May/June 2015 Issue
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Winter Solstice Wishing Candle
This article was written by Ember Grant
posted under Pagan
There is a tradition of making a wish at the Winter Solstice, of burning pieces of paper with wishes or affirmations written on them. When creating a Winter Solstice candle, you will infuse the molten wax with your wish or intent and release it with the burning of the candle.
This is a very basic recipe for creating candles at home using scraps of old wax or wax purchased from a craft store. It is designed for simplicity and to use items found in most kitchens.
- large metal pot—an old stew pot works well
- old glass carafe (such as a coffee pot) or soup/coffee can(s)
- candy thermometer
- blocks of purchased wax or used candles (your choice of color)
- small paper cups (Dixie Brand), or other molds
- wicks (available at craft stores)
- wooden spoon, oven mitt, towels, and waxed paper or newspaper to cover work area
- ground frankincense resin (optional)
The purpose of making recycled candles is to use all those scraps of wax left-over from old candles—and to save money. If you don’t have a lot of old wax lying around, start saving it. Have your friends and relatives save theirs for you and soon you’ll have more wax than you can use! Until then, you can buy blocks of wax from craft stores. This recipe is for basic paraffin wax only—however, beeswax can be included.
Using recycled wax from spent candles is a bit of an adventure. Since wax type and quality varies, one good way for beginners to get started is to take one very large candle that has burned down, such as the large three-wick type, and make many smaller votives from it. Certain waxes will be harder or softer than others so to be safe always burn recycled candles in a heat-proof container. For example, wax designed to be burned in a container has a lower melting point and should never be used to create a votive or pillar candle. When mixing waxes, your candles may be harder or softer than you expect. When purchasing wax from a craft store to make votives, buy the type of wax for molded candles.
The wax chunks should be small to medium-sized for quicker melting. A good way to break up large blocks of wax is to place the wax in a plastic bag and use a hammer to break it. This is best done outdoors on a safe surface.
There are several types of wicking. You can buy long strips that can be cut to a specific size and these come in braided or wire (metal core). Wire is best for this type of candle. Wick tabs are small metal plates that you can crimp to the bottom of your wick to help it stand up but, for this type of candle and method, they are not necessary. Another easy method if you’re making votive candles is to buy wicks that have tabs already attached to the bottom. These are perfect for paper cup candles. You’ll probably get about a dozen in a package, so it’s cheaper to buy the long length of wicking and cut it. But the choice is yours.
There are generally three sizes, small, medium, and large. The packages indicate what candle size each type is used for. Paper cup size is about 1—to 2 inches in diameter. Small or medium wicking works best. Ideally, your candle will burn evenly all the way down. If you use wicking that’s too large, you may end up with a runny mess. Wicking that is too small will cause the candle to burn down in the middle but leave an outer shell. This is often a desired effect since there’s less chance of a mess. However, a hole could form in the shell and liquid wax could still spill through.
Medium wicking is the best choice for the paper cup style votive. But, you still may not get perfect burning, especially when using recycled wax. When mixing wax you never know what results you’ll get so always burn these types of candles in a safe container.
This recipe simply requires a paper cup to create a basic votive candle. It can be expanded upon by using larger molds, just keep in mind that the appropriate wick size must be used in order for the candle to burn effectively. Just about any container that can withstand heat can be used for a mold—but remember: you have to be able to get the candle out. This can be difficult. That’s why paper cups and cardboard molds (juice cans) work so well—you just peel them off. Of course, you can invest in reusable molds that are sold at craft stores but keep in mind you’ll need several of them to pour many candles at once. The number of candles you can make in a batch depends on your mold size. Generally, a pound of wax will yield 8-12 standard votives. Paper cups are a bit larger than regular votive size.
Creating the Candle
First, cover the area you'll be using with waxed paper or newspaper to aid in clean-up. Wear old clothes, and use old towels. You can use a cookie sheet to set the candles on to cool, if you wish, and an oven mitt will also be useful.
