It’s now rare for me to pick up a book from the Wicca section of the bookstore. I have found that there are one too many “fluff bunny” books out there, including some that I read when I first started reading about witchcraft and Wicca. There are some things to look out for in book titles that should tell an intelligent person to just leave the book where it is and move onto something else. One such thing is the word magic spelled with a “k” in Crowley fashion. (I have to wonder if these authors even realize that’s where the spelling came from?) I have to admit that spelling “magic” as “magick” was a novelty for even me, but then you move on (and frankly, it’s redundant and takes too much time to add in the “k”, if you really want to use the “k”, why not drop the “c”, then it wouldn’t take as much time). Exploring Candle Magick by Patricia Telesco is one such book that I never would have bought from the book store. Of course, I didn’t. It was a free book sent to me by someone who had some books to get rid of. Thus, I said to send it to me and I’ll review it. (By now, I have over seven years experience as a Wiccan and exactly that many years studying with the WCC.) So, here’s my review.
First off, the book is written in that lovely language we call “plain English”, which essentially means it’s written at something like grade five reading level. The authors of such books claim that the publishers require them to write at a lower level (even for adults), to which my response is “Sheesh, people are getting too lazy to exercise not only their bodies, but their brains! No wonder illiteracy rates are rising and people are having more heart attacks.” This being something that supposedly we can’t do anything about, I’ll not judge the author too harshly on this.
The book is nicely organized and the author stays on topic in each chapter. She includes a bibliography and an index. This is a must in my opinion for all non-fiction reference style books (basically, most witchcraft and Wiccan books). As a beginner book on candle magic, this book should give you enough information to start off, but I would highly recommend that readers do further research into many of the topics mentioned in the book.
There are some things written in the book that I would like to clarify and expand on.
On pages 66 and 67, the author mentions “invoking” and “invocation”. I realize by now that these terms are in common usage amongst Wiccans. However, these terms are often misused such as the case of “invoking pentagrams”. Telesco may actually be referring to an invocation in this book, but her definition is misleading. An invocation does not invite a presence into the area, it specifically invites a presence into someone called a “vessel”. If you’re inviting a presence into an area, but not within someone, that is an evocation. What is the difference? Well, what is the difference between extrovert and introvert? One is external (note the prefix “e” or “ex”) and one is internal (note the prefix “in”). The same with evocation and invocation or evoking and invoking. Evoke specifically means to make outwardly manifest. Invoke means to manifest inward. Thus, an invocation involves bringing a presence inside a person, not into the area outside the person. If someone does an invocation, expect that the presence is manifested inside the person. An invocation is in actuality an advanced form of magical work (and is also a specific ritual invoking a specific deity), the presence and power invoked can be overwhelming to those not properly trained for the work. What about “invoking” and “evoking” pentagrams? “Invoking pentagrams” is a misnomer, unless you want the presence of the elements inside you as a vessel (I can’t imagine that to be fun). All the pentagrams that are drawn in Wicca are “evoking pentagrams” as you are evoking the presence of the elements into the circle and outside of your body. All this is not to say that invocation for spells cannot be done, it’s only to say that you must be careful and aware of what is being done. I feel the author was careless and negligent in not elaborating further on invocation. But frankly, I don’t think it was necessary for the author to mention invocation in this book on candle magic.
One page 68, the author mentions reusing wax remnants for later spells. DO NOT do this! All I have to say that this is a bad, bad idea if you believe that the energy of the spell remains in the wax after the candle burns down. There are just some energies you don’t want to mix together. Something is invariably going to conflict. Another thing to consider is if you are doing a new spell, why add old energy to it? It is better to start out new and get rid of the old. Wax remains from a candle used in spells or rituals can be collected and burnt down together of course, but is not to be used for another spell. The only “spell” (and this is a stretch) is to be rid of the remaining wax. Personally, I feel that once a candle burns out, the spell and magic is done (the results may appear later). Wax remains are remains and do not add any energy to a new spell. Frankly, there is really no good reason to melt down all your wax remains from previous magical work to make a new candle for another spell, unless you ascribe to chaos magic theory. (I don’t.)
