Product “Instructions”: Dressing Candles, Skin Safety, Powders

I have been resisting writing this post for a long time, and I’ll tell you why. In part, it’s because there is already so much information easily available out there  that my writing anything is redundant. Furthermore, there are tons of ways to use oils, and my giving “instructions” is akin to my giving instructions on how to wash your hair: seriously, dab the oil on something. Those are the instructions.

The details are up to you, how complicated you get is up to you, what object you rub the oil on is up to you.  (When people ask me for instructions, what they are actually asking for usually is a *spell,* whether they realize that’s what they’re asking for or not. And there are thousands of those, and I unfortunately just can’t give out free spell advice to all queries or I’d be out of business fast.)

But lots of people ask me for instructions, and some get upset with me when I tell them that my oils don’t come with instructions but they can visit my blog for ideas and resources. So here you go: a post on how to use condition oils.

Dressing candles

I personally use a method similar to that outlined in Henri Gamache’s Master Book of Candle Burning. Not all rootworkers do this – there is more than one way to skin a cat. But this is what I do. In this book, which you can get very inexpensively and which is a good investment if you are interested in candle-burning magic, Gamache outlines a theory of “polarity” for candles.

Imagine your candle has a North pole (the top) and a South pole (the bottom). Gamache recommends that candles be dressed by rubbing the oil from the center of the candle to the North pole, and then the center of the candle to the South pole. He writes, “the candle is never rubbed in both directions toward both poles.”

Now, here is where my methods (and the methods of some other rootworkers) change a bit. When I’m dressing a candle with oils for the purposes of drawing some influence, I rub the oil from the North pole (wicked end) to the center, so that I’m rubbing towards my body as I’m holding the candle in my hand. Then, I turn the candle so the wick is facing me, and then I rub from the end with no wick to the center. Since I”ve turned the candle, I’m still rubbing *towards* me. And I’ve gone from top to center and then bottom to center with my dressing.

When I’m dressing a candle to get rid of an influence, I reverse this process, dressing from center to wicked end, then turning the candle, and then dressing from center to non-wicked end.  Since I turn the candle, I’m always rubbing *away* from myself.

When I’m dressing a vigil or glass-encased candle, I go clockwise to draw/attract and counter-clockwise to “banish”/”get rid of”/repel.

Do you have to do it this way? No. There are other theories and other practices. But it’s what I personally do.

Some sites that discuss ways to use condition oils:

Dr. E on how to use condition oils (note that his method of dressing candles is slightly different, but equally valid)

cat yronwode at Lucky Mojo on condition oils

sources for candle-dressing philosophies at the Lucky Mojo forums (see? many ways to skin a cat)

Oils and Skin Safety – a very very very frequently asked question

I make ritual oils, not cosmetics. My products are designed for use on altar implements and talismans and the like, and to anoint objects and candles. They are not labeled or sold as cosmetics and I cannot possibly assure anyone that they won’t be allergic to any of the ingredients.

You see, there are laws about labeling cosmetics and body products and there are issues of skin safety with essential oils, as well. If you buy a condition oil or conjure formula that advertises itself as wearable/for use on skin and it is not labeled in accordance with FDA and INCI guidelines/nomenclature, then depending on how it’s made and how your seller is describing and marketing it, your seller could be headed for trouble for not abiding by the labeling laws designed to protect consumers. 

Yes, lots of people put them on their skin. Yes, it’s quite traditional to do so, and if you have a truly traditional formula, it’s unlikely to cause problems unless you have an allergy to an ingredient, because traditional dressing oils were made with dilution levels for skin safety in mind. (A lot of them were actually derived from perfume formulas to begin with.) But that doesn’t mean you should go buying hoodoo oils and wearing them as personal scents willy-nilly.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but makers of hoodoo oils have mushroomed exponentially over the last 10 years and you cannot swing a cat now without hitting somebody selling Van Van and Hot Foot. Hoodoo has gotten really trendy. But a lot of these people learned hoodoo from books and many never saw or smelled an old-school, traditional hoodoo formula made before, say, 2000 (and in some cases, they never saw or smelled one period before they started making their own).

These folks will have no idea what the old-school formulas that tended to be made at skin-safe strengths by default even smelled like. And if they bring a penchant for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab into this with them, or for Bath and Body Works, you could be getting absolutely anything when you get that bottle. No way in hell would I slather some random oil with no ingredients list from somebody who is an unknown quantity on my body. How do I know if they even know what bergaptene is? How do I know if they made this oil formula with the usual ingredients or if they’ve innovated, and so how do I even know how to check for skin safety? Uh-uh.

This is why my candles and bath/body products that contain no artificial fragrances often do not have as strong a scent as mass-produced, widely-available products that use fragrance oils – not all essential oils are safe for you to use in the quantity I’d have to put in there in order for it to smell like an artificially fragranced item would smell. Others are safe but not affordable in that quantity, or would interfere with a candle’s ability to burn properly/safely, for example.

So don’t expect your conjure stuff to smell like perfume necessarily – if it’s made only with essential oils, it probably won’t smell like anything from Bath and Body Works. That richly scented stuff almost always uses at least some fragrance or cosmetic oils, if only to make the scent last or to make the candle “throw” the scent.

But seriously, even if you are getting oils from somebody you know is making them traditionally and who has been around a while, you still shouldn’t think of them as perfumes. You anoint with them selectively rather than spritzing them all over. And you should always do a skin test for any new bottle even if you’ve used the formula before, because like wine vintages, every “crop” of essential oils can be slightly different.

