The Romance of Beeswax Candles
By Lorraine Aho
“We have chosen
to fill our hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two
noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.” ~Jonathan Swift
There are few things more comforting than the warm,
golden glow of handmade beeswax candles. The intimate light never fails to
transform the cold dark night into a special evening, whether it kindles
romance between two people or intensifies a personal meditation. In my home,
I like nothing better on long winter evenings than to light as many candles
as I can. I suppose this desire comes from a long tradition of people who,
wanting to encourage the sun to reappear, lit fires in the night. This
literal and figurative illumination of bringing light into darkness by
lighting candles or miniature fires is universal and timeless.
Holy Honey, Batman!
Bees and candles have a long history in spiritual
beliefs and customs beginning with the ancient Egyptians and continuing
through today. Fires have been a holy mystery for humankind since Greek
myths made fire’s warmth and light a possession of the gods. Bees have had a
place in religious traditions for centuries, ever since being identified
with the “Queen” or Mother Goddess. The use of beeswax in sacred candles
date as far back as the earliest organized religions.
To begin with, ancient Egyptians believed that
bees were born from the tears of Ra, the Sun God. When his tears fell onto
the soil, they were transformed into bees that built honeycombs and produced
honey. This led beeswax to be honored as sacred and candles made from
beeswax were to be used solely by spiritual leaders.
Later on, ancient Greeks believed that bees were
born spontaneously from animal corpses and therefore symbolized resurrection
and rebirth. Bees were revered as holy messengers that carried prayers from
earth to heaven. Any creation made by these holy creatures, such as honey or
beeswax, was valued as a gift from the gods.
In the Chinese teaching of Feng Shui, beeswax
candles bring fire ch’i energy into a room, which is thought to encourage
passion and expressiveness.
In Hebrew the word for bee, Dbure, has its origins
in the word Dbr, meaning speech so bees symbolized eloquence and
intelligence among early Jewish believers. The Torah states, “The spirit of
man is the candle of the Lord.”
More recently, in Christian tradition, honeycomb
symbolized the monastery cells where monks lived and worked. Bees often were
a symbol of Christ, with the honey and sting of the bee representing his
mercy and justice. A popular legend states that bees hummed on Christmas Eve
to honor Jesus at his birth.
As the workers of the hive, bees are an
industrious and prosperous community governed by the queen bee. This led the
French to use bees to symbolize all that is royal and imperial. Napoleon I
used the bee motif on his coronation robes and palace rugs.
Today, common rituals
include lighting candles for prayers, for remembering the deceased, for
celebrating Advent or Hanukkah, and illuminating icons. When I visited the
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the first thing I did upon entering was light
a candle and say a prayer.
Candles at Home
When I want to meditate, I light a candle.
Something mysterious happens while staring at the flickering flame that
helps me see my problems in a “different light.” I always light candles
before I begin a task that requires focus, such as writing.
When I set the table for
dinner, I always light candles whether I’m eating with guests or by myself.
Eating by candlelight lets you slow down and pay more attention to the
subtleties of your surroundings. In Jewish households, the tradition of
lighting the evening Havdalah candle is a very important Sabbath ritual that
brings the whole family together.
In the dining room, I like to group different
sized candles in the center of the table. The subtle, sweet smell of the
warm beeswax complements but never overwhelms the aroma of the food. I pick
candles that have complementary colors to the tablecloth, but I like to use
a variety of sizes and shapes such as pillars, votives, and tapers.
I group small vases of
flowers or wreaths and twist vines around the candles or place candles on a
small round mirror to reflect the flames. Try grouping votive candles with
small, smooth rocks or polished stones to create a Zen feel. Experiment
using different candlesticks too. I like to change them with the season and
often use crystal for winter, silver for spring, ceramic for summer and gold
for fall. Take those wedding presents out of storage and use them without
fear because beeswax candles won’t drip on your precious linens or
Celebrate the seasons by creating a harvest bounty wreath with candles:
Choose a flat-bottomed round platter with short sides and arrange medium
pillar candles and leaves of the current season.
For meditation purposes, I choose
specific colors for my candles: blue for healing, purple for divine
connection, yellow for energy, red for passion, green for connection with
nature, white for truth. If you have a sacred space set up in your home be
sure to include a few beeswax candles and burn them often.
When I take a
bath, I add lots of scented bubbles to the water, turn on soft music and
light my candles. I like to place the candles in front of the mirror so the
light is caught and reflected back into the room. I then soak in the
soothing soft glow and let my thoughts wander.
In my bedroom, there is
nothing more romantic or comforting than soft candlelight. The yellow flame
bathes the room in a warm glow and softens the hard edges, transforming an
ordinary bedroom into a place to let your imagination run wild. I prefer to
use small votives in glass containers to reflect more light.
Mind Your Beeswax
There are many reasons why beeswax candles are
superior to regular paraffin candles. Beeswax candles are thought to clean
and purify the air as well as emit healthful ions. Beeswax gives off a much
brighter light with a beautiful golden halo and less flicker. Beeswax is
naturally aromatic and smells like sweet honey. Beeswax candles burn longer
so the total cost is less than buying “cheaper” candles. Beeswax is cleaner
to burn; it doesn’t drip or give off unhealthy byproducts such as soot and
Most commercial candles are made from paraffin, a derivative of
crude oil. Manufacturers will dye and scent them with chemicals in an effort
to produce colorful “aromatherapy candles” as cheaply and quickly as
As you light your candles, remember the people who have gone
before and what beeswax symbolized to them. Honor the long history of holy
bees and their sacred offerings by using beeswax candles to add a special
light in your home. And do your part to encourage the sun to return by
lighting your “miniature fire.” It just may work.
Lorraine Aho enjoys helping people create a sacred space in their homes. She lives in a sacred
home in Sonoma, California with her husband and two cats. For more detailed
information, see this article about the dangers of non-beeswax candles.