Avoid Dripping Tapers in Ritual

I have to admit, I totally feel like MacGuyver for figuring this out.

This would quite literally break my OCD brain.  As the Internet puts it, "I just couldn't even."

This would quite literally break my OCD brain. As the Internet puts it, “I just couldn’t even.”

I love using taper candles in ritual.  It feels so ceremonial to me, and it looks so dramatic.  As a bonus, they shed more light than other candles since their wicks never drown in a pool of wax, so a pair of tapers on the altar usually provides ample light for most rituals on their own.

What I don’t love is constantly worrying whether dripping wax is falling all over my candlesticks and the top of my altar.  These mundane worries do an amazing job of keeping me from achieving the proper magical mindset for ritual work.  Worse, my utter loathing for cleaning up candle wax will keep me from actually performing ritual.  I’ll weigh the options, decide I don’t have time to spend babying silver and fabrics, and watch some Netflix instead.

I have never professed to being a good witch.  Stop judging.

This past Candlemas, I pulled out a new pair of tapers for the altar and realized they hadn’t dripped at all during the whole ritual.  So I lit them the next day just to enjoy the candle light during a meditation and came out of trance fifteen minutes later to a horrifying amount of stalactites forming along the sides of the candle.  I quickly blew them out and examined the candles for flaws but then remembered a few high school physics principles.

I decided that the candles did not drip when I first lit them because the tops were tapered.  Therefore, the flame used up the wax slowly enough that it formed a gutter: a concave hollow around the wick.  This let the outsides of the candle stay cool enough so that only the very top rim melted and fell into the gutter at about the same rate it was being used as fuel.  That constant hollow gutter, then, prevented drips.  When I lit the used taper, the rim wax flowed into the gutter faster than new wax drew and created a pool.  That hot wax pool was then hot enough to heat the candle walls, form a channel, and then drip out.  I figured if I just re-tapered the candle ends, I’d be able to start the process over again.

Candle

Hot damn, do I love it when I’m right.

To re-taper, I just took a paring knife (my white-handled knife), and whittled away the rim.  It took maybe 30 seconds per candle.  I let them burn for about half an hour to see if they would drip, and they never did.  Obviously if there was a draft or a breeze in the room, the candles wouldn’t draw evenly and would drip no matter what (I still say tiki torches are your best bet for outdoor ritual), but I think this is a really easy thing to do to neatly extend the ritual life of your tapers if you primarily work indoors.

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2 thoughts on “Avoid Dripping Tapers in Ritual

    • I’ve done that, too, Elisa. In fact, up until very recently, I covered my whole altar top in a sheet of glass. That certainly made cleaning up wax drippings very easy! These days, though, I’m not really enjoying pillars. My eyes are getting bad, and I need a lot of light in ritual space. After an hour or so, I notice the pillar flames shrinking as the wax pool gets bigger, and the circle dims. So it is to tapers for me!

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