Dancing With Fire

In this series of photographs I believe I can see a dancing fairy.

Fire Fairies / Fire Elementals – Mythical Creatures Guide<!–

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As well as the many house fairies that live in the hearth or behind the stove, there are spirits that represent the fire itself. In Northern European countries, they were called drakes, salamanders or dragons. They are said smell like rotten eggs and their presence is usually only betrayed by the stench, though they are sometimes glimpsed as a flaming ball. They only take on the character of fire when they fly, when they look like streaks of flame or fiery balls with long tails. Otherwise they look like small boys with red caps and coats. They are house fairies who move into a house and keep the firewood dry and bring gifts of gold and grain to the master of the house. The bond is between the male head of the house and the male drake, and is a serious pact, often written in blood. The drake takes care of the house, barn and stables, making sure that the pantry and money chest are well stocked. They can travel the world in a split second and bring their masters a present back from far away places. In return, the master keeps the drake fed and treated with respect. Should the drake be insulted, the house will not be there long. If you see a drake on its travels, take shelter, for they leave behind a poisonous sulfurous fug. If you quickly shout “half and half” or throw a knife at the creature, then the drake may drop some of its booty in your lap. If two people together see a drake, they should cross their legs in silence, take the fourth wheel off the wagon and take shelter. The drake will then be compelled to leave them some of his haul.

The spirit of the hearth fire is often thought of as female and was once widely worshiped as a goddess. In Greek myth she was Hestia. Her name, according to Plato, means ‘the essence of things’; a formless essence symbolized by the flame, which flows through everything that has life. As the domestic hearth is the sacred center of the home, the hearth of the gods is the center of the cosmos. She presided over all hearth and altar fires, and she was worshiped every day with prayers offered to her before and after meals. Her hearth was in the care of the woman of the home and before each meal something was thrown on the fire as an offering.
In Celtic lore, the spirit of the hearth is Brighid. She was invited into the home by the woman of the house, in the form of a doll or corn dolly dressed in maiden white. Oracles were taken from the ashes of the hearth fire, which people examined for a sign that Brighid had visited, i.e. a mark that looked like a swan’s footprint; if found, it was a lucky omen (the swan was an ancient attribute of the goddess Brighid). Many Irish homes still have a Brighid’s cross hung up. This four equal-armed cross was originally a solar symbol.
There are many other fire spirits. The Arabian Djinn, for example, are composed of fire without smoke, with fire in their veins instead of blood. Will o’ the wisps are bog fairies that appear as curious lights, usually seen flickering in the distance over swamps and marshes. They jump and dance along with the aim of leading travelers astray. Perhaps the most common name is Jack-a-lantern or Jack O’Lantern. In Wales the will o’ the wisp it is called ellylldan meaning ‘fire fairy’. It can be seen dancing about on marshy ground, into which it may lead a hapless traveler. When the will o’ the wisp appears at sea it is generally called St Elmo’s Fire, and is seen on ship’s masts and accompanied by a crackling sound.

There is a connection between trades that use fire and magic. The magical reputation of the smith persisted in Europe into the nineteenth century and is still extant in India and Africa. In Britain, it was believed that smiths were blood charmers [healers] and could foretell the future. Even the water the smith used to cool metal had magical properties and was much sought after for healing purposes. A smithy-forged nail, hammered into a tree, was thought to transfer the illness to the tree. Smiths also possessed the secret of the Horseman’s Word which, when whispered into the ear of the wildest horse, would calm it. People swore oaths by the smith’s anvil and in some places, he had the authority to marry couples, as at the famous Gretna Green in Scotland. In fairy stories smiths often protect people and animals against malignant fairies, evil spirits, witchcraft, and the evil eye.

THE POWERS OF FIRE

Fire is the most mysterious of all the elements. It seems almost supernatural in comparison to earth, air or water. The spirits of fire are concerned with creativity, life energy and the spirit. Fire generates illumination within, the light of the spirit. Fire gives us the power of energy, igniting action, animation and movement. It sparks courage and acts of bravery. It heats passion and enthusiasm. Fire is the power of inner sight and creative vision, directing it and controlling it to make it manifest in the world, the dominion of Will. It is the glow of the candle flame, the warmth of the hearth, the burning heat of the desert, the incandescence of the sun. However, fire transforms what it consumes, a power which may either purify or destroy. Fire is wild and untameable, dangerous; it can burn those around it. This is true of the fire spirits too. They are intense, impatient of human ignorance; they can be intolerant of our failings, and capable of infernos of rage and intemperance.

Rituals connected with fire spirits are necessarily concerned with placating the spirits, availing ourselves of their gifts while averting disaster. A friend of mine invented a divination system she called Ken Sticks. Ken is a rune connected with illumination and fire. She used nine matches, invoking the powers of Ken into each as the match was struck and flared, then blown out. The matches were then thrown onto a cloth and the resulting rune shapes read. Shortly after inventing this method, she taught it at a workshop to nine people. Thus there were nine times nine invocations of Ken- fire. After the workshop we stayed at a hotel which caught fire twice in the same night. Other workshop attendees also experienced unexplained outbreaks of fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but be warned!
Fire is an agent of transformation- the food in the cauldron is changed as it cooks, raw ores and metals are altered into useful objects on the blacksmith’s forge, and it transforms the materials it consumes into ashes. Fairies and other spirits were attracted by these fires and circled round them, and sometimes had to be placated so that they would not cause trouble and steal the feast. Fire spirits are agents of purification. Cattle were driven over the ashes of the Beltane and Samhain fires to purify them, and flaming torches were carried around the crops at Midsummer to protect them.

Fire symbolizes the life force. It was associated with the fertility of the land, and the ashes of the sacred fires were scattered on the land, to transfer the vigor of the fire spirits into the earth. It was also connected with the fertility of humans. Young men would leap through the festival fires to increase their virility, and young women jumped to become fertile. Fire magic is concerned with action and will. Fire corresponds to energy, power, passion, vitality.

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