In “Ask a Witch,” Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age.
Question: I’m really attuned to candle magick and want to learn more about dressing candles for different situations. Any suggestions on working with oils and anointing (without burning the house down) would be awesome!
Answer: Oh, candle magick. I love it so much. Most of my really intense spells incorporate candles because they’re such an easy and powerful way of focusing energy, especially if you’re using them over a period of time. If magick equals intention plus energy plus action, then candle magick is the action part of the equation. By working with candles, we have a visible way of seeing our magick at work.
Below is my guide to working with candle magick, though there are many ways of doing this. My suggestion is to see what feels best for you and then stick with it. This way the process is the same, and the ritual becomes charged because it’s personalized and repeated.
1) Set your intention: The first thing to ask yourself in candle magick is [whether] you want to attract or banish something. Getting clear about what you’re trying to do will make the rest of this process much easier. If you want to carve your intention into your candle, make sure you’re concise and know what you want to write. You can also write this on a piece of paper (known as a petition) and have it near your candle when it’s burning.
2) Pick your candle and color: You can use white candles for pretty much anything, though they work especially well for attracting and manifesting, while black candle work is best for repelling or banishing. You can also look up colors specific to your intention, and select your candle from there. (Just to get you started, use red for sexual energy and passion; pink for love or self-love; orange for creativity and vitality; yellow for inspiration; green for money; blue for peace and health; purple for psychic connection, etc.)
Next, think about what kind of magick you’re going to be doing. If you’re only going to be working on the spell for one night (like on the full or new moon), then you may want to pick a chime candle or votive candle. If you’re doing a spell over a period of days (like from the new moon to full moon), you may want to pick a bigger candle like a seven-day candle or a taper candle, which will burn for longer.
3) Pick any oils or herbs you’re going to use to dress your candle: Anointing your candle is the process of dressing it in herbs and oils. You can always use extra virgin olive oil or an oil blend specific to what magick you’re working (like a love or money oil). These oil blends are available online and in metaphysical and witchy shops. You can also use essential oils and herbs that correspond to your magick as well, like rose for love, eucalyptus for healing and protection, mugwort for psychic connection, etc. You can look online for herbs specific to your magick or check out this list.
4) Anoint your candle: Thinking about carving your intention into your candle? Now is the time. You can use a pen and inscribe your candle with any magical symbols or runes, or simply write your intention on your candle. When writing your intention, write from the top to the middle, and then the bottom to the middle of the candle. When you’re ready to anoint your candle, rub your chosen oil in your hands and then, if you're manifesting, put it on your candle from the top to the middle, and then the bottom to the middle. If you're banishing, put the oil on from the middle to the top, and then the middle to the bottom. Do the same thing with herbs, sprinkling them on every side of the candle. You can also use another candle in the same color to drip wax atop of the herbs so they stay. Either way, you don’t need a ton of herbs; you want your candle to light without catching any excess herbs on fire.
5) Create a ritual or spell: Once you have your candle ready to go, it’s time to ritualize it! Think of your own practice and your intention and get crafting. Try cleansing your space with sacred herbs like palo santo, sage, or sweet grass; also, think about taking a salt bath and putting on some relaxing music. Let any roomies or significant others know not to distract you, and start to connect to your breath. If it’s in your practice to cast a circle or ground, do that! You can also create an altar dedicated to your candle spell and what you’re calling in or releasing.
When you’re ready, light your candle and state your intention. Take some time to meditate on the flame, or simply reconnect to your body and breath. If your candle spell is only for this day, let your candle burn all the way down. If it’s going to stretch over a few days — and this is important! — use a candle snuffer or a fan to put out your candle. Don’t blow it out! Relight your candle every day until the spell is finished. When you’re done with your ritual, connect back to Earth (my favorite way is by pressing my head into the Earth like in child’s pose) and thank the universe for her magick.
6) Disposing of wax: If you can, find an intersection where you can throw away your wax. You can also throw it out normally (i.e. in the garbage) if necessary. You can also keep a jar of your candle remains.
Question: How do you feel about reusing candle jars that you’ve used for specific spell work or rituals? Do you reuse and repurpose? Or recycle?
Answer: I think this is case-by-case! I have some candle jars on my altar that I’ve filled with dried flowers. I have others I’ve recycled. My suggestion is to see what your gut is telling you to do. When you think of reusing the same jar, do you feel excited and energized? Or icky and heavy? Sometimes our bodies know what our magick needs more than our minds do. I would say if you do choose to reuse the jars for magick, use them for the same type of magick. Have a designated manifestation and abundance candle jar, or one for love, for money, and so on. This way the energy has the same intention, though the nuances of it will be different. You can also think about how you can repurpose the jars on your altar. Can you make them into a vase? Or fill them with other wax pieces to dispose of at a later date? If not, recycle them. Again, tap into your intuition and see what comes up for you.
If you want even more candle magick and witch 101 expertise, you can order Herstik’s book, Craft: How To Be A Modern Witch.