This lengthy article has been divided into several sections:






Candle burning has roots stretching back to ancient times as a part of both
religious ceremonies and magical rites. Most

hoodoo practitioners and rootworkers
, like other folk magicians, burn
candles for magical effect, spell-casting, and as an adjunct to prayer, but
unlike the traditional and conservative craft of making

mojo bags
, candle burning in the African-American

tradition has undergone considerable evolution during the 20th

During the 19th century candles became readily available as a commercial
product, sold in general stores, rather than having to be made at home or on the
farm or purchased at a special candle-maker's shop. By the early 20th century,
paraffin candle, with a relatively high melting point compared to tallow
candles, were transported by rail nationwide and -- and with the invention of
aniline dues, they were soon made available in a number of colours.

The epicenter of new developments in ritual candle-magic in the hoodoo
tradition was New Orleans, where a long tradition of Roman Catholic
candle-burning combined with African-American folk magic to produce an emergent
style of working with candles, both for prayer and in

laying tricks
. This new way of working with candles soon spread to
Memphis, Tennessee, and Mobile, Alabama, and, by the late 1940s, was fairly
uniform throughout the South among all professional rootworkers.

Probably the single most important influence on the development of
African-American candle magic from the 1940s to the present has been the
ubiquitous "Master Book of Candle-Burning," a paper-bound pamphlet written by

Henri Gamache
in 1942. Advertised in black-owned newspapers like the
Chicago Defender in the 1940s and still carried today by all the major
mail-order spiritual supply catalogues, this work delivers exactly what it
promises -- detailed instructions that instruct the spiritual doctor or
rootworker on "How to Burn Candles for Every Purpose." The chapters include
information on how to select candles, anoint them, arrange them on an altar, and
engage in what the author quaintly refers to as "fire worship." Along the way
Gamache presents a garland of anthropological tidbits about folk-magical
practices from Canada, Europe, Africa, and the Malayan Peninsula, making this
book a fascinating document indeed.

For those who are not familiar with the work of

Henri Gamache
, i'd like to note that he was a prominent mid-20th century
occult author and folkloric researcher who developed a unique Creole combination

, Christian, Kabbalist, and Spiritualist magic. Not much is
known about

Henri Gamache's
personal life, but if he is not simply another pseudonym

the mysterious Mr. Young who ghost-wrote occult books from 1925 - 1948
he seems to have been a man of mixed race, possibly born in the Caribbean, who
lived and worked in New York City. Most of his books remained in print for
decades, and all are quite interesting. In particular, his

"8th, 9th, and 10th Books of Moses"
is a fascinating document,
detailing his theory that Moses, the leader of the Jews, was a black African,
"the Great Voodoo Man of the Bible."

Henri Gamache
used the term "Philosophy of Fire" to describe the
candle burning rituals he set forth in "The Master Book of Candle Burning." That
term, and his frequent references to "Zoroastrianism" allow us to identify one
of his major influences, for the "Philosophy of Fire" is a system of magical
working described in the writings of an earlier author named R. Swinburne
Clymer. A Rosicrucian and sex magician prominent in the early 20th century,
Clymer in fact wrote an entire book called "The Philosophy of Fire" in which he
espoused a mixture of magical theories that embraced Spiritualism,
Zoroastrianism, and sex magic.

Clymer had in turn learned most of his occult theories and sex-magical
techniques from the writings of

Paschal Beverly Randolph
, an African-American sex magician and
Spiritualist of the mid 19th century. In 1860 or so,

originated a magical order called the Brotherhood of Eulis
to carry forth his beliefs; it was reformed in 1874 under the name The
Triplicate Order. After

death in 1875, Clymer corresponded with his widow, Kate
Corson Randolph, and received instructions from her as to how to operate his own
order of sex magicians. Clymer also reprinted "Eulis!" -- one of Randolph's
books on sex magic -- in 1930.

The link from


, through Clymer, is probably one of book-learning rather than
direct initiation, but it is interesting nonetheless, especially in light of the
fact that most modern occultists tend to identify African-American practitioners
exclusively with folk-magic and to discount the contributions black people have
made to the development of formal occultism and ceremonial sex-magic.

