May the blessings of fire be upon you, A blazing torch to light your path, A flaming sword to protect and defend you, The glowing sunlight to shine on you and warm your heart.
– blessing from a Pagan handfasting ceremony
(via The Blessing Files)
If water is the element of flow, and earth is the element of deep stillness, then fire is the element of action…
Fire burns, it consumes, it incinerates, it destroys. But it also warms, illuminates, ignites, and cleanses. Fire is an element of action, the will, passion, sex, anger, desire, energy, work, purification, destruction, strength, protection, change, and rebirth. Fire is the crucible in which we are tested and transformed. Fire isn’t just flame, but the the lava bursting forth from the earth, the magma welling beneath it, the furnace of our sun and all the stars in the sky, and the jagged cut and crackle of lightening across the sky.
(video courtesy of the The Flame Challenge
What we think of as fire is a combination of light and heat that emanates from a combustion reaction where a substance (fuel) is (usually) combined with oxygen and transformed into a new substance. Fire exists as a chain reaction that will continue as long fuel, oxygen and heat remains (sometimes this is called the “fire triangle”, or when it includes the chain reaction, the “fire tetrahedron”). Different fuel types burn at different temperatures and rates, resulting in differences in the amount and color of the smoke, as well as different flame color (from a fire fighting standpoint, it is important to know the different “classes” of fire because it tells you how to put them out).
Fire is an incredibly important force in the universe–the stars themselves are gigantic combustion reactions (though without oxygen) and on earth, life is powered by the sun as the ultimate energy source for cellular processes.
Traditional Correspondences & Magical Associations: Star Signs: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius Direction: West Gender: male Other Correspondences: Wands (tarot), djinn, salamanders, lions, the sun, snakes, lizards, thorn, holly, oak, basil, cinnamon, garlic, amber, bloodstone, carnelian, citrine, garnet, ruby, tiger’s eye, brass, gold, iron, steel, dragons, phoenix, summer, sex, passion Colors: red and orange
The story of Prometheus:
This arrow, they say, is one of the weapons of Hercules, with which he is said to have killed the eagle which ate the liver of Prometheus. It seems not unprofitable to speak of Prometheus at greater length. When the men of old with great ceremony used to carry on the sacrificial rites of the immortal gods, they would burn the victims entire in the flame of the sacrifice. And so, when the poor were prevented from making sacrifices on account of the great expense, Prometheus, who with his wonderful wisdom is thought to have made men, by his pleading is said to have obtained permission from Jove [Zeus] for them to cast only a part of the victim into the fire, and to use the rest for their own food. This practice custom later established. Since he had obtained this permission, not as from a covetous man, but easily, as from a god, Prometheus himself sacrifices two bulls. When he had first placed their entrails on the altar, he put the remaining flesh of the two bulls in one heap, covering it with an oxhide. Whatever bones there were he covered with the other skin and put it down between them, offering Jove [Zeus] the choice of either part for himself. Jupiter, although he didn’t act with divine forethought, nor as a god who ought to foresee everything, was deceived by Prometheus–since we have started to believe the tale!–and thinking each part was a bull, chose the bones for his half. And so after this, in solemn rites and sacrifices, when the flesh of victims has been consumed, they burn with fire the remaining parts which are the gods.
But, to come back to the subject, Jupiter [Zeus], when he realized what had been done, in anger took fire from mortals, lest the favour of Prometheus should seem to have more weight than the power of the gods, and that uncooked flesh should not be useful to men. Prometheus, however, who was accustomed to scheming, planned by his own efforts to bring back the fire that had been taken from men. So, when the others were away, he approached the fire of Jove, and with a small bit of this shut in a fennel-stalk he came joyfully, seeming to fly, not to run, tossing the stalk so that the air shut in with its vapours should not put out the flame in so narrow a space. Up to this time, then, men who bring good news usually come with speed. In the rivalry of the games they also make it a practice for the runners to run, shaking torches after the manner of Prometheus.
In return for this deed, Jupiter, to confer a like favour on men, gave a woman to them, fashioned by Vulcanus [Hephaistos], and endowed with all kinds of gifts by the will of the gods. For this reason she was called Pandora. But Prometheus he bound with an iron chain to a mountain in Scythia named Caucasus for thirty thousand years, as Aeschylus, writer of tragedies, says. Then, too, he sent an eagle to him to eat out his liver which was constantly renewed at night. Some have said that this eagle was born from Typhon and Echidna, other from Terra [Gaia, Earth] and Tartarus, but many point out it was made by the hands of Vulcanus and given life by Jove.
The following reason for the release of Prometheus has been handed down. When Jupiter [Zeus], moved by the beauty of Thetis, sought her in marriage, he couldn’t win the consent of the timid maiden, but none the less kept planning to bring it about. At that time the Parcae [Moirai, Fates] were said to have prophesied what the natural order of events should be. They said that the son of Thetis’ husband, whoever he might be, would be more famous than his father. Prometheus heard this as he kept watch, not from inclination but from necessity, and reported it to Jove. He, fearing that what he had done to his father Saturnus in a similar situation, would happened to him, namely, that he would be robbed of his power, gave up by necessity his desire to wed Thetis, and out of gratitude to Prometheus thanked him and freed him from his chains. But he didn’t go so far as to free him from all binding, since he had sworn to that, but for commemoration bade him bind his finger with the two things, namely, with stone and with iron. Following this practice men have rings fashioned of stone and iron, that they may seem to be appeasing Prometheus. Some also have said that he wore a wreath, as if to claim that he as victor had sinned without punishment. And so men began the practice of wearing wreaths at times of great rejoicing and victory. You may observe this in sports and banquets.
But to come back to the beginning of the inquiry and the death of the eagle. Hercules, when sent by Eurystheus for the apples of the Hesperides, out of ignorance of the way came to Prometheus, who was bound on Mount Caucasus, as we have shown above. When victor, he returned to Prometheus to tell him that that Draco we have mentioned was slain, and to thank him for his kindness since he had pointed out the way. Straightway he gave what honour he could to the one that deserved it, for he killed the eagle and since it was slain, men began, when victims were sacrificed, to offer livers on the altars of the gods to satisfy them in place of the liver of Prometheus.
~ from theoi.com‘s entry on Prometheus
Serving Fire: The biggest thing one can do to serve fire is to know when fire is a good thing versus a bad thing. After that, its a matter of using fire in a safe and responsible way that honors its role in the world around us and our own capabilities and limitations. And we can teach and model those skills and behaviors to our peers and our children. Fire can be fun, but its not a toy, and it should be treated with respect.
We can also honor those deities whose realms are centered around fire–fire isn’t just a flame, it exists in a number of roles in our everyday role. From Hephaestus and modern industry, to Pele and plate tectonics, to Hestia and my stove, to Amaterasu or Ra and solar panels, we are incredibly dependent upon the element of fire as it is expressed on our planet, even in a modern context.
Getting to Know Fire: Don’t get me wrong, poi is cool and all, but I don’t think you need to take it up to get to know fire…though you could if you wanted to!
- Candle meditation
- try some Hot Yoga (thanks V, for the idea!)
- sit in the sun and sunbathe (wear sun screen!)
- Hang out with a bonfire
- Use a stove
- Learn about volcanoes and the interior conditions of the earth and their role in our geology
- Enjoy a sparkler or other fireworks (safely and in accordance with the law)
- Make candles
- Learn about stars (they are, after all, giant fireballs)
- Hang out with a blacksmith
- Learn about the role of fire in your ecosystem
- Make a set of Vesta for lighting ritual candles (check back on Wednesday for our Vesta making!)
- Learn about the role of the sun as a producer of energy for all life