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True History of Candle Magick

A simple cotton or linen wick, a bit of olive oil and a clay vessil make this the most basic candle.  This is the design used by Friday, instructor at PaganPath.Colored candles can be excellent magical tools, however, candle magic in its current form is a relatively modern addition to magick, worship, Witchcraft and spellweaving.

Prior to the 1850's, there were probably no paraffin canldes, as paraffin was first distilled in 1930. Colored candles as we know them today have only been common since the 1950's. Prior to this, most candles available were of the utilitarian white or off-white variety. It was possible to use carbon (lamp black) to create black candles, but there is little evidence to support this use. The dyes used to color wax must be oil soluble and are therefore only available from limited sources: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 Alps

  1. Plant based colorants were rare until recently, and were only capable of coloring wax to the warmer hues of the spectrum (red, orange, yellow and yellow-green). Plant based coloring agents available inn past centuries generally cannot create blue-green, blue or purple in wax. This, at least shows us that no Witches in the middle ages were using purple candles to increase their psychic perceptions or blue ones to highten the spiritual and protective energies of their homes.
  2. Pigment dyes were another limited source of colorant. They are extremely finely ground minerals, so finely ground that it was not possible with the technology that preceeded the early 19th century to utilize them as colorants. For example: Although copper carbonate was available, the ability to grind it finely enough to remain suspended in wax as a (blue-green) colorant was extremely costly, if not impossible before the early 1800's.
  3. Aniline dyes were obviously not available until quite recently. Derived from coal and oil, they have only been available since the late 19th century.

18th-20th century iron whale oil lamp with wick or wicker of cotton photo from Dithmarscher Landesmuseum Meldorf, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Prior to the 16th century, most candles were made of animal fat (tallow or spermaceti - a waxy substance from the sperm whale) or sometimes 'lamps' containing oil (especially olive oil in the Middle-East, Africa and parts of Europe) with a fibre of some sort as a wick. Unless the oil or fat was of high quality, they would often smoke and sputter. In addition, they sometimes had a foul or rancid scent. Only the elite (which it is unlikely the village Witch was generally a part of) could afford the more rare and costly beeswax candles. (Harvesting beeswax sacrifices a great deal of honey production, therefore it is unlikely that they 'made their own'.) Stearin, the chemical compound of which some modern candles are made, at least in part, was originally produced in the early 19th century, and candles in general have only become widely available since the 1950's.These lamps are from the Thousand Lamp Museum

So what is all this getting to you ask? What is the point? Well, if you pick up a book that claims Egyptians used lapis blue colored tapered candles to contact spirits and the Celts used silver and gold votive candles to represent the Goddess and God, put it down. Books filled with this type of misinformation are all too plentiful. They may contain original and creative ideas for the use of candles and colors, but if they claim that these are "ancient" or even "traditional" Witchcraft techniques, they are clearly innacurate.

References & Resources

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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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