The argizaiola is one of the most singular items in Basque folk religion. The ones of this kind consist of a board around which a roll of wax is wound. The board has eight rods acting as legs, so that it can be stood on either side. It can thus be turned over as the candle burns down. Earlier examples had no legs. This one is undecorated.
The idea of offering light to the dead is common to many cultures. However, what makes the argizaiola unusual, apart from its shape and appearance, is that each household had its own. Typically, the woman of the house would light the argizaiola and place it on the family tomb in the local church. This custom persisted even after it ceased to be common practise to bury the dead in the church. Today, the custom of lighting argizaiolas is only maintained in the parish of Amezketa (Gipuzkoa), especially on All Saints' Day.
The one in the picture is from the nineteenth century and comes from Zestoa (Gipuzkoa). It is from the F. Díaz Peral collection. The collections of the Provincial Government and San Telmo Museum contain up to 178 specimens, dating from the sixteenth century to the late twentieth century.
Inventory number: GFA-011448-001
Peña Santiago, Luis Pedro. La "argizaiola" vasca: creencias, ritos y costumbres relacionados con la misma. San Sebastián: Auñamendi, 1964. 197
Peña Santiago, Luis Pedro. La “argizaiola” en Guipúzcoa: su fabricación. Anuario de Eusko-Folklore, 1966-67. 67-70.
Garmendia Larrañaga, Juan. Argizaigin zaar baten oroigarri = En recuerdo a un viejo cerero. In: Euskal esku-langintza = Artesanía vasca. Donostia = San Sebastián : Auñamendi, 1970. II, 8-23