The Magic & Poetry of Candle Making: An Interview with Trista Edwards of MARVEL + MOON

I met Trista Edwards through the magical and supportive community of Luna Luna Magazine, where she is an associate editor. I visited her shop, MARVEL + MOON, and was delighted to find that her candle making blends her love of literature with her practice as a witch. Then, when I read that her impulse to collect “tiny elemental memory markers,” such as “a feather from a Victorian-era cemetery, a little darkened soil from W.B. Yeats’s grave, a sprig of mint from a bush outside the Salem Witch House,” combined with her love of the flame to inspire her very special candles, I knew I wanted to know more! I’m delighted to say that she agreed to an email interview, and here it is, followed by one of her lovely poems…

Aromatica Poetica: Please tell us a little bit about your relationship to witchcraft:
how you came to identify as a natural witch, what that means in spirit
and in practice.

Trista Edwards: I have always been attracted to witchcraft since I was a little girl. I think it is because I had a strong interest in collecting little talismans—stones, leaves, buttons, cicada exoskeletons, seashells, etc. I liked that witches could fly and see the world from above. I like that they were feared and could concoct potions and cast spells and alter the world around them, but I think it was the collecting of little objects, mostly ecological, and imbuing them with purpose, meaning, reverence, mystery, and magic that really drove me towards becoming a witch later in life.

I usually say I am a natural witch, or a green witch, although I don’t particularly align myself solely with that branch of the Craft. To me, however, being a natural witch means finding a lot of power in nature and natural objects. I like to work with stones, herbs, flowers, fruit, feathers, and dirt a lot in my rituals, but this is true of a lot of witches who may or may not identify differently.

AP: On to the academic stuff! I too wrote a dissertation, and know how those long hours of writing can drive one to want to do something as far from academia as possible… Did the idea for MARVEL + MOON have roots in your dissertation writing, either practically or
theoretically?

TE: I would definitely say that MARVEL + MOON has some roots grounded in my dissertation in a theoretical sense. I am a poet and my Ph.D. is in Creative Writing. My dissertation [Spectral Evidence] was a collection of poems with a critical component and was very much a personal and academic exploration of sympathetic magic in contemporary poetry—my manuscript is fairly heavily influenced by witchcraft, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California, and the power of talismans and folk magic. After graduating, I came to the realization that a career in academia was not the right path for me and I wanted to explore creating talismanic objects of my own that I could infuse with story and beauty and poetry.

AP: Was there a particular ah-ha moment when it came to what you wanted your candles to be, or has it been a process of trial and error, or both?

TE: I would say a little of both. I had been making candles for personal use for a while but I knew I wanted them to be a little extra special than just the standard scented soy candle for my business. I wanted them to embody historical or mythological or literary feminine figures. I wanted to adorn them with herbs and stones that I saw as a connection to or as an extension of that figure. I wanted them to be charged with the power of the full moon. I wanted them to be an aesthetically beautiful and changing object—as when they burn the swirl of herbs or stones or dried fruit moves and settles each time you light it. I wanted there to be a memory of the candle to take away when it burns to completion and that’s why each candle will always have a stone or crystal atop it. Creating these candles is very much a ritual for me and my hope is that they will become part of other people’s rituals whether that be magickal, creative, self-care, or morning/nighttime routines.

Assyria mermaid candle with Till The Tide book.This is a mermaid inspired candle that started out as a seasonal but became so popular that I'm keeping it as part of the traditional lineup! ASSYRIA is inspired by Atargatis who was a goddess-turned-mermaid who threw herself into a lake after an ill-fated tryst with her lover. A temple was erected in her honor in the city of Ascalon on the Mediterranean and adorned with gold, gemstones, and pampered fish. An altar to Atargatis was placed in the middle of the lake and worshippers had to swim to it in order to leave offerings. This decadent candle is scented with lavender, honey, and olive leaf, and adorned with purple dulse seaweed flakes, gold foil, marigold, and full moon charged blue aventurine quartz. It is pictured here with Till the Tide: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry which is also available for order in the shop!