Add a couple inches of warm tap water to the pot and place it on the stove. Put the chunks of wax in the carafe (or can) and place the carafe inside the pot of water. This simulates a double boiler. Bring the water to a gentle boil—the water should remain at a low but steady boil to avoid water splashing up into the wax. Once the water is hot and the wax begins melting, adjust the temperature so the water stays hot, but not boiling.
Use the thermometer to monitor the temperature of the wax. You must use a high-temperature thermometer—the kind used for making hard candy is ideal. If your thermometer has a clip you can attach it to the side of the carafe or can. Add water to the pot as needed—be careful not to let the pot boil dry. If your pot is large enough, you can melt several different colors at the same time by using two or three small soup cans. Use caution when handling these as they will become hot. Use an oven mitt or towel.
While you're waiting for the wax to melt, cut your wicks to the appropriate length, a little taller than the rim of the cup. When the wax in the carafe is melted, carefully dip the wicks into it so all but the tip you’re holding is immersed in the wax, and lay them on waxed paper or a cookie sheet to dry. This is called priming the wicks and makes them stiff and easier to work with.
Stir the wax occasionally as it is melting. When the wax reaches pouring temperature, about 160 degrees F°, remove the carafe from the water and place it on a heat-proof surface.
Now is the time to focus your intent and make your wish. Visualize your need being absorbed into the molten wax and make your Solstice wish or affirmation. At this time add the ground frankincense resin and stir the wax a few more times. Then, pour the wax into the mold(s) you have selected.
You may cast a circle for this process if you like, but just remember not to let the wax cool down. If you decide to create a longer ritual for creating your candle, leave the pot in the water until you’re ready to pour the wax.
If you’ve made a large batch of wax, create one candle for your personal Solstice wish by using special intent for pouring your candle, and then use this simple chant for the rest of the candles, to be given as gifts or saved for later:
Molten wax, take shape anew,
As I pour energy into you,
Await a wish and hold it fast,
Fulfill it when the flame is cast.
Use caution when pouring to prevent wax from dripping onto the burner and catching flame. Always wipe the lip of the carafe or can after pouring and remember to wear your oven mitt. I have found it helpful when using cans to squeeze one side of the can to a point to make pouring easier. Be sure to reserve some liquid wax and keep it warm, as it will be needed later to "top-off" the candles. Wait about twenty minutes, or until the wax in the molds begins to form a thin "skin" on top, and then stick the wick down into the wax; even without a wick tab it will adhere to the bottom of the cup, where the wax is beginning to thicken. Make sure your wick is centered. The wick should be able to stand up on its own. If it doesn’t, then the wax isn’t thick enough yet. Wait a bit longer before trying to insert the wick.
As the candles cool, a well will probably form around the wick causing the candle to appear sunk in the center. This is normal since wax shrinks as it cools. Simply pour a thin layer of wax over the top. Repeat this process as desired until the candles are cool and nearly level on top. The entire process could take several hours to complete. Of course, if you don’t care how the candle looks, don’t worry about topping it off. Although I recommend at least topping it off once since the wick could lean over if you don’t. Each time you pour, try to keep the wax the same temperature. Differences in pouring temperature can change the finished texture of the wax.
Clean Up & Finishing the Candle
You shouldn't need to wash your carafe and cans. Simply pour out all the wax—any that is left over can be poured into a paper cup to cool and used next time. Wipe the inside of the containers with a paper towel.
When candles are cool, carefully peel off the paper cup. It’s best to wait several hours, or overnight. Trim the wick to about 1/4 inch and they're ready! Remember: Wax is very forgiving! You can always melt it down and start over if you don't like the results.
These solstice candles also make great gifts, and your personal energy will make them extra special. Color suggestions for the winter solstice include yellow (to welcome the sunlight), white, red, or green. Tie a decorative ribbon around the candle and use a gift tag to announce the candle as a symbol to welcome the returning light. Don’t forget to have the gift recipient make a solstice wish when lighting the candle.
Ember Grant (Missouri) has been collecting rocks and minerals for thirty years and practicing crystal magic for fifteen. Since 2003, she has contributed to Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac, Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac, Llewellyn’s Spell-A-Day... Read more
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