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HOW TO READ DIVINATION SIGNS FROM CANDLE-BURNING:
CEROMANCY IN HOODOO CANDLE MAGIC

This article is part of a series of instructional chapters on
CANDLE MAGIC IN THE HOODOO ROOTWORK TRADITION.
white-cross-crucifix-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

When we burn candles in the conjure tradition, we often watch and wait for divinatory signs that tell us how the work is going to come out -- that is, whether the spell will be a success or not. Some of the common signs we observe are so-called "coincidences" (especially names and subject matter that relate to those in the spell). We can also consult a system of divination, such as using a pendulum or a Jack Ball, reading or cutting playing cards or tarot cards, or employing Bibliomancy (divination by means of a book such as the Bible). Another easy way to get a divination on candle-burning spells is through ceromancy -- divination by wax. In this case, the wax we "read" is the wax of the candles themselves.

There are two forms of ceromancy -- the first involves dedicating a candle in a ritual manner, then pouring some of the melted wax from it into cold water. The resultant hardened blobs of wax can be read just like reading tea leaves, with similar or identical meanings given to the images formed in the wax -- a tree, a cat, a book, a car -- that you will find in any book on tea leaf reading.

Another form of ceromancy is employed by those who are using candles are part of a magical rite. In this case the wax is not poured off of the candles but rather the manner in which the candles burn, and the remnants left after their burning, are observed for signs.

Not every magical practitioner takes heed of the manner in which ritual or spell-casting candles burn, but for the most part, in my experience, people who work in African-American and African-Caribbean traditions often pay attention to the way a candle burns and can draw conclusions about it. In particular, spiritual workers who set lights for clients make a habit of noticing the manner in which the candles burn. If smoke is involved in the divination process, the technique of assessing this is capnomancy; if the flames are watched for signs, you are practicing pyromancy. In hoodoo candle burning, we generally combine pyriomancy, capnomancy, and ceromancy into one art, which we call "reading signs from candles." red-adam-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

Before you embark on watching the wax from the candles for signs, i need to caution you that the signs made by flames, smoke, and wax are so varied and numerous that it would take pages and pages to list them all. Rather than my doing that, i would like to suggest that if you wish to do candle work yourself and not to hire a conjure doctor to do the work for you, then it is your job as a practitioner to learn to develop an insight into the theory behind candle wax divination, not by memorizing long lists of supposed "rules," but by entering into a spirit of observatory "play" or spiritual insight with the candles, insofar as they represent the people for whom they have been named.

Of course, it is important to note that some candles are simply poorly made and will burn badly no matter what you do with them (for instance, if the wick is too thick they may burn sootily). Also, the temperature in the area, the presence of wind or a draft, and other external factors may play a part in how candles burn. The novice should not worry over-much about how candles burn until he or she has burned a lot of candles and gained some perspective on the matter.

A sign that appears during the burning of a candle does not reflect on your ability to do the work: If your candle burns badly or goes out, you did not "botch" the spell. However, on the other hand, the fact that a "natural" draft put your candle out or "the cat tipped it over" does not obviate the fact that the candle going out was a bad sign. This is because a sign is a message, and the method of its delivery to your consciousness is not as important as that you saw it and received the sign.

If you are passively burning a candle, then if knots form in the wick you will just let the knots stay, watch the twin flames, watch the wax run, watch the glass break and spill wax all over, and so forth. In my shop we call these passively burned candles "test candles" -- that is, candles burned for the sole purpose of divination by the flamme (pyromancy), the remnant wax (ceromancy) and/or the smoke patterns left in the glass (capnomancy).

If you want to WORK the situation through candle magic and you do not like the way that the candle is going, you do not have to sit back and watch it go nuts with knots, runny wax, or out-of-control flames. Get the message the candle gives -- and then rectify the unfortunate candls signs as you work. This is YOUR WORK, and you owe it to yourself and/or your client to make the outcome of the candle spell as good as possible.

All that having been said, here are some of the things to watch for when burning candles:

green-seven-knob-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

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SIGNS OBSERVED WHILE THE CANDLE BURNS

A free-standing candle lets out a lot of smoke but burns clean at the end

black-clothed-woman-lady-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company The divination of signs by looking at burning flames is a form of Pyromancy or divination by fire. You can also perform pyromancy with a campfire or by watching the flames in your fireplace.

