Okay, so I’m in the middle of one of my infamous multi-part series, this time on my new found hobby of making really wretched candles. And wasting wax. And wicks. And time and energy. It’s called a hobby.
Anyway, last time I explained how I had come to have a trio of “curse reversing” candles. I’d gotten them mostly as a joke…but, heck, they were also inexpensive, seemed like they would burn nicely, and were cool and spooky looking. They were container candles…that is, they came in tall glass jars…and they had red wax on the bottom and black wax on the top. Oh, and there were all sorts of mystic looking signs and symbols printed on the glass.
Okay, nothing to do with my curse reversin' candles, but I thought it looked cool. Feel free to envision the face of whoever you dislike in the place of the doll's.
The idea is that you burn the things and, should you be under the malevolent influence of a curse or the evil eye or whatever, the curse slowly burns away with the wax. Better still, whoever it is that hexed you is supposed to get hexed in turn.
I’d gotten three of them, one for me, one for my wife Martha, and one for all of us. I figured in an age of Covid and political insecurity and idiots everywhere, we could use a little de-hexing.
Also last time, I mentioned how I didn’t think they really worked. I mean, I don’t know who might have really cursed America or you or Martha or me, but I was hoping that if somebody had…well, that something dramatic would happen to sort of show that the hexer had become the hex-ee. Say, one day, at a press conference, in full camera view, Vladimir Putin would be mysteriously assaulted (and a peppered) by giant mutant killer gerbils from UFOs with chain saws, soy sauce, and large appetites. You know, something subtle but with a certain definitiveness. So you could be sure you’d really and truly zapped the right warlock.
But, it didn’t happen. And, almost as bad from my perspective, the candles didn’t burn very well. The wicks kept drowning in their own melted wax. I think the candles themselves were “under wicked” (you’ll recall I mentioned that before). And, maybe, they were made out of some sort of very soft, very meltable wax that turned into a liquid more quickly than it could burn.
I’ve since found out that there are all sorts of waxes that you can use to make candles. There’s paraffin wax, for instance, that’s made out of oil. Then, there’s beeswax, and there’s soy wax, and there’s palm oil wax…and on and on.
Each of these waxes has different characteristics, and each has it own devoted partisans who will use nothing else in their candles. Most recently, I’ve settled on paraffin wax, but mostly that’s just because its easy to get (I can buy it in the home canning section of my local HEB grocery store), and because it is relatively cheap. Though, I’m given to understand that this is not the best paraffin I could be using, and there are much higher grades of the stuff. So, I suppose, in time, when I have a moment, I may go up market a bit. But that’s for another day. A day when I feel strong.
I like paraffin candles. Would that the bath and house and view came with 'em.
However, all paraffin waxes have some drawbacks, not least of which is that they aren’t exactly green. Paraffin is, after all, a petroleum product, and I have, on occasion, had people regard my candles (which I have, also on occasion, given as gifts) with all the affection you might bring to a 50 gallon drum of toxic waste delivered to your door, nicely wrapped with a bow, and with a cherry on top. Not…er…environmentally correct, you see. And so on. And no problem. Next time I give them a present, I’ll skip the candle and send them a nice chocolate pie, instead. I’m using Minny’s recipe. You know? The one from The Help?
Seriously, there are other waxes that aren’t, well, quite so closely associated with oil drums, Halliburton, and the Exxon Valdez. There’s beeswax, for instance. I’ve got a personal connection beeswax, btw. My daughter-in-law, with the able assistance of my then two-year-old granddaughter, made us some quite lovely beeswax candles last Christmas. That was what, in some ways, actually inspired me to do some candle-making myself.
Beeswax has some significant advantages, I gather, for candle making. Beeswax candles cast a lovely light, have a nice smell, last a long time, and are, indeed, 100% natural. It is, after all, made by bees. On the other hand, beeswax is much more expensive than paraffin (one site on the web I recently visited noted that beeswax runs about ten times the price of paraffin).
Also, liquid beeswax is really hot. It melts at around 145 degrees F. That’s relatively low in the greater scheme of things, but it is hotter than, say, paraffin. Which means you can burn yourself with it a little easier than you might like. In fact, here’s a thought to ruin your evening. There is a thing called “wax play.” Do not use beeswax if you should decide to do it. And, more importantly, do not ask me how I know that.
