In her late sixties now, kneeling before the Iron box glass-fronted, soot stained, she opens the door, She faces the remnants of an old fire’s ashes left by he, who the night before, wove the magic of metal on metal striking the spark to open the flames, but he is not present now, on a cold afternoon when she and the night-black cat desire the comfort and warmth of the dancing flames. So, on her knees, she cleans the glass, the cloth taking the soot to itself and leaving the way clear to see the fire’s glory. Rolling up lengths of newspaper, and wringing them like wet rags, the deeds and misdemeanors of days past squashed and rumpled, are placed carefully on the ash-bed, a bit of thin kindling added, and cotton ball teased and pulled apart complete the preparations, awaiting only the striking of metal to metal. Spark, spark, sparksparkspark and the kindling catches, now she feeds the slightly larger bits of wood, and last of all the fire logs, and the door is closed, secured as flames dance. Time to give thanks for the gift of fire, and begin the vigil so the flames do not splutter, glow brightly, die – for this is her true job, to maintain the fire for the day to take off the chill, to gladden the heart, to challenge the cold of winter, until the night comes and in time the fire is allowed to fall away into glowing embers and at finally to grey ash for the night. Until, the morrow, when fire is once more coaxed to life in the iron box, glass-fronted, soot stained.
From hearth to heart: A paradigm for action.
We are familiar with the story of Vesta and the virgins who tended her sacred fire. Some are familiar with St Brigit’s nuns who tended a flame in her honour that has been rekindled. It is from this image, of the enclosed fire tender, that I move from here.
Now is not the time for us to tend only the fires of our hearths, when we get past the years of youth and direct familial responsibilities. There is a time when we reach a certain age, when the Cailleach comes calling, whether we like it or not. As I have been leaning to move with her, my work with Brighid, but not as a hearth goddess, has begun in earnest.
Although Brighid has been around me for some time, I have a different relationship with her now. A deepening relationship with she of the forge and healer and poet, whose fire burns in me in the dark shadow of the Cailleach.
It is time for action for us to wave the fire brands of our pens and torches of courage to light the hidden corners of distress and fear in our world for healing to begin. To bring the heat of passion against injustice and for equity, for true equality is not possible because we are not the same. We do not have the same gifts and graces and one cannot legislate for them. What can be legislated is equity and equitability. These are what we must fan the flames for to save our world.
These are days for action: Political, social, creative, economic, ecological, environmental, spiritual, personal, national and international.
We must light and tend the fire that heats the cauldron of our passion. Passion in its broadest possible understanding. For this deep and expansive passion leads to action on large or small scale. The fire the heats the forge on which our resolve is formed and shaped.
The following thoughts were written as I tended a physical fire in my hearth several weeks ago, and in them articulate how I perceive this role as a starting place. I use the image of fire lighting, tending, igniting as a metaphor. In no way am I advocating a brigade of blue rinsed pyromaniacs storming around the country burning buildings of power or incinerating objects of distaste. I do not want to hear of my sisters running riot with zimmer frames being arraigned for arson. Yes, we must light a fire in our soul, in our heart, in our belly and head, but it must lead us to considered, if radical action, but the fire remains within us. We use it to speak out, to write out, to walk out, and thus challenge the status quo. I am not advocating anarchy. I am calling for considered action, honest communication and a resolve as strong as steel set to flame, forged and quenched.
We will each of us carry not a flint, but a living ember in our heart, one we can fan into the flame of action when necessary at a moment’s notice, for we may have only a moment in which to act.
At times we many burn white hot for a time, but then the flame goes weak, we have spent our fuel and need to recover our sense of self, so we are not destroyed by selflessness. So we smoor the fire within us. We seek that which will nurture and nourish us, gather kindling and find the logs we will need in the time ahead. The ember, however, will be kept warm and pulsing as long as we live and breathe. But there are times when it need not flare and flame. Sometimes it is fine to let it die back, but it will never go out, once you take the steps to walk and live the path of the Vestal Crone.
Fire is dangerous and compelling. Beautiful and terrifying.
Fire enables life as we know it and takes it as well.
It is not something to be careless with. We must understand the medium with which we work, whether it be literal or figurative.
There are sparks and spitting fuels. There are comforting fires and ones that are restless. They are unpredictable and cannot be tamed, only managed with care. So it is with the fires we are going to light in our hearts and souls.
One cannot begin and then stop, the fire must be tended regularly. Meditation, visualisation and of course action which is at the core of this paradigm.
Kindling, logs, coal, open fire, campfire, wood burner . . . all are ways to see the work, some more or less constrained. A wildfire is deadly, and extreme. I am not advocating stating wildfires.
I will be exploring this image, pondering ideas further, but I think it time to set out this vision, my vision for being as one touched by Cailleach, and holding the fire of Brighid within me.
© Aurora J Stone 2017