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HOW TO PRACTICE
HOODOO CANDLE MAGIC

This article is part of a series of instructional chapters on CANDLE MAGIC IN THE HOODOO ROOTWORK TRADITION

flickering-candle

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THE HISTORY OF CANDLE BURNING
IN THE HOODOO ROOTWORK TRADITION

Master-Book-of-Candle-Burning-by-Henri-Gamache

Candle burning has roots stretching back to ancient times as a part of both religious ceremonies and magical rites. Most hoodoo practitioners and rootworkers, like other folk magicians, burn candles for magical effect, spell-casting, and as an adjunct to prayer, but unlike the traditional and conservative craft of making mojo bags, candle burning in the African-American hoodoo tradition has undergone considerable evolution during the 20th century.

During the 19th century candles became readily available as a commercial product, sold in general stores, rather than having to be made at home or on the farm or purchased at a special candle-maker's shop. By the early 20th century, paraffin candle, with a relatively high melting point compared to tallow candles, were transported by rail nationwide and -- and with the invention of aniline dues, they were soon made available in a number of colours.

The epicenter of new developments in ritual candle-magic in the hoodoo tradition was New Orleans, where a long tradition of Roman Catholic candle-burning combined with African-American folk magic to produce an emergent style of working with candles, both for prayer and in laying tricks. This new way of working with candles soon spread to Memphis, Tennessee, and Mobile, Alabama, and, by the late 1940s, was fairly uniform throughout the South among all professional rootworkers.

Probably the two most important influences on the development of African-American candle magic from the 1940s to the present have been the books of Mikhail Strabo and Henri Gamache.

Through a series of three booklets published from 1941 through 1843, Mikhail Strabo, the Jewish proprietor of Guidance House, a hoodoo and New Thought supply company in New York City, described the methods and customs of altar work with candles ans he found them in the Black New Thought and Spiritualist churches of New York in the late 1930s and early 1940s. These ground-breaking documents -- "A Candle to Light Your Way," "How to Conduct a Candle Light Service," and "The Guiding Light to Power and Success" (which completely incorporated the text of "A Candle to Light Your Way," and expanded greatly upon it) opened up a nation-wide conversation on the increasing importance of altar work with candles in Protestant-derived African American New Thought and Spiritualist churches and among non-church-affiliated spirit mediums, spiritual advisors, psychic readers, hoodoo root doctors, and private practitioners. "The Guiding Light to Power and Success" remains in print at the present time.

"The Master Book of Candle-Burning" was published in 1942 and widely advertised in black-owned newspapers like the Chicago Defender in the 1940s. It is still carried today by all the major mail-order spiritual supply catalogues, this work delivers exactly what it promises -- detailed instructions that tell spiritual doctors, rootworker, or private hoodoo practitioners "How to Burn Candles for Every Purpose." The chapters include information on how to select candles, anoint them, arrange them on an altar, and engage in what the author quaintly refers to as "fire worship." Along the way the reader is presented with a garland of anthropological tidbits about folk-magical practices from Canada, Europe, Africa, and the Malayan Peninsula, making this book a fascinating document indeed.

For those who are not familiar with the work of Henri Gamache, i'd like to note that he was a prominent mid-20th century occult author and folkloric researcher who developed a unique Creole combination of hoodoo, Christian, Kabbalist, and Spiritualist magic. Not much is known about Henri Gamache's personal life, but if he is not simply another pseudonym for the mysterious Mr. Young who ghost-wrote occult books from 1925 - 1948, he seems to have been a man of mixed race, possibly born in the Caribbean, who lived and worked in New York City. Most of his books remained in print for decades, and all are quite interesting. In particular, his "8th, 9th, and 10th Books of Moses" is a fascinating document, detailing his theory that Moses, the leader of the Jews, was a black African, "the Great Voodoo Man of the Bible."

Henri Gamache used the term "Philosophy of Fire" to describe the candle burning rituals he set forth in "The Master Book of Candle Burning." That term, and his frequent references to "Zoroastrianism" allow us to identify one of his major influences, for the "Philosophy of Fire" is a system of magical working described in the writings of an earlier author named R. Swinburne Clymer. A Rosicrucian and sex magician prominent in the early 20th century, Clymer in fact wrote an entire book called "The Philosophy of Fire" in which he espoused a mixture of magical theories that embraced Spiritualism, Zoroastrianism, and sex magic.

Clymer had in turn learned most of his occult theories and sex-magical techniques from the writings of Paschal Beverly Randolph, an African-American sex magician and Spiritualist of the mid 19th century. In 1860 or so, Randolph originated a magical order called the Brotherhood of Eulis to carry forth his beliefs; it was reformed in 1874 under the name The Triplicate Order. After Randolph's death in 1875, Clymer corresponded with his widow, Kate Corson Randolph, and received instructions from her as to how to operate his own order of sex magicians. Clymer also reprinted "Eulis!" -- one of Randolph's books on sex magic -- in 1930.

The link from Randolph to Gamache, through Clymer, is probably one of book-learning rather than direct initiation, but it is interesting nonetheless, especially in light of the fact that most modern occultists tend to identify African-American practitioners exclusively with folk-magic and to discount the contributions black people have made to the development of formal occultism and ceremonial sex-magic.

