A Bit of Candle History 🕯

Have you ever strolled past The Wandering Bee shop, lit a delightfully scented candle or smiled at the quirky names of one of our best selling scents and thought “wow I really want to learn more about the history of this wonderful jar of joy”? Well we’ve got you covered, let’s time travel together and find out the origins of a candle.

While candles of today's times are used for adding a sparkle of joy to our homes their history is far more functional. For over 5000 years candles or torches have been used to light homes, guide travellers in the dark and for religious purposes. Many of these traditional uses still exist today, with candles being lit in churches, homes and even to signify advent. One of the earliest recorded wicked candles dates back to 3000 BC in Ancient Egypt, where people used rushlights to guide their way in the dark. The Ancient Egyptians used a reed with a pithy and soft inside. These reeds were dipped in tallow (animal fat) to slow down the rate at which it burnt. Although the Ancient Egyptians are credited with the first wicked candle, people all over the world were experimenting with their own way of making candles, rushlights and torches. In Rome papyrus was being used extensively for writing, but people soon realised the plant could offer more than just paper. Throughout Ancient Rome, communities were dipping papyrus repeatedly in tallow and later found that beeswax was a much better substitute, creating the modern version of the candle that we would recognise today. Despite this, candles were considered a luxury across Rome and many people still burnt olive oil to provide their primary source of light. In China rice paper was dipped in a mixture of insects and seeds, Japan used wax made from tree nuts and India made their candles from boiling the fruit of a cinnamon tree, a far more pleasant scent than tallow.

A huge milestone in the history of candles was the fall of the Roman Empire, during this time the production of olive oil dropped significantly meaning candles were no longer on the back burner and they soon became an essential in homes. As a result of this, candle making became a monetary craft and the skilled candle makers travelled from home to home making candles from animal fat found in people's kitchens. The process produced a foul smell, while burning the tallow was even worse. This led to the use of beeswax, a much sweeter scented candle but far too expensive to sell to the masses, few people besides royalty and the extremely wealthy could afford such extravagant items.

By the end of the 18th century a new kind of wax had been discovered, spermaceti, made from crystalising whale sperm. It was similar to beeswax as it had a clean, neutral burn, however the major difference being, that it was much cheaper to produce. It was a harder wax than beeswax and tallow and offered a much brighter light so it became a popular way of lighting houses across Europe. Another advance in the production of wax came in 1850 when scientists found a way of separating wax from petroleum and refining it to produce paraffin wax. This was the cheapest way of making wax, it burnt clean and was a byproduct of an already existing oil. The excitement of this development was short-lived due to the invention of the lightbulb in 1879.

Candles were still used in their traditional ways until the boom of the 1980s when it became popular and stylish to have them as decorative pieces in your home and to offer as gifts. They were now available in different scents, shapes and sizes. Since then a lot of work has gone into

finding more sustainable and healthy ways to burn our beloved candles. In 1990 scientists started to develop soybean wax from local farmers in America and the delight of soy candles soon took off in England. After the discovery of soy wax there have been many studies that have proven soy wax to be a much safer alternative to paraffin wax. Soy wax is 100% non toxic, a vegetarian based wax to provide a longer and cleaner burn and it's much easier to clean if you spill a little.

Candles are no longer a source of light but rather a source of comfort and relaxation. They ignite romance, celebrations and cosiness. The ancient methods of candle making are combined with contemporary, delicious and uplifting scents and are created here at The Wandering Bee. From Ancient Egypt to Adies Alley.

Author: Beth Keeble

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