Saturday, May 15, 2010

Playing with Fire!

This year, I pledge to play with fire! As a blind person, playing with fire might prove to be a little more dangerous than to a sighted person. When I feel fire, I am close to it. Physically I can’t actually hold it for any time or it will burn me. I don’t know where it is exactly until I touch it.

That having been said, I feel a stubborn determination rise within me, like a fire snaking through my core. I say “Ok, so it’s going to be a wee bit more challenging – but when have I ever let that stop me?”

So here’s the beginning of my personal mythology about fire. Here’s what I’m going to try to do.

A fire for all seasons

Here, I invent my own mythology of the wheel of the year of fire. Like trees and birds, I reach out and take fire, shaping it to my own purpose as it allows me, following it around the wheel, starting at Beltane (of course).

But it’s Beltane now and why haven’t I started? This slowness, twinned with the slow greening of the earth this year is not, I learn with relief, me failing to get round to thinking of my quest (though of course it is true that I haven’t finished the preparation yet!).

A queer pagan colleague commented to me on Beltane Eve, that it didn’t feel like Beltane because the May was not out. The calendar says Beltane but the earth has not finished what she needs to do to prepare for the glory of the greening. AS I stand in the rain or shiver in the cold north wind in my garden, I know, it’s not time yet.

Now I don’t feel so bad about not having got started. The May in my garden is still not out 2weeks after Beltane. Well I can’t wait for ever so need to get down to it.

Beltane is the fire of desire, the fire of the growing summer sun. It’s traditional to jump the Beltane fire to grow those desires. As I begin, it’s also the time to learn to make fires.

Summer Solstice
The sun is at its hottest, lie in it! Create an arch or ring of fire which symbolizes the perfect “o” of the hot sun. Do night ritual from dusk to dawn using candles or even working with a fire all night bridging the darkness between sundown and sunrise. Light a beacon on a hill or make a fire on a beach.

The sun is in the grain, the grain goes to the bread to feed our bodies. Create bread baking fires. Build a hay box or clay oven and make bread. Ceremoniously make bread in my own oven. Visit a bakery where bread is made and learn to make the bread.

Autumn Equinox
The nights draw in. the fire in the woods is warming. That smoky sweetness of autumnal wood fires invites stories around the fire. Find a place where they still do charcoal burning. Work with the ancestral resonance about the charcoal fire in the woods and my father’s line which I only feel but don’t actually know.

Make and work with the fire of the ancestors. Go to bonfires like at Lewis – fires as funeral pyres, fires that burned those that society did not approve of.

Sleep beside the hearth fire on the longest night. Sit beside the fire and tell stories and sing songs to while away the long nights. An evening of stories and song by my humble gas fire!

The forge fire, perhaps visiting a blacksmith's forge. Work with metal and heat – perhaps spend some time with a silversmith? This is the festival of the crown of candles, make one and wear it in ceremony.

The earth begins to warm as the leaves and flowers unfurl and lift their heads to welcome the growing warmth of the sun. Construct a spiral or labyrinth of candles and dance or walk it just before dawn in ceremony.

Fire Craft

I suspect I’m frightened of fire, like I suspect that I’m frightened of passion and the extremes of emotions. In this year where I explore those dangerous places, I shall learn to make fires of different kinds.

Fire takes four magical forms - coal, flame, arc and star. My magical colleague Rash writes about them as follows:

“Ember or Coal – Our basic survival level of energy, we are born with this. It is more sustainable in comparison to the flame, arc or star, but not forever – it must be fed in order to become the flame.

Flame – represents our work, our intentions, food, sex, physical activities, and all things that need to be fed by a strong bed of coals. Flame and ember need each other to keep a steady, strong and sustainable flow.
Arc – the flash of inspiration and powerful insights, the strong energy of creative thought and action. This fire is also connected to the welder’s torch – it can connect two disparate things but cannot create or form the things itself.

Star – ecstasy, spiritual connection, and the ecstatic point reached in intense prayer and/or meditation, great sex, or wild dancing or running. Valuable insights and an extreme sense of connection to the point of feeling consumed by it, but are not sustainable. We cannot remain in star fire for long, but we can feed our human lives with it, raising the level of the basic fires of ember and flame. We can work to bring into our everyday lives, inspiration and creativity. Life force feeds life force.”

What will a year be like exploring these four fires? I sit with the thought and wait for illumination, which I know will surely come.

Fire walks are used in personal development work. They are marks of a rite of passage. We cross the burning coals from one place to another. The thought of doing a fire walk scares me (somehow I think that’s a good thing!!).

Can I really learn to play with fire? There are fire juggling courses. Chucking burning torches about might be a bit risky (ah-ah resist the desire to say, “ok so I’ll do it! ‘cause sometimes knowing what is fool-hardy and not doing it is good!) But I could wave a fire pole around though couldn’t I? So I need to go and ask clowning and fooling friends to help me identify a course.

There are many other ceremonies to do with different kinds of fire. My magical colleague Leaf told me about this one.

“Fire scrying is a method of divination sometimes used by Witches to see events of the past, present and future. The practice can be performed by burning driftwood by the seashore after the sun has set. (It may be performed in other locations as well by burning other types of wood.) After the wood is well burned, and begins to die, place a cedar log, a juniper log, and three good handfuls of sandalwood chips. Let the fire burn well. Then as the fire dies down again gaze deep into the dying embers. In the embers one can see scenes of the past, present and future. Sometimes they are actual scenes, but more often they are symbolic scenes needing interpreting. The fire use in this divinatory method is frequently called the "Fire of Azrael" as described by Dion Fortune in The Sea Priestess.

There is also an incense recipe if fire is not possible. Use equal parts juniper, sandalwood and cedar.”

Now as a blind person, I have an interesting relationship to scrying. Gazing into anything can’t be done for I physically see nothing. Sitting with fire and letting my inner sight free to wander is the way I usually do it. It’s the same for the gazing into a candle flame thang that is often done. I often use the proximity of touch to help me connect with that inner sight and perhaps, I can scry with my ears as the fire snaps and cracks.

My magical colleague Anne-Marie advises that “a great smokeless fire recipe is as follows; iron cauldron of any size (though the bigger it is the more fuel you need) and it is very effective in small form. Fill the bottom with Epsom salts or they may be called mineral salts here. Pour rubbing alcohol or maybe its mineral spirits here until you have a nice thin to thick layer above the salts. This fire burns very blue and lasts a long time.”

She also told me about the Druid Need Fire. “The Druids used a combination of 9 woods for a need fire. On the eve of Beltane the Celts build two large fires, created from the nine sacred woods, in honour of summer. The tribal herds were ritually driven between them, so as to purify and protect them in the upcoming year. The fires celebrate the return of life and fruitfulness to the earth. Celebration included frolicking throughout the countryside, dancing the Maypole, leaping over fires, and "going a maying". It was customary for young lovers to spend the night in the forest.'

The woods are;

And then there are the fire deities. Who are they and what could I do with each of them? Maybe I’ll find one for each festival and connect in that way?


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