How to make your own eco-friendly tea lights

Like me, you probably go through a lot of tea lights. Fortunately, they’re pretty cheap when you buy them in bulk.

While this may true in terms of pounds and pence, another cost needs to be taken into consideration: the cost to the earth and our health. Paraffin wax is made from petroleum, coal, or oil shale. In other words, finite resources. Additionally, paraffin candles have been proven to give off toxic fumes.

The best substitute I’ve found is soy. Many people like beeswax candles, but since I’m vegan, I don’t use beeswax. Beeswax is also more expensive and usually has a distinctive smell and darker colour, making adding scent and colour difficult.

Consider these benefits of candles made from soy wax:

  • Longer lasting: soy candles last up to 50% longer than paraffin candles. (My soy tea lights burn for 7 hours.)
  • Non-toxic: no petrol-carbon soot, carcinogens, or asthma-triggering fumes.
  • Biodegradable: the wax remains can be composted.
  • Water soluble: the wax washes away pretty easily with soap and warm water.
  • Renewable: EcoSoya wax isn’t made from soy grown in the rainforest; it’s made from US soybeans.

Not all soy waxes are the same. Some are mixed with other waxes, contain added ingredients, or are made from soy that’s been sprayed with pesticides. The EcoSoya range is probably the best soy wax available. From their website:

EcoSoya® soy waxes are perfect for Candle manufacture and are produced using 100% pure, natural soybean oil from soybeans grown in the U.S.

EcoSoya® soy waxes are manufactured from non-petroleum renewable resources and are produced with consideration and care for the environment. The 100% vegetable waxes in the EcoSoya® range are all Biodegradable and free of Pesticides and Herbicides. Kerax natural waxes are from GMO free and responsible U.S and European sources.

And yes, you can buy pre-made soy tea lights, and they are a convenience, especially for an item you may go through so many of, but I see the process of making my own tea lights as creative, therapeutic, and a chance to infuse some magic into an item used in magic – making them even more…magical. There’s undoubtedly something extra special about making your own. This is the case for anything, of course – handmade is always better than mass-produced. I see it as a magical craft. It’s also really easy and doesn’t take long at all. Plus, it works out cheaper.

If you’d like to make your own, here are some instructions with links for buying the supplies you need.

Step 1: Purchase your materials

You’re going to need the following:

  • Tea light cups
  • CB-XceL Soy wax (800g will give you 50 tea lights.)
  • Wicks: WickWell NT-TL Wick. These wicks are pre-waxed so that they will stand upright as you’re pouring the wax.
  • Glue dots (for attaching the wicks to the cups)
  • Thermometer
  • Glass beaker (at least 250mL), glass measuring jug, or metal pouring jug
  • Kitchen scales
  • Something to stir with, like a metal spoon or stirring rod
  • Pan of simmering water (to act as a double boiler)
  • Tea towel
  • Baking tray
  • Kitchen towels
  • Cocktail sticks

Step 2: Prepare your tea light cups

The tea light cups available from pretty much all candle ingredient suppliers are pretty flimsy. They’ll probably arrive a bit wonky.

  • Spend some time gently manipulating them into shape. Sometimes pinching the edges can remove dents.
  • Apply glue dots to bottoms of wicks. Don’t attempt to remove the glue dots with your fingers. Instead, press the bottom of the wick firmly to dot, then peel away. You may need to use your fingernail to help dislodge the dot from the strip of paper. Use your fingernail or a cocktail stick to ensure glue dot is firmly and evenly attached to the base of the wick.
  • Centre the base of the wicks in the cups and press down.
  • Ensure the wicks are standing up straight. Sometimes they want to lean to one side. Gently push them in the opposite direction. If they refuse to stand upright, don’t worry; we’ll sort them out after the wax has been poured.
  • I like to place 2 sheets of kitchen towel on a baking tray, under the tea lights. This isn’t to make cleanup easier; it’s to keep spills from spreading more than necessary.