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Henri Gamache's
instructions, it became popular among conjure-workers of
the 1940s to burn small free-standing candles or "lights" of various colours to
draw luck, love, and money; for protection from evil; and to wreak vengeance or
exert control over others. Because many, if not most, of the spiritual suppliers
then catering to the African-American market were Jews, they usually offered
7-branched menorah candle-holders to their customers, which gave

candle burning ceremonies of the period a slightly Kabbalistic
cast. The colour symbolism ascribed to altar candle colours is

influenced by European magical traditions
, admixed with remnants of
African religious symbolism:










Typical sizes for colour-coded free-standing candles are 4" Altar candles, 6"
Offertory candles, and 9" Jumbo candles. (The candles shown here are the 6"

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In addition to plain offertory candles, spiritual suppliers, as early as the
1930s, provided figural or "image" candles for special uses. More expensive than
plain offertory candles, figural candles are preferred by many practitioners
when working unusual or extremely strong spells, because 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. Among the most popular are the


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Double action candles are 9" long jumbo candles that have been poured in two
stages, so that they are half black and half another colour, according the usual
colour symbolism of candles -- red for love, green for money, white for peace
and spiritual blessings. They are used to reverse troubles back to the person
who sent them and are called "double action" because they both repel

jinxes and crossed conditions
and attract what is desired in the way
of happiness and luck.

Double action candles are not burned in the usual way -- they are generally
"butted" before they are lit. The original tip is cut off and a new tip is cut
on the black half, so the "bad" black half will burn off first, leaving the
"good" half at the end of the rite. The name of one's enemy is carved backwards
in the black half and one's own name is carved normally in the coloured portion.

candle dressing oil
to reverse bad luck back to the enemy if applied to
the black end, stroking away from oneself, and a

dressing oil
to draw what one wants is applied to the coloured half,
stroking toward oneself.

Butted double action candles are sometimes burned on a flat mirror, to
further aid the reversing spell. They may be dusted with Reversing

sachet powder
or circled with a ring of Crab shell powder (because
"Crabs walk backward" and

uncross jinxes

Another way to burn double action candles is to carve a second tip on the
black end, dress them as described above, and stick them into a nail that has
been driven through a board. The nail holds the candle horizontal, like a
compass needle, and the black half is pointed toward one's enemy's home, while
the coloured half points towards oneself. Both ends are lit at the same time.
This is a messy way to burn candles, so use aluminum foil or a metal baking dish
to confine the dripping wax to one area.

Reversing -- also called reversible -- candles are 9" long jumbo candles that
are similar in their uses to double action candles, but instead of being poured
in two layers, they consist of a red core and a black outer layer. The red shows
through only at the tip. These candles are only found in red and black, and they
are a very old style, still quite popular for reversing enemy work,

breaking tricks, and uncrossing crossed conditions
. They are often
butted and burned upside down, and are often burned on a mirror, as described
above. All the names and words carved or inscribed into reversing candles is
generally done backwards, in mirror writing.

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Whereas Catholic religious practice presents us with the novena (nine-day)
candle, in hoodoo, we see instead the seven-day candle, sometimes referred to by
older practitioners as the "7-day vigil candle," due to its being burned for
difficult cases or ongoing situations over the course of seven days, while one
watches and waits for

divinatory signs

There are four types of 7-day candles used in


The candle divided by seven needles or pins:

I believe that this is the oldest form of the 7-day candle. To make one, take
a regular offertory or jumbo-size candle and seven needles or pins. Poke the
needles into the candle, dividing it into seven equal parts (the seventh needle
or pin can go at the top or at the bottom, but no one i know ever uses SIX
needles or pins to divide the candle into seven parts). Write your wish (or
seven wishes) on a piece of paper. Turn the paper 90 degrees sideways and write
your full name over the wish or wishes seven times, crossing and covering the
previous writing with your name. Place the paper under the candle. Dress the
candle with an appropriate oil. Burn it for seven nights, pinching it out (NOT
blowing it out) each time a needle falls. Save the needles when they fall. When
the last needle falls, stick the needles into the paper in the form of two X
patterns surrounding one double-cross pattern (that has two lines crossing one
upright line).

Dispose of the ritual remains in an appropriate way
: Bury the paper
and any leftover wax under your doorstep if your intention is to draw something
or someone to you. Throw the paper and wax away at a crossroads, in running
water, or in a graveyard if the intention is to get rid of something or someone.



