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Beeswax

A cake of pure, unrefined beeswaxA swarm of bees in May, is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June, is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July, is not worth a fly.
~Circa 1850 nursery rhyme

History & Use

Paraffin is the most frequently used wax for candles and cosmetics today. However, paraffin is a gray sludge left over from petroleum refineries. It is bleached with toxic chemicals and often contains carcinogenic fragrances. When paraffin burns, it creates more black soot than most other types of wax used for candles. This soot can coat the walls of your home, and your lungs. See also Healthy Candles

Beeswax has been used since ancient times and is indispensable for making the finest candles in the world. Thousands of years ago, Egyptians kept bees and traded the wax and honey along the coast of Eastern Africa. Historical and literary references to wax dating before 1800 are most likely to be referring to beeswax. Beeswax was not often used for candles however, being rather costly and somewhat rare. See also the True History of Candle Use in Magic article.

Beeswax is nearly indestructible and can be stored just as it is for many years. Animals and insects are generally not attracted to beeswax. Kept in a cool, dust free place, it will remain usable for decades. It is normal for a hazy white “bloom” to appear on the surface of beeswax. When this occurs on candles, it is often desirable, however if you wish to remove this “bloom” it can be wiped away with a cloth or diffused with the gentle heat of a blow drier.

It takes over 2,500 bees, consuming about ten pounds of honey, to produce a one pound block of beeswax. You may have heard that the collection of beeswax involves the killing of large colonies of bees. This barbaric practice has been obsolete since the early 1850s, when advances in the apiary industry made it possible to harvest wax without harming the bees.

Beeswax candles made with the right wicks (often the square braided type) will not drip, sputter or smoke. Beeswax candles produce a very bright flame along with a soft honey fragrance. Although they are more expensive initially, they burn much longer than paraffin candles, making up for the extra cost.

Natural beeswax will vary in color from dark brown to very light yellow. The color depends on the type and amount of pollen collected by the bees. Gums and resins (propolis) within the wax cause the coloration. These “impurities” can sometimes be desirable for certain uses of beeswax, yielding a much richer honey scent in candles, and a healthy color in cosmetic products. Preserving these “contaminants” in the wax by using the correct temperatures, will insure a good candle color and scent.

Of course you don't want chunky, dirty wax for candles. Too many impurities will cause candles to sputter and smoke. For cosmetics, a purified and filtered wax will yield a smoother and higher quality end product.

The least expensive way to purchase wax, and the method that provides you with the most options of purity, is to purchase unfiltered beeswax. By doing your own filtering and refining, you have complete control over the amount of propolis, color and fragrance. Much of the "refined white cosmetic beeswax" sold is either chemically purified and bleached, or is synthetic! In addition, beeswax is normally bleached industrially by using strong oxidizing agents. These destroy much of the natural honey fragrance, and more importantly, are damaging to the environment.


A lump of melted beeswax on a large cake of beeswax


Outside the U.S.? Our temperature & measurement conversion chart can be found here.

Purification of Beeswax

The melting point of beeswax is about 140F to 150F. The more propolis, the lower the melting point. Beeswax will deteriorate and smoke at temperatures above 250F (120C). To prevent the loss of color, texture and scent, use low temperatures and glass (best), enameled or stainless steel containers. To preserve the honey aroma of beeswax, never heat it more than a few degrees above 165F, and do not keep it melted for extended periods of time.

This is the easiest method I've discovered to purify beeswax:

Break beeswax into small chunks, such as one inch cubes.

Combine wax with an equal amount of water in a large enameled or glass (best), or stainless steel (ok) pot.

Heat the water and wax slowly on low, uncovered. Do not allow it to boil. *

When the wax is completely melted (be patient) stir the brew thoroughly.* Most of the major impurities will disperse in the water, and the clean wax will float on the top.

Turn the heat off and allow the water and wax to cool. Then place it in the refrigerator. When the wax has solidified, lift it off of the water and use as desired. You can discard the water . . . I toss it on the compost heap.

* Caution: Melted beeswax is flammable, use caution when working with melted wax and candles. Use baking soda or a fire extinquisher to put out wax fires. Do not use water!

Bleaching of Beeswax:

After purifying your beeswax as outlined above, you should have a deep golden to light yellow, smooth wax. This will work wonderfully for any candles, grafting wax for plants (beeswax contains some growth hormones), for coating nails and screws to go into wood easier, to lubricate wood drawers and cupboard doors, to coat sewing needles and thread, for making furniture polishes and soap, or for any of the other wonderful uses of natural beeswax.

