Candle spells are undoubtedly the basic-bitch of the magic world. Some swear by them and others swear about them, but where is the split? On one hand I can completely understand the allure found in the simplicity of lighting a candle and making a wish but is that really effective? On the other I can see where a more advanced practitioner would gleefully turn their nose up at such a practice, even if just to preserve their own investments in light of the frustration they feel when watching noobs do very little before boldly proclaiming themselves wizards.
In either case there is one thing for certain; there are egos in the way.
If you want to wish into a candle and manifest it subsequently then there are a few ontological and philosophical parameters that I believe can help raise this practice from the shelf of the novitiate and revitalize the heart (and the metaphysics) of the candle spell.
Fire = Hot
First, take a few moments to forget, to the best of your ability, all your learned notions of the metaphorical properties of the elements. Let all those associations go with just a few deep breaths. Now, let’s think about fire for a minute. If you have a candle handy, light it. Sit with it. Think about the nature of that little spirit you’ve just conjured. Consider how easily that little spirit can act like a gremlin fed post-midnight when not properly tended to. Think of a single word to represent the process that is taking place before your very eyes. That light, it’s potential; all-encompassing and fatal. A lack thereof, equally as such.
I personally arrive at the word “Hunger.” with a capital H. In an animist model of the universe, everything has an interiority, a spirit, intelligence, or consciousness. Our fire is the very embodiment of need and this is the only association required here. Fire needs, as do we. Give the fire agency in your mind. Even if you don’t believe it, try it a few times. If you partake of cannabis this is probably all too easy. Perhaps recite Eliphas Levi’s Prayer of the Salamanders. Clear your head and feel the sounds of the words. Build the image in your mind’s eye as you go along and try to keep your mind uncluttered of thought, then sit with your flame. Get to know one another for a while.
How Do You Want It?
The next step is to allow that want/need to flow through you freely as a wild desire. Meditate on the target of your spell. Dig deep within and notice any clever resistances to your goal. Do you actually not feel that you deserve what you want? Are you selling yourself short? This is where the success or failure of your candle spell is most likely determined: Your ability to want with your whole being, totally conscience-free. No guilt, and no shame. If you cannot do this, reconsider your target. More often than we could stomach believing, I’d wager, what we want is actually not that far off, but we have numerous resistances within that prevent the manifestation of our desire. Bhakti yoga can be very helpful in this process. Once the bliss of adoration can flow through you because of a godform, it isn’t that much of a stretch to feel something of similar intensity towards a preferred outcome in your life.
Ongoing shadow work is crucial to keeping one’s intentions pure and powerful, as are ancestral relations. The effectiveness of one’s magic is directly proportional to the amount of clean-up work that has been invested in one’s overall spiritual health and that of their lineage. I mention this now rather than in the last step because there is a lot of prep work to be done here for most everyone.
Don’t say candle spells don’t work if you haven’t put in the time to fortify your own convictions about how your life should look. We have to clean up our messes before we can have any new toys.
Timing Is… …Everything.
If you have a basic understanding of astrology or gods of the classical world, then you understand something of the personalities of the planets. Matching the nature of your spell’s intent to the nature of the planet that rules the day of the week on which you begin your spell, with a petition and offering to that planet at dawn, can greatly increase the chances of your success. Additionally, I always end a candle spell on a full moon regardless of the duration. Consider what sign the moon is in during your spell and how that position, plus any malefic or benefic aspects from the other heavenly bodies might play into your success or failure from an astrological perspective. Or, perhaps use grimoiric timing, the foundation of many later timing systems including that widely employed in Wicca. If you need something now, then by all means do something about it immediately, but often it is far preferable to wait for the right time.
Dress For Success.
Dressing the candle by poking holes of a number somehow relevant to your working and stuffing them with herbs and oils to get the attention of whomever you may be petitioning for assistance is also another helpful way of weaving together your need with the planets of the day, the spirits that assist you, and the raw chemical need of the fire itself. Remember that the animal world has representational language, the spirit world has symbolic language, and we humanfolk have both. This is the way magic works, which reminds me…
Make a sigil of your goal and carve it into the candle, deep enough that it will be visible when lit. You will charge it when you pour your heart and intention into the flame like fuel, emboldening the beacon of your need. The sigil will charge and, as the candle burns, be destroyed and successfully forgotten to the Unconscious realm.
My most successful candle spells have been accompanied by a story as told through a succession of carefully chosen tarot cards laid out in order across the space or surrounding the candle representing the progression of attainment or relevant characteristics. The more intent and sensory guidance you put into this, the more metaphor, the more you will get out but that isn’t to say busier is better. Simple and intentional is best. Make it a story a spirit can understand. The card progression in this post’s main image is meant to convey the acquisition of a lucrative new job in a creative field and I have used Robert M. Place’s Alchemical Tarot for it’s highly illustrative and largely self-explanatory nature (regarding the images, not the alchemical sigil-fest.)
Get clean and get comfortable, in a clean space, and alter your consciousness by your chosen trusted means. Invoke, meditate, take a bong rip, microdose, it doesn’t matter. Make sure you have given thought to your room’s general mood and ambiance and cleared the room or banished and that you will not be interrupted. Petition any of your allies, guides, and honored dead to help in thine occasion, with their own offerings of appreciation according to your relationship with them.
Finally, light your candle. Perhaps you wrote a prayer for your need, or a poem. Never underestimate the power of a few well-chosen words with your whole heart behind them. Perhaps a mantra that fits your work, maybe one of your own devising or some Our Fathers. Perhaps draw a picture and put that under your candle, if visual expression is your bag. Imagine the end result. Imagine, as Mitch Horowitz recommends, remembering doing this spell from the end result. Feel the aching, yearning pull of your targeted desire. Allow that to flow through you like light and sound. Like you’re in love. Get emotionally involved in this and make it count. Stare into the flame and use whatever breathing method works for you. I do a five count in, five count hold, five count out, five count hold, repeat. Shop around.
I sometimes go for an hour per session, sometimes five minutes. This is a personal preference, although I do recommend trying for longer periods. There are levels of intensity that require time investment in order to reach, at least until a familiarity is gained with that conscious state and can thus be invoked with less time and effort. Dawn and dusk are ideal times of day for these sessions unless you are using planetary hours that suggest more favorable options. When you feel your session has ended, snuff out your candle and thank your assisting spirits and ask them to return when you plan to continue. Do show up, though.
If by the end of your spell, like me, you let your candle melt into a disk within its burning dish, think of a nice incantation or prayer to sum up this work and seal the deal by carving it into the leftover wax puck. This can be kept until the fruits of the operation are harvested or, as I usually do with mine, they can be buried in a sacred place or at a crossroads. I offer mine into the earth as a seed down by my hearth in the woods. Make it your own.
I Dare You To Succeed
The best things about candle spells are their diversity and their simplicity. You will not be appropriating anyone’s culture by wishing into a flame and there is an amazing amount of room to make this practice your own. I have found an unusual amount of success in this most basic of magical acts and I urge you to consider these suggestions. Perhaps candle spells do work for you, if you get the peripherals right. Again, the keys to this actually working are the gathering of otherworldly witnesses, the weaving of metaphor, of story in front of them, and the ability to allow desire to truly blossom and flow through you. If these things can be cooperatively employed “silly” will no longer be a word subtexting candle spells in your mind.
Please, share with me your successes and failures, past and present, in the comments below! It is we that are our most valuable resource, we together.
Thanks to GrepGiggles for inspiring this post with a write-in question. My contact form is always open.