I have seen ads for these under the name "The Famous 7-Knob Wishing Candle"
dating back at least to the 1930s; they might be older, but i do not know. They
are mentioned favourably in

Henri Gamache's
"Master Book of Candle Burning" (written in 1942) and
they are very popular in the African-American community, which seems to indicate
that they are efficacious. Seven-knob candles generally come in four colours,
with the usual symbolism implied (white for blessing or wishing, red for love or
sex, green for money or gambling luck, black for destruction or revenge). Carve
a brief wish on each knob -- either the same wish seven times or seven different
wishes, one per knob. Dress the candle with an appropriate oil. Burn it for
seven nights, pinching it out (NOT blowing it out) each time a knob is gone.


This is a hand-made candle that contains seven tiny metal charms (milagros
or ex-votos
) inside, which are revealed one per day as you burn the
candle down over the course of seven days. It is more common in Latin America
than in the USA. Often the charms are religious as well as lucky, and they may
include a cross, an angel, the powerful hand of God, a man's head, a woman's
head, and so forth.


This style of 7-day candle only became popular from the 1970s onward. It is
made with seven layers of wax in different colours, poured into a tall, narrow
glass container. Burn one layer each day with appropriate prayers or wishes.
It's interesting to note that this is the same size and shape of candle which
the Catholics call a novena candle, although they expect it to burn for nine
days. For many more examples of glass encased candles in both the Catholic and

traditions, see the sections below on

glass encased religious candles

glass encased vigil candles

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A votive candle is one that is burned as the result of a vow. Many people
think of votive candles as small, glass-encased candles, about 2 or 3 inches in
height, but this is only one type of votive candle. In fact, such candles are
defined by their function, not their form. However, for the purposes of clarity,
in this article, i will refer to paper or glass encased candles under 2 inches
in height as tea lights, those under 5 inches in height as votive candles and
those that come in tall glass cylinders as novena and vigil candles.

In Mexico, small paper encased religious votive candles called "Lux Perpetua"
(perpetual light or eternal light) were developed during the 19th century. These
delightfully old-fashioned candles are usually filled with a very soft grade of
wax that may also contain animal fat. Imported into the United States,
especially along the border with Mexico, they are now quite popular among
African-American Catholics as well as with immigrants from Latin America.

Perhaps the first glass encased votive candles specifically marketed to

buyers (as opposed to religious buyers) were Jan-O-Sun brand
jelly-jar style three-colour votive candles, sold by the Standard O and B Supply
Company of Chicago in the 1940s. They look essentially like modern glass votive
lights of today and seem to have come onto the market suddenly, to have achieved
immediate popularity, and to have been in production from various makers since
their introduction.

Typically, votive candles are burned as the prelude to or result of a
conditional vow: The petitioner asks a favour of a deity, saint, or spirit and
offers recompense (an ex voto) if the wish is granted. Under these
circumstances, votive candles may be used either as inducements, as offerings,
or as both.


Tea Lights are very small votive candles poured into aluminum cups; originally
designed to be used at the table to keep foods and drinks warm (hence the name
"tea light"), they make great refills for glass votive candle holders, are
extremely economical, and are relatively safe to burn. Their small size is also
an advantage for busy people who wish to do continuing candle magic on
successive days without leaving large candles unattended.

When employed as inducements, votive candles are burned during the course of
making the petition. For instance, a petitioner may be awaiting a court case
hearing in nine days, and will burn votive candles for the entire length of time
as an inducement for a

patron saint
to hear his plea for help, all the while promising an
additional offering, such as flowers, more candles, publication of the saint's
name in the newspaper, or a donation to a charitable organization, if the court
case has a successful outcome.

When votive candles are employed as offerings, the petition is made silently
and the burning of a certain number of candles with the

patron saint's
picture on them in a church where all may see and
recognize the

patron saint's
efficacy is a typical offering that is promised or
vowed should the petition be granted.

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By 1945, although American mail order

catalogues still primarily sold free-standing altar candles with
pasted-on labels -- under brand names such as

black cat
, Success, and Master Power -- they also began to carry what
they called "religious" candles, those familiar tall, glass encased
European-American Catholic novena candles bearing printed paper labels depicting


Novena candles are designed to be burned for nine days while a series of
votary prayers are made. It is not necessary to dress them with magical oils,
although many people like to anoint them with named Saint Oils that match the
candles they burn. Colour symbolism is not always important part of the lore
accompanying these religious candles, although some saints do have certain
colours associated with them, such as green for

