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Novelty candles make fun and festive decorations for holidays and other occasions, and the most fanciful novelty candles are found at Halloween. As figural candles (such as black cats, red devils, skulls, and the like) are also used in American folk magic, the availability of Halloween candles suggests many possibilities for imaginative spell working. The following are some magical suggestions for Halloween candles. In some of these spells, you personify the candle as a friend, while in others you objectify it as a problem to be burned off. In all cases, the candle is a helper whose joy in serving is to be burned down to release its light.
Pumpkin: Candles in the shapes of simple orange pumpkins are used for both Halloween and Thanksgiving, and are also suitable for Autumn Equinox and other harvest festivals. As golden orbs, they represent a successful harvest and Autumn's abundance. Simple pumpkin candles are best displayed when part of a centerpiece or other arrangement of autumn leaves, nuts, squash, etc. As a table grace, you could light a pumpkin candle while saying, "We give thanks for this season's overflowing Goodness. May the glow of a Golden Harvest light our way through a year of Bright Abundance!"
Jack-o-lantern: Jack-o-lantern candles can serve some of the same purposes as their carved, real pumpkin counterparts. Scary-faced jack-o-lanterns are part of a worldwide cultural tradition of using grotesque faces to scare off evil spirits, while smiley-faced jacks light the way for the good spirits and give them a cheery welcome. As you light a scary-faced jack-o-lantern candle, you could say, "As I light this candle, may all negative energies be dispersed!" As you light a friendly-faced jack candle, you could say, "Greetings to all good entities! All good energies are welcome here!" Of course, you can do the same while setting a light inside a real jack-o-lantern.
Devil: Halloween devil candles may take the form of cute little red imps with pitchforks, while devil candles sold in occult shops look more Satanic; the latter are used for counteracting negative energies, taking revenge on enemies, or arousing lust. In either case, devil figurines suggest the Devil card in the Tarot, which applies to each person's self-limiting factors. If you've been thinking about your own self-limiting factors, you could burn a devil candle while saying:
"You little devil, I know your name.
To end the rite, you can put out the candle until the next time the troublesome thought or impulse recurs, or you can permit the candle to burn all the way down.
Black Cat: Cat-shaped candles tend to take the long, slender, sitting pose that is reminiscent of some Egyptian cat figurines. Various spells call for black cat candles, so just as black cats figure in popular superstitions, so do their figural candles have a role in candle burning magic. However, Americans who are only acquainted with the belief that encountering a black cat is bad luck may be surprised to learn that black cat candles are primarily burned for good luck (including luck in gambling); in many world folk traditions, encountering a black cat is good luck. This is particularly true of the Afro-Caribbean area, where people may keep a black cat in their home or even wear a black cat shaped pin for good luck. Knowing that people in other cultures see auspiciousness in things that we might regard as unlucky, we can find another use for the black cat candle: burn it when you need to reframe your attitudes to make the most out of bad situations, and to find lucky opportunities in seeming misfortunes. As you light your candle, you could greet it with the old Jamaican greeting, "Hello, Shipmate!" (Jamaica being one of the places where black cats are especially lucky), and then proceed with something like:
As you bring your candle light to darkness,
Witch: Novelty candles in the form of witches may include pointy-hatted hags with brooms, cats, and cauldrons, or cute little girls dressed up in witches' costumes, or sometimes even kittens wearing witches' hats. The witch candles sold in Occult stores are usually tall, one color candles, with the color red being most popular. Some Internet sources suggest burning a red witch "to add power to make things happen," but they are primarily burned as love spells. Because these love spells tend to be of the manipulative variety, here is an incantation you can use to enchant yourself, to help you generate high energy and excitement to refresh an existing relationship:
Red Witch, I offer you the gift of Fire,
Witch candles suggest other playful takes on the term "witch burning," including ways to fire up your Witch Self, or The Witch Within. The term "witch" has been so repudiated by our society that even many Wiccans feel uncomfortable with it and work hard to sugarcoat the witch's image. Because the Witch is a part of Society's shadow, this rejected Self has a lot of psychic energy built up around it. When your get tired of conformity, it can be fun to flaunt the intimidation factor inherent in the word "witch," which is a word of power, and to speak out and display emotions that we might normally downplay because they're not so nice. After all, the witch has historically been the person who has taken action against injustice and poverty, while devising ways to bring "power to the people." Thus, you could light a witch candle while saying something like:
"s I burn this candle,
The above is a rite you may especially want to perform when you lack the determination to deal with negative people and situations, or when the compromises of living in the mundane world have just de-energized you. With this rite, you reclaim your personal power and mystery.
