John Michael Greer, the head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn (this meditation is a part of the Ovate grade of that system) refers to fire as the first element. He is speaking of spiritual/elemental fire, but also of its physical analogue.
After all, it is fire in the shape of the sun that allows for life on our planet. Our relative position to the sun allows for the natural water/air cycles that allow for life. The sun fuels the photosynthesis that allows for the symbiotic relationship between plant and animals, which feeds and filters the air around us. When we consume plants and animals, we are fueled by calories, which is essentially a measure of how long it takes a food to burn.
This solar fire is oddly invisible. We don’t usually think of it when we think of fire. We think of flame. We think of the hearth. We think of the forest fires tearing through California at this moment. We rarely stop to think of how that fire is just a manifestation of the elemental fire contained within every object. Do we burn the pile of wood sitting on our hearth? Or do we simply release that potential for fire that it contained all along?
Fire is a creator and it is a destroyer, and with that dual power is contained its most important ability. Fire is a tool of change and transformation. I live on the prairie, and fire has always been an important part of our ecosystem. Early native Americans understood that burning stretches of the prairie fertilized the soil and allowed for fresh, green life, which lured the buffalo. To this day, entire microsystems are contained within water-filled wallows left by the nearly extinct icon of the Great Plains.
Natural fire cycles are important to forests, and we have found that not allowing the normal burn cycle, often ignited by lightning, leads to larger, more devastating fires later, fueled by dead undergrowth that would have normally been consumed. Fire consumes the dead weight, allowing for the surviving life to thrive.
Spiritually, elemental fire relates to our progression as witches, druids, or plain old humans. We know this instinctively, which is why fire plays such an important part of our rituals and worship. We light a candle in honor of our gods and ancestors. We burn offerings and incense, that the smoke might transcend the physical.
My father, a firefighter, used to talk to me about the fire triangle, a law of fire science. Every fire requires fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source. This holds true within my spiritual journey. It require fuel, the books and websites that support my knowledge base. I’ve read so many, and yet, like the fire, I cannot consume enough. As long as their is another book or another thing to learn, I find it. The oxygen is my relationship with the gods, the tingle on my skin as the energy courses through me, either in ritual or in proximity with the natural elements. The ignition source? Well, that is a strange matter of its own.
I still remember the day that I decided to pursue Wicca, and I still don’t know why I was possessed by such an overwhelming drive to learn. Why, when Wicca came up, just a term in passing, did I feel an insatiable drive to learn. Why, when I walked in nature for the first time, awake to its influence, did the crow find me and lead me along the right path. Why did all of that happen right before a full moon, just a couple of days after Beltane, when the energies were so thick in the air that I sweat and shook under their effect?
I don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps the gods do. While I wish I had found them earlier in my life, a part of me thinks I found them as soon as I was able. Perhaps in my next life, I will find them sooner, wiser for having lived this incarnation, sometime after I have been transformed by the fire through cremation. I will return to ash, to the ground, where I will fuel new life. Life. Death. Rebirth. That is the true realm of fire.
The sun descends as solar rays, which are captured by the trees outside my home. Their dead limbs become fuel for my ritual fire. The ashes from my fire are composted and become food for my herb garden, which in turns serves my in magic and in healing. Those remains return once again to the earth, and the cycle continues.
Fire is inspiration, and the harnessing of its power has been the defining accomplishment of humanity. And so, the hearth has its gods, a place of transformation and socialization, the place that reminds us of the human potential.
The fire created by my spiritual journey still has a long burn ahead of it. Like the forest, it consumes the dead undergrowth that once buried me, choking the life from me. I am transformed in the flames. I’m still not sure what the fire will leave behind. I suppose I will have to trust in the gods that sparked the flame in the first place.