Here are four of the best books ever published on candle magic; two were written in the 1940s, one in the 1960s, and one combines a 1940s text with material from the 1990s through the 2010s. These are time-tested, reliable, and detailed instruction manuals that every practitioner ought to be familiar with.Each is different and contains different spells and concepts, with very little overlap.

The-Art-of-Hoodoo-Candle-Magic-in-Rootwork-Conjure-and-Spiritual-Church-Services-at-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic in Rootwork, Conjure and Spiritual Church Services
by Catherine Yronwode and Mikhail Strabo

Candle magic is one of the foundational practices within African American hoodoo folk-magic. Spell-casters of every level of experience within the community know the value and efficacy of setting lights, This book is actually three books in one filled with history, teachings, traditions, and instructions on how to become a candle magic practitioner, how to provide candle ministry services to clients, and how to conduct public candle-light services.
96 pages, paperback.
$9.00
BOO-GRI-AHCM

The Master Book of Candle Burning
by Henri Gamache
Originally published in 1942; this is a revised 1998 reprint.
The classic text on hoodoo candle burning in the pre-Santeria era; covers everything you need to know about colour symbolism, figural candles, dressing candles, altar layouts, etc. The author was beyond doubt the best early 20th century writer on hoodoo.
96 pages, paperback.

$7.50
BOO-GRI-MSCB

The-Magic-Candle-by-Charmaine-Dey-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

The Magic Candle
by Charmaine Dey
Originally published in 1982; this is a facsimile reprint. After Henri Gamache's "Master Book of Candle-Burning," this is our next-most requested title on candle magic. The two make a great set or pair, as each covers slightly different aspects of the work of dressing, fixing, and setting lights, doing altar work, and casting magic spells with candles. Dey provides a handy guide to the employment of novelty and image candles in practical work.
64 pages, paperback.

$7.00
BOO-GRI-MCCD

The-Guiding-Light-to-Power-and-Success-by-Mikhail-Strabo-at-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

The Guiding Light to Power and Success
by Mikhail Strabo
A classic text from 1941 on the practice of candle magic by Mikhail Strabo, the former proprietor of Guidance House, an old-school New York City spiritual supply company. Highly recommended.
64 pages, paperback.

$6.95
BOO-GRI-GUID

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red-offertory-candle orange-offertory-candle yellow-offertory-candle green-offertory-candle blue-offertory-candle
purple-offertory-candle pink-offertory-candle brown-offertory-candle black-offertory-candle white-offertory-candle

COLOUR SYMBOLISM
IN CANDLE MAGIC

Following the instructions of Mikhail Strabo and Henri Gamache, it became popular among conjure-workers of the 1940s to burn small free-standing candles or "lights" of various colours to draw luck, love, and money; for protection from evil; and to wreak vengeance or exert control over others. Because many, if not most, of the spiritual suppliers then catering to the African-American market were Jews, they usually offered 7-branched menorah candle-holders to their customers, which gave hoodoo candle burning ceremonies of the period a slightly Kabbalistic cast. The colour symbolism ascribed to altar candle colours is influenced by European magical traditions, admixed with remnants of African religious symbolism:

  • white -- spiritual blessings, purity, healing, rest
  • blue -- peace, harmony, joy, kindly intentions, healing
  • green -- money spells, gambling luck, business, a good job, good crops
  • yellow -- devotion, prayer, money (gold), cheerfulness, attraction
  • red -- love spells, affection, passion, bodily vigour
  • pink -- attraction, romance, clean living
  • purple -- mastery, power, ambition, control, command
  • orange -- change of plans, opening the way, prophetic dreams
  • brown -- court case spells, neutrality
  • black -- repulsion, dark thoughts, sorrow, freedom from evil
  • red and black (Double Action) -- remove a love-jinxing spell
  • white and black (Double Action) -- to return evil to the sender
  • green and black (Double Action) -- remove money-jinxing

Typical sizes for colour-coded free-standing candles are 4" Altar candles, 6" Offertory candles, and 9" Jumbo candles. (The candles shown here are the 6" size.)

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3" TEMPLE MINI-CANDLES
MINERAL WAX THAILAND

Early candles were made of beeswax or tallow (animal fat), but they are now made of paraffin (petroleum wax), hardened vegetable oil, or a blend of any of these. Modern candle shops usually carry 4" altar lights (chime candles), 6" offertory candles (household candles), and 9" jumbo candles in at least ten symbolic colours, plus gold and silver 12" tapers. The advantages of 4", 6", 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • They are cheap, widely available, and have predictable burn times.
  • They come in a wide variety of magically symbolic colours.
  • They are easy to dress with oils or to roll in an herb-wax mix.
The disadvantages of 4", 6", and 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • Purchasing candle stands to hold them is an extra expense.
  • They are not safe to burn unattended, although many people set them in deep metal bowls, bread pans, kitchen sinks, or bath tubs.
For more much information about the use of frees standing cylinder and taper candles in traditional conjure and hoodoo practices and magic spells, see "The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic" by catherine yronwode

