Knobbed candles have been a spellcasting essential in a number of traditions, notably Voodoo and those related to it. The purpose of a knobbed candle is to extend the casting of a spell (whether to affect the outside world or just for an inward change) over a long period of time, one day or night for each knob.
After the spell setup, you light the candle and focus on the desired result until the knob has burned away. You can often find seven- and nine-knobbed candles in shops or online… but what if you want a different number of knobs? Here at the Ravenstead we often run a spell through either the waxing or the waning half of the lunar cycle, fourteen nights in a row: waxing to draw in what we desire, waning to banish what we don’t. Thus our knobbed candles usually have fourteen knobs. You won’t find those online, nor have we seen candles with that many knobs in any of the shops we’ve visited. In addition, we’ve found most commercial knobbed candles are too thick. A knob may take twenty minutes or more to burn away, and unless you’ve spent decades honing your focus and concentration that’s entirely too long; stray thoughts will creep in and dilute the power of the spell. Better to keep it shorter!
So, many years ago we experimented with making our own knobbed candles and found a ridiculously easy way that also gives a wider choice of colors… or even more than one color if you like, depending on the kind of spell it is. Contrast this with the candles in the stores, which always look like they were made in molds using just a single color of wax! You’ll need:
- A flat surface to work on.
- Aluminum foil.
- A forced-air heat gun or electric hairdryer.
- Beeswax sheets in the color or colors you want.
- Candlewick… OR, an incense stick.
- Scissors or a hobby knife.
- A small metal jar lid. Two-inch diameter is about right.
- Felt-tip marker (optional).
- A small screwdriver (optional).
- A ruler or tape measure (optional).
- A clock (optional).
The flat surface can be anything convenient. We like to use either a scrap of plywood or a rigid plastic cutting board. Cover it with aluminum foil to keep hot wax from sticking. A hot-air blower such as a hairdryer works well as the heat source. You can find candlewick and beeswax sheets at most good hobby stores or online, either in single colors, as an assorted pack, or as a complete kit including wick. If you’ve not worked with beeswax before, we recommend getting the kit. We bought our first one back in the 90s from a company long since defunct, but Amazon has a similar one here. The wax is thin, usually embossed with a honeycomb pattern. It’s not cheap, but a little goes a long way and it keeps pretty much forever if you don’t let it get melting-hot. We still have a few pieces left from that 90s kit in seldom-used colors, and they’re still perfectly good. Regarding colors, Amazon’s kit has nine colors (natural yellow, ivory, lavender, pink, purple, blue, and three shades of green) with two 7-by-3.3-inch sheets of each. Seven inches just happens to be perfect for a 14-knobbed candle with knobs on a half-inch spacing. Any type of scissors or hobby knife will do. We suggest using the ruler or tape measure as a guide to cutting and applying the wax and will assume in the following steps you’re doing that, but if you feel Spirit guides you to “wing it” without precise measure, that’s fine too. And the screwdriver? That’s for repairs, as we’ll explain in Step 9. The wax is usually easiest to work with if where you’re working it’s between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This may vary a little depending on the source. If you’d prefer a slightly faster- and brighter-burning candle, get a stick of incense at any gift or occult shop (we suggest Natural Elements ) and use that as the wick material. It will also give the candle some extra stiffness. Any “flavor” of incense will do. Just be sure the “incense part” (not including the stick handle) is long enough for the job! We recommend, to get the feel of the materials and some practice using them, you start by making a test candle with just a few knobs, then light it and time it as it burns from one knob to the next. This will let you adjust the burning speed by the width of the wax you use in Step 7 below: less wax if you want a faster burn, more if you want it slower. Following the directions below, using wax bought online – or even still, occasionally, taken from that old starter kit! – gives about five minutes per knob. So, this is how.
1. Define the purpose of the spell, and how many days or nights you want it to last. The length of time will determine the number of knobs. We recommend no less than three nor more than fourteen.
2. Write out your spell, or at least the part of it you plan to do while each knob of the candle burns. Then practice saying it, aloud or silently, with the timing you think you’ll use in the actual ritual. Don’t forget to include silent time for meditations or visualizations if you plan to use them. After a couple of practice runs, time it and see how long it takes.
3. Decide what color or colors of wax you want to use. Intuition goes a long way here, but as a starting point we suggest Yamaya Treehawk’s planetary color scheme from Seasons of Ceremony, used here with the author’s permission:
|Saturn||Understanding, limitation, breaking bad habits||Black or any dark color|
|Jupiter||Forgiveness, leadership, wisdom, honor||Blue|
|Mars||Strength, initiative, self-confidence||Red|
|Sun||Power, vitality, health, money||Yellow or orange|
|Venus||Harmony, love, friendship, healing||Green|
|Mercury||Communication, divination, learning||Any two contrasting colors|
|Moon||Emotions, dreams, intuition||Purple or violet|
|Earth||Stability, security, protection, home||Brown|
Colors not in the kit (assuming you bought one) can be ordered individually online. For instance, our waning-moon spells often use black as the main color, then add knobs in another color representing whatever we want to diminish. Our kit didn’t have black – nor does Amazon’s, since some consider it unlucky – so to get our original supply we bought a large black “hand-rolled” beeswax candle in a gift shop and just unrolled it again!