Beeswax makes a very cool candle...but very hot wax.
(Actually, truth be told, I’ve never done anything as kinky as wax play. In fact, I’ve never done much that could be considered kinky. We’re talking vanilla pudding here. But I thought it sounded cool. And I saw an article on it on Wikipedia. So, you know…)
The other “green wax” is Soy Wax, made from, obviously, soy beans. I gather it is the up-and-comer at the moment. All good home candle makers are using it, or are thinking about doing so. Its advantages are that it is environmentally friendly, relatively inexpensive and has a somewhat lower melting point (about 120 F). In fact, while I don’t know this for a fact, I’ve heard it said that you can even melt soy wax in a paper cup in your microwave oven. But, as always, don’t take my word for that. (Here’s my source on the topic: “Make Soy Candles with the Microwave,” Candlescience, https://www.candlescience.com/learning/make-soy-candles-with-the-microwave)
Soy wax...another green wax, even when its white, and in a black container.
So, maybe, someday, I’ll turn to soy wax…except, well, I kind of like the look and hardness of paraffin. And, also, you can still run across soy haters now and then. I’ve met folks who say it isn’t green at all since soy cultivation is a commercial form of agriculture and does tend to crowd out other crops. Plus, now and then you see virgin forests uprooted to make way for soy plants.
A wax with an even greater problem in that regard is “palm wax,” which is made from the same thing that palm oil is made, i.e., palms, obviously. It was originally sold as a green wax and apparently is an excellent candle wax. The problem? Palm oil plantations are very big business, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Columbia and so on. That means they spread fast and lots and lots of natural environments get plowed under to make room for them. As a result, at least some candle makers and candle product suppliers are avoiding palm wax if they can. (The Problem with Palm Wax, https://www.candlescience.com/learning/the-problem-with-palm-wax)
And there are a bunch of other waxes, including those waxes made from still other organic sources (including animal fats), and from other forms of petroleum. There are also mixes of different kinds of wax, which sometimes results in hybrid waxes with curious behaviors.
Which is why I suspect that the wax from the curse reversing candles was some weird admixture of soy or palm wax plus …well, who knows what? Something even softer and meltier. Maybe coconut wax. Or tallow. Or, heck, for all I know, Preparation H.
Whatever it was, the stuff was astonishingly soft. Later on, when I was attempting to re-use the unburned candles, I found that if I extracted the wax from the glass containers, and left it in the Texas summer sun for an hour or so, I could mold it by hand, like modeling clay. I was able to make a serviceable candle just by pressing it into a glass container around a wick. Which was, honestly, kind of amazing.
But, I realize that I’m getting ahead of myself. Here I am telling you about wax when I haven’t explained how I ended up making candles in the first place…
Well, you see, you’ll recall I had these curse reversing candles, and then they didn’t burn well, so I ended up with a lot of unburned black and red wax (I think the black was actually dark blue. At least when it mixed with the red wax it turned purple. Sort of a give-away.)
Then, last February, we had a major ice storm here in Texas and the power went out for several days…
And we kept warm with blankets and coats, and we cooked with a gas oven, and for light we used flashlights and…candles…
And when the ice melted I looked at the used candles we had and I said…
I’m profound that way.
But that’s for next time.
Onward and Upward.
A quick aside, I mentioned “wax play.” Here are my sources on it. First, there’s good old Wikipedia, where all knowledge dwells: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wax_play. Also, as I was looking for data, I ran across this article on the Cosmopolitan magazine site: “Everything You Need to Know About Wax Play,” by By Carina Hsieh and Isabel Calkins, Cosmopolitan, Dec 22, 2020, https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a29462392/how-to-wax-play/
Though, I gotta stress, I know nothing about this from first hand experience. I don’t really enjoy pain in sex. In fact, I don’t enjoy pain in much of anything. Period. I’m a wimp. And proud of it.
I know you’re not supposed to like Woody Allen any more, but …what’s the line? Some people say “no pain, no gain. I say, no pain…no pain.”