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Lucky-Mojo-Coming-Soon

4" ALTAR CANDLES FOR USE WITH
HONEY JARS AND BOTTLE SPELLS

Early candles were made of beeswax or tallow (animal fat), but they are now made of paraffin (petroleum wax), hardened vegetable oil, or a blend of any of these. Modern candle shops usually carry 4" altar lights (chime candles), 6" offertory candles (household candles), and 9" jumbo candles in at least ten symbolic colours, plus gold and silver 12" tapers. The advantages of 4", 6", 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • They are cheap, widely available, and have predictable burn times.
  • They come in a wide variety of magically symbolic colours.
  • They are easy to dress with oils or to roll in an herb-wax mix.
The disadvantages of 4", 6", and 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • Purchasing candle stands to hold them is an extra expense.
  • They are not safe to burn unattended, although many people set them in deep metal bowls, bread pans, kitchen sinks, or bath tubs.
For more much information about the use of frees standing cylinder and taper candles in traditional conjure and hoodoo practices and magic spells, see "The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic" by catherine yronwode

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6" OFFERTORY (HOUSEHOLD)
CANDLES FOR CANDLE MAGIC

Early candles were made of beeswax or tallow (animal fat), but they are now made of paraffin (petroleum wax), hardened vegetable oil, or a blend of any of these. Modern candle shops usually carry 4" altar lights (chime candles), 6" offertory candles (household candles), and 9" jumbo candles in at least ten symbolic colours, plus gold and silver 12" tapers. The advantages of 4", 6", 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • They are cheap, widely available, and have predictable burn times.
  • They come in a wide variety of magically symbolic colours.
  • They are easy to dress with oils or to roll in an herb-wax mix.
The disadvantages of 4", 6", and 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • Purchasing candle stands to hold them is an extra expense.
  • They are not safe to burn unattended, although many people set them in deep metal bowls, bread pans, kitchen sinks, or bath tubs.
For more much information about the use of frees standing cylinder and taper candles in traditional conjure and hoodoo practices and magic spells, see "The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic" by catherine yronwode

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Lucky-Mojo-Coming-Soon

9" JUMBO CANDLES FOR LONGER BURNS

Early candles were made of beeswax or tallow (animal fat), but they are now made of paraffin (petroleum wax), hardened vegetable oil, or a blend of any of these. Modern candle shops usually carry 4" altar lights (chime candles), 6" offertory candles (household candles), and 9" jumbo candles in at least ten symbolic colours, plus gold and silver 12" tapers. The advantages of 4", 6", 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • They are cheap, widely available, and have predictable burn times.
  • They come in a wide variety of magically symbolic colours.
  • They are easy to dress with oils or to roll in an herb-wax mix.
The disadvantages of 4", 6", and 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • Purchasing candle stands to hold them is an extra expense.
  • They are not safe to burn unattended, although many people set them in deep metal bowls, bread pans, kitchen sinks, or bath tubs.
For more much information about the use of frees standing cylinder and taper candles in traditional conjure and hoodoo practices and magic spells, see "The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic" by catherine yronwode

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red-and-black-double-action-candle white-and-black-double-action-candle green-and-black-double-action-candle

DOUBLE ACTION and
REVERSING CANDLES

Early candles were made of beeswax or tallow (animal fat), but they are now made of paraffin (petroleum wax), hardened vegetable oil, or a blend of any of these. Modern candle shops usually carry 4" altar lights (chime candles), 6" offertory candles (household candles), and 9" jumbo candles in at least ten symbolic colours, plus gold and silver 12" tapers. The advantages of 4", 6", 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • They are cheap, widely available, and have predictable burn times.
  • They come in a wide variety of magically symbolic colours.
  • They are easy to dress with oils or to roll in an herb-wax mix.
The disadvantages of 4", 6", and 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • Purchasing candle stands to hold them is an extra expense.
  • They are not safe to burn unattended, although many people set them in deep metal bowls, bread pans, kitchen sinks, or bath tubs.
For more much information about the use of frees standing cylinder and taper candles in traditional conjure and hoodoo practices and magic spells, see "The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic" by catherine yronwode Double action candles are 9" long jumbo candles that have been poured in two stages, so that they are half black and half another colour, according the usual colour symbolism of candles -- red for love, green for money, white for peace and spiritual blessings. They are used to reverse troubles back to the person who sent them and are called "double action" because they both repel jinxes and crossed conditions and attract what is desired in the way of happiness and luck.

Double action candles are not burned in the usual way -- they are generally "butted" before they are lit. The original tip is cut off and a new tip is cut on the black half, so the "bad" black half will burn off first, leaving the "good" half at the end of the rite. The name of one's enemy is carved backwards in the black half and one's own name is carved normally in the coloured portion. One or more candle dressing hoodoo oils to reverse bad luck back to the enemy is applied to the black end, stroking away from oneself, and a dressing oil to draw what one wants is applied to the coloured half, stroking toward oneself.

Butted double action candles are sometimes burned on a flat mirror, to further aid the reversing spell. They may be dusted with Reversing sachet powder or circled with a ring of Crab shell powder (because "Crabs walk backward" and uncross jinxes.

Another way to burn double action candles is to carve a second tip on the black end, dress them as described above, and stick them into a nail that has been driven through a board. The nail holds the candle horizontal, like a compass needle, and the black half is pointed toward one's enemy's home, while the coloured half points towards oneself. Both ends are lit at the same time. This is a messy way to burn candles, so use aluminum foil or a metal baking dish to confine the dripping wax to one area.

