page title icon The Flame by any other name… Happy Bride’s Day


Do you Keep a fire in your home?

In some cultures, a ‘sacred fire’ is kept going in the home 24 hours a day. In other cultures, such as our own, keeping a fire ‘in’ for the night has practical as well as spiritual purpose. It is of course, possible to have both at the same time; anyone who has lived with a fire as a source for heat and cooking will have experienced the reverence of that first morning cup of tea by the freshly replenished woodstove!

I invariably keep a fire when i’m camping with groups… In my opinion, It’s THE focal point for connection par excellence.  In fact, the words ‘connecting’ and ‘sacred’ may not be as far apart as we think.

Last night, i took a trip through Scotland and heard Margaret Bennett speak of the Gael having a blessing for everything they did… each simple act in the daily dance of living had it’s own reverential prayer. The implications of a culture that displays gratitude for the sacredness in each moment of daily life is still sinking in. Even now, it’s aiding the renewal of my resolve to ‘begin with gratitude’; in both my daily and working rhythms. It makes me wonder whether the life of the Gael was like the life of the many indigenous ‘tribes’ we see on the television or read in our history books. Reverence. Reverence. Reverence.

Ask a circle of young people what they are grateful for, allow them the time to really listen and see how the mood of the group perceptually changes. It’s like inviting a guest who was in the corner of the room to sit at the table and drink tea. It was there all along but once the name was spoken; everybody can see it. I like to think it’s the same with Fire. We appreciate it, we express our thanks. In the act, we savour it’s flavour; like the swirling of a glass of amber around in the mouth before swallowing.

As a mentor, outdoor teacher, whatever you choose to call someone assuming responsibility for being outside with folk!  There is some responsibility for ‘creating the ideal scene’. That said, it seems to me that invoking gratitude or ‘calling in the name’ of the fire, somehow enhances the experience of the fire; allowing others permission to appreciate.  There is a saying: ‘Who feels it knows it’ and I have observed that when I speak and really feel it; so others feel it too.  I have also observed my reaction when i hear others stand fully behind their words; like Margaret last night.  It’s a reciprocal thing, there is a resonance and power in words when the speaker is standing fully in them.  What then, if gratitude was a fully embodied thing? What impact does this have on the formative mind?  What impact does it have on the group mind?  What impact does it have on our own mind? Reverence. Reverence. Reverence.

In a few days time, we celebrate one of the quarter days of the Celtic Year, as our ancestors did before us. The presiding deity is St Ffraid, our Goddess of Fire, of wisdom and eloquence, of the hearth, of smithcraft, of poetry, of the sword AND of healing.  Ireland’s ‘Mary of the Gael’. She is called upon to represent both the time of year and of these aspects in the psyche. The embodiment of the secret Flame who according to one’s own culture; has her unique name.

Here’s a beaut of a blessing from where i now live, for when you put on the damp ‘night log’, to keep the fire in for the morning; and slip silently off to your sleeping bag leaving the group up to talk or simply be… with the fire.

Smúraidh mi an tula
Mar a smúradh Brighde Muime.
Ainm naomh na Muime
Bhith mu’n tula, bhith mu’n tán,
Bhith mu’n ardraich uile.

I will smoor the hearth
As Brighid the Fostermother would smoor
The Fostermother’s holy name
Be on the hearth, be on the herd
Be on the household all.

Stay warm… and Happy Imbolc… the promise of spring!

[Source: Carmina Gadelica Vol 3.] [singlepic id=334 w=320 h=240 float=center]