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Dressing The Candle

Dressing candles is the first step to any form of candle magick

When you perform magick, you are performing a ritual.  There are rituals within rituals, and dressing the candle is one of those rituals.  There are many books that tell you how to dress a candle, and most of them explain pretty much the same thing. 

Usually what they tell you is to take the candle and anoint it with oil, drawing the oil from the middle of the candle to each end.  While this is exactly the form to use, doing this is just going through the motions.

In a ritual that you want to be successful, especially when you plan to work some magick, just going through the motions isn’t going to help in the success of either the ritual or the magick.  Ritual and magick are all about Will and Intent.

You can plan and execute the most elaborate of rituals, but how successful do you really think it will be, if the only time you are focusing on the reason for the whole process, is during the actual Working?  Yet this is exactly what a lot of Witches do.  They get so caught up in making sure that the motions are all done correctly, that they never once think to focus on the purpose of those actions.

As I explain in What Is Ritual? the point of always performing the ritual the same way every time is so that you don’t need to think about what you are doing, you just do it.  This frees up your mind to focus on the Intent behind what you are doing instead.

A sloppy, distracted, or hastily done ritual, where your mind is on everything but the Intent of the ritual, isn’t going to be successful.  Witchcraft takes time.  It isn’t instant gratification.  After you have enough practice, and the motions are second nature, you will find that it doesn’t take as much time to focus your mind on the reason for the ritual, and you will be able to do quick, powerful rituals in only a few minutes if you need to.

First Things First. 

If you are reading this because you want to learn, then you aren’t at the point where you can whip up a fast successful ritual.  That’s ok, you can get there.  Just like anything else, all it takes is practice.  Each ritual you perform is practice, and every time you practice you get better.

Now I don’t want you to think that you should just start doing rituals for no reason.  That would be a waste of time and energy.  There are plenty of valid reasons to perform rituals and actually see a benefit, so there’s no reason to do mock rituals.  Besides, without an Intent for the ritual, it’s a useless ritual anyway.

Always focus on the Intent for the ritual while you are setting up and performing the ritual.  If you’ve ever gone to a public ritual, you may have noticed that a lot of times there just isn’t much satisfaction in them.  There are many reasons this can happen, but everyone just watching what’s happening instead of focusing on the Intent of the ritual is a big one.

Choosing The Proper Candle For Your Ritual

The choice of candle to use for your ritual is important.  Most Witches will say that color, scent and type of wax is important.  To some extent, I agree.  All three of these attributes can play an important part in helping your subconscious understand the Intent of the ritual.  The thing is, a candle is nothing more than a tool, and the power is not in the tool, it is in the Witch.

There has been a raging argument over whether to use bees wax candles, or standard paraffin wax candles.  Some believe that because bees wax is natural, it is better because paraffin is petroleum based and has impurities that may have adverse effects on your spell.

Personally, I look at it this way.  Petroleum is a natural compound produced by decaying plant matter, put under extreme heat and pressure for eons.  The fact that the wax is a byproduct of the refining process doesn’t bother me.  Especially when, as Witches, we want to use every possible part of what we take from the Land.

Attitude plays a large part in the success of a Working.  If you know that your magick works, it works.  It’s as simple as that.  So if you believe that there are impurities in paraffin wax that might cause problems with your ritual, don’t use it.

Color also helps the subconscious mind understand what the Intent of the ritual is.  I’m not a psychologist, I don’t understand why color affects us the way it does, but I know that it does.  It’s been proven in study after study that if you paint a jail cell pink, those held in that cell tend to be much less violent. 

Color has an effect on us.  There are many sources for finding color correspondences.  Blues are for peace and calming, reds are for passion or anger, yellows are for inspiration and creativity.  If you can’t find the appropriate color for your planned Working, there is always simple white.

There are those, and I used to be one of them, that say you can’t use a scented candle in ritual.  It’s the oil that you use, that gives the candle the properties of scent that you want for your ritual.  The problem is that it can be hard to find any plain candles that don’t have scent. 

One day I was at the local grocery store looking for candles.  Grocery stores are wonderful for finding good, cheap candles.  You want those hard to find black and orange candles? Go to the grocery store the day after Samhain. I can guarantee that they’ll have more than you can carry, and will almost give them to you.

So I was at the grocery store looking for candles, and all I could find were those scented candles in the glass jars.  I was thinking to myself “Self, I’m never going to find what I need here, and I don’t really want to drive all the way to the closest metaphysical shop for one lousy candle!  Then I had an epiphany.  The variety of scents available in these candles is incredible.  Not only do they have just about every type of flower scent, they even have vanilla, and cotton.

I still haven’t figured out what to use a cotton scented candle for in ritual, but what is it you are doing when you anoint the candle?  You’re adding scent to it.  If the candle already has the scent you want, or one that is similar enough to work, why not use it?  And what’s better, I could buy one in a glass jar, and let it burn safely over several days!