Saint Jude
and red for

Saint Expedite

The use of glass-encased Novena candles is widespread in Catholic Latin
America; as well as in pseudo-Catholic African-Caribbean religions such as
Santeria and Voodoo, and among the pseudo-Catholic Mayans of Guatemala who burn
glass encased candles to a black-garbed peasant figure called

Maximon or Saint Simon

Beginning in the late 1970s, Cuban, Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran
immigrants -- both Catholics and Santeros -- entered the United States in great
numbers, which led to the increased marketing of

Catholic saint
novena candles here. Suddenly, not only could one find
novena candles dedicated to universally well known Catholic figures like

Saint Jude (San Judas Thadeo)
, but candles featured a host of
Catholic saints previously little known here, such as

San Martin Caballero (Saint Martin of Tours)
and the

Nino de Atocha (Infant of Atocha)

Additionally, as time went on, manufacturers began to add more and more
paper-labelled glass encased novena candles marketed to their inventories in
order to appeal to this sector of the population. Some of these candles honour
Catholic folk saints and holy apparitions that are revered in Latin America but
have not been officially approved by the Vatican, like the

Anima Sola (Lonely Soul)
, a Mexican favourite, and the

Seven African Powers (Siete Potentias)
, a staple image that
represents the Cuban Santeria religious practice of mingling Catholic saints
with the West African deities called Orishas.

On occasion one may even find the conflated Mayan-Catholic deity-saint

Maximon (often labelled Saint Simon-Judas)
on the candle shelf in a
grocery or supermarket, a sure sign that a community of Guatemalan immigrants
lives in the area.

The arrival of these immigrants, with their firmly entrenched candle-burning
customs, has had a strong effect on

candle-burning practices. After decades of exposure to people who
find it efficacious to petition the saints, it is not uncommon now to hear from
African-American Protestants who have little interest in the Catholic form of
Christianity, that they would like to burn a Just Judge (Justo Juez) candle for
a court case.

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Although special-use figural candles are still very popular with
African-Americans and "The Master Book of Candle Burning" is still in print,
since the 1970s, the old Jewish-style offertory candles have shared shelf space
in hoodoo curio shops with "vigil candles" modelled after tall, glass-enclosed
Catholic-style novena candles. In short, a merger between

and Catholic candle burning traditions has been effected.

Catholic novena candles bear colourful paper

saint image
labels, and many

vigil lights are similarly decorated. (Others are printed with
one-colour line-art and hand-lettered text silk-screened directly onto the
glass.) The text and images found on vigil candles are typically the same as
those used in

formulae for

anointing oils
, including

Fast Luck



Money House Blessing
, and the like.


glass encased vigil lights still retain such traditional
African-American titles as

Fast Luck

John the Conqueror
, some have been outfitted with partial or complete
Spanish translations of their names or intended manner of use. In addition, the
makers of silkscreened

candles may carry a Mayan item such as the chuparrosa love
candle and they might add a Santeria line with special colours and designs for

or their

Catholic saint

The evolving form of

candles has not greatly affected the traditional system of colour
symbolism, although under the influence of Santeria's Catholic heritage, which
invokes the brown-robed

Saint Anthony as the finder of lost things and returner of lost lovers
brown candles, formerly used for court cases, are now also employed for the
return of that which is lost. Glass containers make it easy to pour two-,
three-, and even seven-layer candles -- which led to the development of multi-colour

Probably the most popular of the multi-colour glass encased 7-day vigil
candles is the red-and-black Reversible candle for returning evil to the one who
sent it. This is simply a modification of the old standby two-colour
free-standing jumbo altar candle called "Double Action," which is still
manufactured and still quite popular. However, other multi-coloured candles are
only found in glass encased form, among them the seven-colour Lucky Prophet
Lafin [sic]

Brand All Purpose Novena Candle which grants

"7 desires"
to the user.

The practice of dressing candles with

anointing oils

magic herbs
had to be modified considerably to accommodate the new
7-day vigil candles. Since the sides of a glass encased candle cannot be rubbed,
it is now customary for the retailer rather than the user to dress the candle.
This is done by poking holes into the top of the candle with a nail (preferably
a coffin nail) and then dripping an appropriate

anointing oil

magic herbs
into these holes, sometimes finishing off the top with
symbolically coloured glitter. This technique leaves the customer in danger of
spilling the

dressing oil
while carrying the candle home, so in many stores the
dressed candle is covered with a plastic sandwich bag or cling wrap, held in
place by a rubber band.

