Sunday, May 3, 2015

Fear of Fire

by MarcusObal, creative commons license
I am frightened of fire.  I know, this is not a typical Pagan trait, but I really am.  I've never extinguished a candle with my fingers or thrown new logs on the bonfire.  During my turn being fire-tender for a local group, where one must light candles from other candles and not a long and safe lighter, I spent every ritual pretty terrified.

On the other hand, the fire fascinates me.  Sitting and watching the flames dance is one of the easiest ways for me to enter trance.  It has always been inherently magical to me: from the first campfires my grandmother built for me, to the first candle I lit as a beginning Pagan years and years ago, to the Fire of my grove's ritual last weekend - they all have beckoned me, called to me, with a voice strong and terrifying and also alluring.

To be fair, I have a strange relationship to fear.  Nerthus, the Goddess I am devoted to, has always frightened me.  For that matter, all the Gods scare me a certain amount; They are powerful and far above me in a way I don't understand, and this can be very disconcerting.  But for my part, I embrace this fear.  The fire is transformative.  That which enters it never comes out the same.  But it doesn't have to come out as ash: from fire we also receive cooked food and melted metal, two essential pieces to our evolution as a species.  Metaphorically, being burned and changed by the fire is also essential to us as individual people; we all go through tough times, periods of intense change.  It is part of life.  I'm not saying we will always come out of these tough times stronger or better, that's also not how life works.  The certain thing is that you will be different, and it is what you choose to do with that difference is what matters.

In many ways, I think the fear I have is part of the magic.  It is not only its physical attributes that frighten me, but many of its magical aspects as well.  Its alluring pull sets off alarm bells, its ease of taking my conscious mind throws up walls, the transformation it represents makes my mind scream to run away.  I don't want to get burned, physically or metaphorically.  But being transformed is an essential piece of spiritual work, at least for me.  I face my fear, allowing it to break me down, and come out on the other side with a different perspective.

In ADF, the Fire is the one completely essential piece of ritual that must always be present.  It is a portal to the realm of the Gods, a small window through which we send our words and our offerings. It opens onto a different and very foreign world, one full of powerful figures that I can barely begin to learn about, let alone understand.  This very much squares with my experience, why the fire has always affected me so strongly.  It has always been an open door for me.

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