I was going to title this post “Candles: Altar Advice for New Pagans,” but I realized that a lot of us who have been at this for a long time get set in our ways and sometimes need a tip during difficult times.
I have spent a lot of money on altar figurines and statues, and a real mini cast-iron cauldron, because as a teen I had to keep my altar on the down-low, not recognizable as an altar to family members (even though it was in my bedroom where they did not belong.) I used angel figurines from the dollar store as goddesses and a china swan to represent the element of Air. I didn’t have an athame or a wand. I still don’t have a wand. I could buy one, but I’d rather make one. All the trees in my yard are maple, dogwood, cedar, and crepe myrtle. I need to go to the park and find a different type of tree. I received my beautiful athame, handmade in Scotland, as a gift. I’ve always collected crystals and pebbles and feathers. I built a big, beautiful altar, and two separate shrines, and the things that are proving to be the constant expense are candles.
I use candles daily in my practice. I have asthma and really can’t tolerate incense, and I have enough Catholicism in my background to feel that I should light a candle every day just to honor the Goddess, not to mention using them for other purposes. Having OCD and two cats, I only feel safe using jar candles. And they’re relatively expensive when you use so many as I do.
Where I live, you will not find a black candle in a store, even at Halloween. They have to be ordered. One dollar store has a great range of smallish (about five inches tall) jar candles in every color and nice scents, but again, expensive on a daily basis. So I’ve turned to tealight candles for daily use, some holy day use, and marking moon phases.
This is my absolutely fabulous (found on Ebay) Goddess/tealight holder that I use to mark the South on my altar. Now, you could build your entire altar around just this piece. That’s something to consider if you’re building an altar for the first time. (FYI, my altar cloth is a family heirloom, a dresser cloth made by my great-grandmother. Yours doesn’t have to be a certain color with symbols that scream ALTAR CLOTH.)
I’ve had the great good luck to track down three Sheila Wolk statues based on her paintings. And I included a thrift store find that really fits in well and looks like a child version of her Spring Bliss.
(Wolk’s Frost Bearer isn’t visible in this shot.) I added this goblet-shaped candle holder because all I had on hand to mark the full moon were tealights and none of the small holders satisfied me. This frosted glass holder is another dollar store find, and safe for tealights. The candle has already burned down and out.
So I’ve decided to reserve colorful, scented candles for extra special occasions and use tealight candles the rest of the time. I can buy a bag of decent, vanilla scented tealights for less than $3 at Family Dollar. If you can find votive candle holders in a variety of colors (thrift stores) then you can use white tealights for pretty much everything. Just google how to safely remove candles from glass holders. Hint: butter knife is not the answer.
Happy witching – Robin