In some forms of modern Paganism, including but not limited to Wicca and NeoWicca, practitioners may choose to use something called a god or goddess candle on their altar during magical workings and rituals. The purpose of these candles is a simple one - they represent the deities of the individual's belief system.
A god or goddess candle is sometimes shaped in a humanlike form - these can be found at a number of commercial websites and metaphysical stores, and can even be found poured to look like a specific deity. These candles can be expensive, however, so many practitioners use other options instead.
One method of using a god or goddess candle is to place a plain candle in a jar decorated to represent the deity in question. A great example of this can be found in Hispanic marketas, where glass jar candles are sold with images of saints, Jesus, and Mary upon them. This serves the same purpose as a god candle. "I have a candle in a jar that represents Santa Muerte," says BrujaHa, an El Paso witch whose practice is a blend of NeoWicca and her family's Catholic roots. "Another candle has Jesus on it, and I put these candles out for ritual and offerings."
Another method is to use a plain candle and either inscribe it or paint it with symbols of the deity it represents. For instance, a candle used to represent Athena might have an image of an owl carved into the wax, or a god candle symbolizing Cernunnos could have antlers painted around its sides.
Altheah, a Pagan from eastern Indiana, says, "I use the god and goddess candles not just to symbolize the deities of my path, but also to invite them in. By utilizing the candles, it's my way of letting the god and goddess know that they are welcomed and valued in my sacred space. It seems like a little thing, but to me it's very important."
Garrick follows a Norse Heathen tradition, and says, "In my system, we don't honor a generic god and goddess, but I do have a pair of candles on my altar that represent Odin and Frigga. Each candle is carved with a rune, and they sit in a place of honor on my altar. I keep them there even when ritual and ceremony have concluded, because it's a way of showing how important they are to me."
During ritual, the god and goddess candle are placed on the altar. In many Wiccan traditions, these are set at the north aspect of the altar, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Obviously, you should follow the guidelines of your particular tradition when it comes to altar setup.
Be sure to read about some of the many deities followed by modern Pagans: