With the people in my outer court, coven and some good friends, we plan to use part of the day on Imbolc to make candles for the upcoming year. At Imbolc, we honor the fires in the belly of the earth, the stirring seeds, the light waiting to burst forth. The creation of tools that bring light seems absolutely perfect to do at this time of year. We made a big order of candle-making supplies and we'll get my kitchen messy as we make candles to light our way through the year. It's all very worthwhile, though, when we get to take home a bunch of beautiful, hand-candles, custom crafted with love and care.
I use the words, "the Craft" to describe my practice more than anything else. Part of my love for the term is the implicit implication of a hands-on element. The Craft of the witches is not just head-in-the-clouds mysticism nor is it hands-clasped-in-prayer religion, but a hands-on approach that blends both of the above with motion to manifest what we have discovered in our mysticism and prayer into our physical reality.
The act of creating magical items like candles reinforces this "Craft" angle. As above, so below - as we create the item in our hands, we create the reality on earth of the desired effect. There are as many ways to do this as there are people on this earth, but one way many have found to be universally powerful is through the simple, magical act of burning a candle.
As I create the candles, I imbue them with my will. I often make candles with specific magical intentions, which as I burn transform that intention into reality. After doing my initial divinations and solidifying the goal in my mind, I take time to meditate upon the desired outcome, creating a mental scene of the goal achieved. Once the scene is built, I will move around in the scene, observing the reality I am creating as I let my heart swell with joy at the knowledge of the outcome.
Once I have that in mind, I start designing my candle. Tables of correspondences are often a nice place to start in selecting colors and scents for the candles. Herbs can be added to candles, but I recommend doing so cautiously, as they can catch fire in the candle. If you wish to add the essence of a specific herb to the candle, you can cook the herb in with the molten candle wax, then be careful to just pour your candle with the wax, and discard the plant matter afterward.
As I'm standing over the double-boiler, I stir in my dyes, scents, and herbs and will chant a phrase or a sigilized word that sums up my intention as I stir. It all feels so very bubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble. While chanting and stirring, I call up that mental scene again and will visualize it in the reflection of the molten wax, thus adding that psychic energy to my creation. As with anything in magic, the more energy and intention you put in, the more you'll get out.
Candles can often have things hidden in them to help create the desired effect. Stones, crystals, and non-flammable charms can be hidden in a candle by pouring a bit of wax for the bottom, waiting for it to cool enough to support the object, then adding the rest of the wax for the candle. I've seen people do multiple layers like this in taller candles where as each stone or charm was revealed, that were added to a mojo bag that was carried on the person.
As I let the candles cool and become solid, so does my intention, stored in the newly-created creature of wax. Once I am ready for that vision to manifest, I light the candle and activate the magic within. The burning flame transforms matter into energy and will into reality. Some candles I'll leave to burn until they burn out, and this is often done for spells that have a specific goal in mind - a candle to assist in a job search or one to bring closure to a situation. Others I use for more open-ended purposes. These I'll keep in the places I need them and burn as needed. My desk always has a few creativity-magic candles on it which I light as I am working on some creative endeavor, and I always have some purification candles in my bathroom that I light while doing a spiritual cleansing bath.
The burning of candles has enchanted humankind for thousands of years, and they continue to enchant my life through my work with them. The work of designing and building a candle with magical intent adds so much more personal power to my magic. I find hand-made candle magic to be one very satisfying way of practicing my Craft.