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In Ghana, they say, "It is better to bring luck than to be handsome." In America, we don't often think about bringing luck to our friends and loved ones; however, something we can do to spread blessings and good feelings is treat them to simple rituals. My book, By Candlelight: Rites for Celebration, Blessing & Prayer, is concerned not just with the ways candle lighting provides reassurance and spiritual connection for solitary practitioners, but also how candle rites can be performed to benefit other people—often in front of other people. For example, if you get together with a certain group of friends, you can create memories by bringing out a candle—perhaps some whimsical novelty candle—and lighting it as you say the Rite for Friendship and Fellowship,
... for good times past,
People enjoy it when you take the initiative and perform a ritual for them, because it's a genuine luxury. They especially appreciate it if you put some verve and flair into your performance. Candle lighting also enriches one-on-one interactions. Consider how often it happens that a friend or relative drops by, and the conversation gets around to his or her problems. That's a perfect time to say, "Hey, why don't we light a candle for this?" You could guide your friend through the Rite for Burning Through Your Troubles or any number of rites for restoring cheer, working through problems, or addressing special needs. When friends or loved ones are having some kind of difficulties, and you've done everything else that you can do for them, lighting a candle is a little something extra that you can do. By Candlelight makes it easy, because most of the rites require but a single candle of any color, and can be performed at any time. Even more intimate relationships are warmed by candle light. Thus, you can heat up an evening with your lover with the short ritual that concludes with the words, "May the light of our love be a flame that is ever renewed."
Through little rituals, you can also delight children, whether you have kids of your own, or grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or the children of friends who come to visit. It was as a child that I discovered the beauty of candle-lighting ceremonies: on the nights around Yule, my mother would decorate our dresser with miniature trees, old world Christmas elves, and candles—then we would sing Christmas carols as she lit the candles. Holidays provide a chance to be creative with seasonal candles and decorations, and have no doubt introduced many other children to the magic of home rituals. However, you don't have to wait for the holidays to share a ritual moment. You can regularly perform the Candle Rite for Young Families, which begins,
As this candle casts
Other candle lighting occasions that children might attend include dinner graces, the observance of the new and full moons, rites for spiritual blessings, and many other commemorative or celebratory occasions. Rituals provide children with a sense of continuity, and also put your family values in high focus. Ritual is a way of saying, "Look, this is important to us." For example, you may choose to perform the Rite for Labor Day by changing "I" to "we," and saying,
… we honor our own labor,
You are instilling an ethic that dignifies work as a vital expression of the life force and encourages appreciation for the ways other people's work contributes to our well being. With your supervision, older children can also participate by lighting some of the candles themselves. Of course, make sure the children understand that they are only permitted to light candles when supervised by an adult (So that your children won't be tempted to perform rituals on their own, do not leave any candles or matches within their reach).
There is little in this world that we have control over, but we do have it in our power to create memories. Through ritual, you frame a host of memories, and as a "ritualist," you create a niche for yourself in your family and community. Of course, even when you perform solitary rituals, you can help others through rites for Dedicating Candles to Other People, An Appeal to a Hardened Heart, Evoking the Good in Others, and many more. In sending blessings to others, you also benefit yourself, for as the Hausa of Nigeria advise us, "Wish luck to another for the sake of thy own."
Janina Renée is a scholar of folklore, psychology, medical anthropology, the material culture of magic, ritual studies, history, and literature. Her books include Tarot Spells, Tarot Your Everyday Guide (winner ...