Candles and the Eco-Witch

LED-light pseudo-pillar candles, with remote control.

Homes with candles burning brightly
are filled with sexy wood nymphs nightly.

As best I recall, that was a couplet from one of Al Manning’s books. I never met him, but from his how-to books and particularly his early-1980s autobiography, Eye of Newt in My Martini, I get the impression of a guy who could have been the house with of the Sterling Cooper Draper Price advertising agency—or perhaps of its hypothetical Los Angeles branch office.

My first Craft teacher always had candles burning, and before then there had been the highly aesthetic literature professor at Reed College who held class in his home, where the walls were covered in black felt and racks of votive lights burned in every room.

And I had my altar boy days behind me—I liked candles.

When we got together, M. and I burned lots of candles: ritual candles, nightly dinner table candles, meditation candles, et cetera. But then she got religion about candles. Most of the candles you buy are petrochemical-based (parafin), and when you burn them, you are putting some unfriendly stuff into your household air.

It is kind of like running a diesel engine indoors. So for some years, we cut way back on candle-burning except during (a) electrical blackouts and (b) outdoor use.

Meanwhile, a friend gave us a big beeswax pillar candle, which is now on the dining table — kind of like this. Nice, but not cheap. Maybe that is why St. Luke’s Episcopal Church always had donors for each week’s beeswax altar candles. (The big paschal candles were probably partly parafin.)

Another friend recently tossed in some soy-based tea candles as lagniappe on an order of — wait for it —  battery-powered LED candles. (Suitable for homes with toddlers or in areas of high fire danger.) We use them indoors  in one of our many votive-candle holders.

At Natural Grocers I recently picked up a box of palm oil-based tapers. But there are environmental issues connected with palm oil plantations too. It’s another case where “green” is not as earth-friendly as you might hope.

What is an environmentally conscious Witch to do?

RELATED: A video on getting wax out of fabric.

6 Comments

  1. MomaFauna says:

    Last year, at the suggestion of a co-organizer, I purchased a large quantity of the battery-powered candles for the luminaria at our children’s Samhain festival at the UU. I admit I was incredulous, if not appalled by the concept of “faux candles.”

    Now, more than a year later, I find us using those little plastic jobbies almost daily. They fill that aesthetic role beautifully in a household with both a toddler and a cat who has a propensity for setting herself aflame (so, so many times that cat has been on fire…).

    But for magick & devotionals we still opt for fire, so we try for beeswax or frankencandles composed of scrapings of recycled wax of undoubtedly dubious origin & composition. However, they tend to have short, well-supervised burn periods.

    …I do wonder though, as our faux candles begin to “burn out,” what are the environmental implications of all those little batteries?

    • Medeine Ragana says:

      I’ve been using battery-powered “candles” for quite a few years. When I was working at the State agency, I always had a mini-altar on my desktop computer and since real candles were verboten due to fire regulations I opted for the battery-powered ones. But I used recyclable batteries. At home I make my own candles by buying beeswax on Ebay. There are bee keepers in my neighborhood but I haven’t been able to find one who’s willing to sell the wax. I’d prefer to get the beeswax from my neighborhood because I just think it’s neat to be able to have honey and beeswax made from flowers on my property.

      • MomaFauna says:

        Oh, I didn’t know they made recyclable batteries in the small watch sizes. Thank you for mentioning that. I will have to see about finding some. (Although… sadly, recycling is pretty limited in Alaska…)

        I would love to find local wax! Apiaries are few & far between up here, but one of the local Russian Orthodox churches will sell their beeswax tapers, so at least there is an option other than shipping something up.

      • Chas Clifton says:

        The battery-powered candles that I have seen use AA batteries, so it is easy to find rechargeable batteries.

      • Medeine Ragana says:

        Thank you Mr. C. I meant rechargeable batteries. D’oh!

  2. harmonyfb says:

    I have cats and small children, so I use the battery powered lights. They’re beautiful, and I can leave them burning all night on my altar without any danger of killing us all.