Reversing -- also called reversible -- candles are 9" long jumbo candles that are similar in their uses to double action candles, but instead of being poured in two layers, they consist of a red core and a black outer layer. The red shows through only at the tip. These candles are only found in red and black, and they are a very old style, still quite popular for reversing enemy work, breaking tricks, and uncrossing crossed conditions. They are often butted and burned upside down, and are often burned on a mirror, as described above. All the names and words carved or inscribed into reversing candles is generally done backwards, in mirror writing.

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Lucky-Mojo-Coming-Soon

METALLIC TAPER CANDLES
FOR PROSPERITY

Early candles were made of beeswax or tallow (animal fat), but they are now made of paraffin (petroleum wax), hardened vegetable oil, or a blend of any of these. Modern candle shops usually carry 4" altar lights (chime candles), 6" offertory candles (household candles), and 9" jumbo candles in at least ten symbolic colours, plus gold and silver 12" tapers. The advantages of 4", 6", 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • They are cheap, widely available, and have predictable burn times.
  • They come in a wide variety of magically symbolic colours.
  • They are easy to dress with oils or to roll in an herb-wax mix.
The disadvantages of 4", 6", and 9", and 12" free-standing candles:
  • Purchasing candle stands to hold them is an extra expense.
  • They are not safe to burn unattended, although many people set them in deep metal bowls, bread pans, kitchen sinks, or bath tubs.
For more much information about the use of frees standing cylinder and taper candles in traditional conjure and hoodoo practices and magic spells, see "The Art of Hoodoo Candle Magic" by catherine yronwode

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bride-and-groom-candle

THE SYMBOLISM OF
FIGURAL CANDLES

In addition to plain offertory candles, spiritual suppliers, as early as the 1930s, provided figural or "image" candles for special uses. More expensive than plain offertory candles, figural candles are preferred by many practitioners when working unusual or extremely strong spells, because their visual symbolism is easy to see and by carving names or other features in them, they can be personalized to represent individuals, in what amounts to a cross between working with candles and working with doll-babies or poppets. Most of the old figural candle styles are still manufactured. Among the most popular are the following:

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VOTIVE CANDLES, LUX PERPETUA CANDLES,
and TEA LIGHTS

A votive candle is one that is burned as the result of a vow. Many people think of votive candles as small, glass-encased candles, about 2 or 3 inches in height, but this is only one type of votive candle. In fact, such candles are defined by their function, not their form. However, for the purposes of clarity, in this article, i will refer to paper or glass encased candles under 2 inches in height as tea lights, those under 5 inches in height as votive candles and those that come in tall glass cylinders as novena and vigil candles.

Perhaps the first glass encased votive candles specifically marketed to hoodoo buyers (as opposed to religious buyers) were Jan-O-Sun brand jelly-jar style three-colour votive candles, sold by the Standard O and B Supply Company of Chicago in the 1940s. They look essentially like modern glass votive lights of today and seem to have come onto the market suddenly, to have achieved immediate popularity, and to have been in production from various makers since their introduction.

Typically, votive candles are burned as the prelude to or result of a conditional vow: The petitioner asks a favour of a deity, saint, or spirit and offers recompense (an ex voto) if the wish is granted. Under these circumstances, votive candles may be used either as inducements, as offerings, or as both.

When employed as inducements, votive candles are burned during the course of making the petition. For instance, a petitioner may be awaiting a court case hearing in nine days, and will burn votive candles for the entire length of time as an inducement for a patron saint to hear his plea for help, all the while promising an additional offering, such as flowers, more candles, publication of the saint's name in the newspaper, or a donation to a charitable organization, if the court case has a successful outcome.

When votive candles are employed as offerings, the petition is made silently and the burning of a certain number of candles with the patron saint's picture on them in a church where all may see and recognize the patron saint's efficacy is a typical offering that is promised or vowed should the petition be granted.

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white-votive-candles

VOTIVE CANDLES

Properly speaking, any candle used in conjunction with a vow is a votive candle, but in the United States, the term votive candles generally refers to candles moulded to fit into a glass or ceramic votive holder. They can be burned as free-standing lights (sometimes called "stubbies") rather than placed in holders if you wish to "read" the way their wax melts for the purposes of divination.

A typical votive light is 2 inches tall and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. When in a holder, such a candle may burn for 10 - 15 hours. These candles come in an assortment of symbolic colours and they will fit in most sizes of glass or ceramic votive candle holders or can be used as free-standing "stubbies", which will make for a shorter burn time.

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small-lux-perpetua-candle-with-jesus
large-lux-perpetua-candle-with-mary

LUX PERPETUA CANDLES

Lux Perpetua means "eternal light" and that is the name given to paper-encased votive candles in Latin America. In Mexico, small paper encased religious votive candles called "Lux Perpetua" were developed during the 19th century. These delightfully old-fashioned, hand-made devotionary religious candles predate paraffin was candles. They are filled with a very soft grade of wax that may also contain animal fat, poured into a stiff paper cup or cylinder. The paper is printed with a Catholic devotionary image.

Imported into the United States, especially along the border with Mexico, they are now quite popular among African-American Catholics as well as with immigrants from Latin America. Lux Perpetua lights are much sought by those working in traditional forms of Mexican and Latin American espiritismo (spiritualism) and curandismo (herbal spiritual healing).

