The use of candles in Hoodoo and Rootwork is an American addition to the African tradition. In New Orleans, the tradition is particularly strong and was seen as an activity that was assimilated with New Orleans Voodoo and Hoodoo due to the strong influence of the Catholic Church where prayer is often accompanied by candle burning. When Henri Gamache published his book The Master Book of Candle Burning the practice took off around the country and it soon became an activity many spiritualists and rootworkers engaged in for themselves and others. Setting lights is a service offered in many spiritual supply shops - usually for a nominal price of about $20.00. Often, it is a service provided for free.
Setting lights is one of the most basic, yet useful activities of the modern rootworker. It is the quickest, easiest and least expensive way to help yourself and your clients. Setting a light entails choosing a candle, fixing it for the intent, writing a petition paper, setting it under the candle and lighting it. The rootworker then prays over the candle in the tradition in which they are accustomed. Many times this includes the recitation of psalms and novenas, passages from the Song of Solomon or passages from the Bible. Sometimes prayers of St. Cyprian, Santa Muerte, San Simon and other powerful Saints and Folk Saints are included in the work. As a matter of extreme convenience, the seven day candles have specific prayers printed right on the label. After the candle burns down, the rootworker then divines the wax remains and any black left on the glass. It would seem you couldn’t get any easier than that, but there is quite a bit of thought and preparation that goes into setting a light for someone.
This article describes the basic steps for setting a light as opposed to a more complicated candle works. To set a light for yourself or a client, use the following steps as a guide:
1. Decide on the purpose of the work.
2. Decide on the type of candle to use (i.e. altar candle, self standing candle, figural, votive, tea light, glass-encased novena candle, etc.
3. Decide on the color or type of candle (i.e. saint, Lucky Lottery, etc.).
4. Cleanse the candle.
5. Write a petition.
6. Inscribe the candle.
7. Dress the candle with oils, herbs or powders.
8. Light the candle.
9, Divine the results.
Choosing the Color and Type of Candle
While setting lights is an easy type of work, there are some important things to consider prior to lighting a candle. The first thing to consider is the purpose of the work. What do you want to accomplish? You then use a candle in the color or style associated with the goal. If the petition has something to do with money, you would use a green or gold candle. If it is protection you are seeking, then you would use white. The most common type of candle used in setting lights are the seven day glass encased candles, though any candle in the appropriate color will do.
To determine the kind of candle you will use will depend on the magnitude of the work. Do you want a fast service? Then use a votive or even a tea light. Do you have a longer term goal like healing from a chronic illness? Then a glass encased novena candle would be appropriate.
Once you decide on the kind of candle you will use then decide on the color. Below is a list of the common candle colors and their associations (from The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook):
White. White is associated with subtle energies and used for devotions in remembering, contacting departed souls, and for blessings, purity, protection, healing and cleansing.
Red. The color red represents love, passion, romance, affection, energy, lust, fertility, attention, libido, victory, and sexuality. Red candles are used in love spells and charms, fertility spells, sex magic, and seduction, for example.
Purple. Works using the color purple are typically concerned with power, psychic ability, commanding, compelling, controlling, mastery, ambition, prophetic dreams or bending others to one’s will. Spells having to do with power, invocation, and controlling will include the color purple. Purple may also be used for peace, protection, and abundance purposes.
Green. The color green is associated with money spells, wealth and prosperity spells, gambling luck, general good luck, fertility, bountiful gardens and business success. When you want to influence anything to do with money and prosperity, you will use the color green. Burn green candles dressed with Money Drawing Oil during the New Moon for more money in the home.
Black. The color black can be used to remove evil or send harm. For example, black is used to repel negativity, for protection, or to banish negative people. Another way of using the color black is in inflicting harm or destruction on another. Binding spells, hexes and jinxes, curses, enemy tricks, coercive magic and summoning dark spirits will often be associated with the color black. Black can also be used in grieving rituals.
Yellow. The color yellow is associated with mental agility and clarity, communication, fast action, success, happiness, money (gold), court cases, and excelling at school or an academic setting. Use Crowning Glory or Crown of Success Oil on yellow candles before studying or asking for a raise.
Pink. The color pink is used in works to draw love, success, friendships, romance, and attraction.
Blue. For health, peace, harmony and abundance. Blue is associated with Marie Laveaux and St. Joseph in New Orleans and also with séances and love spells on occasion when harmony and peace in a love relationship are desired.
Brown. For practical and material blessings, court cases, and neutrality.
Orange. Recognition, control, changing plans and creativity. Orange is associated with strong or gentle energies, and can be coercive or subtly suggestive.
There are also double action and reversing candles that attract and repel. One half of the candle is associated with the usual color correspondence, and the other half is black for removing negative conditions or reversing troubles back to the sender. These candles are popular because you get two bangs for your buck. The black side is usually burned first to get rid of the negative influence leaving the best to burn last. This is done by butting the top of the candle which simply means to cut off the top of the candle so that it is flat and can stand on its own when turned over. The black side is then carved to a point revealing the wick and burned first. For example, if you get a green and black double action candle, you could use the black half to get rid of debt and the green half to attract money and economic stability.
Red and Black (Double Action). Used to remove a love jinx or to remove obstacles and open the path for opportunities. Burn the black first to get rid of evil influence and then the red is burned to draw positive vibrations into the home or business. Used for love, sex, energy problems and removing obstacles and opening roads. Write your intention on parchment paper and place it beneath the candle. Light the candle and let it burn until it is consumed, or for one hour each day, whichever method is most convenient.
White and Black (Double Action). Used to remove negative energies and draw positivity and blessings, and to reverse a curse by sending evil intentions back to the sender. Write your intention on parchment paper and place it beneath the candle. Light the candle and let it burn until it is consumed, or for one hour each day, whichever method is most convenient.
Green and Black (Double Action). Used to remove money jinxes, to eliminate debt and draw money, wealth and abundance. Can also be used to reverse infertility and to bring new growth during a drought.
Seven Day Glass-Encased Novena Candles
Seven day glass-encased candles are very convenient for a number of reasons. They come in all colors as well as with imprinted images representing an intent or a Catholic or Folk Saint and many times have special prayers right on the candle for quick reference. These are typically used in candle spells where you are seeking the help of a particular saint. Sometimes, a candle bearing the image of a saint that corresponds to a particular Voodoo loa will be used in works invoking the assistance of the loa. For example, a candle of El Niño de Atoche can be found on altars for Papa Legba or Ellegua, a candle of Our lady of Mercy can be used when working with Obàtálá, and St. Joseph can be used when working with Ogun. Seven day candles are often - but not always - used in conjunction with psalms and novenas.
American Rootwork Association
The Art of Conjure
Hoodoo & Conjure Magazine
New Orleans Voodoo Examiner
Sweet Tea and Conjure
Voodoo Muse Online Magazine