Candles in Your Meditation Space

Candles are a traditional symbol in most meditation spaces, and many spiritual practices and beliefs. This light is often seen as illumination for those seeking spiritual comfort. Candles also bring warmth to a meditation space with subtle light and a peaceful aroma.

candles-ChristianIn Christianity the tradition of using candles on the altar dates back centuries ago to the Byzantine times. Beeswax candles are considered essential for the Catholic church and are required during mass and other important rituals.

In Taoism beliefs, the central lamp represents the Tao while placing two candles, to the left and right can represent the Yin and Yang respectively.  (Wikipedia).

In Buddhism, a candle is always offered with the eight offerings each day on a traditional altar: water to wash with, water to drink, flowers, incense, light, perfume, food and music. It is also a part of a traditional meditation practice by focusing on the flame – believed to bring peace and quiet to the mind.

There are many different types of candles, tall, short, tapers, and of course the small tea light, or votives used for the traditional luminaries (see below to learn more) and Catholic prayer candles. Today there are also some useful and beautiful candles created using technology such as electric plugin, solar powered, rechargeable and regular battery operated. You can even get a rechargeable solar plugin and other combinations to recharge a candle. Read more below under “Rechargeable”.


You can create your own candles, such as a Tibetan tradition that uses yak butter and cotton wicks to create what is called ‘butter lamps’. These lamps are still offered in Buddhist temples and prayer rooms today. They are most often poured into beautiful, reusable candle holders made of brass and sometimes gold. Each lamp is handcrafted and carry meaningful symbols that enhance the offering on the altar.

Traditional Tibetan Buddhist butter lamps.
Traditional Tibetan Buddhist butter lamps offered on the altar with prayers for others.

There are many websites giving instructions on how to create  candles with melted and colored wax. The wax is then poured into molds. String is cut for wicks bought by the yard and suspended in the melted wax until it hardens. These materials, plus books with instructions, are available from hobby or crafts stores, such as  Michaels or Hobby Lobby.


In Catholic Churches it’s not uncommon to find a table of small votive candles ready to be lite and placed on the altar. During ceremonies these candles are also traditionally used for weddings, christenings and other important celebrations such as Christmas Eve mass.

Most religions use these kinds of candle offerings on altars. In almost all traditions we share the same understanding of candles signifying light. And in many practices light is a representation of enlightenment, or spiritual awakening.  This is considered an extraordinary way of understanding as apposed to the ordinary way of seeing it as physical illumination.

Any mass-produced candles like these are for sale in stores such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, or import stores such as Pier One and World Market.


Luminaries are created by unfolding a brown paper bag (like those used for lunches), placing sand in the bottom to weight it down.  You then drop a small tea light onto the sand and light it (preferably) with a long wand lighter made to use in a fireplace.

Small battery tea lights are available from Ebay or Amazon to use for luminaries. They are very affordable, and most often come  by the dozen.  Battery powered tea lights remove the fire hazard, and  using water proof bags makes them protected from rain or weather. These are so inexpensive and easy use them to line walkways or driveways at night during celebrations and to welcome visitors.

Luminaries - candles in brown paper bag

Use these types of luminaries  outside a window, if you have a garden, giving you a peaceful view at night .  Some use them inside placing them in strategic places that give a handsome glow to the room.  Some battery operated candles have a sensor that switches them on automatically when it gets dark, like a night light. Try cutting star and moon patterns in the bag for an extra artistic touch.


As mentioned above,  some candles are sold with rechargeable batteries which are recharged by ambient light. These do not have to be outside because they also recharged by electrics lights indoors. There is also a second type of rechargeable candle that has to be plugged in to recharge, providing light around 24 hours. These candles are a great choice because they remove the risk of fire, and the cost of constantly purchasing new candles after they burn down.

Purchase a set of rechargeable candles online and in your local hobby store.  See below for a link to learn more about these suggested candles. Each day when opening your altar  you can replace the candle on the altar with a new, fully recharged candle. Don’t turn off the old candle until the new one is turned on.  That keeps the ‘flame’ illumination on your altar unbroken. Once your offering is done,  you can plug the old candle in for recharging.  Since they last up to 30 hours, when opening your altar every, the light on your altar will never go out.  An indication for many of constant illumination in their prayer room.

Where To Purchase

You can purchase these rechargeable candles on Amazon or eBay. They last longer and are more efficient than most traditional candles rechargeable candles. They come in a set of six including a remote control. Watch the video below to see how realistic the flickering flame is on this rechargeable candle.  The picture below the video shows  the remote control and how it’s configured. In the video the flicker-speed is set to the slowest setting.

rechargeable candles for your altarThis image shows the remote control that allowssetsq the ‘flicker’ from fast to slow. Used in the crystal candle holder above looks just like a real candle. Super easy to use, and while the cost is a little high (today $19 for six), the cost you pay for traditional candles over the years is way higher.  These candles were tested and found to perform perfectly.

You can buy these at other stores online if you don’t prefer Amazon, but they are hard to find in places like Walmart, or Hobby Lobby.  Better to shop online unless you want to do a lot of driving.

You can also read about candles in Meditation Room Altars – Part One andLight and Your Meditation Space.

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