Ever since I posted my candle making tutorials for 7-day candles and molded beeswax candles, I’ve sporadically received questions from others about the process. Usually it’s people asking for advice on creating their own candles for spellcraft, though some ask about ways to modify commercial candles for their own purposes. Those looking to modify an existing candle sometimes want to know how to add wax of a different color to a white candle without melting the white candle. (That one’s easy…just cool the colored melted wax to a degree or so before it solidifies, then pour it over the white candle or dip the white candle into it.) Usually, though, they want to know how best to get herbs, stones, or glitter to stick to the wax.
Obviously, I’ve not been around since time immemorial, and my approach to candle magic is not necessarily based in the traditions that have developed within practices like Hoodoo and Santería, so I can’t speak for what might be done there, but embedding herbs, stones, or glitter into candles just isn’t something I do much of, at least at this point in my life. If I want to incorporate some herbal correspondences, I’m far more likely to create an anointing oil with those herbs, either by adding some essential oil of the herb to a base oil, or infusing a base oil with some of the dried herbs. I may put a few dried herbs or crystals around the base of candleholders, but that’s about the extent of it. I don’t usually do anything more elaborate than that.
I do enjoy the look of candles that have been rolled in herbs and glitter, particularly jar candles that have had their tops “dressed” by these oils, stones, and herbs. And I have to admit, they look witchy as hell when they’re being used in a spell, such as those above. And I do know how to add these items. Smaller herbs and glitter will stick without much trouble once the candle has been properly dressed with oil. Larger items and stones will require the wax to be melted a little, which can be done easily enough with a heat gun or hair dryer without lighting the wick. Marietta from Witchy Words wrote up a nice tutorial on how to do so for tea light candles, and the process isn’t much different for other candles, even tapers.
But just because I like the look of something and know how to do it doesn’t mean I will. In this particular case, I have a great reason:
When you add things that can burn to a candle, such as herbs and glitter, you’re basically adding dozens or hundreds of tiny wicks to it. Each one can catch fire, and since it’s the wax that’s burning for the most part rather than the “wick”, that fire can spread quite fast and be sustained for a really long time. The flames grow and can dance wildly, spreading to other items if you’re not careful. Even if you are, those large flames do not typically burn efficiently and produce quite a lot of soot.
I don’t fancy accidentally burning my house down, nor do I like the prospect of repainting soot-stained walls and ceilings much better. I also don’t particularly want to constantly monitor a candle as it burns on for hours (or days) on end to prevent wildly burning candles from becoming dangerous. So I largely avoid adding flammables to candles. This is, of course, personal preference. There are even loads of practitioners out there who view this type of candle burning as more magically potent and really heap on the stuff to get a really dramatic burn. I’m just not one of them.
If you want to burn this type of candle more safely, it’s probably best to burn them in a functioning woodburning fireplace. Lacking that, you could perhaps burn them in a shower stall or bathtub. Just clear out all the loofahs and bottles first, lest they fall over and knock into the candle. It’s probably a good idea to put down a heat-proof trivet and burn the candles in a fire-proof tray set on that trivet, which should minimize damaging the tub or shower due to fiberglass melting or tiles cracking with thermal shock. It might also be worth running the bathroom fan to see if soot buildup can be minimized. But at least burning things in the shower might make the soot easier to clean off surfaces than it might otherwise be.
If you have the ability to make your own candles, I think it’s safer to add herbs to your candles through adding essential or infused oil to your wax. You would want to avoid having a lot of visible particulates of the herbs in your oil, for they’ll cause the candle to pop as they’re drawn into the wick. Too many might even prevent the wick from burning. You could even add stones into the wax, too, so that they would be revealed as the candle burns rather than constantly remain on the surface. The more oil you add to the wax, the softer the wax will be, so it is best to pour these candles into a container rather than turning them into tapers or pillars.
If you do choose to cover your candles in crystals and herbs and can do so safely, I would still caution against adding glitter to the mix. I’m not sure when people started covering their candles in glitter, but I would bet that the practice grew thanks to YouTube and Instagram. The glittered candles look wonderful and decidedly magical, which makes for great content. Making them is also a cheap investment. In fact, there’s more than one metaphysical shop out there offering bespoke carved and glittered spell candles for a nicely profitable fee.
Tempting as these are, though, I think it is best to avoid glitter. Unlike herbs, glitter will rarely cause a candle become a torch, but it can burn. Unfortunately, almost all glitter is tiny fragments of a thin metal foil sandwiched between plastic laminations. The metal will not burn (for the most part), but it is in small enough particles to clog the candle wicking and cause the flame to burn erratically or even pop or spit. It is the plastic, though, that is the greater concern, for it can burn. I suppose the plastic could prove more flammable than the wax and make for a very larger flame, but the greater concern is the chemicals released by the burning plastic. I think we can all agree that burning plastic is hardly a good choice, either for one’s health or for the environment’s.
Candle magic doesn’t require a lot of bells and whistles, and its efficacy relies more on the energetic charge you give to the candles rather than all the items to add to them. So why make life more risky by adding them in the first place?