Candles have a long history in religious worship, Magic and folklore. Candlelight repels evil spirits while attracting benevolent ones. In liturgy, they are offerings of fealty to a deity. In magic, candles are used in various rituals and spells.
Beeswax candles were used in Egypt and Crete as early as 3000 b.C.e. Egyptians of about the 3rd century C.E. used lamps and possibly candles in a magic ritual for “dreaming true,” or obtaining answers from dreams. The individual retired to a dark cave facing south, and stared into a flame until he saw a god. He then lay down and went to sleep, anticipating that the god would appear in his dreams with the answers he sought.
Ancient pagans used candles and lamps in religious observances, a practice which the Roman Christian theologian Tertullian (ca. 200) vehemently protested as “the useless lighting of lamps at noonday.” By the fourth century, both candles and lamps were part of Christian rituals, but it was not until the latter part of the Middle Ages that candles were placed on church altars. The Catholic Church established the use of consecrated holy candles in rituals of blessings and absolving sins, and in exorcising Demons (see exorcism). Medieval farmers used holy candles to protect their livestock from danger and bewitchment. During the Inquisition, inquisitors’ handbooks such as the Malleus Maleficarum (1486) prescribed holy candles as among those consecrated objects “for preserving oneself from the injury of witches.”
During the witch hunts, witches were said to light candles at their Sabbats as offerings of fealty to the Devil, who was often portrayed as wearing a lighted candle between his horns. The witches lit their candles from the Devil’s candle; sometimes he lit the candles and handed them to his followers. Witches also put lighted candles in the faggots of their brooms, which they rode through the air to their sabbats.
It was believed that witches made perverse use of holy candles in putting Curses on individuals. According to an English work, Dives and Pauper (1536), “it hath oft been known that witches, with saying of the Paternoster and dropping of the holy candle in a man’s steps that they hated, hath done his feet rotten of.”
In contemporary Witchcraft, consecrated white candles are placed on altars and at the four quarters of a Magic CIRCLE. If a ritual calls for it, candles are placed at the points of a pentagram (see pentacle and pentagram). Candles are burned in all religious ceremonies. Colored candles are used in magical spells; each color has its own vibration, attribute, symbolism and influence. See HAND OF GLORY.
- Marlbrough, Ray L. Charms, Spells & Formulas. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1987.
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