• The Festival Celebrant

Light my Candle!

Updated: Mar 4

There’s something intrinsically magical about a candle, right? It can’t be a coincidence that over a century after the invention of the electric light bulb people are still buying candles in their hundreds of thousands. We can buy them in every fragrance imaginable, and a vast array of shapes and colours. I have a line of pretty little tea lights on my windowsill which are lit two or three evenings a week and there’s something hypnotically primeval and elementally beautiful about the dancing flames.

That very hypnotic quality is one of the reasons candles have been a mainstay of religious rites and ceremonies for centuries. Another reason is the symbolic power of that single point of living light in the darkness. Tenuous and transient, yet vital, bright and hopeful.

So how can you incorporate candles into your ceremony?

One of the most popular candle ceremonies requires a single large candle and a number of smaller ones (or wax tapers). You can light the large candle before the ceremony begins (you might want to shield it in a hurricane style lantern) and place it in a prominent place at the front of your ceremony space. Each person participating in the ceremony receives one of the smaller candles and when the time comes they take turns to light their candle from the main one. Alternatively, if your ceremony involves just 3 or 4 active participants you could choose a large multi-wick candle. In this configuration the smaller candles are lit first and each participant uses theirs to light one of the wicks of the larger candle.

Here are a few pointers to make your candle ceremony go more smoothly.

I’ve already mentioned that you might want to place your large candle in a hurricane lamp. The candle flame is immensely symbolic and you don’t want to create the wrong kind of symbolism by having your flame blow out at an inopportune moment! Lighting the candles also requires some thought. I’d recommend using a wooden spill or taper to light the participants’ candles. And try not to use matches; they’re messy, smelly and unreliable. Use a lighter instead. Also, make sure that each participant knows when to step forward to light the large candle and where they should go when they’ve done it. You don’t want people colliding with each other!

A candle ceremony can be used in lots of contexts. It’s great when you want a symbol of blending and sharing, so it works well in couple ceremonies (weddings, civil partnerships etc.). But you could equally use it in ceremonies of renewal and affirmation.

Oh! And make sure you use those candles safely! Too many people brandishing naked flames in a tiny space is not a great idea. You might also want to think twice if children are going to be involved. And some venues simply might not permit the use of naked flames, especially indoors.

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