The introduction of glass encased candles also necessitated modifications in
spells designed to be worked over a length of time. The old pin or needle
measuring technique, described above, cannot be used on glass encased candles,
so timed burning or measuring the glass into sections with a marking-pen has
taken the place of needles or pins among people who prefer the glass encased
candles. This serves to weaken the practitioner's involvement in the spell,
however, because there are no pins or needles left over to make the crosses and
double crosses prescribed in the older workings. A glass encased candle spell
therefore takes on a slightly "ritual" or "religious" tone, in that one's
desires and wishes are expected to do the work alone, as contrasted to an
offertory candle spell, in which the manipulation of magical objects -- candle,
flame, paper,

, and needles or pins -- is integral to doing the job.

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For those who wish to burn candles in their own home but don't want family
members or visitors to know their business, the preferred form of symbolically
coloured vigil candles are those that are fixed and prepared with herbs and
oils, but WITHOUT LABELS. Usually called "plain" lights, they can be introduced
into the home under the name of "mood lighting" or "holy lights." Their actual
purposes -- and the types of oils and herbs used to dress them -- remain the
secret of the one who lights them.

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Due to requests from those who regularly perform candle-work at their altars,
many curio and candle shops carry pull-out candles -- refills for novena and
vigil lights. There are pluses and minuses to the use of pull-out candles, of
which the user should be aware.


Folks old enough to recall the earlier types of novena and vigil lights will
be pleased to know that pull-outs are REAL WAX -- solid wax, not the gooey
semi-solid you get these days in vigil lights.

Pull-outs are sturdy enough to burn as STAND-ALONES, that is, standing on
their own with no glass, like a commercial pillar candle.

Pull-outs can be LOADED from below with personal concerns, petitions, and so

Pull-outs can be CARVED with names and petitions and DRESSED with oil before
being slid into the glass holder.

Favourite glass holders can be re-used again and again.

Pull-outs come in all ten of the standard colours used in candle-magic
symbolism. Standard novenas and vigil lights are most often white or yellow, but
with pull-outs, you can burn a candle of any colour you prefer in a jar
dedicated to the saint or condition of your choice, making personal combinations
that cannot be found in stores.


Pull-outs are usually 2 inches wide and 7 inches tall. Because of their
width, they do not fit into every single brand of novena or vigil light. There
are at least three different patterns of moulds used on the glass for novenas
and vigil candles. Wide-mouth novenas made in glass jars DO take the pull-outs
but narrow-mouth novenas in what is often called the "sanctuary style" do NOT
accommodate them.

The cost per pull-out candle is almost the same as the cost of new
glass-encased candle -- and some folks will no doubt think that is too high. The
reason for this, as with all candles, has to do with the quality of the wax
(pull-outs are made with better wax than novenas and vigil lights) and with the
WEIGHT of the candles. Pull-outs weigh about 1 lb. each when wrapped for
shipping. Many internet retailers keep their shipping costs very low by
estimating shipping on "average" products but candles are not average in weight,
so they add the extra candle shipping charge to the price of the candles, which
makes them look more expensive than they really are. If retailers did not do
this, they would have to calculate and charge shipping on every single order
individually, which is beyond most occult shop owners' abilities at math -- and
above the math inclinations of most of their customers as well.

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Offertory and figural candles are dressed by rubbing them (for instance,
upward to "draw" and downward to repel) with appropriate

anointing oils
, such as

Fast Luck

, or

John the Conqueror
. Some practitioners then sprinkle them with

sachet powders
or roll them in finely cut

magic herbs
selected for their specific spiritual powers.

The time of day is important, too: To draw influences, some

practitioners say that the candle should be lit when both clock
hands are rising, in the second half of the hours between six and twelve; to
repel or cast off influences, they believe that the candle should be lit when
both hands on the clock are falling, in the first half of the hours from twelve
to six. Other folks prefer to light candles at midnight, the traditional
"witching hour."

Candles are usually marked in some way to indicate on whose behalf they are
being burned. In its simplest form, this consists of writing a petition and/or a
name on paper (often multiple times) and placing the paper beneath the candle,
sometimes under an overturned saucer. In addition, words or sigils may be
inscribed or carved into the candle wax with a needle, pin, rusty nail, or
knife, depending on the intention behind the spell.

