Ask A Witch: All About Candle Magick


Light your fire

In “Ask a Witch,” Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age.

Question: I’m really attuned to candle magick and want to learn more about dressing candles for different situations. Any suggestions on working with oils and anointing (without burning the house down) would be awesome! 

Answer: Oh candle magick. I love it so much. Most of my really intense spells incorporate candles because they’re such an easy and powerful way of focusing energy, especially if you’re using them over a period of time. If magick equals intention plus energy plus action, then candle magick is the action part of the equation. By working with candles, we have a visible way of seeing our magick at work.

Below is my guide to working with candle magick, though there are many ways of doing this. My suggestion is to see what feels best for you and then stick with it. This way the process is the same and the ritual becomes charged because it’s personalized and repeated.

1) Set your intention: The first thing to ask yourself in candle magick is if you want to attract or banish something. Getting clear about what you’re trying to do will make the rest of this process much easier. If you want to carve your intention into your candle, make sure you’re concise and know what you want to write. You can also write this on a piece of paper (known as a petition) and have it near your candle when it’s burning.

2) Pick your candle and color: You can use white candles for pretty much anything, though they work especially well for attracting and manifesting, while black work best for repelling or banishing. You can also look up colors specific to your intention, and select your candle from there. (Just to get you started, use red for sexual energy and passion; pink for love or self-love; orange for creativity and vitality; yellow for inspiration; green for money; blue for peace and health; purple for psychic connection, etc.)

Next, think about what kind of magick you’re going to be doing. If you’re only going to be working on the spell for one night (like on the full or new moon), then you may want to pick a chime candle or votive candle. If you’re doing a spell over a period of days (like from the new moon to full moon), you may want to pick a bigger candle like a seven-day candle or a taper candle which will burn for longer.

3) Pick any oils or herbs you’re going to use to dress your candle: Anointing your candle is the process of dressing it in herbs and oils. You can always use extra virgin olive oil or an oil blend specific to what magick you’re working (like a love or money oil). These oil blends are available online and in metaphysical and witchy shops. You can also use essential oils and herbs that correspond to your magick as well, like rose for love, eucalyptus for healing and protection, mugwort for psychic connection, etc. You can look online for herbs specific to your magick or check out this list.

4) Anoint your candle: Thinking about carving your intention into your candle? Now is the time. You can use a pen and inscribe your candle with any magical symbols or runes, or simply write your intention on your candle. When writing your intention, write from the top to the middle, and then the bottom to the middle of the candle. When you’re ready to anoint your candle, rub your chosen oil in your hands and then, if you're manifesting, put it on your candle from the top to the middle, and then the bottom to the middle. If you're banishing, put the oil on from the middle to the top, and then the middle to the bottom. Do the same thing with herbs, sprinkling them on every side of the candle. You can also use another candle in the same color to drip wax atop of the herbs so they stay. Either way, you don’t need a ton of herbs; you want your candle to light without catching any excess herbs on fire. 

5) Create a ritual or spell: Once you have your candle ready to go, it’s time to ritualize it! Think of your own practice and your intention and get crafting. Try cleansing your space with sacred herbs like palo santo, sage, or sweet grass; also, think about taking a salt bath and putting on some relaxing music. Let any roomies or significant others know not to distract you and start to connect to your breath. If it’s in your practice to cast a circle or ground, do that! You can also create an altar dedicated to your candle spell and what you’re calling in or releasing. When you’re ready, light your candle and state your intention. Take some time to meditate on the flame, or simply reconnect to your body and breath. If your spell is only for this day, let your candle burn all the way down. If it’s going to stretch over a few days—and this is important!—use a candle snuffer or a fan to put out your candle. Don’t blow it out! Relight your candle every day until the spell is finished.  When you’re done with your ritual, connect back to Earth (my favorite way is by pressing my head into the Earth like in child’s pose) and thank the universe for her magick.

6) Disposing of wax: If you can, find an intersection where you can throw away your wax. You can also throw it out normally (i.e. in the garbage) if necessary. You can also keep a jar of your candle remains.

Question: How do you feel about reusing candle jars that you’ve used for specific spellwork or rituals? Do you reuse and repurpose? Or recycle? 