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tea-light-candles

TEA LIGHTS

Tea Lights are very small votive candles poured into aluminum cups; originally designed to be used at the table to keep foods and drinks warm (hence the name "tea light"), they make great refills for glass votive candle holders, are extremely economical, and are relatively safe to burn. Their small size is also an advantage for busy people who wish to do continuing candle magic on successive days without leaving large candles unattended.

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san-simon-maximon-novena-candle

GLASS ENCASED
RELIGIOUS NOVENA CANDLES

By 1945, although American mail order hoodoo catalogues still primarily sold free-standing altar candles with pasted-on labels -- under brand names such as black cat, Success, and Master Power -- they also began to carry what they called "religious" candles, those familiar tall, glass encased European-American Catholic novena candles bearing printed paper labels depicting various saints.

Novena candles are designed to be burned for nine days while a series of votary prayers are made. It is not necessary to dress them with magical hoodoo or conjure oils, although many people like to anoint them with named Saint Oils or hoodoo oils that match the candles they burn. Colour symbolism is not always important part of the lore accompanying these religious candles, although some saints do have certain colours associated with them, such as green for Saint Jude and red for Saint Expedite.

The use of glass-encased Novena candles is widespread in Catholic Latin America; as well as in syncretic Catholic African-Caribbean religions such as Santeria and Voodoo, and among the syncreticCatholic Mayans of Guatemala who burn glass encased candles to a black-garbed peasant figure called Maximon or Saint Simon.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Cuban, Mexican, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran immigrants -- both Catholics and Santeros -- entered the United States in great numbers, which led to the increased marketing of Catholic saint novena candles here. Suddenly, not only could one find novena candles dedicated to universally well known Catholic figures like Saint Jude (San Judas Thadeo), but candles featured a host of Catholic saints previously little known here, such as San Martin Caballero (Saint Martin of Tours) and the Nino de Atocha (Infant of Atocha).

Additionally, as time went on, manufacturers began to add more and more paper-labelled glass encased novena candles marketed to their inventories in order to appeal to this sector of the population. Some of these candles honour Catholic folk saints and holy apparitions that are revered in Latin America but have not been officially approved by the Vatican, like the Anima Sola (Lonely Soul), a Mexican favourite, and the Seven African Powers (Siete Potentias), a staple image that represents the Cuban Santeria religious practice of mingling Catholic saints with the West African deities called Orishas.

On occasion one may even find the conflated Mayan-Catholic deity-saint Maximon (often labelled Saint Simon-Judas) on the candle shelf in a grocery or supermarket, a sure sign that a community of Guatemalan immigrants lives in the area.

The arrival of these immigrants, with their firmly entrenched candle-burning customs, has had a strong effect on hoodoo candle-burning practices. After decades of exposure to people who find it efficacious to petition the saints, it is not uncommon now to hear from African-American Protestants who have little interest in the Catholic form of Christianity, that they would like to burn a Just Judge (Justo Juez) candle for a court case.

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GLASS ENCASED
VIGIL CANDLES

lucky-mojo-glass-encased-vigil-candles-in-the-shop

Although special-use figural candles are still very popular with African-Americans and "The Master Book of Candle Burning" is still in print, since the 1970s, the old Jewish-style offertory candles have shared shelf space in hoodoo curio shops with "vigil candles" modelled after tall, glass-enclosed Catholic-style novena candles. In short, a merger between hoodoo and Catholic candle burning traditions has been effected.

Catholic novena candles bear colourful paper saint image labels, and many hoodoo vigil lights are similarly decorated. (Others are printed with one-colour line-art and hand-lettered text silk-screened directly onto the glass.) The text and images found on vigil candles are typically the same as those used in hoodoo formulae for anointing oils, including Fast Luck, Uncrossing, Compelling, Money House Blessing, and the like.

While hoodoo glass encased vigil lights still retain such traditional African-American titles as Fast Luck and John the Conqueror, some have been outfitted with partial or complete Spanish translations of their names or intended manner of use. In addition, the makers of silkscreened hoodoo candles may carry a Mayan item such as the chuparrosa love candle and they might add a Santeria line with special colours and designs for the orishas or their Catholic saint equivalents.

The evolving form of hoodoo candles has not greatly affected the traditional system of colour symbolism, although under the influence of Santeria's Catholic heritage, which invokes the brown-robed Saint Anthony as the finder of lost things and returner of lost lovers, brown candles, formerly used for court cases, are now also employed for the return of that which is lost. Glass containers make it easy to pour two-, three-, and even seven-layer candles -- which led to the development of multi-colour symbolism.

Probably the most popular of the multi-colour glass encased 7-day vigil candles is the red-and-black Reversible candle for returning evil to the one who sent it. This is simply a modification of the old standby two-colour free-standing jumbo altar candle called "Double Action," which is still manufactured and still quite popular. However, other multi-coloured candles are only found in glass encased form, among them the seven-colour Lucky Prophet Lafin [sic] Buddha Brand All Purpose Novena Candle which grants "7 desires" to the user.

The practice of dressing candles with anointing oils and magic herbs had to be modified considerably to accommodate the new 7-day vigil candles. Since the sides of a glass encased candle cannot be rubbed, it is now customary for the retailer rather than the user to dress the candle. This is done by poking holes into the top of the candle with a nail (preferably a coffin nail) and then dripping an appropriate anointing oil and magic herbs into these holes, sometimes finishing off the top with symbolically coloured glitter. This technique leaves the customer in danger of spilling the dressing oil while carrying the candle home, so in many stores the dressed candle is covered with a plastic sandwich bag or cling wrap, held in place by a rubber band.