When a paper is placed under the candle, this is called "burning a candle on
[him or her]." Many people also burn a candle on someone's picture, that is,
place a drawing or photo under the saucer. It is customary to write the name on
the back of the picture when doing this. Burning a candle on someone's name or
picture can be done for love, revenge, harm, or any desired result, depending on
the candle colour and the dressing oil used.

The earliest printed version of this spell i have yet found comes from New
Orleans and dates back to 1924. It is found not in a book of folklore or magic,
but rather in the song

"Hoodoo Blues" written by Spencer Williams and recorded by Bessie Brown
Due to the constraints of the blues lyrics format, the spell is given in sketchy
format, but it is recognizable.

In this 1924 version, a

black cat bone
is used for the return of the narrator's lover (he
seems to have moved into another woman's home) and burning a candle on her
picture (a black candle, i'd wager) is to get her to let loose of the man so he
can return to the singer. The enemy's picture goes under the candle, and
although it is not specifically stated in the song lyric, i presume that in
keeping with modern usage, the enemy's name is written on the back of the
picture and the picture-with-name goes under a saucer which is under the candle.

Here is the relevant verse:

Goin' 'neath her window, gonna lay a

black cat bone

Goin' 'neath her window, gonna lay a

black cat bone

Burn a candle on her picture, she won't let my good man alone.


Free-standing candles are typically burned in candle holders or candle
stands. These may be elaborate or plain. When a large number of small altar
candles or offertory will be lit at one time -- as, for instance, in the

Fiery Wall of Protection Spell
, it is most economical and efficient
to utilize small, simple, stamped metal candle stands called "star holders."

In some spells, the candle is burned a half-inch at a time for several days.
In others, it is burned in intervals at specified times of the day, or marked
into sections with pins or needles and burned a section at a time "until the pin
drops." In addition to burning the candle while it stands on a piece of paper,
some spells specify that the candles should be moved toward or away from each
other over the course of the working, or that the candle flame be used to ignite
the name- or petition-paper, the ashes of which are then used in the work.
During the course of certain conjurations, altar candles may be butted and
burned upside down or even burned sideways at both ends, as with double action
candles. They may also be ceremonially extinguished in water or turned upside
down into a saucer of

graveyard dirt
to put them out.


Any kind of matches can be used to light candles, of course, but some people
enjoy having specialty matches available, both for aesthetic and for practical
reasons. Wooden matches are easier to light than paper ones and burn longer, so
they can be used to set several candles alight at once. When it comes to glass
encased candles, most folks burn those straight through -- but if you chose to
burn them for short periods, put them out, and then relight them, you will
probably need to use extra-long

fireplace matches
to get them going again.


When a candle is burned in sections, either measured by time or by pins, it
is invariably pinched or snuffed out, not blown out at the end of each session,
to signify that the spell is not yet complete. A more graceful way to put out
candles than by spitting on your fingers and pinching, is to snuff the candles
out with an old-fashioned candle snuffer. This also reduces objectional smoke
from the snuffed candle.

Decorative candle snuffers
are often made of brass or brass and wood
and they make elegant altar tools for spiritual workers whose practice involves
regular candle burning.

If pins or needles are used for measuring sections on a candle, they usually
will not be discarded after they drop, but will be saved for further use.
Depending on the type of job being done, they may be utilized for making crosses
and double crosses in the paper on which the names or desires have been written,
they may be wrapped in a cloth or paper and buried or carried in a

mojo hand
, or they may be

disposed of in a ritual manner

Experienced workers often accompany the setting of lights with the burning of
an appropriate

. Some folks prefer to light the

first to set the mood as they mark, inscribe, dress and light
their candles. Others believe that the lighting of the candles must come first,
with the


There is also a strong contingent of spiritually-inclined folks who will not
use common matches at their altars because they feel that the disposal of
matches breaks the ritual flow of their movements. They prefer to light a taper
or an extra-long

fireplace matches
in another room and bring it to the altar, and blow
it out or snuff it once the actual lights are set. As with all such matters,
tradition and personal preferences leave room for variation.

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When we burn candles, we often watch and wait for divinatory signs that tell
us how the work is going to come out -- that is, whether the spell will be a
success or not. Some of the common signs we observe are so-called "coincidences"
(especially names and subject matter that relate to those in the spell). We can
also consult a system of divination, such as using a pendulum or a Jack Ball,

reading or cutting playing cards or tarot cards
, or employing
Bibliomancy (divination by means of a book such as the Bible). Another easy way
to get a divination on candle-burning spells is through ceromancy -- divination
by wax. In this case, the wax we "read" is the wax of the candles themselves.

