Adventures in Candle Magic and Minor Witchery

Photo: Courtesy of Enchantments

“Now, if I’m burning the uncrossing candle, can I also use the uncrossing mineral bath? Or is that too much?”

I’ve just been told I need an uncrossing, and my stomach is in knots. An uncrossing, you see, means I’ve been crossed. It might mean someone’s put a hex on me, though I’m afraid to ask — black magick is strictly prohibited here, and I want the witches to like me. Right now I’m speaking with a petite blonde witch (she’s been practicing for eight years, ever since she left a social-sciences graduate program), and she considers my question thoughtfully. She thinks the bath might not be a bad idea.

Since walking into Enchantments, Manhattan’s largest witch and goddess supply store, I’ve gone from giggly (an astrology book proclaims my sign, Libra, to be the ruler of asparagus) to curious (another set of books describes how to protect oneself from psychic attack) to legitimately enchanted (at least with a black cat named Medea, who somehow doesn’t set off my allergies).

Opened in 1982 by Lady Rhea (now of the Pagan Center of New York in the Bronx), Enchantments currently occupies a basement-level storefront on 9th Street in Manhattan’s East Village. It looks a bit like an apothecary out of a beloved children’s story: One wall is entirely given over to dried herbs used in spells. Practitioners drift in and out of the cozy space, asking one of the shop’s employees for what they need and staying to chat about which spells have been working and which haven’t, what the next new moon might bring, and difficult-to-interpret tarot readings.

On this warm fall evening, a friend and I have come to partake in the shop’s specialty: candle magic. According to staff, Enchantments sees a number of non-witches at the candle bar — writers looking for a choice assignment, lawyers hoping to land a big client, dating veterans in search of true love. Before each candle is carved, a witch-on-duty confers with the seeker to determine the best course of action.

My friend’s magical needs are straightforward. She’s getting ready to move into a new apartment, and wants to make sure the transition is smooth and the space is comfortable. More specifically, she wants to avoid bedbugs. The short-haired witch nods and gets to work on a home spell using a blue candle. The idea is to ensure that the energy of the new apartment is positive and hospitable only to wanted guests; and because the home spell is best performed in the home itself, my friend is advised until moving day to begin burning her candle.

Then it’s my turn. The witch who’ll be carving my candle asks me a series of very simple questions (“What’s going on, big picture? What are you thinking about most often? What do you want?”), and I find myself describing a feeling of dullness, of malaise. Maybe, I venture timidly, I’d like to feel a little sharper, a little brighter. Nothing’s wrong, exactly, but I wouldn’t say it’s right, either. Does she know what I mean?

She knows what I mean. I need an uncrossing.

Sometimes things just get muddled, the witch explains. Ourselves, other people, the universe — they all get a bit gray and weighed down, and it can become difficult to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. She warns me that while an uncrossing will do me good, it might be difficult: “Sometimes the things we see clearly aren’t things we actually want to see.”

My uncrossing can begin that very evening. Ideally the candle ($27.50) is burned straight through, but when my eyes go wide at the prospect of leaving a lit candle in my apartment for five days straight, the witch laughs and assures me it’s fine to blow it out before bed each night. She also assures me the uncrossing bath (at $4.95, it’s cheaper than anything I’d buy at Sephora) might help and certainly won’t hurt, so I add one of those, plus an Aphrodite Love Attraction packet (also a steal at $4.95).

My candle is white and carved with symbols and my first name, and the glitter rubbed over and into it is silver, making for a not-at-all-unpleasant ghostly glow when I burn it later that night in my apartment. I try to follow the instructions — clear head, focus on my intention, and relax.

I thought burning my candle would remind me of being 13 and watching The Craft at a sleepover, but instead it’s pleasurably self-indulgent — the spiritual equivalent of a $200 night cream a helpful saleswoman swears will take care of pesky under-eye circles (you know, the kind that don’t exist until the helpful saleswomen point them out).

I don’t notice anything different the next morning, or the morning after that. By the third day, though, I’ve come up with a suitable ending to a story I haven’t been able to finish. On the last night, a Friday, I repeat the “clear head, focus on intention” process and stay awake until the wee hours, watching the wax burn and trying to determine whether or not I feel less crossed. The next morning I wake up early, with a start — a recent personal conflict has been eating at me, and I realize upon sitting up that I can hardly remember why.

There’s a bounce in my step all day. I don’t think anyone notices (which makes me wonder if anyone noticed I seemed crossed to begin with) — but that’s not really the point, is it?

Adventures in Candle Magic and Minor Witchery