Step 3: Get your wax melting

I like to do this step before attaching my wicks, but if you do, make sure you don’t forget about your wax. To make 50 tea lights, you’ll need about 800g of wax. I suggest doing this in at least 2 batches, preferably 4.

  • Measure out your wax. (200g to start with is best.)
  • Concoct a double boiler system.
  • Position your thermometer.
  • Allow wax to melt, stirring occasionally.
  • Allow wax to reach 70°C.

Step 4: Pour

Before you can pour your candles, your wax needs to be completely melted and around 70°C. I turn the heat off once the wax reaches about 65°C; the temperature will continue to increase slightly.

  • Remove the jug from the water and dry the bottom with the tea towel.
  • Slowly pour the wax into each cup. There is no need to rush this part. If the wax starts to harden in the jug, you can always put it back on to the heat, so take your time. You may want to have a tissue or kitchen towel handy to wipe any wax that dribbles down the front of the jug. When that happens, the wax will try to follow that path and you can end up with the wax running down the front of the jug as you’re trying to pour rather than pouring straight down from the spout.
  • Allow them to harden for 24 hours before use.

If the wicks are wonky:

  • Once you’ve finished pouring (and before the wax begins to set), check the straightness of the wicks. If any of them are leaning, try gently nudging them to the middle, but take care because the wax coating that the wicks came with will have melted and they can go “floppy”. For stubborn wicks, take 2 cocktail sticks and position the wicks. Leave the sticks in place until the wax has completely hardened. If the sticks have become stuck to the candle, do not pull them straight off. Instead, twist them to loosen. Lifting them straight off can cause a big chunk of wax to come away with the stick. There’s going to be a mark, but once you light the candle, it won’t matter. A centred wick is more important than a groove or 2 on the surface of he candle.

As an added bonus…

I’ve sometimes found that there is a fair bit of wax left over around the insides of the cups once they’ve burned down. I’ve started salvaging this wax using a cocktail stick, and I plan to reuse it in my next batch. Soy wax is quite soft, so this is easily done, especially if you don’t wait too long after the candle burns out. It’s also quite easy to remove the burnt-out wick and wipe the cup down, ready to be used again.

How to Defend Yourself Without Hexing Someone (and without using magic at all)

Firstly, I’m not going to debate the ethics of hexing. Personally, it’s not something I would do, but if someone was attacking me physically, there aren’t many who would blame me for protecting myself, even if that resulted in the attacker getting hurt. The same should apply in magic. We all have the right to defend ourselves from attack. They key is knowing when a spell is defensive rather than offensive.

Having said that, a hex or a curse—even if defensive—may not be the best answer. I think of a hex as treating a symptom rather than finding a cure. If someone is hurting you in some way, there’s a good chance they’re hurting. While we can’t play psychologist, there are some things we can try to get to the root of the problem. It may not be pleasant, but neither are curses.

  • Go within, be honest, and ask yourself: have I hurt this person in some way? Is it possible I hurt them at some point, even inadvertently? If I have, this does not give the person the right to hurt me, but if I’m preparing to hex this person because they’re hurting me…well, people in glass houses and all that. If I have hurt them, or even if it’s just a possibility, perhaps I should try to make amends. Apologise. In fact, even if I’m sure I haven’t hurt this person, this gesture, if done with sincerity, may be enough to change the other person’s perception of me.
  • If I haven’t done anything to this person, or if apologising isn’t possible, I would try to put myself in this person’s shoes. (Even if they’re Crocs.) As I mentioned before, people usually lash out because they’re hurting or afraid. Sometimes it’s something less noble, like jealousy, but jealousy stems from fear.

This person needs to heal. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know what it is that has traumatised them. I might try sending this person some healing vibes and ask the angels to help this person. I might try a meditation like I’ll be nice to them. (Yes, even if they’re making my life miserable.) I Might ask them something like, “Are you okay? Because it really feels like you’re angry…is there anything I can do to help?”