Answer: I think this is case-by-case! I have some candle jars on my altar that I’ve filled with dried flowers. I have others I’ve recycled. My suggestion is to see what your gut is telling you to do. When you think of reusing the same jar, do you feel excited and energized? Or icky and heavy? Sometimes our bodies know what our magick needs more than our minds do. I would say if you do choose to reuse the jars for magick, use them for the same type of magick. Have a designated manifestation and abundance candle jar, or one for love, for money, and so on. This way the energy has the same intention, though the nuances of it will be different. You can also think about how you can repurpose the jars on your altar. Can you make them into a vase? Or fill them with other wax pieces to dispose of at a later date? If not, recycle them. Again, tap into your intuition and see what comes up for you. 

If you want even more candle magick and witch 101 expertise, you can order my book, Craft: How To Be A Modern Witch

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.

Screenshot via Hulu

Introspection is not a bad thing

In Look Back at It, we revisit pop culture gems of the past and see if they're still relevant and worthy of their designated icon status in our now wildly different world.

"It just seems like you agree to have a certain personality or something, for no reason. Just to make things easier for everyone. But when you think about it, I mean, how do you know it's even you?"

Iconic '90s show My So-Called Life is filled with existential questions and observations like this, with many, if not all of them, voiced by high school sophomore Angela Chase (Claire Danes). They're delivered with a familiarly annoyed tone, as if Angela can't believe things are the way they are, and that they're unlikely to change.

Angela lives with her parents and sister in a comfortable home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and spends her time navigating the social scene of Liberty High School. She's undergoing a big change, having switched friend groups and fallen in with a cooler crew, namely Rayanne Graff (A.J. Langer) and Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz). Thanks to them, Angela dyed her hair from blonde to a "Crimson Glow," and is encouraged to indulge in her obsession with Jordan Catalano (a pre-Gucci Jared Leto), the kind of guy who's constantly applying Visine and has a limited chance of actively graduating.

From the first moment of the first episode, Angela's voice is pure, unadulterated teen angst. The melodrama can, when watching as an adult, feel like it's too much. And then there's other times, like when Angela talks about the agony of Sunday evenings, that it feels unnerving to relate so much to a 15-year-old:

"There's something about Sunday night that really makes you want to kill yourself, especially if you've just been totally made a fool of by the only person you'll ever love, and you have a geometry midterm on Monday, which you still haven't studied for because you can't, because Brian Krakow has your textbook, and you're too embarrassed to even deal with it. And your little sister's completely finished with her homework, which is just, like, so simple and mindless a child could do it. And that creepy 60 Minutes watch that sounds like your whole life ticking away."

Angela is nothing if not an over-thinker, preoccupied with very teenage problems like zits and gossip and who to talk to at parties; her thoughts on the most simple of relationships are extreme, like when she thinks about how she felt before she became friends with Rayanne and Rickie: "it seemed like if I didn't, I would die or something."

Sometimes, her melodrama feels suffocating—particularly when related to Jordan Catalano (it's imperative to say both his names). Angela wonders: "Huge events take place on this earth every day. Earthquakes, hurricanes... even glaciers move. So why couldn't he just look at me?"

As an adult, it's easy to think that, of course, Jordan should look at her: She's smart, witty, open-hearted, pretty, has good taste in music. But then, there's no way to make sense of how crushes work. As a sophomore in high school, I also pined after guys who I felt were out of my league, and after the only girls who were out... but who were dating each other. My thoughts probably (definitely) sounded a lot like Angela's, and I was similarly dissatisfied with my life.

At the time, that dissatisfaction felt oppressive—and I wouldn't want to relive it entirely. But that introspection was also what saved me. By questioning what was around me and interrogating how I really felt, I was able to reject the trappings of my conservative town, figure out my own politics, and accept my own queerness. My teenage dissatisfaction with the way things actually are made me grow as a person, and it shaped me into who I am. Thinking about Angela now, and how her angst fueled her, reminds me that I should also let myself indulge in some teen angst—even as an adult.

In one of the show's final episodes, Angela pauses to reflect on the value of her overthinking. She's ringing in the New Year with her friends and decides her resolution could be "to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, because I'm like way too introspective… I think." But she decides against that idea, because "what if not thinking turns me into this really shallow person?" Same, Angela. Same.