4. Measure out from the wick material a piece one-half inch long for each knob you plan to make, plus an extra half-inch. Don’t cut the wick yet; just make a mark there with the felt-tip marker, or if you prefer, mark it by tying a knot. If you’re using an incense stick as the wick the part you use should be all incense, not the bare stick handle. The incense part is usually about seven to eight inches long.
5. Just past the mark, wrap a small piece of wax (preferably in your main color) around the wick. Hold or pin up the wick with the marked and waxed end downward. Then with the heat gun on its lowest setting and starting back a foot or so from the wick, move it slowly closer until the wax just begins to melt. Let the melted wax soak into the wick, guiding it downward with the hot air as far as it will go. Add more wax and repeat until the melted wax has reached and soaked the full length of wick beyond the mark. This will help the wax you add in the following steps to stick, and the candle to burn more uniformly while in use.
6. Cut the wick off at the mark. Clip off and discard any wax-soaked wick material past that point, then put up the rest for use another time.
7. Cut out a piece from your main-color sheet, one-half inch long for each knob you plan to make and three-quarters of an inch wide. For instance, for a fourteen-knob candle, the piece should be seven inches by three-quarters of an inch.
NOTE 1: If it’s colder than about 70 degrees, the wax will probably be brittle. Warm it very carefully on your foil-covered surface, using the heat gun, until it softens just enough to bend easily. Don’t get it too hot or it will melt.
NOTE 2: That three-quarter-inch width is not carved in stone, but at best in warm wax. Make your test candle using the ¾” width and see how long it takes to burn from one knob to the next. Then increase or decrease the width depending on the time your spell takes to cast (measured in Step 2) and the test-candle burn time.
8. Carefully wrap the wax around the wick. It’s easier if you set the wick on the wax piece at one edge, push it down well so it sticks, then lift that edge of the wax and just roll the whole thing up. Sort of like a wax burrito. Be sure to leave the extra half-inch sticking out at one end. This will be the top.
9. Press the rolled wax in tightly against the wick, working from one end to the other. Do this carefully so the forming candle doesn’t break. If it does, use the heat gun to heat up the end of the screwdriver. Lay the candle flat, then use the hot screwdriver tip to melt the wax where it broke and weld it back together. Don’t handle it again until it’s cooled.
The result should be a cylinder as long as your original wax strip and a little thinner than a lead pencil. Congratulations! You’ve made the candle. Now to add the knobs…
10. Cut a quarter-inch-wide strip of the color you chose for the knobs. Press one edge against the candle right at the end opposite that half-inch of unwrapped wick. Yes, that will be the bottom
11. Roll the candle gently, pressing the strip against it as you do, until it’s gone three times around. Then press it in tightly all the way around. This will form the bottom knob and the base for the candle.
12. Measure up half an inch (top edge to top edge) and roll another strip around the candle, but only twice. Press it in against the candle and mold the edges a little inward to form a rounded knob.
13. Repeat step 12 until you have the desired number of knobs, counting the one at the bottom. They don’t have to be exactly even but get them as close as you can. You may need to unwrap and re-wrap a few to get them spaced right. When finished, there should be about a quarter-inch of candle without knobs remaining at the top.
14. Set the candle upright in the jar lid (open side up, so it’ll catch and hold any wax that drips) and press the wax of the bottom knob down against it so the candle stands upright.
15. Now set the candle near where you plan to use it, so it’ll be at the same temperature and feel the same air currents. Leave it there a day or more. Beeswax candles, especially thin ones made with ordinary candlewick, sometimes “bow” to the force of gravity. If it does gently straighten it up again, and remembering which way it tipped, bend it just a little in the opposite direction to discourage a repeat performance. If the candle breaks as you do this, use the hot screwdriver to repair it. Over time the wax tends to stiffen, so if you do this early it probably won’t take another “bow.”
16. On the first day or night of the spell, light the half-inch of the exposed wick and let the candle burn until the first knob is gone, then blow it out or extinguish it by other means as you prefer. If using a snuffer, be careful to leave the wick standing up to make it easier to light next time.
17. Repeat each night until you reach the thick bottom knob. Our practice on the last day or night is just to leave the candle burning through that thick final knob until it goes out on its own. It takes a little extra time, but that’s often what’s needed to seal the spell.
The following images show the candle at various stages of completion, corresponding to the step numbers shown. For clarity, the wick diameter has been exaggerated and geometry has been idealized.