Animation by Danielle Moalem

How To Use Candles To Set Intentions

A little magick for your life

by Carolyn Yates

If magic is all about intention, candle magick takes that intention and ignites it. Fire represents will, so candle magick is perfect for setting goals and working to realize them. "If you don’t have your own personal sense of clarity in yourself and your intentions straight, the candle’s not going to help you,” says Naha Armády, the senior healer and teacher at House of Intuition in Los Angeles. "It’s not that the candle does the magick for you, the candle serves as an external place to focus your intention and to direct that intention out into the world.”

Fire is also an evocative symbol. "There is strong symbolism and power from a spell or intention being burned up or set into the world using flame,” says Amanda Stilwell, a solitary witch and the owner and co-founder of witchy shop LastCraft. Writing something on a piece of paper and burning it, or keeping a candle lit until it’s finished, play into that power. 

Just make sure to use that power for good. “You should never work against the rules of nature, and you should never work against the free will of another person. If you’re doing that, you’re running the risk of dealing with your own negative repercussions. Nobody ever got good end results by trying to manipulate somebody else’s free will,” says Armády. Have pure, non-specific intentions? Jump in. 

But first: How do you pick a magick candle? 

You can use any candle that feels right to you, but a good place to start is with long-burning styles, which usually come in glass pillars. "I, personally, like using large, seven-day candles for spellwork that takes time, that needs to marinate over several days. I use smaller candles in various colors for moon rituals or things that need to be wrapped up in a few hours,” says Stilwell. Glass pillar candles are also meant to burn continuously, an important element of magick. "Obviously, you want to use common sense when using a candle—you don’t want to burn your house down—but those pillar candles are intended to stay burning,” says Armády. 

Then, look at the color. Various colors have specific associations—and they’re definitely not universal across traditions. But what really matters is that, to you, the color resonates. "I’m thinking about what my intention is, maybe even sitting for a moment, closing my eyes, and picturing how I want to feel when I have manifested my intention. What color does that look like to me? That’s a more empowering way to do it than 'somebody told me I’m supposed to light that color,'” says Armády. 

You can stop there, or you can dress the candle with other elements. Add drops of an essential oil to the top to correspond with water and your feelings. Sprinkle herbs to correspond with air and your thoughts. Set crystals around the candle to correspond with earth and your physical world and material life. Herbal and crystal magic guides can help you make choices that will align with your intentions. (Fire, obviously, is taken care of.) 

Some candles come already dressed and charged with a specific intention, like House of Intuition’s Road Opener or LastCraft’s Femme Protection, but the best candle is the one that feels right to you. "Spiritual practice should be guided by what feels best to the person practicing,” says Stilwell. If a candle just feels right, no matter what a color key or guide says, use it.  

Now that you've got a magick candle, what do you actually do with it? 

To begin, find a clean area in your home where the candle won’t be disturbed, clear the area of anything that doesn’t relate to your intention, and surround it with things that do. For example, a money manifestation could involve a few $20 bills under the candle; some pyrite, citrine, or quartz crystals around it; and a photo of who you see as the personification of wealth nearby. 

Then, sit in front of it, relax, and focus on your goals. “Let yourself actually focus on that intention, close your eyes, and picture the end result,” says Armády. “That’s a big part of what magical ritual is, it’s setting aside the time to actually focus.” When you light the candle, you’re symbolizing igniting your intention. Keep it burning all the way down to symbolize your follow-through. "Again, while I don't think there's a wrong way to use them, for me it feels right to make sure the candle is burned all the way down. This feels like it sets the spiritual work,” says Stilwell. 

Magick candles are meant to be burned continuously, but unattended candles can ignite more than your intentions, so use common sense. For safety, when you go out, you can put them in small, stable bowls of water, leave them in a sink or bathtub (just watch out for shower curtains), or a fireplace; or just snuff—not blow—them out and relight them once you’re home. "Once you blow it out, you’re saying it’s done, it’s over, but if you snuff it out, then you can relight it. If you’re home, it should be on,” says Armády. “It’s better to snuff the candle out and then relight it when you’re home than it is to leave it on and be fearful.”

When the candle is finished, remember to pause and show gratitude. "Good magic should always end in gratitude. You want to make sure you’re acknowledging what you’ve achieved and not just going onto the next thing,” says Armády. Recognize your work in putting an intention out there and give thanks for anything already in motion. Recycle the glass. 

Then, keep moving through the world with that intention. "Remember: Ultimately, it’s you that’s going to have to do the work. The candle’s going to help serve as a reminder, be a symbolic ritual to help you get started, and motivate you to say, 'Okay if I’m going to take the time to light the candle and do this whole thing, then I better make sure I’m doing my part to get going whatever I’m trying to make happen here.' You can’t light a candle and get a job,” says Armády.