Candle Magic: How to Read the Flame

Candle magic is one of my go-to rituals. One reason is because candle flame meanings can provide so much insight into my biggest life questions.

candle flame meanings

When I have an intention, whether it is to manifest a quick windfall of cash, attract a new love or pray for healing energy to surround my body, I typically do a candle ritual, particularly around the new and full moons. 

The candle gives me something to focus my energy and intention on. I like to imagine that as the candle burns, my intention is being lifted up into the Universe. Once the burning is complete, I imagine my prayer (yes, intentions are prayers) has been received and answered. 

However, I believe the communication between myself and spiritual forces is a two-way street. I send my intention, and the Universe communicates back to me through the flame on the candle. The flicker of the flame — or lack thereof — sends a message, as do other characteristics that the flame could take on. 

Before I provide some of the common symbolic meanings of different types of flames, I strongly encourage you to consider your own intuition first. If you burn a candle and you feel intuitively that a particular flame quality has a certain message for you, trust it. If you read about one of the common candle flame meanings on this blog and you feel that it does not apply to your candle, believe that too. 

Your Spirit Guides communicate with you through ways that only you understand. As you become more and more comfortable with their symbols and their language, you will become less dependent on symbol dictionaries and outside forces to explain your experiences.

But back to the candles. I’m going to run down some common types of candle flames and give you the meanings frequently ascribed to them.

Strong, steady flame.

The consensus here is that this spells good news for your ritual. It suggests that whatever intention you are putting out into the Universe will be well-received. It may require time and effort, but the flame suggests that you have everything you need to push through and bring the intention to light. 

Weak, unsteady flame

In this case, the flame suggests that there may be some obstacles. Perhaps the obstacle is you. How strong is your intention? Do you have any subconscious beliefs that may be getting in the way? For example, if you are lighting a candle to attract money into your life,  do you have a subconscious belief that you will never get ahead financially? If you are wishy washy about your intention, you are going to get wishy washy results. 

Flickering or sputtering flame

When this happens, a common belief is that spirits, ancestors or other beings are trying to contact you. A flickering flame could mean that a spirit has joined you and may be helping you to achieve your goal. If you believe this to be the case, close your eyes and ask who the spirit is and what it wants. You may be surprised by what you learn.  

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A loud flame that sizzles, pops or hisses

This type of flame is bound to get your attention, and some believe your ancestors or other spirit friends are trying to communicate with you about your intention. See if you pick up any intuitive messages about the situation that has prompted you to do the ritual. 

White smoke

If white smoke rises from the flame, consider this a very positive sign that your intention was received by spirit helpers and you will see the outcome that you desire. 

Black smoke

On the flip side, black smoke is considered not so lucky, as it could indicate that there is some type of interference between you and your goal. Some believe that black smoke represents negativity of some sort. If you see black smoke ask your Spirit Guides for direction on how to proceed. 

Flame that suddenly extinguishes before it burns out

If you are burning a candle in a ritual and the flame suddenly goes out before the candle has burned down, consider that a sign that the ritual is complete. Don’t re-light the candle to continue. Pack it up and perhaps you might try again at a later time — if you even need to do so. There is always the chance the ritual was shut down because the intended outcome is already imminent. 

Flame that is difficult to put out

This is the opposite situation to the one above. In this case, take it as a sign from the Universe that you are not done with the ritual. If the flame doesn’t extinguish easily there is still more metaphysical work to be done. Perhaps you should plan to light another candle or practice another ritual to bring some closure to the situation.

Smoke moves toward you

When smoke from a flame moves toward you, it indicates that something is being attracted to you. If you are doing the ritual to bring something into your life such as love or money, this can be a good sign since it can indicate that what you seek is on the way.

Smoke moves away from you

When smoke moves away from you it indicates that something is leaving you. While this may not be great news if you are doing a ritual to attract something to you, it can be good news if you are trying to eliminate something such as an illness or a negative work situation. 

What to do if you don’t like what the flame has to say

So what if you conduct a candle magic ritual and you get a weak flame or one that doesn’t bode well for success. Should you give up on your dream if candle flame meanings are not favorable? Not necessarily. If you still feel a desire for it, particularly when your mind is clear such as during meditation, then you should still move forward. However, with some self-assessment, you may realize that the intention is not authentically yours. For example, what if you want to have a baby because everyone expects you to, but in meditation you realize you don’t really want to have children. If that’s the case, the flame’s warning could be exactly what you need to walk away from someone else’s dream of parenthood.

However, if the dream is truly important to you, here are some options you can consider as your next steps.

Conduct another ritual. Sometimes you may need to repeat a ritual multiple times in order to see results. When repeating it, pay attention to the flame to see if it gives you better odds of success. If you continue to get a weak flame, the timing may be off for your intention. 

Give it some time. If the timing is off for your intention, you will feel like you are pushing up against a brick wall. Shift your focus to something else in your life and then come back to this intention at a later time. Once some time has passed, try the ritual again. 

Candle flame meanings can give you real-time information about how your quest is going.

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