I don’t care *who* makes it. Basically, if it’s not labeled/tested as a body product, use your head before using it on your body. And please do not fall prey to the myth that “synthetics are bad for you and natural things are good for you.” That is way oversimplified. Essential oils can poison you, and you can be allergic to them. Herbs and oils are powerful and must be respected. “Natural” does not mean “hypoallergenic.” “Natural” does not mean “harmless.” Arsenic and botulinum toxin are “natural” too.

So now that I made you wade through all that, you still want to wear the dang condition oils, yeah? I’d advise you to do some research on body-safe dilution levels for essential oils. Most “make your own herbal shampoo” type sites will give rough guidelines, though they will always vary depending on the actual oils in question and your own skin sensitivity. But they’ll give you some valuable info to use going forward. Some scents you could practically bathe in and others you need to be much more careful with. It’s smart to know which are which. And you should always do a skin patch allergy test (as you would before using a hair coloring product) because new allergies can develop.

As many conjure oils contain ingredients that can cause photosensitivity, you should never slather them on skin that will be in direct sunlight. Traditional conjure oils are not used this way, anyway; they are used for anointing, not as cologne or aftershave. Anointing means, for instance, that lightly-oiled hands are applied to the crown of the head for Crown of Success anointing, or on the forehead for Consecration, or on the temples for Memory Drops, stuff like that. In other words, they are applied in small amounts to ritually significant parts of the body, by getting the oil on the hands and then using the hands to apply/anoint, in ritual settings. They are not poured onto the skin.

You definitely don’t need to use gloves to use my oils (though I would not want to leave my hands unwashed for long if I were using hot foot or hexing oils; otherwise, just keep them away from eyes, mouth, etc). I use my own hands to make all my products, and to dress my clients’ candles and amulets with, and I’ve been doing so nearly daily for many years, so I don’t make my oils with anything known to be toxic when used as directed. I just don’t make them to be cosmetics or, God forfend, personal lubricants (and I have to say so, officially, because you would not BELIEVE some of the things people do sometimes – putting hoodoo oils on body parts where the skin is *way* too sensitive – which can land you in the emergency room with a really embarrassing problem — or putting powders into people’s food and stuff, just stuff that doesn’t make any sense). I have to try to head that stuff off at the pass and make it really clear.

A good (though very general and not hard-and-fast) rule of thumb is that if it smells of citrus, you should probably keep skin dressed with it out of direct sunlight. If it smells strongly of cinnamon or spice, you should probably keep it away from sensitive areas/mucous membranes and be extra careful about the skin patch test. If it smells minty, keep it away from your mouth and your children. Cinnamon essential oil can cause chemical burns, so use on skin with extra care. Wintergreen essential oil has beneficial and therapeutic uses when used in appropriate amounts by a trained qualified practitioner, but it’s not impossible to hit toxic levels of wintergreen when you’re talking about absorption through the skin, especially if you are also using over-the-counter remedies for things like arthritis, muscle aches, and the like.

Will wearing Red Fast Luck oil on your skin burn the piss out of you, or kill you if you’ve used Icy Hot the same day? Maybe not, but why take the risk, especially if you don’t know your condition oil manufacturer to be a person who designs it specifically for dermal application? Once you start adding various sources of dermal absorption, esp. in the form of products not designed for medicinal or therapeutic dermal use, it’s pretty hard to measure the amount you’re absorbing. (For a taste of how complicated it can be to measure dermal oil absorption, have a look at this discussion which starts generally and moves on to discuss eucalyptus, pennyroyal, and wintergreen in particular).

Icy Hot was made in a lab according to standards of safety for dermal use; Fast Luck oil was not. And chances are good that your hoodoo oil supplier, like  me, is not an aromatherapist or medical herbalist. They make condition oils, not medicines. Now if you’ve got one you trust and you wear their oils, great! Good for you. I just want to encourage people to be cautious because some folks don’t actually know what they’re doing when it comes to oils and skin safety, and some aren’t aware that there are laws about this stuff that they’re breaking due to the way they advertise their products.

Powders

My powders are made to draw sigils or symbols on your altar, to sprinkle around target areas for folks to walk in, to add a pinch to shoes, pockets, carpets, etc, or to add to a mojo bag or spell jar. It is traditional to call your target’s name, and/or murmur your petition or pray, as you deploy them. 

They will not hurt you if you put them on your skin, but they aren’t cosmetics, aren’t made in accordance with cosmetic industry guidelines for ingredients or labeling, are not talcum-based, and will be grittier/coarser than talcum-based powders.  They have actual powdered herbs in them, and if you think about it for a second you will realize that actual powdered herbs don’t make good cosmetics.

So if you are expecting a powder that is as finely ground as a cosmetic and that will make your skin really smooth, you will be disappointed with my powders. Some people do make talcum-based powders, which are quite traditional; it’s my non-talcum powders that are actually the less traditional version, but I have health reasons for not using them or making them.  For the traditional formulas that actual need a mineral component for various reasons, I use something besides talcum to meet this traditional requirement (often cosmetic-grade mica powder, which can be had in various colors these days and thus serve double duty as a coloring agent).

Hoodoo condition oils are never meant to be consumed, and while few people would think to eat them, they often don’t think quite enough about what they do with conjure products. Hoodoo powders are generally not designed for putting in food or drink – use powdered herbs for this, not conjure powder formulas designed for sprinkling, dusting, blowing, or drawing designs. And if you want your lover to put his or her mouth somewhere, use products that are designed for that sort of thing.  You can pray over them and add things to them, and that’s more likely to end up being fun and not involve a hospital visit than is risking using a condition oil as a personal lubricant.

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