I started this section with the words, “The choice of candle to use for your ritual is important“, but I’ve just trashed all the usual reasons given for why you should buy a particular candle.  So what did I mean?  I meant that you must match the size, type, and scent of your candle to the Intent of the ritual.

If part of your ritual is to watch the candle burn down to nothing, you are going to want to use a small candle.  A seven-day votive would be difficult to watch the entire time.  If on the other hand, you want something that burns over time, so that the magick is released gradually, a birthday cake candle won’t do either.

Let’s take Quarter Candles as an example.  You are probably going to want to use something large, so that you don’t have to keep constantly replacing them.  You can go to a metaphysical or candle store and buy large unscented pillar candles in the appropriate colors, dress them properly, and use them.  Or you could go to the local grocery store and buy pre-scented candles in the appropriate colors and scents for a lot less, and use them.

Let’s face it, a red scented candle is probably going to be cinnamon, or some other fiery scent.  As long as it’s not rose scented, it will work fine for the South Quarter. The power is in the Witch, not the Witches tools.


Oiling The Works

I think most Witches would prefer to anoint their own candles if they can.  Again, it allows them to concentrate on the Intent to which the candle will be put.  The actual process of anointing is simple.  You take the candle in one hand, and place a drop of an appropriate oil on your fingertip of the other hand.  With the fingertip, you run a bead of oil around the middle of the candle.  Now with the fingertip, draw the oil from the middle of the candle toward one end. 

Continue drawing the oil with your finger from the middle of the candle to one end all the way around the circumference of the candle.  As you are applying the oil, focus on the Intent for which the candle is to be used.  When you are done with one half, apply another ring of oil to the middle, and repeat the process for the other end.

If this is a Quarter Candle, you will want to focus on the Element it symbolizes.  For example, let’s take the West.  You will most likely have a blue candle, and some sort of symbolic Water oil such as Spring Rain.  As you anoint the candle, visualize a stream, or pool of water.  In your mind, transform the oil into water.  You are coating the candle with the Element of Water.  See the Water enter the candle and watch it transform the candle into Water.

You would do the same for each Quarter Candle, with its appropriate Element.  You can make this as elaborate as you like, even mimicking the motions of scooping or catching the element to put into the candle.  The point is to spend time, and focus on the Intent of what you need it to do.  Do not rush.  Take as long as it takes to get it just the way you want it.

If the candle is to be used for a specific spell, focus on that spell as you anoint it.  A money spell would use a gold, or silver candle, or even green, if you live in the US.  You would be using an appropriate oil such as Prosperity, or even Come To Me oil.  As you anoint the candle, make it transform from simple wax, into real gold or silver.  Give the candle the attributes of that which it represents.  Wax is useless in a money spell, but gold and silver? 

I’ve even known Witches to take actual money and rub it over the candle, infusing the value of the money into the candle.  Remember, we’re working with the subconscious mind, and it works with images.  The more like the thing you are Working for, you make the candle, the better your Working will be.

Carving Symbols

Depending on the purpose of the candle, you may want to carve letters, words, symbols, or sigils into it.  A friend of mine will soon be publishing a book with a section on sigils, what they are, and how they’re used.  For now, we can simply say that sigils are carvings or drawings that symbolically represent an idea.

Sometimes you will want to add symbology to the candle.  This can be a powerful tool for helping your mind focus on exactly what outcome you desire.  For example, in a money spell, you might want to carve the amount you want into the candle, so that in your mind, and therefore to the Universe, there is no question about getting less. 

Some say that you should use your Athame to carve a candle.  I’ve tried.  It’s sloppy at best, and bloody at worst.  There’s nothing wrong with a little blood, on your candle, and some spells may even require a drop of life blood, but why give it unless it’s required?

There are several tools you can use for carving letters or symbols into candle wax.  One of the best is a straight pin, like they use to pin up a hem before sewing.  It’s thin and sturdy, and long enough to grip well.  If you are a gardener, or know one who grows roses, a rose thorn can be used. 

The best way I’ve found to use a rose thorn is by taking a wooden dowel, and with a drop of AC (super) glue, attaching the base of the thorn to the end of the dowel.  This will give you a pencil-like grip, and because the thorn is curved, if you drag the point like a sleigh skid, you can control the direction you carve by spinning the dowel.

However you carve the symbols, it may take several swipes at each part of the symbol to get it deep enough to see, without digging too far into the wax to get a smooth cut.  This is an advantage since you should be focusing on the Intent of the candle, not carving the symbols.

All Dressed Up and Ready To Go

In the end, the actual process you use to dress your candles is up to you.  What’s important is the Intent and Will that you put behind that process.  

Witches take the ordinary, and transform it into the extraordinary.  We take wax, and transform it into a tool to work magick.  Unlike a Ceremonial Magickian, you don’t need to worry about every little detail of your ritual being perfect, as long as you take the time to focus your Will and Intent toward the goal of your ritual.


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