To perform a pyromantic divination with candles, it is best to work by candle light only, in an otherwise dark or dim room. If the behaviour does not stop, then it is to be considered a sign, and not simply a physical coincidence.

The candle flame flares, dips, bends, or gutters repeatedly

To be sure that any unusual behaviour of the candle flames is not caused by the mundane fact that you have set the candle in a draft, it is helpful to keep a few non-specific altar lights going in the room, so that you can truly judge the activities of the flames on your spell-lights against some simple blessing candles. If you have altar lights set, you can immediately tell if all the lights in the room are "dancing" or if only the lights on your spell candles are affected. If the flames are jumping on all the candles, it may be necessary to close the doors or windows or to move the spell candles somewhere else.

The candle flame hisses, sizzles, pops, or makes other noises

A "noisy" candle is usually interpreted -- especially by those in the Spiritual Church Movement -- as a sign that spirits (of the dead, of angels, or of other entities) are trying to "come through," that is, to communicate. Pay attention! You may learn something important.

A free-standing candle runs and melts a lot while burning

black-skull-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

This gives you an opportunity to observe the flow of wax for signs. For instance:

Some people try to influence the way melting wax runs. They do this as an intentional part of the spell-work, to increase the likelihood that things will go the way they want. Others prefer to let nature take its course and to watch running wax for signs, without interfering in its movements.

If a free-standing candle smokes excessively at the outset, but ends up burning cleanly, it is a token of hidden trouble or someone working against your wishes. Things will not go well at first, but with repeated work you will overcome.

A pin or needle on a marked free-standing candle drops -- but it clings and won't fall

blue-bride-and-groom-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

Either the client (the person for whom the candle is being burned) is clinging to past conditions or someone or something from the client's past is unwilling to let the client go.

The term "past conditions" means events or memories from the client's past.

The term "someone or something" means that it may be a living person, or a hostile spirit sent against the client, or a spirit of the dead, or the spirit of a drug or illness.

Once you know which it is, then you can address the issue through spiritual and magical remediation:

The candle burns unusually slowly or "won't go out"

black-divorce-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

This is a very troubling and frustrating situation. How you deal with it will depend on the reason you were burning the candle in the first place.

In any case, if the light goes out, you will have to relight it. Do so with a prayer.

The candle burns up overly fast

lux-perpetua-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

Generally a fast burn is good, but an overly-fast burn (compared to other times you have used the same kind of candle or to other candles that are being burned at the same time in the same ritual) means that although the work will go well, it may not last long. You might have to repeat the job at a later date.

Should you light another candle in its place? Well, there are no "rules" governing this sort of situation, and the best i can recommend is that you let spirit guide you.

Which course of action you choose will be determined by your own personality and your level of activity or passivity toward the world generally; the level of your activity or passivity with respect to your relationship to magic, omens, this ritual, and its desired outcome; and other factors such as whether more candles are readily available in the time frame of the ongoing ritual.

You might do a pendulum divination over the candle remains and ask the question. Or a card reading. Or Bibliomancy.

You might try handling it one way this time and another way next time it happens (because, if you burn many candles, you will see these kinds of anomalies more than once), and from such experiences you may understand more deeply how you will wish to handle such events in the future.

What would *i* do? I can't say, because at different times i have handled this differently, according to the factors i listed above. But if i had any negative feelings about accepting the premature burn-out as a sign, i would do a pendulum divination over the candle remains, with simple yes or no questions, to determine if i should set another light.

The candle goes out before completely burning

red-and-black-double-action-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

Sometimes a candle seems to take forever to burn, or there may be a little stubborn stick of wick at the end that keeps pulling in wax and just won't go out. I have seen some candles run 10 to 20 hours longer than manufacturer estimates, flickering at the end, but never quite extinguishing. This slow type of burn can necessitate dramatic watchfulness, but do not get impatient and blow such a light out prematurely. Watch and wait and observe what happens.

Generally a very slow burn signifies that the work is very slow in coming to fruition, but what that means in any given case will, of course, vary based on the purpose for which the candle was set.

The candle tips over and flames up into a fire hazard

If a candle falls over or if it flames up so high it puts your curtains on fire or destroys a portion of your altar, you know you are in trouble. An out of control fire is both dangerous and a very bad sign in terms of spirtual workings. Once you get the flames under control and take stock of the damage, it is wise to accept that the event is a sign that not only will the spell probably fail but there may be increased danger ahead for you or the client. In order to accomplish anything, you will have to start the entire job over from the beginning -- but first do a thorough Uncrossing spell for everyone involved and ritually clean the premises before setting any more lights.

