Divination in some form or other has been practiced in all parts of the world. The desire to know what will happen in future is ingrained in human nature; but divination includes much more that fortune-telling – it is also a way to uncover hidden truth, occult knowledge or find answer to a perplexing question. And one of the forms of divination which has been long used for all these purposes is Ceromancy.
At its simplest, Ceromancy is reading the future from the burning of a candle and its effects. This could include observing the flame, the smoking, the wax drippings and other actions as the candle burns. However some diviners believe that ceromancy is more properly a kind of divination that interprets the future by dropping melted wax into a pan of cold water and then reading the shapes thus formed. According to these experts, divination from observing an actual candle flame should more correctly be termed lychnomamancy. Nonetheless ceromancy, also known as carromancy from Greek carro, meaning 'waxen', and manteia, which signifies 'divination', and its many variations have been a common form of divination for long. According to the basic procedure, a lighted candle is tipped at about a 145 degree angle over a pan of water to allow the wax to drip into the cold water. The water may include certain charms and herbs considered to have magical qualities. As the diviner asks the question and the wax drips into the water, he/she observes them turning into solid shapes and then interprets the meanings according to the question asked during the divination.
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Ceromancy seems to have originated in ancient Celtic times. According to one line of thought, the practice goes back to the period around CE 500, when the candle burned during a druid's vigil was poured into a bowl and then into a clear pool of cold water. The auguries for the future could then be read according to the wax shapes in the bowl of water. However since candle-burning has been a part of religious and magic ritual in almost all cultures, candle-reading could have evolved accordingly. There is an anecdote about the practice from the 16th century according to which the celebrated Venetian courtesan, Veronica Franco, was charged by the inquistion for practicing ceromancy to discover the idenity of a thief in her household.
Ceromancy or candle reading as it is commonly known was practiced in numerous ways and was thus open to various interpretations. According to the more restricted notion of ceromancy, the wax shapes formed in the pan of cold water were believed to foretell the future or provide answers to the question asked by the diviner. Thus if the wax solidified into heart shapes, the person would be lucky in love while if they symbolized clouds, it could mean stormy times were coming. Likewise an anchor meant that a loved one was faithful, bells signified a wedding, birds meant that some kind of news was on its way while wheels meant an imminent journey. Wax drippings could also form in shapes that meant something very personal to the diviner – a totem animal for instance.
According to other kinds of ceromancy, how a candle burned was quite significant in answering the questions of the diviner. A clear, strong flame that burnt steadily was a good sign that the candle was sending out a great deal of power and energy to manifest what the seeker wanted. If the flame was small and more ball shaped than teardrop shaped, it was less likely that the prayer would be answered. A weak or low flame could mean that the person was facing some “heavy” opposition. ceromancy also included divination by looking straight into the heart of the flame – the blue center that is surrounded by the orange halo. A blazing red center in a burning candle, indicated that spirits were getting to the heart of the matter. A red center that was dim or just a pinpoint revealeds a situation that may not be motivated by the heart. If the wick of the candle started building a little bulb at its tip, chances were that there was opposition at work. If there was a lot of blue in the flame, it could be taken that as a sign that angels and spirits were protecting the seeker from a possibly unhappy outcome.
The behavior of the flame in ceromancy could also be used as a clue about the future. Jumping, leaping and steadily rising flames could be an indication that spirits were fighting the obstacles that were in the way. Then again the way the candle smoked as it burnt was also significant in ceromancy. For instance upon first lighting the candle, if the candle started smoking quite heavily right away that was a good sign, implying that negative energy was being removed from the situation. If the smoke was white, it meant that the seeker’s prayers would be answered right away. If it was black, it could mean that there were obstacles in the way. If the candle smoke wafted towards the seeker it meant that his/her prayers would probably be answered. If it wafts away from him/her, then it means that he/she would need a great deal of perseverance in order to realize their wishes. According to some experts on ceromancy, if the smoke blew to the left of the diviner it was an indication that he/she was getting too emotionally involved with the situation. On the other hand if it blew to the right it meant that he/she would need to use their head rather than their emotions to pursue the situation.
In ceromancy the question asked is highly significant in order to get the right interpretation from candle readings. When a candle, that usually lasts about four hours, starts smoking and seems to burn down very rapidly, it means good news if the reading was being performed to supplicate the spirits. This is usually an indication that the supplicant’s prayer or request will probably be answered quite rapidly. If the same behavior takes place when the candle was being burned for protection of some kind, it means that there was more than likely some kind of invasion or attack that the spirits decided to take care of as fast as possible. If a person is burning a love candle and a second flame develops from an ash, then it could indicate a rival in the picture. Also if somebody is burning two candles that are supposed to represent two different individuals, and one of the candles burns away to the bottom much faster than the other, it could mean that that something is awry in the relationship or it is not meant to be.
Finally the way a candle unfolds or deconstructs as it melts can be very significant in ceromancy. If it candle seems to collapse outward or unfold like a flower, it is a good omen meaning that wishes will come true or opportunities open up. However If the flame is buried by the wax as the candle burns out, it may signify that the wish will not be granted.