Ghost: Ghost candles are invariably of the white-sheeted variety, and they tend to be kind of cute. Although such candles are a fairly recent novelty, the idea of making figurines of ghosts goes back to ancient Sumeria. For example, Babylonian medical texts ascribed a range of physical and emotional maladies to various types of ghosts; such texts might be prefaced, "If a ghost seizes a man, stays in his body,…if he is repeatedly panicked by the ghost …" In such a situation they might prescribe making a figurine of the ghost along with other ritual actions, such as making it funeral offerings of water and flour. Also, the name of the ghost was written on the figurine's left shoulder—though if you didn't know its name, you could inscribe, "This is the figurine of the ghost causing panic and evil disease of [victim's name], son/daughter of [victim's parents' names]." The figurine might eventually be buried after an invocation to the sun god, Shamash, which included a supplication that the ghost be guided towards the sunset (the entrance of the Netherworld), to be entrusted to Neddu, gatekeeper of the Netherworld. Although we don't know what the Babylonian ghost figures looked like, the use of figurines was among their most popular techniques of magic and counter-magic.
Today, a figural candle of a ghost might be used for releasing ghosts of the past, that is to say, disturbing memories, personal obsessions, and other bad thoughts and things you'd like to let go of. If you can put a name to your problem, scratch it onto the candle figure's left shoulder. Then, whenever you are bothered by such thoughts, light your ghost candle and visualize the thought, memory, or whatever taking on the form of a ghostlet (or whatever form you think appropriate), while—to adapt some lines from the movie Poltergeist—you tell it to, "Go into the Light! All are welcome in the Light!" Visualize your ghost approaching and then entering a portal of light, (for this, the flame of the candle could serve as the visualized gateway), where it is met with Unconditional Love, and transformed into a higher energy as it goes into a new life in a better place. If a particularly persistent thought or memory keeps recurring, just keep sending it off this way, through the light. As the candle burns down, your personal ghosts will be considerably diminished.
Also, instead of waiting for certain unpleasant thoughts and memories to arise, you could create a ritual time and space for a big burn-off, where you consciously summon the thoughts to be sent "into the light." (Naturally, you have to know your own limitations, so don't try this if there is some concern that the bad thoughts could overwhelm you.) This is also something that could be done as a group ritual: each member of the group could bring a candle to represent his or her personal ghosts. A group rite has the advantage that members can provide emotional support for each other.
Skeleton If you have some skeleton candles laying around your house (like I have, because my sons liked to collect gory Halloween decorations), you can burn them at times when your life has piled on too many complications, and you want to remind yourself of the need to get down to the essentials, to be able to see down to the bare bones of things. As you light the candle, you can have a little fun and pun on the French by addressing it, "Bon homme [pronounced 'bone ome'], bon ami" [good man, good friend], then saying something like:
As your waxen figure burns,
Skull: The skull stands for power concentrated in the head, and in candle burning practices, a skull candle can direct mental power to many different goals. Playing on the symbolism of head and mind, skull candles can be burned to assert mind control, or to promote mental healing by burning off the negative influences inside one's own head. In other examples, a green skull may be burned to compel people who owe you money to pay up, and a red skull is used to inflame another person's mind with desire. However, because a skull is also a death's head, some people use a red skull candle to end a relationship by bringing about the death of passion. The different spell working outcomes would depend on how you frame your intention. Skull candles are also sometimes burned to access ancestral wisdom, or as a meditation on the transience of life, (which is something you might want to do for insight into living more meaningfully).
For some positive modern uses of skull candles, you could burn different colors inscribed with runes to promote mental well being. So, to flood the mind with daylight and open it to a purer, higher awareness, inscribe the Day-rune "Daeg" or "Dagaz" on the skull's forehead. Use the form of Daeg that features triangles joined to resemble a stylized butterfly (i.e. an"x" with vertical lines added on the right and left, creating two joined triangles). To fire up your mind with enthusiasm for a desired objective, incise the forehead of a red skull with two outward-opening angles "< >" (resembling the "greater than" and "lesser than" symbols of algebra); inscribe these angles close together but not touching, so they almost make an "x." The angular figure is the rune "Cen" or "Kenaz," representing a torch, a flame, charisma, and kingly presence. By making a figure with Cen runes that are mirrored but not joined (so the hemispheres are not crossed in an "x"), you create a state of tension that generates energy. Used in this context, it also enhances mental charisma—a shining mind. To encourage both creative growth and mental healing, draw a vertical line on the forehead of a green skull candle, and then draw lines on both sides to make angular "B" figures, so that it is like two Bs, one backward and one regular, joined together. This is a bind-rune of the B-rune, "Beorc" or "Berkano," which engages the green world powers of youth, growth, fertility, and healing. For help in concentrating on a problem, draw the "Man" or "Mannaz" rune on the forehead of a black skull candle. This looks like an "M," except the slanting lines are extended to make an "x" figure between the two staves of the "M." In runic practice, the Man rune is also known as a "Mind Rune," amplifying the powers of the human intellect.
When performing the skull candle burning actions for yourself, envision your mind lighting up and warming up as you light and burn the candle. If you have a friend who has requested you burn such a candle on his or her behalf, you would summon an image of that person to your mind, and visualize him or her being energized accordingly. Note that all the runic symbols given above are symmetrical, so there's mental balance. However, persons with specialized knowledge of runes (or neurology), could stimulate different hemispheres or brain modules by using different and asymmetric runes on different parts of the skull candle.
Janina Renée is a scholar of folklore, psychology, medical anthropology, the material culture of magic, ritual studies, history, and literature. Her books include Tarot Spells, Tarot Your Everyday Guide (winner ...