The introduction of glass encased candles also necessitated modifications in spells designed to be worked over a length of time. The old pin or needle measuring technique, described above, cannot be used on glass encased candles, so timed burning or measuring the glass into sections with a marking-pen has taken the place of needles or pins among people who prefer the glass encased candles. This serves to weaken the practitioner's involvement in the spell, however, because there are no pins or needles left over to make the crosses and double crosses prescribed in the older workings. A glass encased candle spell therefore takes on a slightly "ritual" or "religious" tone, in that one's desires and wishes are expected to do the work alone, as contrasted to an offertory candle spell, in which the manipulation of magical objects -- candle, flame, paper, herbs, and needles or pins -- is integral to doing the job.


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UNLABELLED PLAIN GLASS ENCASED
VIGIL CANDLES

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For those who wish to burn candles in their own home but don't want family members or visitors to know their business, the preferred form of symbolically coloured vigil candles are those that are fixed and prepared with herbs and magical hoodoo or conjure oils, but WITHOUT LABELS. Usually called "plain" lights, they can be introduced into the home under the name of "mood lighting" or "holy lights." Their actual purposes -- and the types of conjure oils and herbs used to dress them -- remain the secret of the one who lights them.


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PULL-OUT CANDLES:
REFILLS FOR NOVENA CANDLES
AND VIGIL LIGHTS

Due to requests from those who regularly perform candle-work at their altars, many curio and candle shops carry pull-out candles -- refills for novena and vigil lights. There are pluses and minuses to the use of pull-out candles, of which the user should be aware.

ADVANTAGES OF PULL-OUTS:

Folks old enough to recall the earlier types of novena and vigil lights will be pleased to know that pull-outs are REAL WAX -- solid wax, not the gooey semi-solid you get these days in vigil lights.

Pull-outs are sturdy enough to burn as STAND-ALONES, that is, standing on their own with no glass, like a commercial pillar candle.

Pull-outs can be LOADED from below with personal concerns, petitions, and so forth.

Pull-outs can be CARVED with names and petitions and DRESSED with oil before being slid into the glass holder.

Favourite glass holders can be re-used again and again.

Pull-outs come in all ten of the standard colours used in candle-magic symbolism. Standard novenas and vigil lights are most often white or yellow, but with pull-outs, you can burn a candle of any colour you prefer in a jar dedicated to the saint or condition of your choice, making personal combinations that cannot be found in stores.

DISADVANTAGES OF PULL-OUTS:

Pull-outs are usually 2 inches wide and 7 inches tall. Because of their width, they do not fit into every single brand of novena or vigil light. There are at least three different patterns of moulds used on the glass for novenas and vigil candles. Wide-mouth novenas made in glass jars DO take the pull-outs but narrow-mouth novenas in what is often called the "sanctuary style" do NOT accommodate them.

The cost per pull-out candle is almost the same as the cost of new glass-encased candle -- and some folks will no doubt think that is too high. The reason for this, as with all candles, has to do with the quality of the wax (pull-outs are made with better wax than novenas and vigil lights) and with the WEIGHT of the candles. Pull-outs weigh about 1 lb. each when wrapped for shipping. Many internet retailers keep their shipping costs very low by estimating shipping on "average" products but candles are not average in weight, so they add the extra candle shipping charge to the price of the candles, which makes them look more expensive than they really are. If retailers did not do this, they would have to calculate and charge shipping on every single order individually, which is beyond most occult shop owners' abilities at math -- and above the math inclinations of most of their customers as well.


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DRESSING, MARKING, MEASURING,
LIGHTING, AND EXTINGUISHING CANDLES

red-lovers-candle

Offertory and figural candles are dressed by rubbing them (for instance, upward to "draw" and downward to repel) with appropriate anointing oils, such as Fast Luck, Compelling, or John the Conqueror. Some practitioners then sprinkle them with sachet powders or roll them in finely cut magic herbs selected for their specific spiritual powers.

Glass-encased vigil and novena candles are dressed by using a sharp tool (such as a nail, awl, or screw driver) to poke holes or engrave a name or symbol in the wax at the top and then drizzling in a small amount of oil. They may then be topped with finely crushed herbs and symbolically coloured glitter. They are then prayed over and dedicated for use.

Care must be used when adding oil and herbs to a vigil light -- too much oil will result in the candle wick becoming drowned, and too many herbs, especially those that are highly flammable, may lead to the candle catching on fire all along the top surface, which can be a fire hazard and may also result in a black, sooty burn, which is an unfortunate outcome when seeking to perform a candle divination.

The time of day the lights are set is important: To draw influences, some folks prefer towwork in the morning, and the sun rises and hoodoo practitioners say that the candle should be lit when both clock hands are rising, in the second half of the hours between six and twelve. To repel or cast off influences, some folks like to work as the sun is setting and some say that the candle should be lit when both hands on the clock are falling, in the first half of the hours from twelve to six. Other folks prefer light to all of their candles at midnight, the traditional "witching hour."