On page 70, the author provides a peace/forgiveness spell. Ah… sweet, isn’t it? But what if you cannot contact the person you wish to forgive and have peace with? And why blow out the candle and bury it – why not burn it down completely and just bury any remaining wax? Is the spell complete if the candle hasn’t completely burnt out – just something to think about.
Okay, on page 72, the karmic fortune spell had me confused. I have to ask, has she done this spell? I’d be surprised if she did, because when you burn the candle down while adding money to the jar, the money in the jar will gradually cover the candle – there’s no way you can burn the candle all the way down and put more money in the jar. If there is, I’d like to know. It is an interesting idea though. Perhaps it would be better if you just put the candle beside the jar – it would have the same effect. I don’t see that there is a good reason to put the candle in the jar, and the author did not explain her reasons.
Oh dear, amulets and talismans (pages 73 to 77)! You can have more than a few hours discussing whether or not amulets are natural objects only and talismans are man-made. Apparently, Telesco is of the opinion that amulets are only protective while talismans can be used for any magical work, but both can be made. I have yet to determine which opinion is correct about amulets and talismans. I still need to find historical references for either opinion (I’ll get to this sometime, I’m sure).
On page 76, the author mentions fetishes and fetish candles. She states that fetishes “represent some type of indwelling power”. However, a fetish is “an object (as a small stone carving of an animal) believed to have magical power to protect or aid its owner; broadly : a material object regarded with superstitious or extravagant trust or reverence” (from http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/fetish). According to this definition, a fetish has power and does not need to be released as she suggests in her book when discussing a fetish candle. A candle on its own does not have power. When a candle is used for magical work, it’s given power from the person. Power does not reside in the candle itself, and we do not regard the candle with “extravagant trust or reverence”. Based on this, I find it strange to suggest that a candle is a fetish.
Returning back to the topic of invocation, prayer is not an invocation! On page 80, the author says that prayers are invocations. To clarify, a prayer can be used in an invocation, but a prayer alone is not an invocation. For an invocation, you must be specifically calling an energy into yourself.
Regarding the chapter on rituals – you do not need to engage “as many senses as possible” in a ritual as this could be overwhelming. It is best to use what is needed and no more. Make sure to have a reason for doing something in ritual. Her ritual ideas are interesting, though I’m not sure how well her rituals would work in practice (they would need to be adapted). Before doing any ritual found in any book, I would suggest analyzing it. Break it down, and try to determine why something is done, and why something is used. Constructing a ritual is not as easy as you may think, so it’s best to analyze any ritual you get out of a book.
The chapter on feng shui and candle magic was interesting, but I would recommend that people find a good book on feng shui and study that as a separate practice before trying to mix it with candle magic. It is easy to make some mistakes otherwise. The author talks about how feng shui can be used to determine physical illnesses and treat them. She mentions use of the Chinese five elements. In treating physical illnesses using the Chinese elements, it is best left to those who practice Chinese medicine professionally (and make sure to get conventional medical treatment). Chinese medicine and using the five elements is much more complex than presented in this book. A good book to read is Natural Remedies from the Chinese Cupboard.
Astrological candles is a common idea, but I personally don’t go by my sun sign when doing magic. Having studied astrology for about half of my life, I know it is much more complex that just looking at your sun sign. A good book on using astrology for magic is Astrologickal Magick (yes, the overabundance of “k” is annoying, but the book was an interesting read) for more information on how to use astrology with magic. This book will teach how to do the astrology that you can use for magic. It does not, however, attempt to make one an astrologer.
A comment about the whole book: always check your correspondences and use your own judgment. Not everyone makes the same associations between two things. Such as the colour red for passion or for anger? A red rose for romantic love? Red roses were my father’s favourite flower, and they were used in his funeral. Thus, red roses do not represent romantic love for me.
To sum up, here is a bad quote from page 77: “For where there is spellcraft, there is often divination. Where there is divination, there is often a prayer. Where there is prayer, there is quiet introspection.”
My rating from 0 to 10 (5 is average): 6