Today was devoted to learning about and working with candles. The morning’s lecture was the usual delightful erudite ramble. Miss Cat started before the first century, by passing around a replica of an ancient Roman oil lamp. This was made of bronze or brass and embossed with the Chi Rho symbol, which she did not discuss or mention. And a good thing, too, because otherwise we might not have heard about
- the basic structure of black Spiritualist church services,
- how the jazz musicians Max and Joseph Spitalnik got into the spiritual supply business by accepting the rights to a book as payment of a gambling debt,
- the relationship of the quality of novena candles to the price of gasoline,
or any of the dozen other obscure wonders.
I was astonished to find how recent some of our most cherished and popular types of spell work are. The use of glass-encased candles, for instance, goes back only to the 1930s, and back then, it was the glasses, rather than the candles themselves, that were colored. (You can still buy candles with colored glasses in many places.) Candle burning as a magical method, in fact, seems not to have been very widespread before that time. It’s only in the 1930s that any kind of candles begin appearing in “novelty” (magical/spiritual supply) catalogs — and at first they were ordinary tapers and votive candles like you might buy in any drugstore or craft shop.
Figural candles started appearing in catalogs only in 1951 — just a few years before I was born! Miss Cat passed around a few figural candles from her collection. The ones from the 1950s were beautiful, clearly molded — I especially remember a crucifix with an open Bible in the center, a hand at the end of each horizontal arm, and flames at the base. She also had some very nice figural candles from Bolivia and Peru. My personal favorite was a very plump three-dimensional Valentine-heart shape embossed with a couple holding hands.
Lucky Mojo, by the way, has same-sex couple candles, made like wedding cake toppers, but each is a pair of brides or a pair of grooms. They are painted — with colored wax, I think — and I believe they are made in China. (They appear on the catalog’s figural candle page — “Bride and Bride Candle, Painted,” and “Groom and Groom Candle, Painted.” They’re listed alphabetically, not together. There aren’t any pictures yet.)
The afternoon was devoted to instruction and practice in candle dressing, the Lucky Mojo way. Among other important things, we learned that beauty is important! It shows you’re paying attention and respect your work and your client. Even the Saran wrap in which mail order candles are wrapped is kept in a decorated box.
Naturally, there is always something satisfying about a well-dressed candle. I believe the ones I made under Miss Cat’s direction are among the best I’ve ever done. There was definitely a lot of food for thought in the practical lessons of the afternoon, and I will certainly carry over some of the principles I learned into my own work.
There followed a beautiful dinner cooked by the shop manager, Robin Peterson — homemade tamales! Spinach salad! Homemade apple pie! All wonderful and indescribable.
Once again, tired and happy 🙂