From Witchy Update, Issue 30, April/May 2008.
"I've always wondered why so many witches snuff or pinch out candles instead of blowing them out (I prefer letting them burn down, of course, but sometimes that's impossible). I've heard/read many varied reasons behind this, but haven't found one underlying philosophy behind the practice."—sent in by Sapphire from Georgia
Great question! You're absolutely correct, there are many varied reasons and, as with anything regarding Witchcraft, there is no one right answer. So while some might never blow out a candle because they adhere to their personal tradition, others will tell you to do whatever feels right in your heart for that spell or ritual.
Raymond Buckland sent this answer via email: "Whether to blow out, pinch out, or use a candle-snuffer is a matter of personal choice. Some people say 'Oh, never blow out the candles!' while others say 'Never pinch them out!' It's really up to your personal beliefs. All are actually fine, since they do the job of extinguishing the candles. However, some of the reasoning is that to blow out the flame is to blow away all the positive energies of the rituals. Or that to snuff or pinch out is akin to snuffing out life itself. If you hold such beliefs strongly, then by all means avoid those practices. But after all these years I myself use a candle-snuffer and don't think anymore about it!"
In Candle Magic for Beginners, Richard Webster explains candles are not supposed to be blown out "because it is supposed to be an insult to the candle. I disagree with this, and sometimes deliberately blow out a candle, especially if I am sending the candle's energy to someone else. Most of the time though, I use a brass candle snuffer. [It] adds to the ritual, as it symbolically seals in your intent." He also notes he, too, prefers to let candles burn down completely, but it's not always practical to do so given the fast pace of life today.
Ellen Dugan expresses her views on extinguishing quarter candles (as spell candles would be allowed to burn down) in her book Natural Witchery: "Now, I have read the debates and heard people screech about how 'disrespectful' it is to blow out a magickal candle. But if you have to put out candles and somebody forgot to bring along the snuffer or is afraid to pinch out the flame, you may not have any choice in the matter. (I personally hate to pinch out candles—I always get burned. Don't bother giving me tips on how to do it. I always wimp out and get nervous, then scorch my witchy fingers.) Truthfully, the sky will not fall in. I'd hate to imagine you running around the circle like Chicken Little, in a panic because you are worried about offending the gods by blowing out a quarter candle. Be practical and do what works best for you."
Deborah Lipp wrote in via email, "I like snuffing candles out for practical reasons. The altar is often at waist height, so using a snuffer is convenient. Blowing out candles isn't always reliable, whereas snuffing candles invariably puts them out. Plus a snuffer is a nice, pretty tool to have (I like tools)."
Furthermore, Lipp writes, "Some people are taught that you mustn't use Air to put out Fire, as it insults Fire. I never heard that until I'd been practicing many years, and it's not a notion I subscribe to." I've heard that one as well, and it seems to indicate that it is in poor form to cause tension between the elements during ritual. But is that really valid? Aren't the elements always caught up in an intricate dance with each other? Watch the sun melt the ice off your windshield, or witness how air and water have worn down powerful mountains over the centuries, and you'll see what I mean.
So, to paraphrase the Wiccan Rede, do as you will. Unless you really feel you&'re doing harm to the candle…in which case maybe you shouldn't have lit it in the first place?