy to see and by carving names or other features in them, they can be personalized to represent individuals, in what amounts to a cross between working with candles and working with doll-babies or poppets.
Most of the old figural candle styles are still manufactured. Some have died out through lack of interest and the popularities of certain styles became more dominant.
As my Granny use to say "…those old witch, pumpkin, angel, black cats and choir boy candles weren’t used just for Halloween and Christmas.”
That sure raised my eyebrows as she was teaching me. I’ve come across several old spiritual supply catalogs that offered figure candles many are still being offered but some have fallen out of favor.
Because the list is so long, I am going to post several postings of the types of figure candles and their functions as well as the color of intent in my next several postings.
It will be a long lists over several postings, so as they come up you may want to print it out and add it to your Book of Shadows for your information.
Blessings Ms. Q