The history and use of church candles goes back many thousands of years and can be traced through many religions across time. One of the first recordings of candles in use lies in the Egyptian history books where it is said the Egyptians frequently used church candles made from beeswax, however mention is also made of types of taper candles for ritual purposes using tallow covered rushes. These rituals where for the purpose of interpretation of dreams and communication with he gods through meditation as one closely studied and focus on the heart of the flame.
The relatively steady rate of a burning candle has lent itself since the turn of the last millennium to the use of time keeping. Candles used in this way would normally have sections marked on their side to represent each period of time, in the case of western communities this would be in periods of an hour. In China the Sung Dynasty made use of church candles in this way. Later on time keeping candles were developed further with the addition of weights pushed into the side which would then fall into a dish to make a noise marking the passing of time. In more modern times we in the west are now familiar with the Advent church candle, used to mark the 24 days leading up to Christmas day.
The use of church candles in 'modern day' religions can be traced to the early days of Roman Catholicism. Initially the Roman Catholics cast great scorn on the use of candles in church due to the known rituals of pagans and their use of candles within them. Gradually however the attitude of the church changed and by the fifth century the use of candles in their services and ceremonies where readily accepted and recognised as a symbol of the divine spirit.
It wasn't until some centuries later that church candles were actually allowed to be used on the alter and their use was seen to be both symbolic and practical in representing the force of good against evil. Often however the history books draw different views on this, with some stories reporting witches using candles to place evil curses on their victims, whilst conversely other stories report towns folk taking up candles as a way of protecting themselves, their families and their animals against the evil intentions of witches. In a similar vein some centuries ago the Jews took up the practice of lighting candles at the bedside of the dying to ward off the approaching demons and evil spirits.
Even today in the modern world many people place great credence on the influence and behaviour of a candle with those that believe a candle with a weakening flame is a forecast that someone in the household is about to die and others who interpret different meanings according to the colour that the flame burns.
More practically in the modern world churches in the west now lay down close specifications for both the construction of the church candle and its specific uses. For example the Roman Catholic church specifies that the liturgical church candle must contain more than 50% Bees wax. In most western churches the Paschal church candle is seen to symbolize Christ's resurrection and can only be used during the religious ceremonies of Easter, Baptism and Funerals.
In modern Judaism to church candles carry specific symbolism with a pair of candles being lit to mark the start of the Sabbath celebration on Friday and then on Saturday a special candle made of several wicks is also lit to mark the end of the sabath, this is known as the Havdalah ritual.
Shaun Parker is an expert on all types of candles including Church Candles, Scented candles and Aromatherapy candles and he shares his expertise to help you.