Not every magical practitioner takes heed of the manner in which ritual or
spell-casting candles burn, but for the most part, in my experience, people who
work in African-American and African-Caribbean traditions often pay attention to
the way a candle burns and can draw conclusions about it. In particular,
spiritual workers who set lights for clients make a habit of noticing the manner
in which the candles burn.

Of course, it is important to note that some candles are simply poorly made
and will burn badly no matter what you do with them (for instance, if the wick
is too thick they may burn sootily). Also, the temperature in the area, the
presence of wind or a draft, and other external factors may play a part in how
candles burn. The novice should not worry over-much about how candles burn until
he or she has burned a lot of candles and gained some perspective on the matter.

A sign does not reflect on your ability to do the work: If your candle burns
badly or goes out, you did not "botch" the spell. However, on the other hand,
the fact that a "natural" draft put your candle out or "the cat tipped it over"
does not obviate the fact that the candle going out was a bad sign. This is
because a sign is a message, and the method of its delivery to your
consciousness is not as important as that you saw it and received the sign.

All that having been said, here are some of the things to watch for when
burning candles:

The candle gives a clean, even burn

This means things will go well with the spell or blessing and that one will
most likely get what one wishes for. If a glass encased candle burns and leaves
no marks on the glass, that is best. If a free-standing candle leaves little or
no residue, that is best.

The flame flares, dips, gutters, and flares again, repeatedly

This is often seen as a sign that the person on whom you are working is
subconsciously aware of your actions and may be responding partially, then
fighting off your influence, then responding again. Be sure, however, that this
behaviour of the candle flame is not caused by the mundane fact that you have
set the candle in a draft. If necessary, move the candle somewhere else and see
if the repeated flaring up and dying away stops; if it does not stop, then it is
to be considered a sign, and not simply a physical coincidence.

The flame hisses, sizzles, pops, or makes other noises

This is usually interpreted -- especially by those in the Spiritual Church
Movement -- as a sign that spirits (of the dead, of angels, or of other
entities) are trying to "come through," that is, to communicate. Pay attention!
You may learn something important.

A free-standing candle runs and melts a lot while burning

This gives you an opportunity to observe the flow of wax for signs. For
instance, if you are burning a bride-and-groom type candle for love, and the
woman's wax runs all over the man's, then the woman desires the man more than he
desires her. If you are burning a green money candle and the wax melts and runs
down onto the monetary offering, then the spell is "eager to work" and the
candle is "blessing the money." Some people try to influence the way melting wax
runs. They do this as an intentional part of the spell-work, to increase the
likelihood that things will go the way they want. Others prefer to let nature
take its course and to watch running wax for signs, without interfering in its

A free-standing candle burns down to a puddle of wax

When this happens, most workers will examine the shape of the wax for a sign.
You may see something of importance there, for the shape may suggest an outcome
regarding the matter at hand. For instance, a heart-shaped wax puddle is a good
significator if you are burning red candles for

love spells
-- and a coffin-shaped wax puddle is a good significator
if you are burning a black devil candle against an enemy. Wax puddles come in
all kinds of shapes; most candle-workers treat them like tea-leaves when they
"read" them.


A glass encased candle burns half clean and half dirty

This indicates that there is hidden trouble with the person for whom the
lights have been set or that someone is working against your wishes. Things will
not go well at first, but by repeated spells you may get them to go better.

A free-standing candle lets out a lot of smoke but burns clean at the end

Again, hidden trouble or someone working against your wishes. Things will not
go well at first, but with repeated work you will overcome.

There is a dirty, black, sooty burn (especially one that messes up a glass
encased candle)

This means things are going to go hard -- the spell may not work, the
blessing may fail, the person is in deeper stress or trouble than you thought.
If the work is being done against an enemy and the enemy's candle burns sooty
and dirty, then it is likely that the enemy is fighting your influences.

A glass encased vigil candle cracks or breaks, spilling wax

This is never a "good" sign. That does not mean, however, that it is always a
"bad" sign. You need to consider what kind of candle it is in order to interpret
the meaning. A broken

Love Me
candle and dripping wax could mean tears and separation and a

Money Stay With Me
candle with dripping wax could mean inability to
control outflow of money and failure of the spell -- but a broken Separation
candle might signify a very compete and abrupt break-up (with tears) and a

Cast Off Evil
candle might signify that the evil spell was suddenly
broken (possibly with tears, bloodshed, or God-all-knows-what). In other words,
the symbolism varies based on the type of candle. In any case, the action i
personally would take would be to set another of the same sort of light on the
same situation; that is, i would re-do the work because i would not consider a
broken candle and spilled wax to be a positive outcome unless the candle was lit
for a negative petition, and even then it would have negative side-effects
(tears, blood, loss).

