Making Reclaimed Candles, Part One

All candles in my shop, with the ONLY exception being beeswax ones, are made from reclaimed wax. Although paraffin wax is a by-product in and of itself, it is quite bad for the environment, and is produced is such quantities that it ends up in charity shops or on car boot stalls, where the colours and scents become faded. Once that candle is unattractive, and therefore useless, it surely ends up in landfill.

I hate the idea of anything ending up in landfill, and I’m always looking ways to prevent the odd or unusual items that we just don’t think of as rubbish in the conventional terms, ending up there. There are plenty of people who make inner tubes into bags, for example. I wanted to do something different, plus the ability to make my own spell and/or ritual candles whenever I wanted to, and to my exact specifications has intense appeal to me.

I’m a Virgo. It will be done my way or not at all.

So, first in the process is collecting your waxes. First, be aware that all waxes are not the same. If two pieces feel, look or smell (aside from added fragrances) different to each other, don’t melt them together. It makes your finished candles look lumpy and scarred at best.

Second, never overlook opportunities. Most of my sources of wax are stuff that usually ends up in the bin, because a spent candle is surely rubbish, right?

Nope. I can, will, and have picked out the tiny remnants of those little tin foil tealight cap things. And promptly recycled those.

(One of the beautiful things you guys do for me is send me donations of rubbish. I love it when you send me broken and/or used candles. When I get physical premises, I plan to open a scheme whereby if you give me x grammes of candle waste you get x percent off your next candle, but that’s a time in the future.)

Places to obtain reclaimed wax:

  • Family and friends: Ask for both used and unused and unwanted candles. Everyone’s got a candle that was once too pretty to burn, so they displayed it on their windowsill like a lemon, and now it has no colour and/or scent.
  • Car boot sales. Weird looking candles must be one of the world’s most unwanted gifts.
  • Charity shops. Don’t dismiss Halloween or other novelty candles, or those big packs of tealights.
  • Speaking of Halloween, it’s often worth purchasing a small amount of black dye, because black candles are hard to come across.

Once you have collected your candles, and trust me if you say you are collecting unwanted candles you will drown under your friends and family’s sun-bleached horrors soon enough, you need to sort and clean them.

If you have candles of a certain colour, and the colour of the candle goes all the way through the wax, keep these aside to use in place of expensive candle dyes. They will dye white or cream coloured wax a lovely paler version of their colour. This sort of candles is either something expensive like a Yankee Candle, or those cheap witchy tapers that you get from metaphysical shops.

If you have candles of a certain colour, and the colour is actually wax painted or glued onto the outside, you get the joys of stripping all of that outside off and boxing it up to also use as a dye. This sort of candle is what you usually find in Asda’s or similar places.

If the candle looks like this, however: (I will insert picture when WordPress decides to behave)

That’s probably paint or some other noxious substance which will stick to the bottom of your dish and/or disintergrate and ruin your candles. You’ll need to scrape that off and dispose of it. Sorry.

If there is a black substance in it from where the wick has been extinguished incorrectly, that’s got to be scraped out too.

If you’re lucky enough to pick up any Yankee Candles or something of that ilk, whether whole or otherwise, if they’ve kept their scent, keep them for their scent. That means, especially with white or cream coloured ones, that you can scent other candles without having to purchase a huge collection of essential and fragrance oils .

Break large candles up to remove the wicks and sustainers, but you can pull the sustainer and wick out the bottom of a tealight once you’ve removed the casing and you don’t need to break it. Save any usable wicks.

Next time, we will look at tools and equipment you will need to make candles and wax melts.

Remember, the September sale at TwiceResurrected is still on – use the code September15 for 30% off.

The Blackthorn: Thorns, Pricks and the Ice Queen

Sometimes you are given a teacher out of the proverbial blue, and if you blink, you could miss the lesson they give to you.

I’ve been wanting to meet a blackthorn tree* for a while know. Reading a lot of Forest Witchery books had me pining to learn more about the hedgerows of my homeland. My birth name being that of another prickly tree has always made me associate closely with spiky plants, or perhaps that name just matches me closely. I have been told many times how prickly my personality is.

Now, the blackthorn is traditionally used as a fence or hedge to keep cattle in or out, due to its thorns. Magically, it is associated with curses or baneful magic, which is often really protection magic against people who think that they are entitled to take what they want from you, and don’t expect you to fight back.

The blackthorn is no hawk or snake, it is content to mind its own business and wears thorns to stop animals eating its flesh. The blackthorn does not strike me as something used for ‘evil’ curses, especially when there are many fast-growing and invasive plants that steal the nutrients from other plants that could be used that way.

Whether a spell is a curse or a binding/protection working depends entirely upon how much the cursee believes themselves to be the undeserving victim.

We went foraging on my 20th birthday, and we stumbled across a tree with what my mother and my Uncle swore blind were blueberries, and what I and my Grandmother thought perhaps might be sloes, that rare British treat. We took some, since either sloes or blueberries would make decent alcohol, which was the purpose of our visit.

I double checked what the berries were before I prepared them, just in case they were actually something poisonous, and found they were sloes.

And there it was. The blackthorn.

Somehow, countless people have failed to mention that the blackthorn produces sloes, that famous rural secret. Despite knowing about the two, I’d never managed to find anything that connected the two.

Sloes are special. They have a sharp, astringent taste which is only really palatable after the first frost. Due to their popularity and the fact that they aren’t really farmed in any extensive way, it is recommended to take them as soon as they are ripe, and simulate that frost by shoving them in the freezer for a bit.

If you want to turn that sharp, almost bitter fruit into that gorgeous gin, you first have to freeze them half the death, and then you must take a clean pin or needle and prick each berry multiple times.

This is a long process, and if you go too fast you will end up stabbing your own fingers. The sloe has a very large stone, thick skin and very little actual fruit, so the needle often bounces off.

Then you must add sugar and a decent base gin, and bottle them for at least six months, agitating the bottles almost daily at the start of the process. As with all alcohols, the longer you leave it, the better it tastes.

It may be obvious, but I feel akin with the sloe, and with the blackthorn. I don’t know who persevered with such an off-putting fruit to find its true beauty, but I thank them.

A sloe is a sloe, and must be treated like one. If you treated a sloe like a blackberry, you would be a fool. If you treated a blackberry like a banana, you are equally silly.

I don’t see why people are any different.

Some people not only survive a sharp frost, but need one to live. Some people need to be pricked and needled till they are bloody to give up something of themselves. Some people need sugar and activity and excitement in short bursts, then a long dark wait. Some people are prickly and hard to hold, some people are bitter and sour and stony until you know and understand them. Some people are thick skinned and will never be soft, even after the frost and the needles and the darkness. Mellowing is simply age and experience, not a loss of power.

Some people are born to thorns and ice and darkness, and that’s more than okay. Daffodils are lovely, but the world would be boring and barren if that’s all that was allowed to survive. Stop trying to turn blackthorn hedges into wildflower meadows. Accept each person and plant for what it is, and what it was put on this Earth to do.

If you don’t like the gin, don’t drink it.