The history of sacred fire reaches across many cultures with customs that still remain today, such as the lighting of the Yule Log and bonfires at Samhain to bring protection over the home and community. The sacred fires at Tara in ancient Ireland were lit every three years using a lens to concentrate the rays of the sun on dried wood, and from this fire all other sacred fires across Ireland were kindled.
Fire was (and still is, for many) believed to be the visible form of divine spirit, and a sacred spirit connection to people by the way in which humankind learned to bring it into being and gain a semblance of mastery over producing it. The need-fire was especially prominent in times of great trouble, with the ritual construction involving 81 married men who took turns in groups of 9 rubbing two enormous planks of wood together until fire came into being to drive away evil spirits, turn luck around, and return health to a sick community. This fire was brought into the homes of all of the people in the community and worked with to heat water that was then sprinkled on the ill.
In Wales it was common to toss a handful of dry earth into the hearth fire and speak your troubles into the the flames in order to avert them. A portion of the Yule log was saved each year until the following Midwinter holiday when it would be burned with the new Yule log, thus carrying over the luck of the fire from the previous year and protecting against evil influences in the new year. Candles were never snuffed out at the dinner table while anyone was still eating, because to do so would portend death.
Fire burning on the hearth brings protection to homes, and this Samhain is a perfect time to enact this charm. Those of us without hearths can accomplish this with a candle on the stovetop. It is one of the simplest protection charms available to us. Though a candle on the stovetop is not the same as burning sacred wood, such as oak or birch, in a hearth fire and releasing the protective energies from the spirit, the essence of these trees can still be incorporated into the modernized charm with the permission of the tree’s spirit by adding ground bark to the candle or even the essential oils of these trees if you are making the candle by hand.
To gain permission, simply ask the tree for it, and if permission is granted take some of the bark or leaves, and leave an offering of honey for the tree at its roots. You will want to grind the bark or leaves into a fine powder to dress your hearth candle with. Either oak or birch make great allies in working with the spirit of fire for protection, banishment of harmful energies or spirits, and maintaining wellbeing in the home. Light the candle on your stove, welcome the spirit of fire and thank it for providing blessing and protection to your home and all who live there.
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