Courtesy of HBO

Thanks, I hate it

In an interview today with The Cut, Vanderpump Rules star Stassi Schroeder blessed readers with some of her thoughts on HBO's Game of Thrones, and since we can't get enough GoT talk, we were excited to see what Schroeder had to say.

And, in case you're wondering if Schroeder is a fan of GoT, don't: She's actually such a massive fan that she refers to her fans Khaleesis, and they call her Khaleesi right back. So!

Anyway, after the wide range of responses to Daenerys' fiery mayhem in the show's penultimate episode, The Cut wanted to check in to see how Schroeder was faring, and ask what she thought of it all. While Schroeder's opinion on Dany is mixed (she found the Dragon Queen's "crazy" actions to be relatable, but she didn't think it followed Dany's character arc), it wasn't, like, a bad opinion, just a bit muddled, if not so different than those of the majority of viewers.

Schroeder's real hot take, though—what we feel comfortable calling the worst GoT opinion we've heard—is about another character altogether: Arya Stark. Here's what Schroeder had to say about our favorite blacksmith-banging, Night King-killing, proposal-denying assassin in all the Seven Kingdoms: "Arya, I feel like she probably should have just married whats-his-name [Ed. note: Gendry! His name is Gendry!!]. What's wrong with being a lady and a badass at the same time? You don't have to choose just one."

And, like, sure, you don't have to choose just one, but Arya would never choose to be a lady. That's not her! So, if we're still talking about characters behaving inconsistently, Arya saying yes to a proposal (a rushed one at that) would have been absolutely bonkers. Arya's not about to change her entire personality just because some dude drops down on one knee and proposes, and to want her to do so would be like wanting Dany to act like a sheep, instead of a dragon.

All to say, you know nothing, Stassi Schroeder.

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hoto by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Civic Entertainment Group

Our favorite grouchy girl died today

Today is a sad day, because it is the day Grumpy Cat died. Also known as my personal favorite feline celebrity, Grumpy Cat died from complications following a urinary tract infection. The super relatable cat—real name, Tardar Sauce—was only seven years old.

Grumpy Cat was first introduced to the world in 2011, back when LOLcats were everywhere. Grumpy Cat's downturned face (the result of feline dwarfism, according to her owners) was the subject of a huge amount of memes—she was even the 2013 Meme of the Year at the Webby Awards—and was the subject of her own Lifetime movie, in which she was voiced by the Grumpy Cat of actresses, Aubrey Plaza. But, though we loved her for the memes, we loved her even more because we related to her mood.

Grumpy Cat was so relatable because, like us, she was completely over everyone's bullshit. Unlike us, Grumpy Cat didn't hide her feelings with a smile. And while that was because Grumpy Cat literally couldn't do that, we like to think that she also just didn't want to do the emotional labor. Which is why, in honor of Grumpy Cat, have the courage to roll your eyes at someone today, instead of forcing a fake grin. And just think about how Grumpy Cat's probably frowning at us from some sort of kitty afterlife, utterly annoyed that everyone is mourning her death.

Screenshot via YouTube

And I need to see the rest ASAP

As excited as we already are for Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart, to hit theaters next week, we just got even more desperate to see it. Why? Well, the first six minutes of the film were just released, and every minute is incredible.

The film opens on Molly (Beanie Feldstein) meditating and listening to a motivational tape telling her she's better than everyone else, and to "fuck those losers." Her room is decorated with pictures of Michelle Obama and RBG, so we know her head is in the right place. We learn she's the class president when she arrives at school with her best friend, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever).

It's there that we get a glimpse of the social hierarchy in which Molly and Amy exist—but somewhere down near the bottom, way below the popular kids, the theater nerds, the stoners, and even the annoying class clown.

The film officially hits theaters on May 23, but Annapurna Pictures is holding advanced screenings across the country today, May 17—we're actually holding two of them! So, if you're in L.A. or New York, check them out.

But also, you can watch the first six minutes of the film, below, and prepare yourself to watch the whole movie in a week.

BOOKSMART | Uncut First 6 Minutes