Ask A Witch
Ask A Witch: A Guide To Candle Magic
Everything you need to know about candle magic, according to a witch.
This is Ask A Witch, NYLON’s column with Indigenous healer and herbalist Napaquetzalli Martinez that answers your questions on the esoteric, the spiritual, and so much more.
When we light candles, we ignite our prayers and communication with the unseen realms, illuminating our spiritual guides and giving them life as the flame burns. Candles sustains our intentions over a period of time, helping us focus our energy and intention towards a specific petition. Candle magic can be done to draw in love, attract money, call in healing forces, or honor ancestors — and even protect you from the law or in court-cases. Whatever your petition is, the way a candle burns can give us further insight and information about how our petitions were received, and if any further work is needed. Interpreting the magic afterwards is equally as important as preparing the candle and is part of the spellwork process.
How to interpret candle magic
The goal with candle spells is to have a clear, clean burn. That lets us know our petitions have been received with no obstacles in the way. For a trained witch, all of the little details matter and are used to gain insight. Is it a small, weak flame? Is it a tall, powerful flame? Does it burn fast or slowly? Glass encased candles, known as the traditional “7-day” candles, give us a wealth of information. Although there are many ways to interpret, one easy method is to imagine the candle in three parts: the top third of the candle representing past circumstances, the center third representing the current situation and the bottom third representing future outcomes. Cracked glass or exploding candles definitely indicate negative outer influences. Soot and smoke on the glass also represents stagnant energy surrounding the situation.
Pillar candles, which can be anointed and loaded with magic in different ways, create a nice ambiance and even better if they create a drip effect as they burn. Make sure to burn them on a ceramic plate or safe non-flammable surface, and pay close attention to them as they burn. You’ll be left with swirls of wax which can be read and interpreted, much like reading tea leaves. What shapes and images do you see in the wax? Does the wax flow in a particular direction?
Sometimes candles are “talkative” and can snap, crackle, and flicker to varying intensities. This means certain spirit guides are paying attention and communicating with us, aiding our petitions. There are infinite ways to interpret a candle’s message; consider Madame Pamita’s Book of Candle Magic as an in-depth reference to explore candle reading further.
As long as the candle is burning, we have the power to guide our workings in our favor. Madame Pamita explains the working of candles as ”one of the advantages to paying attention to your candle as it is burning” so that you can “head off any potential problems and effectively alter the direction of your magic.” The act of spellwork means we are an active participant, and can always utilize our agency to affect change around us.
“Candle flames that go out, flames that burn out of control, wax that spills over the side of the tray — all of these can give information about what's going on while your spell is in motion,” explains Pamita. The evil eye from outside forces, unclear intentions, and other obstacles usually show up as the candle burns. If your candle isn’t looking great, you might need to burn additional candles or focus on spiritual cleansing and protection. Tapping into your intuition is necessary for candle reading. And of course, practice common sense and fire safety!
Sourcing quality materials for candle magic
The quality of our candles directly impacts how the candle burns. Supporting your local botánicas — religious and spiritualist stores typically found in Latinx and Caribbean neighborhoods — is a great place to start. Each botánica has different offerings, and some will even aid in the anointment of candles and give guidance on candle work. Trust your intuition as not all spiritual stores have good energy: Vigilance is key.
Haus of Hoodoo makes a line of powerful fixed ritual candles with very specific burning instructions. Each practitioner will typically have their own methods of working candles, which are specific to their traditions or lineage. Group candle rituals have gained popularity over the last few years as more spiritualists have gone virtual. Petitions are sent to a practitioner who then performs the candle magic and offerings for a group of individuals. For group candle rituals, consider Olde Ways and Bossy Bruja, seasoned practitioners who are resources for trusted, lineage-trained witchcraft and brujería. It's important to know which practitioners to trust, especially in today's world of rampant online scammers, especially those impersonating tarot readers and spiritual practitioners.
Unfortunately the majority of candles sold for religious and spiritual use are not the highest quality. Most mass-produced candles are made using toxic petroleum and other harmful chemicals. Look for candles made with soy, coconut wax, or pure beeswax. Magic should reflect our values; a slightly higher price point for non-toxic candles is worth it for both your own health and the environment’s wellbeing. The luxurious hand-dipped Mithras candles, esoteric candle brand San Maris, and the candles made by Madame Pamita herself are great options. Any good magic — especially good candle magic — begins with the quality of our supplies.
For even more bruja skills, read spiritual leader and educator Lou Florez’s The Modern Art of Brujería, an in-depth guide to making your own high potency ritual magic at home.