Candles are usually inscribed or marked in some way to indicate on whose behalf they are being burned. In its simplest form, this consists carving a name in the wax, but it also a very common, almost a universal, practice to write out a petition and/or a name on paper (often writing the name multiple times) and to place the paper beneath the candle, sometimes under an overturned saucer to protect it from burning. In addition to the petition paper, words, symbols, or sigils may be inscribed or carved into the candle wax with a needle, pin, rusty nail, or knife, depending on the intention behind the spell, and the candle may be "loaded" by inserting personal concerns into a hole in the wax and coverin it over with wax before the candle is lit.

When a name-paper or a petition paper with a name on it is placed under the candle, this is called "burning a candle on [him or her]." Many people also burn a candle on someone's picture, that is, place a drawing or photo under the saucer. It is customary to write the name on the back of the picture when doing this. Burning a candle on someone's name or picture can be done for love, revenge, harm, or any desired result, depending on the candle colour and the dressing oil used.

The earliest printed version of this spell i have yet found comes from New Orleans and dates back to 1924. It is found not in a book of folklore or magic, but rather in the song "Hoodoo Blues" written by Spencer Williams and recorded by Bessie Brown. Due to the constraints of the blues lyrics format, the spell is given in sketchy format, but it is recognizable. In this 1924 song, a black cat bone is used for the return of the narrator's lover (he seems to have moved into another woman's home) and burning a candle on her picture (a black candle, i'd wager) is to get her to let loose of the man so he can return to the singer. The enemy's picture goes under the candle, and although it is not specifically stated in the song lyric, i presume that in keeping with modern usage, the enemy's name is written on the back of the picture and the picture-with-name goes under a saucer which is under the candle.

Here is the relevant verse:

Goin' 'neath her window, gonna lay a black cat bone
Goin' 'neath her window, gonna lay a black cat bone
Burn a candle on her picture, she won't let my good man alone.

star-candle-holder

Free-standing candles are typically burned in candle holders or candle stands. These may be elaborate or plain. When a large number of small altar candles or offertory will be lit at one time -- as, for instance, in the Fiery Wall of Protection Spell, it is most economical and efficient to utilize small, simple, stamped metal candle stands called "star holders."

In some spells, the candle is burned a half-inch at a time for several days. In others, it is burned in intervals at specified times of the day, or marked into sections with pins or needles and burned a section at a time "until the pin drops." In addition to burning the candle while it stands on a piece of paper, some spells specify that the candles should be moved toward or away from each other over the course of the working, or that the candle flame be used to ignite the name- or petition-paper, the ashes of which are then used in the work. During the course of certain conjurations, altar candles may be butted and burned upside down or even burned sideways at both ends, as with double action candles. They may also be ceremonially extinguished in water or turned upside down into a saucer of graveyard dirt to put them out.

black-clothed-man-candle

Any kind of matches can be used to light candles, of course, but some people enjoy having specialty matches available, both for aesthetic and for practical reasons. Wooden matches are easier to light than paper ones and burn longer, so they can be used to set several candles alight at once. When it comes to glass encased candles, most folks burn those straight through -- but if you chose to burn them for short periods, put them out, and then relight them, you will probably need to use extra-long fireplace matches to get them going again.

large-candle-snuffer

When a candle is burned in sections, either measured by time or by pins, it is invariably pinched or snuffed out, not blown out at the end of each session, to signify that the spell is not yet complete. A more graceful way to put out candles than by spitting on your fingers and pinching, is to snuff the candles out with an old-fashioned candle snuffer. This also reduces objectional smoke from the snuffed candle. Decorative candle snuffers are often made of brass or brass and wood and they make elegant altar tools for spiritual workers whose practice involves regular candle burning.

If pins or needles are used for measuring sections on a candle, they usually will not be discarded after they drop, but will be saved for further use. Depending on the type of job being done, they may be utilized for making crosses and double crosses in the paper on which the names or desires have been written, they may be wrapped in a cloth or paper and buried or carried in a mojo hand, or they may be disposed of in a ritual manner.

Experienced workers often accompany the setting of lights with the burning of an appropriate incense. Some folks prefer to light the incense first to set the mood as they mark, inscribe, dress and light their candles. Others believe that the lighting of the candles must come first, with the incense following.

There is also a strong contingent of spiritually-inclined folks who will not use common matches at their altars because they feel that the disposal of matches breaks the ritual flow of their movements. They prefer to light a taper or an extra-long fireplace matches in another room and bring it to the altar, and blow it out or snuff it once the actual lights are set. As with all such matters, tradition and personal preferences leave room for variation.


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HOW TO READ DIVINATION SIGNS
FROM CANDLE-BURNING

green-devil-candle

The art of reading signs or making diivinations from burning cadles, melted candle wax, and the glass jars in which candles have been burned is called ceromancy. For a list of the common signs and meanings that can be read by burning free-standing offertory candles and glass encased hoodoo, Catholic, Santeria, and Mayan candles, go to the page on HOW TO READ DIVINATION SIGNS FROM CANDLE-BURNING.

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HOW TO BURN CANDLES
IN SECRET

Lots of folks don't have full privacy to do spell-casting in their homes. They may live with their parents, or they may live in shared housing such as a dormitory, or -- tough as it is -- they may be performing a spell that is intended to directly affect a family member in the home, such as a spouse, child, or in-law. Pretty much every system of magical working can be adapted to function under conditions of secrecy, but candle-burning is the most difficult form of rootwork or conjure to hide, for obvious reasons.

