Sunday 18 September 2011

Magical v. Rational Candles

My wife loves candles.

Our garden is strewn with lanterns, numerous devices for holding tea lights and a selection of garden candles. Things don’t get much better inside, we have candles perched on the mantelpiece and suspended from anywhere that will grant suitable purchase. If Thomas Eddison ever comes round for tea, he’ll wonder why he bothered.

One of the gifts bestowed upon my wife from one of her friends for her birthday last month was, unsurprisingly, a candle. Partly because of my wife’s love of candles, but also (I suspect), partly to try and wind me up, as it was no ordinary candle, it was a magical candle.

I often try and parody irrational nonsense on this blog by ridiculing uncritical ideas or exaggerating irrational claims to their extreme to expose their inherent silliness.

However as much as I tried, I couldn’t write anything more outlandish or more amusing than the text already supplied with the magical candle. So here it is:

"The Herbs and oils included in this candle are associated with the moon.
Use this candle for psychic receptivity, intuition, soul dreams, magic, emotional memory, adaptability, feelings and reflection.
Our ancestors used candles for both ritual & domestic purposes. The sacred flame can be used as a focus in candle burning to reflect the divine light within. Through colour and magical herbal infusions added to the wax when blending each candle serves its own purpose.

Three important factors to remember when candle burning are Concentration, Visualisation and Willpower.

Energy follows thought. To turn your dreams, wishes and visualisations into realities, follow thought with action, charged with the cosmic energy of the sacred flame.

Until not too long ago, candles and oil lamps were the only source of light after night had fallen and during the long hours of darkness during the winter months, candles lit up the imagination, painted shadows on the walls and illuminated the twilight zone between consciousness and imagination.

Star Child Magical Candles are created by hand, using a selection of high quality waxes to ensure a long lasting flame, each candle is potentised with our lunar prepared magical infusions.

Many spiritual traditions use candles as magical tools to reflect the divine light or as votive offerings to accompany prayers.

Our candles are intended to kindle the sacred flame within and bring your magic alive, they may be used for spiritual and ritual work to aid concentration for a specific magical intent. As you focus on the flame visualise your intentions being consumed and transformed into ethereal thought forms.
Magical Candles create an ambience which helps focus attention and at the same time serves as a reminder of the inner flame, the divine spark that shines within.

Our Magical Infusions contain herbs, flowers, resins, barks and magical tokens collected at sacred sites from all over the world. They are prepared in accordance with the cycles of the sun and the moon. The symbols assigned to each type of candle indicate the ethereal nature of the special infusions added to the respective blends and thus provide a reference to their magical qualities.

Magically, the purpose of invoking planetary and elemental energies is to bring about corresponding changes on the mental, physical or emotional plane."

 Impressive bollocksmithing indeed.

As it was my wife’s friend’s birthday last week, I felt compelled to return the favour, so I repackaged a standard garden candle as a “Rational Candle”. Here it is with my accompanying product information:

I’m pretty sure she’ll see the funny side as I’m confident she rightly treats the rhetoric of the magical candle with a pinch of salt.

In fact I imagine most people who buy the candles must either buy them as a tongue in cheek novelty item or because they simply like the fairytale ambience and tone of the product rather than a staunch belief in the candles ability to actually increase psychic receptibility.

I also suspect that the company that manufactures the candles are motivated to do so more by their business acumen to fill a market requirement rather than a blind belief in the magical qualities of their products. And of course their mystical yet shrewd weasel words insure that no specific magical claims are actually made. Like Boots selling un-evidenced homeopathy, if people are daft enough to buy it, there’s always someone more than willing to sell it.

So I’m not going to take the bait and write a lengthy diatribe on the dangers and consequences of such wooly thinking. I’m optimistic enough to hope that even the targeted consumers don’t really take the magical candle bullshit seriously.

But nonetheless I can’t help but feel a little bemused. I think that the information on my rational candle, though no doubt considered dry and boring by the majority, is far more awe inspiring than the more marketable new age dribble espoused by the magical candle.

As explained on my rational candle, the colours of the flame can be used to construe the molecular composition of the consumed fuel. A basic scientific principle that when investigated by the likes of Herschel, Talbot and Swan was extrapolated to allow scientists to use spectral analysis to deduce the chemical composition of the distant stars and thus determine that hydrogen is by far the most abundant element in the universe. Why is that not more fascinating?

As Douglas Adams famously wrote:
"Is it not enough to see that the garden is beautiful, without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
In many cases, apparently not.


YouMan said...

Great! I'm sure if you'd sell these rational candles on the next christmas market, many people would buy them with a big grin in their face! :-)

Brian Clegg said...

Very nice, but next time you make a rationalist candle, perhaps you could use a symbol that is relevant to modern science, rather than nearly 100 years out of date? (see

Paul S. Jenkins said...

"...rather than nearly 100 years out of date?

But you have to use that symbol. It's part of the rational tradition.

Anonymous said...

"So I’m not going to take the bait and write a lengthy diatribe" Too late.

Did I just take a quote out of context for humorous effect? Maybe. I'm not sorry at all.

Laurie Brown said...

I hate to tell you this, but some people really, truly believe that the magical candles are, well, magical. That burning them will bring whatever they were- what was the word? Potentized? to do. Money, love, foresight. Seriously.

The only good thing I can see about such things is that perhaps by buying and burning the things, the person is concentrating on their goal and thus seeing opportunities instead of ignoring them.

Marky Mark said...

That was great...I think you should market them there candles.