Review of The Book of Practical Candle Magic

candle-magicGenre: Magic

Title: The Book of Practical Candle Magic

Author: Leo Vinci

Overview: There comes along every once in awhile a Pagan book that includes an example ritual so insanely intense that, as a reader, I must question if the author had ever personally attempted it. Donald Tyson’s Rune Magic has incredibly detailed requirements at every turn, and Advanced Circle Magick by Kirk White includes a high magic ritual with such precise choreography that it might require the services of Cirque de Soleil to execute. The novena ritual in Leo Vinci’s Book of Practical Candle Magic, however, is the stuff of legend. Whether or not Vinci ever tried, the novena is the sort of ritual some people will take on as a challenge. In its most intense form, the practitioner must maintain a series of candles, each lit at a precise time, continuously over 49 or more hours. It’s probably going to be more, because the candles should be allowed to go out on their own.

This is either hardcore ritual magic, or utter BS. There is a lot of information here about how to actually make one’s own candles (which can be verified by simply following the instructions) and about magical correspondences (which can be verified through experience or consulting of other resources); the author could well have tried this marathon working, but I’m unlikely to discover more about it firsthand. From a purely hands-on perspective (lighting and extinguishing candles, laying them out, the times of day and week and month which are best for particular kinds of candle magic), this book is chock-full of information. It also includes an explanation about the nature of symbolism which I could have used when writing essays in high school.

The Book of Practical Candle Magic is a re-release; the book has a copyright date of 1981, with 2015 marking the first Red Wheel/Weiser edition. While this may not ring true, 1981 was a long time ago in the minds of a great deal of people; to those in the millennial generation and younger, that’s indistinguishable from the days of Blavatsky’s Theosophistical Society. One of the ways this book shows its age is in the fact that it was titled before it became popular to spell “magic” with six letters, resolves no confusion whatsoever, because it both leaves the pronunciation unchanged, and has led some authors to unfortunate word choices such as “magickian.” However, that’s enough digression for now.

Bottom line, this slender volume is packed with a lot of information about candles and their magical uses. Much of it corresponds to information I have gleaned elsewhere, or simply resonates as true. That’s good, given its lack of sources (see the quibbles section below). Much of it can be verified by experience: there is an entire section on how to make one’s own candles, and that technical information alone makes this book worth owning. The esoteric information would certainly benefit from some footnotes; if not to cite sources, at least to place it in context. Personally, I’d rather see it written, “I heard this information from a guy named Frankie I met on the Jersey shore,” rather than nothing at all.

To follow through on all the example rituals will be a costly affair: candles are only to be used once, and most of these rituals use a lot of candles. If you’re not making your own, buy in bulk. That’s no crack on the author; it’s just the cost of working magic.

Quibbles: There is no section about the author, to explain from whence his expertise springs; the reader will have to judge that by the text alone. That wouldn’t be an issue if Vinci made even a passing attempt at citing sources. Perhaps readers in 1981 were more trusting than I am today, or less curious about how knowledge is passed around.

While I very much appreciate that there specific instructions about making candles herein, the author asserts that coating white candles in the relevant color is generally okay. With that detail, I generally disagree; Vinci does provide specific cases wherein I do not dispute the value of the technique, e.g. dipping the tip of a colored candle in black to focus its negative qualities.

Quirks: The Abrahamic influence is a bit more overt than one might find in a good Hoodoo book; references to angels especially can be found every few pages. There is no doubt in my mind that this system can be adapted to align with all manner of beings not contemplated in Christian or Jewish mythology, but the frequent references may be jarring to some Pagan readers. Refreshingly, the wording throughout suggests that the author is aware of this fact. It also suggests he is unapologetic about his own beliefs, as well he should be.

Title: The Book of Practical Candle Magic
Author: Leo Vinci
Publisher: Weiser Books
ISBN: 978-1-57863-578-8

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