History of Candles: When Were Candles Invented?

It seems at times that we’re further and further away from our ancestors and how they did things. We get so stuck in the modern world, with all its trappings and technology, that even thinking about how simple things used to be can fill you with both nostalgia and existential dread. 

But there’s a certain beauty in being able to hold onto our roots and all the connectedness with the universe that comes with that. 

One of the best ways to do that is to pay more attention to the basics, and candles are a great place to start. Do you know when candles were invented, and how they are made? At Chiji, curiosity about life is our middle name. We wanted to know too, so here’s what we learned, and how you can apply it to your own life. 

The Invention of Candles

Because of the incredibly long and storied history of the candle, it gets incredibly tricky for even professional historians to trace back the roots of candles. They have been one of the most essential parts of how humans have been able to evolve and grow. 

And not just on a physical level, but on a spiritual and emotional one as well. Candles have been used for both lights and for celebrations and ceremonies of all types since they were created. 

The best guess that historians have about when candles were invented is about 5,000 years ago. While some believe that it was the ancient Egyptians that first came up with the concept, it’s likely that the real originator of the candle was the ancient Romans. 

Although these candles were incredibly basic, especially compared to the amazing options we have now, they still had an irreplaceable role in their society. The candles were made simply from rolled papyrus (the original paper) that was dipped over and over again into either melted tallow (fat) or beeswax. 

These candle pioneers used them not only to light up their homes, but also for religious ceremonies of all types, and even to help travelers to make it home safely at night. Pretty ahead of their time, right?

Although our lives were completely changed by the invention of electricity in the early to mid-1800s, candles still continue to fill a specific place in our hearts. Yes, they’ve changed from being something that we need to be able to see in the dark, but what they’ve evolved into is arguably even more powerful. When you use something because you want to and you respect its power, it becomes an even more essential part of who you are at your core. 

Candle Use With Spirituality

While we could go on and on about how candles have been used in practical ways, we wanted to specifically focus on the ways that we use them to further our spirituality. To clarify, when we discuss spirituality, we’re not focusing on one specific belief system. 

There are so many different religions and spirituality systems out there that have made candles a primary part of the way that they practice. No belief is better than another, and we’re not here to judge.

If you think of any culture, society, or religion, you can probably quickly come up with at least one way that they use candles in their spiritual practices. What would Chanukah be without candles? Diwali? Eid al-Fitr? 

Candles are an essential part of celebrating all of these major holidays in different but equally important ways. And really, what would a birthday cake be without the candles? 

There’s something about the way that candles help us to connect in a universal and powerful way. We often focus a lot on the things that make us different from each other but forget that we are all the same at our core. 

Human beings need to feel like they’re part of something bigger (no matter what that means to you). Maybe it’s the history of the candle, and how we can all relate to it, or maybe it’s the element of fire, which has been even more essential to humanity, but the end result is the same. Candles really are universal.

Modern Candle Making

After answering the question “when were candles invented?” and learning more about what early candles looked like, our next deep dive is into what modern candle-making looks like now. While the basic concept is similar, the way that we’ve been able to adapt, change, and modify candles for our modern needs is truly inspiring in its creativity. 

Take what we do here at Chiji. Early candles were made out of things like tallow and beeswax. Tallow, unfortunately, comes from animals and beeswax can be ethically grey, especially for a lot of vegans. 

Our candles are made from no animal products whatsoever, as we use 100% soy wax. That also means that they are considered to be clean-burning, which is a succinct way of saying that they don’t produce soot or release harmful chemicals during the burning process. 

Soy also has a naturally lower melting point than paraffin, the other most commonly used material in modern candle making, which means that it can burn longer, too! Our candles can burn for 48 - 50 hours, which is a lot of time to enjoy their smell and use them in whatever ways you enjoy!

When it comes to the fragrances we use, we wanted to make sure that they were also non-toxic or harmful. After all, if you’re using candles to improve your life and increase your personal view of spirituality, it would be pretty ironic if that ended up hurting your body on a physical level! 

Our fragrances, which include things like honey, cinnamon, violet leaf, and eucalyptus, are all produced by a fragrance house corporation that follows strict testing policies to verify that. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

Every crystal that we use, whether big or small, is one that you can be sure is real, natural, and has been ethically sourced. That’s all very important to us, not just as a brand, but also as humans. When you go on to use those crystals for your own rituals or meditation practices, we want you to know that you can use them without guilt or worry about where they came from.

Using Candles for Personal Growth

One of the most powerful ways that we think candles can be used is to help you on your path to personal growth. Really, at our core, we are all seeking a way to feel more centered and at peace. However, because of the way that society works, we often get distracted by focusing on material things like our jobs, what we drive, where we live, and what we can afford.

Using candles to help you learn more about who you are on the inside is a great way to refocus.

If you haven’t already established a meditation practice of some sort, now is the time to start! Meditation is possibly the best way to learn how to live mindfully, meaning that you can stop worrying about the past and the future and focus solely on the here and now. 

Meditation is called a practice for a reason — it’s not a one-and-done thing! You have to dedicate yourself to sitting quietly and experiencing your feelings without judgment or reaction, which can be difficult and even painful at the beginning. But, if you stick with it, you’ll find that you love, understand, and appreciate yourself in a new and different way than before. 

Candles, especially those with a fragrance that can help calm your mind even further (like lavender), can help you focus even more. It can even get to a point where the scent of that candle and the lighting of a match (or the flick of a lighter) can get you back into the present. 

Set aside at least a few minutes each day in a space you know you won’t be interrupted, focus on your breathing, and learn to be able to see thoughts for what they really are; clouds that pass as soon as they appear. Some may be good, some may be bad, but all of them are temporary. 

In Conclusion

Ancient Romans probably didn’t foresee the amazing ways that we have taken their basic idea from 5,000 years ago and evolved into modern times. Here at Chiji, we like to appreciate the simplicity of how things used to be while adapting them for the lifestyle we live now. Living in the present, no matter what that looks like for you, is a way to be able to honor the past without getting stuck in it. 


History | National Candle Association

Meditation: In Depth | NCCIH (nih.gov)

History of Electricity | IER