The four classical elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth are foundational to the Western Mystery Tradition and its many offshoots. Even if that’s not your path, the elements remain a useful way to relate to life at a high level. Following last week’s meditation on Air, today I invite you to join me in contemplating the element of Fire.
A Hymn of Orpheus
O Ever untam’d Fire, who reign’st on high
In Jove’s dominions ruler of the sky;
The glorious sun with dazzling lustre bright,
And moon and stars from thee derive their light;
All taming pow’r, ætherial shining fire,
Whose vivid blasts the heat of life inspire:
The world’s best element, light-bearing pow’r,
With starry radiance shining, splendid flow’r,
O hear my suppliant pray’r, and may thy flame
Be ever innocent, serene, and tame.
Fire is the element of the South, of noon, and of Summer. In the Tarot, Fire is represented by Wands, the tool of passion, spirit, inspiration, and energy.
Fire can cook our food and it can burn our houses. Fire can provide light in the dark and warmth in the Winter and it can fill the air with greenhouse gasses. Fire can purify our souls and it can consume our bodies. No wonder Orpheus’ Hymn to Fire ends with a plea for it to be “innocent, serene, and tame.”
At Beltane we pass between the fires for protection. When an athlete is on a winning streak, we say she’s on fire. People who are committed to a cause have fire in the belly. Shamans and poets have fire in the head.
At the same time, we’re warned about moths being drawn to flames, and we’re told that if we play with fire we’re going to get burned.
Fire is desire. Fire is danger.
Victor Anderson said “anything worthwhile is dangerous.” Author, teacher, and Feri initiate Thorn Coyle added “but not everything dangerous is worthwhile.” I’ve never been attracted to danger. I’ve done some things that carry some risk – rock climbing, rappelling, and caving come quickly to mind – but I did them because I wanted the experience of doing them and the sense of accomplishment they brought, not because they were exciting. I am most definitely not an adrenaline junkie.
I remember the first time I went rappelling. A friend who was experienced and had the necessary equipment showed me how to hook up a brake rack, which would allow me to descend slowly and deliberately. He said “there are two ways to hook this up: the right way and the dead way.”
That I remember his words so clearly after 25 years should tell you all you need to know about the impression they made on me.
The Fire of desire made me want the experience of climbing a rock face, of rapidly descending the cliff, and of exploring the depths of the Earth. I respected the Fire of danger and so my experiences were safe. And they were amazing!
We honor the Fire of desire by saying yes. We honor the Fire of desire by pursuing love even though we may be hurt, by pursuing knowledge even though we may lose our comfortable ignorance, by pursuing the Gods even though we may be thought foolish by those of other religions.
We honor the Fire of danger by being mindful. We honor the Fire of danger by educating ourselves on how to do things properly, by training ourselves to avoid unnecessary risks, and by learning to differentiate between wise fear and unreasonable fear.
Fire is desire. Fire is danger.
What do you desire? How can you honor the Fire of desire? How can you respect the Fire of danger?
Anything worthwhile is dangerous.
May the blessings of the element of Fire be with you and your Great Work!