main image

main image

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Candle Magic

So last weekend in the U.K. we put the clocks back one hour and now it is dark by 5 o'clock. The nights are long but one of the things that cheers me is candlelight.

There's something magical about candlelight. It reminds you of days when people used to sit around telling stories. I remember the Miners' Strike of 1972 when we were without light and heat for hours on end. I was at boarding school at the time and we used to huddle around a very small coal fire, in the candlelight, trying to keep warm. But there was a sense of camaraderie.

Candles represent the triumph of light over dark and historically were also used to keep time.

Probably our first memory of candles is blowing them out on top of a birthday cake and as soon as we are old enough, making a wish. This custom is all to do with the principles of concentration, willpower and visualisation. All three of these are needed if you are a writer, plus a bit of luck too!

I often light this candle when I am writing, just a small tea-light in a little glass container which was hand-painted by a very dear friend. As I strike the match and light the wick I try to focus on my intention for the piece of work I am about to tackle. It is both the briefest of meditations and a prayer. I hope that today will be a good writing day, the words will flow with ease and my plot and characters will behave.

I light a candle too when I am giving a reflexology treatment, fixing my focus on the person in the chair and asking for the treatment to be for their highest good.

Candles remind me of childhood. When I was small and living in a village we often had power cuts so it was essential for my mother to keep a couple of torches and a stock of candles under the kitchen sink. It always seemed so exciting when all the lights went out and a little scary too.

But there is something about that flickering flame which makes you feel that you are not alone. I have lit many candles in many churches for those I love and have loved.

This is a photograph of one of the stained glass windows in the cathedral of Santa Maria in Palma, Mallorca. I lit a candle there too.

Meditate whilst staring into the flickering flame and you can see past, present and future merge.

The centuries old custom of placing a candle in the window at Halloween was not to ward off evil spirits but to honour those who had died during the previous year. A candle in the window to guide a traveller home is a bit of a cliche but there is no escaping that candles are symbols of hope.

So in winter I often light a candle at supper time. It seems to turn every meal into a small celebration, a giving of thanks for being together as a family, however simple the food.

Relaxing in a scented bath, surrounded by candles is another treat.

Different coloured candles represent different things.
Green is reputed to bring balance, harmony, hope, healing and to increase abundance.
Blue is soothing and calming, especially good for meditation and when you are feeling stressed.
Pink is for love and conception.
Yellow is for joy and friendship. It is also for good luck and can increase concentration.
Red is for extra energy and passion.
And if you don't have any of those colours it doesn't matter because white works for everything!

But much as I love my candles I am so grateful to live in a place and a time when electricity is available at the flick of a switch, especially on these dark, wintery nights.

So I'll finish with my school motto:-

                                                       May she grow in heavenly light

Candlelight may not be quite the same as heavenly light but, for me, it seems to be pretty close.


  1. what an illuminating andn lovely post! I agree with you about can be so soothing. I adore scented candles too...but the most useful are the ones in my kitchen, because living in a tiny village on top of a hill, we often need them when the power goes.

  2. Thank-you Bridget, yes I love scented candles. I aspire to one from Diptyque one day. So you do still lose power in South Leicestershire villages - that's nostalgic although you probably see it as more inconvenient!

  3. This is a beautiful post, Alex. It made me think and inspired me to take some of my pretty candles up to my writing den. In the Jewish religion candles are very important. We always use white ones, not sure if that's because they provide no distractions, and we light candles every Friday evening to bring in the Sabbath, a day of calm, and at the beginning of all the Jewish festivals. On the anniversary of the death of a member of the family we light a Yarzheit candle which burns for 24 hours. It's a really comforting ritual.

  4. Thank-you Ros. I love that phrase, 'a day of calm'. Sundays used to be a day of calm in the Christian religion but now everyone seems to race around on a Sunday as much as in the week. I like the idea of the Yarzheit candle too. I might adopt that. It would be a nice thing to do on birthdays too. It would have been my father's 80th birthday on 19th November so I will light a candle for him on that day.