When I first went to Enchantments, a little storefront in the East Village, I didn’t know what I needed, exactly—just something to help with crazy job stress, I guess. I was with my friend Steve, and no sooner had we crossed East Ninth Street and made our way to the store’s front steps than we were stopped dead in our tracks: Right in front of us, on the sidewalk, was a dead baby bird—fallen, apparently, out of its nest in the awning above our heads.
Steve and I gave each other a knowing look: This weird omen was totally appropriate, given the nature of the establishment we were about to enter. Enchantments calls itself “New York City’s oldest occult store” and sells a wide variety of witchcraft supplies: herbs, oils, incense and, especially, custom hand-carved candles.
Inside, it’s kind of everything you’d want a witchcraft store to be—as close to the Magic Box as you’re gonna get outside of a hellmouth (although I am SURE there’s a hellmouth under New York City) (if you thought I was going to write about magick without at least one Buffy reference, you were wrong). There’s a white cat and a black cat (whose names I always forget, and I don’t want to ask anymore because I don’t want to offend the cats) and a floor-to-ceiling wall lined with apothecary jars that contain the stuff you’d expect—not, like, eye of newt, but close: lady’s mantle, mugwort, bladderwrack.
At the very back of the store, there’s a little counter where you can get a custom-carved candle, and THAT is what makes this place important to me.
I only vaguely knew about candle magick before this visit, but desperate times call for interesting measures. I had been feeling angry and a little bit stuck, and I needed some help freeing myself from the dual grip of negativity and helplessness. I needed to refocus my energy in a positive direction, and performing some kind of ritual seemed like it might help.
I wasn’t a total skeptic, though. I have always had a thing for Wicca and witchy ways. Call it a pointed interest. I read historical fiction about witches and time travel (is time-travel occult or just nerdy?). I appreciate the solstice, I have gratitude for the Goddess, and I take it very seriously when I smudge a space by ceremonially burning sage. Sometimes I have vaguely psychic feelings. One very late, drunken night, I was out with a friend I have known for 25 years—a friend not prone to hyperbole or goofiness—and she stopped in the middle of a story to tell me very somberly that she knew I was a witch and that I cast powerful spells on people. I don’t think any of that is true, but what if it is? Putting some of that energy toward my own sanity couldn’t hurt. Therefore, Enchantments. Candle carving.
There are usually two women stationed at the candle counter. You go up and ask one of them for help—I say go with whoever feels right to you. (I have a favorite; her name is Cat. The moment I met her, I felt at ease and trusted her guidance.) You tell your candle person what you want to achieve, and she’ll suggest a fortuitous color (every color represents something different). You tell her your name, your astrological sign, and, depending on your goal, any other pertinent info that she may require. Then you can either leave the store and pick your finished candle up later, or stay and watch.
For me, staying and watching is key. The person helping you carves your name, the glyph that represents your astrological sign, and other magickal symbols into the surface of your candle, and then rubs various oils and glitters into the carvings, making them stand out and look so amazing that you won’t want to burn the finished product. They give you a little honey to taste, then put the rest of it, along with some incense and iron filings, into a glass jar. The finished candle is plopped in on top of everything and, for $30, is yours to take home and set on fire.
Each candle can burn for seven days, and I like to burn mine straight through. (Safety note: I keep mine in a stainless-steel sink surrounded by a granite counter, far away from anything flammable. Be smart about fire, you guys!) As you light the wick, you are supposed to focus intently on your goal. I like to say mine out loud; there’s power in declaring what you want or need—whether it’s love or luck or money or happiness—and I think doing so as you literally ignite something is a good way to spark the process of getting it. (If you’re not burning yours for a straight week, you’re supposed to refocus on that thing every time you relight it.)
While I can’t promise you that your life will change as soon as the week is over, I know that I always feel tons better after each one of these rituals. And everything I’ve lit a candle for has, for whatever reason, turned out pretty much how I’d hoped.
I was so deep into the candle sitch for a while that I took a class offered by Enchantments to learn how to carve my own. It met for two hours and 15 minutes on a Saturday morning, and it was a trip, in so many ways. There were about six people there, all with wildly different desires. There were the usual suspects, of course: one girl was looking for love, and this weird old dude said he wanted to find money. But there was also a young guy who was intensely into LARPing, and his girlfriend didn’t understand his obsession. So he wanted to carve a candle to make her understand. I mean, ask and ye shall receive. You can make a candle for anything.
A couple years ago, my then-boyfriend and I drove him and his stuff across the country to move them into my apartment in New York City. When we opened the door to my tiny one-bedroom, the first thing I did was sage the space. The second was light, together, the candle I had specially made for this occasion. The fact that he didn’t even bat an eyelash about any of this—that he actually took it as seriously as I did—probably accounts for some of the reason he is now my husband. When my sister moved to a new state, I took her to Enchantments for a candle first. I got a candle for my new job, a candle for my wedding, and a candle right before we moved to California, so we could light it the second we arrived at our new house.
Here’s something sad: I haven’t gotten another candle since then. We live in Berkeley, where I am SURE there are like 987 occult stores, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to find my new spot. I can’t let go of my old one! But lately, I’ve been thinking on a few things that I need a little extra help with, and even though I worry that a candle carved by anyone but Cat couldn’t possibly be as special…I really believe in the power of the candles! And as beautiful as these things are to look at, I know that believing is where the real magic is. ♦
Enchantments is at 424 E. 9th St. in Manhattan. They ship worldwide.