AP: Now, tell us about these candles! How do you conceptualize them, what goes into them, and, for those of us who have never made a candle, how do you do it?

TE: The ideas for different candles really come from extensive background in poetry and literature and my practices in witchcraft. The main GODDESS line that stays consistent throughout the year is representative of the Triple Goddess and features the maiden (ARTEMIS), mother (SELENE), and crone (HECATE). I choose the herbs, stones, and fragrances based on the story of the goddess and adornments that may be representative or sacred to her. Throughout the year, I will craft limited edition candles that coincide with the season. For example, my most recent seasonal candle, BORN OF FIRE, was a desert sage scented candle adorned with dried cactus, sand, yellow rose petals, and a desert jasper stone. It was inspired by the deep connection I feel with the summer solstices, which is also my birthday, and my annual journey to the desert I try to make every June.

As far as how to make a candle, it definitely requires a lot of patience—a virtue I’ve always struggled with. It requires careful vigilance in measuring the wax and fragrances and monitoring temperatures as the wax melts. There are certain temperatures at which you remove it from the heat, add the fragrance, pour it into the vessel, etc. If anybody out there is looking to experiment with candle making, I recommend checking out Mountain Rose Herbs. They have pretty solid videos and blogs for beginners on their website.

AP: On your website, you mention that you “wanted to transpose this joy of collecting tiny elemental memory markers to your love of the flame.” Tell us about some of these objects and how they inspire you to make candles.

TE: This harks back a little to my first answer. I have always been a collector of little natural mementos and curios. I travel a lot and often I select some little item as a souvenir of a place or particular memory like some sand or a stone or twig or graveyard dirt and pop it in a little vial. Sometimes I think I was some eccentric and independently wealthy 19th century explorer who travelled the globe collecting a variety of oddities for my wunderkabinett in a past life. I really wanted people who buy and experience my candles to have a treasure of their own and so I always carefully pick a stone that will grace the top of each candle.

AP: I’d love you to go into detail about one candle, perhaps Hecate, one of my favorite Greek goddesses! Describe each element and why you chose it.

TE: HECATE is probably my most popular candle. I think people are always surprised by the frankincense and myrrh scent. I think they never really have perhaps smelled it before and are surprised how earthy and soothing it is and they really enjoy it. I think also because people tend to associate frankincense and myrrh with Christmas and the story of Jesus that finding it in a witchy candle can throw some for a loop, but I choose it because A.) It smells AMAZING and B.) They were both traditionally used as funerary herbs and because Hecate is goddess of necromancy, I see this fragrance as being representative of her ability to commune with the dead.

All topical adornments for the GODDESS candles are the same with one variant—that variant being lavender for HECATE. I chose lavender because it is calming, and its scent is a noted sleep aid in terms of aromatherapy. I associate it with slumber and I associate slumber with the dark half of the year, which is when the crone reigns.

All candles possess a piece of white sage for purification and a full moon charged snowflake obsidian stone. Snowflake Obsidian is known as a stone of purity that can bring balance to the mind, body and spirit. It is especially empowering for accepting change and transformation in one’s life as it aids in recognizing unnecessary patterns of negativity.

Personally, I have always been hypnotized by snowflake obsidian. I think it looks like a bunch of little stars in the night sky. It just intuitively felt perfect for MARVEL + MOON.

Marvel + Moon Hecate candle.

 

An Eruption of Flowers

by Trista Edwards

I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. —Proverbs 7:17

Nobody ever told me death smelled of honey

until I saw bees swarming at the mouth

of a she-wolf decaying under a tree.

Think of your body & the power of fragrance

as it expands in the sun like the world’s

first mountain. What would it smell like?

That divinity of rot. Indolic balm

of sweetness you become—

wet moss, fermented jasmine,

beetroot, butter, tobacco, cinnamon.

The scent of dead saints shadows the living,

odour of sanctity, the aroma of sacred space,

in which the body erupts into flowers.

It lingers among the living & anoints

our delicate flesh, marking us

with the oil of morality.

The scent of our living divides worlds.