The candle wick forms a "knot" or forms "twin flames"

When a free-standing candle burns with a "knot" or "knob" or lump at the tip of the wick or breaks apart to form "twin flames" or two diverging wicks, you can get a good reading on the situation by letting it burn as-is, or you can trim the wick, which is what candle manufacturers recommend.

When a glass-encased candle burns with a knot, knob, or lump at the tip of the wick or with twin flames or two diverging wicks, the reading of the flame is greatly complicated by the fact that these formations will almost always (not always, but ALMOST always) result in a smoked-up glass, so that the capnomancy or smoke-reading portion of the divination can be expected to be dark, streaky, or sooty, which is not a good thing.

It is passive to let dark streaks or smoke marks form on a glass-encased vigil light if you can avoid it. Why settle for a bad divination sign and set a second light if you can work on the candle and correct it as it burns?

As a capnomancy reader, i already know the upcoming divination score when i see a glass-encased vigil light with a knotted or divided flame, and once i see that, and if it persists and is smoky, i often feel the need to fix it, because what i want is results. I will trim, groom, and work the candle to get the results i want. Many people don't -- God bless them. But then they have to light more candles, until they get one to burn right. For me, it's like raising animals -- if one falls sick, i don't just buy a second one to replace it. I nurse it back to health.

One way to minimize knots and double flames is by trimming the wicks BEFORE lighting the candles. Some candles have very long wicks -- maybe you have not had the experience of seeing these, but i have seen vigil lights and figural candles with up to 2" of free wick. I am not talking here about factory offertory candles, but vigil lights and also figurals that are made by hand. Attempting to light a 2" long wick is just a waste of time -- it cannot draw the wax up it. You have to trim it first.

Remember that a knot or twin flame formation may give different reading outcomes on a free-standing candle than on a glass-encased candle, due to the way we perform smoke-reading or caponomancy of the candle-glass in the latter type of candle. What looks interesting and ends well on a free-standing candle may look interesting but end badly in the glass of a vigil light.

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SIGNS LEFT IN THE WAX RESIDUE FROM A BURNED-OUT CANDLE

The divination of signs observed in melted wax is called Ceromancy. In addition to observing the waxleft behind when a candle burns "naturally," it is a common Ceromantic practice to tip a candle over a shallow bowl of water and let some wax pour into the water, then observe and identify the shapes taken by the solidifying wax. These images can be read in the same manner as tea-leaf readings, using the same symbol system.

The candle gives a clean, even burn with no tokens or signs

This means things will go well with the spell or blessing and that one will most likely get what one wishes for. If a glass encased vigil or novena candle burns and leaves no marks on the glass, that is best. If a free-standing candle leaves little or no residue, that is best. candle-wax-divination-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

A free-standing candle burns down to a puddle of wax, forming transient or persistent images

Transient images are those which occur while the candle is burning but disappear by the time the candle flame has gone out. Persistent images are those which are left in the form of solid wax after the flame has gone out.

When wax melts and forms images, most workers will examine the shape of the wax for a sign. You may see something of importance there, for the shape may suggest an outcome regarding the matter at hand.

One transient image that often forms while a candle burns, but may disappear by the time it is finished, is a run of wax droplets down the side of the candle. These are called "tears" and they denote that someone will cry before the spell succeeds.

If the tears melt away and are gone by the time the candle is finished, the sorrow will pass in due time.

If the tears persist after the candle is finished and either hang down like icicles or form tall columns or spires of unburned wax tears, the sorrow will be of long effect.

After the candle is finished, the wax puddle that remains can be examined and its meaning related to the spell. For instance, a heart-shaped wax puddle is a good significator if you are burning a red Eve image candle or a pink Adam image candle for a love spell -- but a coffin-shaped wax puddle is a good significator if you are burning a black devil candle against an enemy.

Wax puddles come in all kinds of shapes; most candle-workers treat them like tea-leaves when they "read" them.