However, you may wish to lighten the color of your wax, especially for making pastel colored candles, batik release wax for fabrics, lip balm, ointments and lotions. Although I enjoy the healthy yellow glow of natural yellow beeswax in most cosmetics, there will be instances when knowing how to bleach wax will come in handy for any herbalist. This bleaching technique has been used in Greece since ancient times, and works quite well.

Chip off small pieces of beeswax (about 1/2 inch flakes) and lay out in a single layer in the sun. I use a glass baking pan. You may wish to cover the wax with clear plastic wrap or a single layer of cheese cloth to keep out insects, however you will be purifying this wax again so it is not necessary. In addition, covering the wax with plastic may cause the wax to melt on hot days. Because you want to expose the most surface area to sunlight, allowing the wax to melt is not desirable. The flakes will fuse together and form a single smooth surface instead of many rough, flaked surfaces.

Place the flaked wax in the sun for one or two days. This is best done during the long days of summer so that you expose the wax to at least 24 hours of direct sunlight. The longer you leave it in the sun, the lighter it will become.

Next, purify the wax in hot water as described above, but add a teaspoon of salt (sea salt is traditional) to the water.

The resulting wax should be several shades lighter than you began with. If it is not light enough, flake the wax again and repeat the sun bleaching for another day or two. Then, purify the wax in hot water again. Repeat this entire procedure as much as you like. When repeating this procedure several times, we recommend omitting the salt in the final purification water to avoid salt buildup in your wax.


Three bees wax candles found at the Alamannic gravyard of Oberflacht, Seitingen-Oberflacht, Kreis Tuttlingen, Germany. Dating to 6th or beginning 7th century A.D. They are the oldest survived bees wax candles north of the AlpsMagickal Uses of Beeswax

Beeswax makes excellent ritual candles and magical ointments. It has a unique ability to "blend" and "combine" energy. When using many types of herbs, oils or stones, beeswax can help bring everything together for better focus. It is considered to contain and be ruled by all four elements with an emphasis on air (bees) or fire (if made into candles).

Any time you need to blend a variety of energies, beeswax might be the perfect tool. It can be used in unification ointments for covens that will help everyone stay on the same level. It is also useful for complicated magical work that involves several steps. For example, suppose you want to banish a bad habit, then reinforce a good habit. Incorporating beeswax into such workings will help when switching your focus without loosing accumulated energy.

Beeswax is also ideally suited for modeling wax because it becomes soft and flexible at temperatures around 120F (49C). Melt four parts beeswax with one part oil. Use whatever oil you like, sunflower, almond, olive, etc. You can also add a few drops of appropriate essential oils to give it a magical boost. Color this wax to suit your magical needs by adding a crayon to the mix. Allow the wax to cool until it begins to stiffen like putty and you can handle it comfortably.

While focusing on your intention, mold the wax into your desired shape. For example, for healing you may wish to try a green colored modeling wax formed into the shape of your "patient." You can incorporate herbs or essential oils to refine the magical charge, or mold the shape around a wick to make a rough candle. These candles may burn hotter or emit smoke because of the addition of oil to the modeling wax. Therefore, they should only be used for magical figure/shape burning, not for everyday votives, etc.

Your figure can be used as a focusing tool, or it can be added to charm bags. You can also release the energy you've charged into the figure by burning it over a fire, or if by lighting the wick if you've included one.

Blessed Bee!

References & Resources:

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Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind.
~James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), U.S. poet, editor.

* Caution: Melted beeswax is flammable, use caution when working with melted wax and candles. Use baking soda or a fire extinquisher to put out wax fires. Do not use water!

About the Author
Friday
Author: FridayWebsite: http://PaganPath.comEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Author & Academy Instructor
Friday is devoted to writing books and articles on a variety of Pagan subjects, and is the instructor of the online PaganPath Academy. She has studied and practiced the Craft since 1987, and worked as a professional tarot reader and vice president of a national psychic network for several decades. Currently, she is now a practicing herbalist and ordained minister. As a Master Gardener with a deep interest in permaculture, she is developing the PaganPath Sanctuary with her partner. This long term community project is an edible landscape demonstration, orchard and educational facility for future generations.

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