As pagans, we love what's natural and real—we seek the authenticity of things, especially in our magic. We cherish hand-made, carefully crafted items. We love real stone, wood, metal, and plant materials. Most of us would never consider a plastic ritual chalice or artificial oils; some pagans even insist on real matches for lighting fires—no modern lighters allowed. While that may be an extreme case, we do tend to scorn the modern, "fake" things in favor of what we deem real or "traditional."
As a maker of candles, I can't imagine ever abandoning the real flame. In fact, I just wrote a book on the subject—Magical Candle Crafting—in which I explore making candles for rituals and spells, charging the wax with your energy. For magic, I still prefer this type of candle. But, in some situations, it's nice to have a flameless candle on hand. They can be used to complement real candles on an altar, or to safely illuminate your sacred space, leaving you free to focus on your magic.
We already know that many modern conveniences can be useful in magical practice. Many of us use a computer for our Book of Shadows, or use an mp3 player for ritual music. And so, why not the "flameless" candle? Many people have invested in these recently, and some of them are made of real wax. In fact, from a distance, they are often indistinguishable from real candles. One good thing about them is that they last forever (although you may have to replace the battery), and they are safe from pets and human forgetfulness or clumsiness. Some of them simulate a flicker or have a scent, and some have a sensor so you can actually "blow" them out! These have a sensor activated by sound. Flameless candles may just have a place in magic and ritual after all. I can hear everyone groaning. But I just bought my first one during the winter holiday clearance. Everyone thinks it’s real—sometimes I even forget it’s not!
For some types of candle magic, you really do want to burn something. But sometimes the candle light is secondary, especially if you’re creating a mood. Obviously, without a real flame, I don’t recommend these be the basis of candle magic itself, but they can certainly enhance a ritual space or be used for convenience when you need them. And batteries are energy, after all.
Batteries convert chemical energy to electrical energy; a chemical reaction produces electrons. The first battery, created by Alessandro Volta in 1800, was made of zinc, paper soaked in salt water, and silver. Today’s batteries are made of a variety of chemicals and metals. Rechargeable batteries are common now, helping to conserve our resources. Electricity is everywhere—we sometimes forget it’s part of nature. We know matter is composed of atoms. In metals, there are electrons that move around more freely than in others substances, making them good conductors of electricity. We’ve all played with a magnet at some time in our lives; magnets are like generators of electricity. A generator is like moving a magnet toward a wire so the electrons can flow—it pushes them; a battery acts as a source of electricity, like a generator. This is a form of energy. It might not seem as mystical as the beautiful flame of fire, but this is still energy. It’s more sophisticated, perhaps, than a primitive flame, but it can serve a purpose in our modern age. Certainly our modern harnessing of this power would seem like magic to those living thousands of years ago.
There are some very practical reasons for using a flameless candle. For example, sometimes we want to bring magic into a place where candles aren’t allowed, such as our workplace. Battery candles can offer a solution. Safety and cleanliness are two of the other factors in favor of the flameless candle. Since you can let them "burn" all night without having to worry about leaving them unattended, they are ideal for keeping a vigil. You can set them in a windowsill without worrying about catching your curtains or blinds on fire. And, since there’s no dripping, you can use them in wall sconces and in pillar holders without worry. In meditation, these candles can provide perfect lighting, smoke free, and no worries about keeping the candle safe. Without the concern of an open flame, you can use them on low shelves or in other tight spaces. You can put them in jars, bags, wrap them in fabric, or decorate them almost any way you like. You can use herbs, leaves, and flowers near them without catching them on fire. Many of them even have a timer that turns the candle off after a few hours.
Just as you magically charge any real candle you purchase, you can charge these or anoint them with oil on the outside. Like other man-made magical tools, our intent makes them special. Buy a few that you can dedicate to magical use and soon they’ll become part of your practice.
For use outdoors, try these as quarter candles. No more fumbling with the lighter or matches, no more worrying about the wind blowing out the flame or knocking them over. And, since these candles are available in all shapes, colors, and sizes, you can find them in all the Elemental colors.
As modern magicians, we know that there are times to hold to ancient traditions, and time to embrace new inventions. We can combine the old and new to create our own brand of magic, which is no less authentic, as long as our intent is true.
Ember Grant is the author of Magical Candle Crafting, The Book of Crystal Spells, and The Second Book of Crystal Spells, and she has been contributing to Llewellyn’s annuals series since 2003. She lives in Missouri ...