“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?”
– Luke 12:49
Since time immemorial, fire has been used in rituals with the understanding that the material fire represents and even transforms to its etheric or “spiritual” counterpart through the consciousness of the participants in the ritual. In the first full moon of Taurus, which falls right around the first of May, the ancient Celts and other northern European peoples celebrated what is known as “Beltane”. The name of this festival means “Bel’s fire” and is named after the god, Bel, or Belinus. This deity is also equated with the Phoenician and Canaanite god, Baal, which was a Sun god (some equate him with the “dark side” of the Sun). The ancient Celts recognized Bel as one of the principle aspects of the Sun, along with Lugh and Maponus.
During this time the life that had been anticipated with the feast of Imbolc back in February had come to full bloom. This was the time of fertility and mating, as well as the time of war and sacrifice. Beltane was the high holy day of the “season of sacrifice” in which burnt offerings were made to the deity in order to ensure the prosperity of the herds, the crops, and the tribes. There were times when the sacrifice would have been a human sacrifice when the unfortunate chosen would have been burned alive as an offering. While this may seem barbarous to our modern sensibilities, (and rightfully so) it should be understood that the Celts were well known for having almost no sense of fear or severity when it came to death. Of course, it was not always adults who would have been sacrificed depending on the tribe or civilization (rituals around this time took place in most agrarian societies across Europe and the Middle East).
This season of fire and sacrifice is imprinted in the collective psyche of humanity and is quite often seen played out in the various acts of war and violence that appear to “coincidentally” happen during this time. Most recently we had the city of Baltimore (Baal –timore?) set on fire at the beginning of the season. Whether or not some of these burnings were set by provocateurs or if it was indeed an organic expression of violent rage, hooliganism, etc. I cannot say for certain. But rituals can be made to manifest on grand stages when the consciousness of a people is ripe (people will only do what it is in them to do, but they can be “guided” and aided).
It is interesting that the Baltimore riot of 1861 happened on April 19th of that year. This conflict produced the first deaths by hostile action of the American Civil War as anti-war Democrats and Confederate sympathizers clashed with members of the Massachusetts militia who were on route to Washington D.C. to aid Lincoln’s efforts to “restore” the republic. With Obama having been touted as “the new Lincoln” by major media publications and the escalation of racial tensions in this country (remember the Civil War was all about slavery, right?), the synchronicity with this is somewhat curious, even if turns out to be merely synchro-mysticism (not intentionally steered by conscious human will).
When the moon was full a couple of weeks ago, I honored this important time of the year with a Fire Ceremony that was given to me by a teacher of mine many years ago. While the ceremony itself is technically Northwest American Indian in origin, when you study the foundation of these different archaic rituals you begin to see that they all work with the same basic principles. There are typically two different types of fire ceremonies performed- a transformational one, which is done on the full moon, and purification one, which is done on the new moon.
The ceremony is begun by establishing a circle using water or cornmeal that will create a sacred space in which the ritual can be performed by the individual practitioner or group. At that point, the ceremony leader calls in the directions; that is east, south, west, and north as well as sky and Earth. This includes any spiritual entities and guardians that the practitioner wishes to ask for support and guidance. Be sure to release these spirits of the directions when concluding the ceremony. When this is done a chant is used to call upon the spirit of the waters beneath the Earth:
“O Great Mother, Mother of the Waters
We call on you, waters of our birth
Waters of our sustenance
Waters that cleanse us on our death
Waters of life.”
Olive oil and an essential sweet oil are used as offerings from the Earth to “Spirit” during the taming of the fire. The fire is stoked and “tamed” before the practitioner moves forward with the purification/transformation aspect. The understanding of when the fire is “tamed”, that is, ready to be worked with, is an intuitive and spiritually guided one that is different for everyone. When you and the fire are ready, you come forth with the aspects of you wish to be purified/transformed (typically some sort of internal character defect- see Universal Step 4), or of something you wish to have brought into your life. You can also do both, but you want to be sure to keep it simple.
These things should be contemplated and decided upon before beginning the ceremony. You should also create or find an object to represent these things you are wishing to let go of, or bring into your life. This object will be given to the fire as an offering or “sacrifice”. I used a St. Brigit’s cross I constructed at Imbolc and tied the pieces of paper that had what I wished to let go of and bring in written on them to it. It should be noted that there are two rules when setting your intention for a fire ceremony- it cannot involve personal material gain, and it cannot manipulate another person’s will.
Upon putting the object with my intentions into the fire, I placed my hands briefly into the fire and drew the energy of the fire first into my belly energy center (hara or lower tan tien- see Mind, Heart and Will posting), then to my heart, and finally third eye. It is said that if you come before the fire with a pure heart, you will not get burned. The basic principle here is that through the “sacrifice” that feeds the fire, purification and or transformation will take place. This is something to remember as we continue to discuss the nature of fire in a deep sense.
To some, this whole thing may seem like primitive “hocus-pocus”, but there is a deep reason behind the use of fire in these sorts of ceremonies over the millennia. To illustrate this I have two passages from the Gnostic Gospel of Philip. The first is a passage entitled “Through Water and Fire”:
“Through water and fire this wide realm is purified, and visible cleaned by the visible, and hidden by the hidden, but there are elements concealed in the visible. There is water within water and fire in the oil of chrism.”
