Skryclad: Clothed In Visions

Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.

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Fire Focus

 

The primary source of heat in our home is our wood stove, and is an important part of my spiritual practice during the cold months of the year. This winter about half of the wood that we are using comes from our land and the rest has been purchased from someone in our county. The fuel we use is local and from the soil of our bioregion. I have a good sense of how long it took for the trees to grow, and the weather and water that fed their growth.  Relying upon the wood stove focuses my awareness, gratitude, and mindfulness in many ways. We do have a modern heating system as a backup plan, but its biggest purpose is to keep the house warm when we are all away on a trip.

 

Burning wood means I never forget how much fuel is being used for my health and comfort. It is not the same as turning a thermostat and worrying about the bill. I remember and handle every piece I cut, split, stack, and wheelbarrow into the house. I remember the smell of the drying sap, the infinite variety of grains and knots, and the process of learning to identify types of wood by their bark. I have done a form of divination in splitting the wood and reading the grain, knots, insect tracks, and fungus stains many times. As I put each piece of wood into the stove, I truly know its value. The energy to heat our home is not an abstraction. Building and tending a fire for days and sometimes weeks without end has also been used as an extended contemplation on the element of Fire.

 

Using firewood also means that I need to keep connected to the weather. Even if it is covered outdoors, firewood burns more cleanly and efficiently if it has had time to dry indoors. This means choosing the gaps in the worst of the weather to bring in more wood. It is hard to bring in wood when the snow is deep. It takes nine months to a year for fresh cut wood to dry and season enough to burn well so there is planning and work even in the warm months. Guessing how many cords we’ll need for the winter also requires intuition, science, and watching the signs in nature.

 

Periodically, I need to clean out the wood stove as the ash builds up to the point that it interferes with the fire. This process also encourages thought and spiritual practices. The ashes are rich in minerals and help to reduce acidity (our soil is acidic) so I spread the ashes in the vegetable garden and in the forest. This is done as a spiritual offering and with a consideration to which soils would benefit from the ashes. This is done by hand and reinforces my connection to specific plants and places where I live. The leftover ashes and charcoal also have other uses. I have taken chunks of charcoal from the ashes and used them to draw symbols and sigils for ritual work. Hot coals from the bottom of the wood stove have been used to burn frankincense instead of using store bought charcoals. Things have been ritually burnt in the stove many times. The ashes have also been used as an ingredient for some powders and mixtures.

 

There is quite a bit more that I could say about the spiritual art of tending a wood stove and all its associated activities. However, many of you don’t heat with wood, and this post is not an encouragement to do so. What I do suggest is that you look at the things that are a regular part of maintaining your life and home and find ways to make the work mindful and spiritual. Awaken to how those actions affect you and how they relate to the world beyond your immediate concerns. I find that doing so deepens and strengthens my identity as a witch. It also helps me to grumble less often when I must do a task that seemingly never ends. 

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Ivo Domínguez, Jr. is a visionary, and a practitioner of a variety of esoteric disciplines who has been active in Wicca and the Pagan community since 1978. He serves as one of the Elders of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, a Wiccan syncretic tradition that draws inspiration from Astrology, Qabala, the Western Magickal Tradition and the folk religions of Europe. He is the author of Keys to Perception: A Practical Guide to Psychic Development, Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans, Casting Sacred Space: The Core Of All Magickal Work; Spirit Speak: Knowing and Understanding Spirit Guides, Ancestors, Ghosts, Angels, and the Divine; Beneath the Skins with other books in the pipeline as well.
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