In honor of my free discussion on The Elemental Wisdom of Fire on September 15th, I thought I’d write a wee bit about the Element of Fire and how it speaks to me.
The Element of Water is where I feel most at home. I love to drink water with lemon. I delight in baths when I have a tub big enough to take on in. As a child, I couldn’t get enough of swimming in pools, lakes, or the ocean. As you may have read here before, or heard me talk about on FBLive, I am drawn to cetaceans, especially the big, baleen whales.
I have always been a “water baby.”
That said, the Mysteries of the Fire have never been far behind. There are ways in which I appreciate all the Elements. I wouldn’t be a decent priestess if I didn’t. And Fire certainly has its own appeal.
The Mysteries of ordeal and its rituals. The Mysteries of the drum and dance. The Mysteries of divine possession. The Mysteries of light and shadow.
I could spend a year on each Element, teaching classes and offering experiences; four years of delight!
But on the 15th we have not even one hour.
Fire is recognized as sacred. It is sometimes correlated with what makes humans human—see the story of Prometheus and his story of stealing fire, or see the story of Coyote with Its tail afire, both bringing fire so that people could have its benefits.
And fire keeps most other animals at bay in the wild. And so its warmth is also associated with protection. Burning, warming. Shadow-casting, protecting. Fire is indeed a mystery.
Still, we can approach the fire that is most clearly and friendly to most of us (besides the fire of electricity that lights and warms homes, and the fire that runs many of our ovens). We will approach the candle flame. The fire that is associated with gentle prayers and holy spaces. That can be dangerous if not respected, but when treated respectfully, reminds people of many faiths of the Holy, of the Divine as they understand It.
It is no accident that candles are associated with religion the world over.
Fire, even as it offers protection and warmth, casts shadows. The human condition is one of light and shadow. In a way, the lit candle shows us who we are and who we might become. And the smoke of a snuffed candle is beautiful in its own way, as well.
One of my favorite Roman Catholic rituals is called Tenebrae, in Latin, “shadows.” We have the English word, “tenebrous,” from there—but who knows that word anyway?
Candles are central to Tenebrae, a service performed during Holy Week, the days leading up to Easter. Tenebrae is usually, though not always, performed on Good Friday, the day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth by the Romans.
During a Tenebrae service, seven candles are lit at the front of the church, usually on the altar itself. Seven readings are read from the different Gospels of the New Testament, each related to the end of Jesus’ life. At the end of each reading, one candle is put out. There is less light. The shadows cast by the seven, then, six, and so on, move differently each time. The congregation leaves in darkness and silence.
As with any of the Elements, Fire’s absence can be as important as its presence.
And so fire is useful as a divination tool. Staring into the flames of a bonfire and letting your mind wander and open is familiar to many of us.
And letting our minds wander and open while watching a flame, especially in an otherwise dark place, is an ancient form of divination. Divination, that is to say, inner wisdom or divine guidance, is as old a form of spiritual practice as we know. Cards, stones, flocks of birds, the guts of animal sacrifices, pieces of wood—and flames—have all been used in divination, or “augury,” another word for reading signs.
And so staring at a single candle flame can work just as staring into a campfire, bonfire, or hearthfire. The flame is there. The shadows are there. And if our minds are at rest and open, we can receive what the Fire has to unlock.
And so on the 15th, at 8:15 EDT/5:15 PDT we will talk about what the Fire has to unlock for you. We will engage a contemplative exercise, we will talk, and share as we are willing. Most of all, we will have a taste of what Fire has to say to each of us.
If you’re interested in The Elemental Wisdom of Fire, my free virtual conversation, please head on over here and sign up. You’re welcome to sign up for the free class—there’s no obligation to you at all—even if you’re not sure you can come. Just know that it will not be recorded.
I’d be delighted to see you on the 15th and have more discussion about what the Wisdom of Fire holds for each of us!