Candles in Ritual and History...
Candles and fire have been used far before recorded history in rituals, religious ceremonies, and Shamanic practice. Forces of Nature were respected as gods, so when humankind harnessed fire, they were not only harnessing the power of the gods, they felt that the gods were there with them whenever they had a flame nearby, especially when it was used as protection, and during rituals when people would pray to or try to make contact with the gods. To this day, candles or fire are used in every recorded mystical or spiritual tradition.
The first “real” candles are credited to the ancient Egyptians, who used “rush lights” made of weeds which were first soaked in hot tallow or animal fat. The Romans are typically credited with inventing the wick candle, also made from tallow or animal fat. Beeswax, a completely natural substance made by honeybees in the manufacture of their honeycombs, was first used as a main ingredient in the making of candles during the Middle Ages. Beeswax candles were an incredible leap forward in candle making because they didn’t have the unpleasant (to many) smell that animal-based candles often had.
The next big revolution came in 1850 when paraffin wax was discovered. Unfortunately, paraffin is a petroleum-based product (most people don’t seem to know this), and aren’t exactly environmentally-friendly as far as candles go. Also, since this is a waste product from making oil from crude oil, it’s extremely cheap, and incredibly available.
As with everything, though, there are VAST differences in the quality of paraffin, just like EVERYTHING else, so choosing a candle from reputable manufacturers who take pride in their candles (as we do) produce a far cleaner burning product than a cheap, mainstream candle like the ones you see in department stores and dollar shops.
Interestingly enough, candles were also used to measure time. Since candles burn so evenly, it is not that difficult to have a number of identical candles, and know how long each would burn for, so a nap could be measured by a burning candle, or meetings and infinitely more possibilities. King Alfred of England came up with the idea of graduated candles in the 9th century to divide the day into equal periods of study, prayer, royal duties, and so on.
In other areas of history, the Greeks used to take cakes, which we round to represent the moon to their temples to the Moon Goddess, placed candles around the edge of the cake to make it glow like the moon. This is one example of many.
Interest in candles declined when light bulbs were introduced, especially in the West, but candles are enjoying a sort of Renaissance as people realize that they are losing touch with nature, with themselves, and with simply sitting quietly and connecting to our own personal inspiration. Candles, by their very nature, evoke a mood, and can be powerful allies when we simply want to sit quietly with one of the most powerful forces in this world, while we let it gently flicker against the wall as our ancestors did, or to light up the pages of a book, or to create a romantic atmosphere with you and a loved one.
Ritualistic use of candles is soaring as well, as modern day spiritual explorers are increasing in numbers, practicing rituals that connect them to spirit realms as humans have done throughout history. This is encouraging, and we try to choose only the highest quality candles made, especially when it comes to soy candles; the “green” candles that use cotton wicks and are, by far, he cleanest burning candles made.