Ceremony & Tradition

Using Candles for Intention Setting & Manifestation

Published on August 7, 2018

Article by Naima Abdi

If magic flows where intention goes, then candle magic illuminates that intention and releases it outward into the world. How? Practical witch, western astrologer and candle maker of Dearly Departed Apothecary, Candace Looft says “lighting candles is one of the oldest and most traditional ways to let the universe know specifically what you want. From the day of the week you light it to the direction you apply the oil [during a candle-magic ritual], all of these actions reflect the intention you’re setting. When you combine this method along with the dressing of specific herbs, burning during certain planetary hours or lunar cycles, the intent of that candle is then magnified immensely.”

The History of Candles & Candle Magic

tabletop of candles

Have you ever wondered why just about every culture in the world uses candles in their ceremonies, rituals and celebrations? Although little is known about their exact origin, historically candles have been in existence for more than 5,000 years. Before the spread of electricity, the world relied on candles to light their homes at night, for telling time and for ceremonial purposes. They were developed by early civilizations in ancient Egypt, Rome, India, China and Japan, to name a few. But specifically using candles for intention setting is a tradition with equally murky origins that is just as archaic and diverse.

Ancient Pagans and other pre-Christian faiths used candles and lanterns in their religious observances to honor their gods and ancestors with fire magic. But it wasn’t until the late Middle Ages in the 12th century that Christians began the practice of lighting candles on church altars to imbue prayers with the Divine light of God. For Buddhists, using candles as an offering in ritual and ceremony is an age-old custom in which candles are placed in front of Buddhist shrines as a symbol of respect. The light of the flame represents the enlightenment of the Buddha’s teachings. In Wicca, a religion with Pagan roots established in the early 20th century, candle magic is combined with other forms of magic, such as elemental, number and color magic, and is essential to manifestation and spell casting.

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The Basics of Candle Magic

On a symbolic level, a candle embodies the five elements: earth, water, air, fire and spirit. The wick and base signify earth and are vital for keeping the flame steady. The wax, which transforms from a solid to a liquid and then to a gas, emulates the transmutational properties of the water element. Oxygen, representative of air, is crucial for both keeping the flame lit and extinguishing it. Then there’s the flame, which is a direct connection to fire—the element of transformation and rebirth. Fire also represents passion and governs our willpower. And lastly, the fifth element, spirit, which is us when we focus our intention into the candle and infuse it with our soul and energy. “The magic starts when you set your intention. Intention is the key to any ritual or magical practice. I’ve seen miracles happen with tea lights or birthday candles,” says Looft.

At the same time, it’s important to understand that while powerful, the practice of burning candles with intention is by no means a quick fix for life’s challenges. As with all forms of magic, you only get as far as the work you’re willing to put into making things happen for yourself. Whatever magical ceremony or ritual you decide to perform is simply the messenger whose purpose is to deliver your goals into the arms of the universe—nothing more. So before you partake in candle magic—or any manifestation practice—be certain you’re not setting an intention you aren’t ready to work toward and that you aren’t broadcasting any energy you don’t want to receive in return. “Candle magic, like meditation, takes practice and visualization. But be careful: You may get exactly what you’re asking for. For new practitioners, be mindful of the rule of three: Anything you cast, or put out there—negative or positive—returns to you threefold,” says Looft.

For newbies, it’s also a good idea to cleanse your aura of any energy that may cloud you from formulating healthy intentions before you even start gathering the tools for your candle ritual. This will help draw you to the right supplies needed to fulfill your intentions. “As with all rituals, you want to clear and bless your space. This is something as simple as stating your intention out loud. Some practitioners envision sacred fires, while some witches will cast a circle with salt,” says Looft. In the realm of candle magic, the color of the candle you use also plays a major significance in the ritual. Different colors speak to different intentions and vibrations, so make sure to do some research on which colors are the best for what you’re trying to actualize.

What Do I Need to Practice Candle Magic?

If you’re wondering how to effectively set your intentions using candle magic, it’s less about the bells and whistles and more about you. “Yes, staying true to the elements of the craft is important, but don’t get so caught up in the materials that you lose sight of intention. It’s important to work through spell-casting prior, and write out the intention and gather your supplies. Keep a book to write down any spells and materials used. That way you can document what has and hasn’t worked in the past,” says Looft.

Or in other words, keep it simple. Start with your intention and a few basic items such as your candle, a notepad, pen and an altar tool, such as a crystal. The more you develop your candle-magic skills, the more you can add in elaborate elements such as herbs and a few drops of essential oils to dress your candle. “You may carve symbols into the wax, or select herbs with metaphysical aspects that will give your candle some oomph! And remember to finish off your candle burning with, ‘For the good of all those involved, so mote it be, or better!’” says Looft.

A Simple Candle Ritual for Beginners

candle floating in water with greenery and yellow flowers

  1. Take a moment to clear your aura of any heavy energy before you start the ritual. You can smudge with palo santo or sage, light some incense or do something as simple as taking a bath or shower. (Explore our Smudge Essentials Box for everything you need to create sacred space.)
  2. Gather a piece of paper, a pen, a candle and a heat-safe surface to place your lit candle. You can add additional tools like crystals, pictures and flowers to place on your altar or near the candle.
  3. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, making sure to inhale through your nose and out through your mouth. As you exhale, focus your attention on your third-eye chakra directly in between your eyebrows.
  4. Take another deep breath in, and this time, using your mind’s eye, visualize your goals and what you’d like to manifest, actively seeing yourself experiencing this reality and focusing solely on the sensation of what having it feels like.
  5. Once you’ve captured that feeling and have visualized your wish, take out your pen and paper and write down your intention.
  6. When done. Say your intention out loud—as many times as you like. After, fold the paper into four equal parts and place it underneath the heat-safe surface. Then place your candle on top.
  7. Set up the rest of your altar tools if you have them. Then, send the energy of your intention into your candle.
  8. Light your candle and stare at the flame, and continue to send your intention into the light. You can sit in front of it for as long as you like. 
  9. When ready, close your candle ritual with words of gratitude and a positive affirmation. You can say something like: “In gratitude, I close this sacred ritual and I open myself to manifesting all that’s for my highest good, and for the good of all.”
  10. Let your candle burn as much as needed, making sure you extinguish it before you leave. Once it burns through completely, you can light another candle to keep the energy going while you continue to work on bringing your intention to life. Or you can remove the intention underneath the heat-safe surface and craft a new candle-magic ritual to help you manifest your next intention. 

Learn more about the history of candles here. And read The Urban Monk’s 4 Tips to Contentment to learn how to perform a candle meditation.

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Published on: August 7, 2018

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