One method used by many practitioners to conceal candle work is to burn the candles a bit at a time and hide them between burnings.

red-adam-candle

When candles are burned a bit at a time -- which we call "burning in sections" -- they may be left up on the altar or hidden away between lightings. It is customary to burn them for at least 15 minutes at each session -- just long enough to get them going well and to spend some time over them in prayer or petition before putting them out. In order to keep one's link to the candles continuously strong during the switches from "on" time to "off" time, practitioners long ago developed two further traditions, "pinching them out" (for all candles) and "wrapping them up" (for candles that are hidden away).

In hoodoo, one oft-heard piece of advice is, "You should never blow a candle out if you want to return to it, because that ends the spell, but if you pinch it out, you can come back to it any time." This is a customary, but not compulsory, way to deal with candles that are to be burned in sections. When i say "customary but not compulsory," i mean that you may work differently, but you will be in the minority, since most hoodoo practitioners prefer to pinch out candles when a spell is ongoing and the candle must be stopped for a time.

To pinch out a candle, just lick your thumb and first finger and -- sffft! -- put out the wick. Or, you can keep a pretty metal candle snuffer at the altar (and it can do double-duty as a shaper for incense cones).

Pinching or snuffing out the light is done for all candles burned in sections -- that is, both for candles that will be left on the altar and for those that will be hidden away.

When hiding away candles or any other altar objects, it is the custom in hoodoo to wrap and tie them. This secures their spiritual energy, and marks them as still being in use. The most common way to wrap candles that are being burned in sections is to place them in a brown paper grocery bag and twist the top shut. They may also be rolled up in a flat piece of brown grocery bag paper and tied with cotton packaging twine.

As you can see, burning candles in sections does not "ruin the work." On the contrary, it is a common, practical, and useful way to work, and it is so often done that an entire set of terms and traditions has grown up around the custom of burning in sections.

Another way to burn candles in secret is to have spiritual practioners, such as those at Missionary Independent Spiritual Church, set lights for you, but hoodoo will enjoy hoodoo more and learn to become a sharper practitioner if you try working candle spells on your own.

Remember, too, if you are new to candle magic, to be careful and safe with fire -- don't set lights near wind-blown curtains, nor where pets can knock them over.

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HOW TO RITUALLY DISPOSE OF
USED CANDLE WAX

key-and-cross-candle

In European-American traditions, many people bury candle wax and other ritual remains after a spell is cast. Burial toward the appropriate quarter of the compass is considered a thoughtful way to go about this. Some neo-pagans dispose of ritual or spell remains in a bonfire or fireplace.

In African-American hoodoo candle magic spells the disposal of left-over materials follows other patterns, usually dependent upon the type of spell.

If the intention of the spell is good and it involves matters around one's own home, like blessing, love-drawing, money-drawing, or home protection, one can wrap the materials in a cloth or paper packet and bury them in the yard. It is important to never bury remains from negative spells in one's own yard.

If the intention of the spell is not centered on matters close to home, or if one does not have a suitable yard, one can wrap the materials in a cloth or paper packet and throw them in running water over the left shoulder and walk away. Alternatively, one can take the materials to a crossroads -- any place where two roads cross -- and throw the packet into the center of the crossroads over the left shoulder and walk away. The crossroads is also the preferred place to throw bath-water before beginning a spell; it is often used for throwing out the remains of candle wax if the spell does not personally involve the practitioner or if the spell is negative or influence-removing.

If the intention of the spell is specifically to get someone to leave town or leave one alone, one can divide the materials (e.g. 9 needles used in a spell and 9 pieces of wax from a candle) into 9 packets and add Hot Foot Powder (or Drive Away Powder) to each packet. One starts at a crossroads near to where the person lives and throws out the first packet. Then one travels in a direction away from the enemy's home, toward where one wants them to go, and drops a packet at each crossroads one passes until all the packets are gone. In the country this might carry one several miles. In the city it would only be 9 blocks, so city folks only count major intersections (with a light) when they do this, or they may count freeway interchanges to get some distance worked up between the packets.

If the intention of the spell is seriously, irreparably harmful (like causing another person grave illness), especially if it contains graveyard dirt or goofer dust, one can dispose of the material in a graveyard. The wax and other remnants are placed in a miniature coffin, buried, and marked by a miniature headstone with the enemy's name on it. When setting such a spell to rest, many workers also sprinkle a mixture of sulphur powder and salt around the grave, then walk home and don't look back.

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NAMED TYPES OF
GLASS ENCASED CANDLES

For a list of titles and images found on contemporary glass encased hoodoo, Catholic, Santeria, and Mayan candles, go to the page of 7-Day and Novena candles.

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MANUFACTURERS OF
GLASS ENCASED CANDLES

For a list of contemporary manufacturers of hoodoo, Catholic, Santeria, and Mayan candles, go to the page of candle makers.

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SIMPLE CANDLE SPELLS
FOR YOU TO TRY

Here are some simple conjurations using candles:

Many, many more candle spells can be found here by using the ATOMZ.COM search engine below to search this site for the keyword candle, plus a word or phrase indicating the type of spell you want (such as love or money or court case).

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