A vigil candle burns down but leaves up to 1/2" of unburned wax at the bottom

Unburned wax at the bottom of a glass-encased vigil candle is a classic sign of "unfinished business." What that means will depend upon the nature of the condition for which the spiritual work was being done:

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SIGNS LEFT IN OR ON THE CANDLE HOLDER, STAND, PLATE, SAUCER, GLASS, OR LABEL

It is quite common to read the smoke patterns left behind in a candle glass for divinatory purposes. This is a combination of Capnomancy -- divination by smoke (a word that can also refer to reading patterns in "live" smoke -- that is, incense smoke or the smoke from a candle) and Ceromancy -- divination by wax (a word that can also refer to reading patterns formed by dripping wax into water). It is therefore known as Capno-Ceromany or Cero-Capnomancy-- divination by smoke and wax. yellow-glass-encased-vigil-candle-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

A glass encased candle burns half clean and half dirty

A grey or black and sooty top which fades down to a clear bottom indicates that there is hidden trouble with the person for whom the lights have been set or that someone is working against your wishes. Things will not go well at first, but by repeated spells you may get them to go better.

A dirty, black, sooty burn marks the candle glass or holder

This means things are going to go hard -- the spell may not work, the blessing may fail, the person is in deeper stress or trouble than you thought.

Sometimes there are distinct images seen in the haze or soot left by smoke that clings to a candle glass. You may see an angel, a skull, a playful dog, a human face, or a heart. These signs, and many others, can be interpreted in the same way as tea-leaf patterns or the images discovered in melted wax by the practice of ceromancy.

peaceful-home-vigil-candle

The glass or ceramic candle holder, saucer, or plate cracks or breaks

Breakage is never a "good" sign -- but it is not always "bad," either. If the spell is for increase or amelioration, a broken holder or base is unfortunate; if the spell is one of aggressive expulsion, the break can indicate the suddenness of the rupture to come, but . You need to consider what kind of candle it is in order to interpret the meaning.

Here are a few specific examples of how i might interpret a broken candle-glass as a "bad sign":

Sometimes the breaking of a candle glass is neutral, or functions as a warning.

Sometimes breaking a situation apart is exactly what you want to do, and in those cases, the broken glass may be interpreted as a sign that your spell is going to succeed, although the split will be harsh, abrupt, or painful:

In some cases, the breakage of the candle glass is ambiguous and further divination over the candle is necessary to settle the question.

In other words, the symbolism of a broken glass varies based on the type of candle and there is an art to reading the signs, which cannot be neatly summarized by a set of "rules." You may do a divination on the result to further clarify the signs -- and remember to combine the meaning of the cracked glass with other signs, such as soot, burned label art, etc., in order to get the fullest picture of what the outcome will be.

In the end, no matter what the kind of case you are handling, the action i personally would take when a glass candle breaks would be to set another of the same sort of light on the same situation; that is, i would re-do the work because i would not consider a broken candle and spilled wax to be a positive outcome unless the candle was lit for a negative petition, and even then it would have negative side-effects (tears, blood, loss).

white-votive-candle-from-the-Lucky-Mojo-Curio-Company

Seriously speaking, and with no attempt at frivolity or triviality, it must be noted that the best way to avoid a broken plate, saucer, or holder is to not use glass or ceramic in this capacity. A worker who persists in the habit, especially after breaking more than one such article, is a worker who is ungrounded in the real world, whose spirituality may aim high but who fails to take note of the physical laws that govern and set limits on our daily lives on Earth.

AN ACCURATE DIVINATION DERIVES FROM A PROPER BURN

To sum up, in considering the methodology of candle divination, you will see that it consists of THREE forms of divination combined:

What an experienced candle setter -- such as a deacon at Missionary Independent Spiritual Church or a well-experienced home practitioner, or a professional rootworker -- is looking for is a single divinatory narrative that combines the "statements" of the three "witnesses" to the burning: the flame, the wax, and the smoke.

In addition, sometimes there will be other "witnesses" -- the glass may crack, the label may scorch.

Again, the experienced candle setter consults ALL of these "witnesses" to the work.

It is all too problematic to light a candle and start worrying over it as it burns. Resist that temptation.

I suggest that if you want to develop a deep understanding of candle divination, and not just hack around at lighting candles and fuss over them in times of crisis, you buy some books on the subject of candle magic, and read them. Then i suggest that you pay for a half-hour magical coaching session with an experienced AIRR rootworker worker. The one-on-one coaching you get that way will drive home some of the things you will read in the books and will take you to a new and higher level of understanding.

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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