The Candle That Made Me
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. People all around the world will come together, in gatherings or in private, silent thought, to remember and honour the millions killed in the Holocaust. Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and I am sharing here a very moving and poignant guest post from Siggy – a member of OBOD from Austria – about her experience with Felix, a concentration camp survivor. With thanks to Kate for fine-tuning the translation and for Siggy for her wonderful words and images:
Making candles is a tradition in my family, and I was fascinated by the art as a child. Then, as an adult, I started doing it myself. At first, I made decorative candles for friends or just for me, and it was only years later I realized that candle making can have Druidic power, combining the creativity of the Bard with the healing work of the Ovate.
As an Austrian, a tour guide and a historian, I always felt a very strong connection to WW2. It was a shock to my soul, at the age of 13, to learn about my country’s role in it – and that motivated me to study history. I had visited some former concentration camps, but somehow I could never go to the most infamous one in my own country, Mauthausen. Even the thought of it was like a black, beating heart, but at the same time, it called to me.
One morning, I suddenly felt I could go, but something within me said “not alone”. I was stunned to get a call that very day from a tourist office, asking me to go there with Felix, a holocaust survivor of both Auschwitz and Mauthausen. I agreed.
It was an amazing experience, as though we were walking into the past. I had been so afraid of being overwhelmed by the energy of this place, but I felt completely protected, as if there were a shield around me. I told him, “Officially, I am your guide, but actually you are mine”.
Deep within me I wanted to make a candle for him, and I asked him for the most important date in his life. It was May 5th 1945, the day of his liberation, and I resolved to make it in time for the next anniversary.
When I make a candle, first, I wait for a colour or symbol to appear. Usually, it doesn’t take long, but this time months passed. I even took it to a Samhain ritual, hoping for a sign, but nothing happened. I started to get nervous – perhaps this candle didn’t want to speak to me.
Then, one day in January, I heard Auschwitz mentioned three times on the radio; it was the anniversary of the liberation, and this was the sign. Red and black came to mind. Felix had become a number, so that featured, as well as a swastika, a symbol I never ever thought I would make but I felt the candle wanted it. Fire erupts from it, with blood dripping down, and the letters KZ (the abbreviation for Konzentrationslager – German for concentration camp). Barbed wire symbolizes imprisonment and mortal danger, and the broken candle is for broken lives. Felix’s survival is represented by leaves growing towards liberation and becoming a human, a name, again. I included the Hebrew words for peace and life, and eventually, only one last symbol, two laurels, remained to be added, but I couldn’t do it. Making candles is to listen to the candle itself, and it was a definite “wait”.
I wondered why, then I realized that I had a visit to Poland planned, to Lodz, where Felix was born. I took the candle with me and finished it there, in his home city. In the morning of my last day there, I held it up to the light of the rising sun. It was very, very magical as I connected with the spirit of the land and the sun to ask for blessings and healing for him.
Felix received the candle in time for May 5th. His daughter wrote to tell me he could read the story I had put into it, and that it meant a great deal to him.
Now, I go to Mauthausen to create and light candles, and sometimes I take groups there. I tell them the story of the camp on the bus, and then when they arrive they can go wherever they feel drawn. When we meet again, I give each of them a candle and ask them to light it wherever they feel they want to.
Through Felix, I realized the very place I had feared so greatly was actually the place I had been searching for, and his candle gave me a connection to the spirit of the candle and to what it means to be an Ovate. ~ Siggy
A beautiful and insightful story. Thank you for sharing this and of course to Siggy for gifting this story. My heart feels warmed having read it.
Thanks for you courage and bravery to bring people to the places of great misery. What a toil we humans have placed on the land. When so much beauty exists in nature humans have much to pleasure and share. Thankyou for your healing works.
Feck. My Dad came out of Mathausen………feck…..
Typing the name rips through years of curtains
of curtains drawn to hide the feelings not to be felt
to be felt as tears tumble at our hidden loss, suffering
suffering humility amongst crowds of gay Goys rejoicing
rejoicing at the end of a war shrouding the deep
deep rent in trust and belief of any future
until the next generation came to live in a future
future which still echoes the past
Oy Oy woe is me!!! It hurts so bad!
His silences, his hurt, his hidden pain
his shakey hope and now his grandchildren he never knew.
Thank you for birthing these feelings
weeping the feelings feels healing somehow.
I am deeply moved by this post, on many levels. Not least by Siggy’s beautiful and poignant story but also by some parallels that are running through my own life just now and which had my heart racing with recognition. And why I felt compelled to comment.
May 5th is also the day I have appointed to start an equine pilgrimage from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to the Holy Island of St. Michael’s Mount. I chose this date because it is my mother’s birth day, and 05/05/2015 feels like an auspicious date to me.
By linking these two Holy Islands I hope to recreate a spiritual thread between them, and in the process, possibly reconnect with an ancient pilgrim route. Heading South, I shall also be walking towards the light, towards St Michael’s Mount: St Michael, the Saint associated with Light. I had thought that one way to connect them is to carry a candle.
Early this morning, I began to write a draft for a post on my blog (pilgrimonhorseback.wordpress.com) about light…..then I read this story. Now I am wondering if Siggy might be moved to design a candle for me, a simple one for me to carry on my quest, as somehow, I feel we will not be alone on our journey? A candle to symbolise our spiritual connections with the divine power of healing?
I have read your message,and I just wanted to tell you that I am going to contact you shortly.
Love and light
Thank you for posting this. I think Siggy has done a wonderful thing! I read a small piece by her in Touchstone not so long ago. Her candles are very special, what a skill. A sad day today but we must never forget.
Thank you for this post.
My grandmother lost her entire family at Auschwitz: she had fled to Argentina in 1938 (she was a seer and knew *something* was coming) but her family refused to believe her and stayed behind. I worked with the Simon Wiesenthal centre for a time, and the tales I heard from the survivors of Mauthausen, Belsen, Auschwitz, and so many other camps just broke my heart – I can’t understand how anyone could inflict such ugliness on another.
Stories like this one are so healing… cannot thank you enough for sharing such beauty.
Thank you Winter – yes it is inconceivable how such cruelty could have occurred.
My father, Dr. Pavel Gerdjikov, was recognized like a Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem and has 2 medals for saving persecuted Jews during WW2. He had been hiding 5 persons at his doctor`s consulting room in 1943, Sofia, saved 5 children from the trains, brought people from Thrace and Macedony to Auschwitz, affirmed they were ill, etc. So I am deeply connected with the tragedy of Holocaust – and I was very, very moved by Siggy`s story! It proves unity of people hearts – beyond time and space, beyond differences! All we share the Spirits of the Sun and the Earth! And Love, like Siggy`s Love, is healing the world now!
Thank you for this story Polina! Good to hear, and there must be hundreds, I would hope thousands, of similar stories of individual love and heroism. Last night I learned from my ex-wife that her father was accused of helping a Jewish woman to escape prison. She had managed to live incognito in Issenheim in Alsace until her Jewish origins were discovered. She was put in prison in the Mairie, where my ex-wife’s family lived as caretakers. The next morning the woman was not there. The only person with a key to the cell in the Mairie was Danielle’s dad. He was put in prison for six months – the family sent to different regions of France as a punishment. He was a lovely man – I remember him well. And he never talked about his imprisonment…
Like a real hero! The heroes do what they feel like their personal moral, in spite of circumstances and opinions – but quietly, not for applauses, in the Light space of their hearts. For saving other people my father was put in prison too.