Blogging Ellul - Soul Candles

One of the traditional customs of Ellul is to visit the graves of loved ones and pay our respects. One woman at our Rosh Chodesh group suggested last night this might be because we need to look back and honour/correct the past before we can move forward, and I thought this was a beautiful idea for Ellul. For me it is also about honouring the memory of those who have gone, through the good that we do. One of the greatest compliments paid to me after my dads funeral was from Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand who hadn't known him but came to support me. She said she recognised in the words and memories shared about dad that I was the continuation of so much that was good about him. Thus during Ellul when we visit graves, we can assess how much our behaviour reflects that which honours those who helped make us who we are. It's also a comforting reminder that they continue to be present in our lives through the good we do. Superstitions also exist about souls acting as intercessors for us during this period, but that doesn't do much for me.
A few years ago I stumbled across the custom of Soul Candles, which I have explored with various groups ever since, gathering to make candles, remember souls dear to our hearts, and honour a women's custom from the Shtetls of Eastern Europe. I won't go into too much detail here because the source of the information is always much more powerful, and I found out about Soul Candles from Janet Enkin here. This beautiful custom is easy to set up for yourself. When I do it I use beeswax as rolling candles is much easier than making melted wax etc. Even children can do it. I source wax and wick here. And some ideas on how to are here. But for me, the most important part of this ritual is the remembering. Sharing our memories, hopes and prayers with the candle (as Bella Chagall's mother seemed to), and more important, with fellow candle makers.

We used this as one of our creative and learning elements at our Rosh Chodesh meeting last night (hence the slightly wonky creations above) as well as exploring the reasons behind placing stones on graves (and making them more personal by painting them).
However you choose to remember this Ellul, may your memories be for a blessing, and encourage you to be the living embodiment of all that was good in your loved ones life.


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