The second passage is entitled “Kinds of Fire”:
“Soul and spirit came into being from water and fire. From water and fire and light came the attendant in the bridal chamber. Fire is chrism. Light is fire. I am not referring to flame, which has no form, but to another kind of fire, whose appearance is white, which is luminous and beautiful and gives beauty.”
First you may note the relationship described between water and fire, and both being agents of purification. You may recall that at the beginning of the Fire Ceremony I said a prayer invoking the “Great Mother of the Waters” and that water is equated with soul in the above passage from the Gospel of Philip. Water and soul have long been understood to possess a strongly feminine quality due to its “receptive” nature (water forms and moves around whatever object submerges into it). It is the “Great Mother of the Waters” that was known to the ancients as the primordial ocean that all life came from.
The first passage also speaks of “water within water”, which is referring to the spiritual and energetic blueprint and quality of an element that lies beyond its physical manifestation- beyond what we can see and perceive with the five senses. This would be the pure “essence” of a thing.
Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River where the Holy Spirit, also long recognized as an aspect of the Divine Feminine, descended upon him and anointed him as a “Christ” or “Anointed One”. In both passages we see the word “chrism” used in relationship to fire. Chrism is anointing or “blessing” oil. One who is anointed is “blessed” in the highest possible sense of the word.
Fire is related to spirit and has an active or “male” quality (it penetrates through what it comes in contact with). However, the fire of the spirit, while “male” in quality, seems to stem, at least in part, from the complex Divine Feminine principal as well. Remember that both sexes in humans have the chromosomes of the opposite sex present within them as well: as above so below, as below so above- i.e. the same principle concept applies to the world of energy and spirit.
Modern alchemical scholar John Opsopaus states how the ancient Greek Mystery traditions speak of a “sacred and generative fire in the bowels of a living Earth” (taken from “The Secret Fire” by J.P. Carstens). Opsopaus elaborates on this fire of Earth in the following passage:
“Like the ancient shamans, the alchemists connect the Earth to the Sun, descent to ascent… For alchemists, the fire that comes from the centre of the Earth is also the key to the process of transformation and transmutation.”
First, I feel the need to point out the mention of a connection between Earth and the Sun, known universally as feminine and masculine beings respectively. In the tradition I was initiated in describes the Christ as the “personality” of the Sun, and that the being of Christ Jesus (man perfected by the spirit of the Sun, which is an extension of the spirit of Light) envelops the Earth as Her “Over-soul”.
But more importantly for this particular discussion is this fire of transformation and transmutation that comes from the center of the Earth. Where have we heard this idea of “fire in the bowels” of Earth? Holy brimstone and damnation! We’re talking about “Hell”! This fearsome concept of hell and hellfire was arguably a deliberate obfuscation of the deeper mysteries of the spiritual fire of Earth, which eventually became a hereditary dogma of Christianity. Wrapped in a cloak of fear, the masses would have been conditioned to see this as something “bad” and therefore not investigate the true meaning of it and certainly not attempt to understand it.
The purification, transmutation and transformation that takes place through this fire is not necessarily a gentle or pleasant process. It can cause us to feel suffering and even torment- especially when we do not understand it or try and resist it. We think of a “baptism by fire” or “trial by fire” and associated phrases as being a rough process of initiation, but one that essentially forces radical change or growth.
This is a process that is always at work and continues on as we transition out of physical existence into the “afterlife”. The fire is always there when we need to be transformed and transmuted- whether we like it or not. It forges us like the physical fire forms the blade of a sword. We are not tortured in “hell’, we are purged and purified. We are brought to our basic element, as is what happens when anything is burned. Like the forest fire that occurs to clear out old growth to make way for new life to emerge.
Spiritual fire, like material fire, is neither “good” nor “bad”, it simply “is”. In our finite view of things, we tend to view anything that causes us pain of any kind as bad and we inherently want to avoid it. We as modern humans wish to be “comfortable” at all costs. The greater the pain, the more it is something to be avoided. But pain is not bad; pain is necessary.
In the physical body, pain tells us that something is wrong; that something is unbalanced and needs to be corrected. Illness often causes pain and suffering (or at the very least, discomfort). However this pain and suffering that we feel is actually the body’s immune system attempting expel the virus, parasite, etc. So in reality, it is not the virus that causes us discomfort, it is the immune system expelling it for our own good that sucks. This same principle applies to our mental, emotional, and spiritual “bodies” as well. Fire is the element that purges us of all forms of dis-ease, and does so quite well if we let it, just as our body’s immune system needs our cooperation to function properly.
However, like material fire, this spiritual fire is something that should be understood when working with it, and should not to be taken frivolously or “played with”. Again, it is not good or bad, it is a neutral force that has the power to purify, purge, transform, and transmute whatever it consumes. Looking at the Baltimore riots and events like the fire bombings of World War II, we see that fire has a presence in transforming society and world events in manners that may not be for the better, per se, but the fire purged and transformed nonetheless, as that is what it does.
Fire will always act as fire does, which is why George Washington likened it to government as “a dangerous servant and a fearful master”. This is not to say that we should fear the fire, but rather, it is our duty to understand it as with any of the Laws of Nature and Creation. If we choose not to understand it or attempt to ignore it, we will inevitably suffer and potentially be at the mercy of those who do understand the nature of fire. While fire will act independently as an agent of Karma- the Law of Cause and Effect; but it can also be used as a tool, as is done in the Fire Ceremony. We can use the fire of spirit to transform our lives and ourselves but we should be sure to do so with a pure heart so we do not get burned. Namaste and God Bless.