Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Where the Fire Lives

In 1543, Henry the Eighth extinguished the Holy Fire which had burned at the sanctuary of Brigid at Kildare since before anyone could remember.

(The eternal flame is an ancient tradition among Indo-European peoples. In some Zoroastrian temples in Iran, the same fires, lovingly tended by their communities down the centuries, have burned continuously for more than 1200 years.)

In 1993, the Brigidine Sisters of Kildare relit Brigid's Fire. Since then, it has burned continuously and spread all over the world.

(No, I'm not rushing the season. Bear with me, dear reader.)

A friend newly-returned from Ireland had brought some of the Fire back.

Or so he was telling me.

“How does that work?” I asked. Open flames and air travel just don't, I would imagine, mix.

“The flame lives in the wick,” he explained.

So. You light your candle from the nuns' fire. Then you blow it out. When you relight the candle, it's the same flame.

Well. From one perspective, this is nothing but a convenient fiction. A relit fire is not, by definition, the same fire.

And yet. And yet.

What, after all, is Fire? We tend to think of it as a thing—a noun—but to do so actually falsifies the reality of the situation. Fire is not a thing; Fire is an act of combustion. If anything, Fire is a verb. Wrap your head around that.

Is Fire one? Is Fire many? Well, yes. Yes, it is.

The same convenient “lives in the wick” fiction obtains at Yule. On the morning of Midwinter's Day, as per immemorial tradition, I carefully retrieve the unburned end of the previous night's Yule Log, extinguishing it—if necessary—with wine. (That's traditional too. Think of it as a libation. Besides, the morning after Midwinter's Eve, there's usually an unfinished bottle floating around somewhere.)

Then I wrap it in an old piece of silk and store it away in a safe, dry place. There, through the year, it wards off lightning-strike. (For what it's worth, we've lived here for more than 30 years, and never once been struck by lightning.)

(I should mention here that the ashes from the Yule Fire, of course, will go into the garden. And the plants will grow, will grow.)

The next year, on Midwinter's Eve, I bring out the charred stub. From this, the new Yule Log will be kindled.

And so it goes from year to year.

Is the Yule Fire one? Is the Yule Fire many?

Well, yes. Yes, it is.

The flame, you see, lives in the burn.




Last modified on
Tagged in: fire gods Yule log
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


Additional information