The idea of doing these things may make you feel sick, especially if this person has caused a lot of damage. But ask yourself what you have to lose by trying. If it works, not only would you be rid of the problem, you’ll have helped another person to heal.

Failing that, you still have the option of addressing the problem through magic.

The Colour of Magic

I hear a lot of practising witches say, “There are no colours in magic—just energy.” This is true, to an extent. There are no colours in magic—even “green” magic is just another way of saying “eco” or “natural”— but when one speaks of “black” or “white” magic, these do not indicate colours, because black and white refer to the presence or absence of light. (Yes, yes, I know: without light there is no colour, and within “white” all colours are present, but the point stands that it’s first and foremost about light.)

I’ve also heard that there is no “negative” or “positive” energy—it’s just energy. As an empath, I strongly disagree.

Metaphysical energy is not the same as mundane energy—polarities do exist at each end of a tangible spectrum.

I don’t spend much time with other people. I find it tiring. Riding the bus, attending get-togethers, crowded shops, and going to restaurants exhaust me, sometimes so much so that I need a full day to recover. Some would describe this feeling as being “drained”. I describe is as “overloaded”. I can feel the tension, worry, annoyance, excitement, anxiety, neediness, anger, nervousness, happiness, boredom, confusion, impatience, elation, despair, jealousy, etc. of everyone around me. It all just wafts my way, like a stifling wave of heat, and before long, my head hurts, my stomach is bloated, I’m sweating, and after a few hours, I feel adrenal fatigue coming on. I probably won’t sleep that night, either. This isn’t merely shyness or introversion (although I experience both). I get this way even around groups of people I know well and care about, people I want to see and don’t feel shy around.

I have to psychically protect myself beforehand, which helps to an extent.

And yes, “positive” energy affects me differently than “negative” energy does. If I’m bombarded with negative energy, I will often feel nauseous and dizzy. If the energy is high and positive, I get the headache and bloating and lack of sleep.

This is how it affects me in crowds. In small groups or in a one-on-one situation, if someone is happy and excited, I soon feel the same way. The same is true if someone is crying. Many of us experience this form of empathy, and there’s no denying these energies are decidedly “positive” or “negative”.

However, most energy is more “grey”—middling. It’s neither negative nor positive, although it often leans one way or another.

Magic is similar.

I want to change gears slightly now. Words are important. They’re one of the ways in which we make sense of the world. We use them to understand things, and for that reason alone these terms have value and should not be dismissed.

So when someone mentions “dark” magic, a plethora of images come to mind. Some of them may be accurate, and some not, but they help us to understand, to some extent, what’s going on. Some of them are fairly universal. We think of demons, darkness, things that reside “below”. We do not think of rainbows and angels—that’s usually the realm of “white” magic.
One thing to keep in mind is that “dark” magic can be used to effect positive change and help others, and “white” magic can have very negative consequences.

To say that “dark” magic is necessarily evil, or that “white” magic is safe and good is inaccurate.

I know some witches who frolic with demons and they’re the nicest people who’d never hurt a soul; they consort with these beings because they get results. It’s not something I’d personally feel comfortable with, but to each witch their own.

Modern society has an abhorrence for labels, and while I agree that they can be detrimental and cause pigeonholing, in many cases—particularly when trying to understand something new and rather abstract—labels are useful. Ironically, some of the witches that I’ve seen dismiss those labels have, when asked about their practice, used those very same labels to describe it, because this was the most efficient way to summarise what they do.

As with energy, a lot of magic falls into a “grey” area. Binding, healing without the recipient’s consent, anything that even slightly interfere’s with another’s freewill, using blood, skulls, or animal parts…these all fall into the category of grey, with the exact shade depending on the witch’s opinion. Some might even say these things are “dark”, while others will laugh and say there’s nothing dark about those things at all.

What are your thoughts on the whole “colour” debate?