The candle goes out before completely burning

If your light was lit for simple increase or decrease without respect to the
will of another being (more wealth, less illness, etc.) then this is may be
considered a bad sign -- a negative reply from the world of spirit to the
question implied in the work.

If the candle was set in open opposition to the will of another person (e.g.
a coercive love spell, an antagonistic spell, etc.) then this sign may either be
a negative reply from the world of spirit to the question implied in the work or
it may be a message from the other person, implying resistance, blockage,
reversal of your designs, or sending harm back onto you or your client. Such a
dousing of your lights may indicate that someone very strong is working against
you or against the person on whose behalf you are setting the lights.

In any case, if the light goes out, you will have to splint the wick (that
is, re-wick the candle) and pray over it before relighting it, or start the
entire job over from the beginning. If the light goes out or is put out a second
time, this a sign that you may need to use stronger means than you first
employed to reach the goal.

The candle tips over and flames up into a fire hazard

Not only will the spell probably fail but there may be increased danger ahead
for you or the client. In order to accomplish anything, you will have to start
the entire job over from the beginning -- but first do a thorough

spell for everyone involved and

ritually clean the premises
before setting any more lights.

The candle burns up overly fast

Generally a fast burn is good, but an overly-fast burn (compared to other
times you have used the same kind of candle) means that although the work will
go well, it may not last long. You might have to repeat the job at a later date.
If you have set lights for several people and one person's candle burns faster
than the others, then that person is most affected by the work, but the
influence may not last long enough to produce a permanent change.





In European-American traditions, many people bury candle wax and other ritual
remains after a spell is cast. Burial toward the appropriate quarter of the
compass is considered a thoughtful way to go about this. Some neo-pagans dispose
of ritual or spell remains in a bonfire or fireplace.

In African-American

candle magic spells

the disposal of left-over materials
follows other patterns, usually
dependent upon the type of spell.

If the intention of the spell is good and it involves matters around one's
own home, like blessing, love-drawing, money-drawing, or home protection, one
can wrap the materials in a cloth or paper packet and bury them in the yard. It
is important to never bury remains from negative spells in one's own yard.

If the intention of the spell is not centered on matters close to home, or if
one does not have a suitable yard, one can wrap the materials in a cloth or
paper packet and throw them in running water over the left shoulder and walk
away. Alternatively, one can take the materials to a

-- any place where two roads cross -- and throw the packet
into the center of the

over the left shoulder and walk away. The

is also the preferred place to throw

before beginning a spell; it is often used for throwing out
the remains of candle wax if the spell does not personally involve the
practitioner or if the spell is negative or influence-removing.

If the intention of the spell is specifically to get someone to leave town or
leave one alone, one can divide the materials (e.g. 9 needles used in a spell
and 9 pieces of wax from a candle) into 9 packets and add

Hot Foot Powder (or Drive Away Powder)
to each packet. One starts at

near to where the person lives and throws out the first
packet. Then one travels in a direction away from the enemy's home, toward where
one wants them to go, and drops a packet at each

one passes until all the packets are gone. In the country
this might carry one several miles. In the city it would only be 9 blocks, so
city folks only count major intersections (with a light) when they do this, or
they may count freeway interchanges to get some distance worked up between the

If the intention of the spell is seriously, irreparably harmful (like causing
another person grave illness), especially if it contains

graveyard dirt or goofer dust
, one can dispose of the material in a
graveyard. The wax and other remnants are placed in a miniature coffin, buried,
and marked by a miniature headstone with the enemy's name on it. When setting
such a spell to rest, many workers also sprinkle a mixture of sulphur powder and
salt around the grave, then walk home and don't look back.




For a list of titles and images found on contemporary glass encased

, Catholic, Santeria, and Mayan candles, go to the page of

7-Day and Novena candles




For a list of contemporary manufacturers of

, Catholic, Santeria, and Mayan candles, go to the page of

candle makers




Here are some simple conjurations using candles:

posted by VICKY @ 12:20 PM,


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