Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Elements - Fire



At this time of year, in the northern hemisphere, we've really had enough of fire...what with scorching weather and real forest fires that have been well covered by our news reports.  I hope that this finds all my readers without any detriment as a result of fire.








But the elemental nature of fire, especially in relation to pottery, is something that is to be desired.
Respected, and hopefully controlled.
Necessary to turn mud into stone hard pots.

A pit firing, relatively small and low temperature

The wood firing kiln at Penland, probably will have more than just wood applied to these pots.  Many times wood firings have soda or salt added to give the pottery a special finish, which looks different than anything else...thus the potters who are fascinated with this process.  That's my son Tai checking the spyhole in the foreground.

Penland wood firing going well, Mar 2009

A wood fired kiln reaches a much higher temperature, and has many more variables than an electric kiln.

Since I want to focus on the element of fire, I won't go into more details about the various kinds of kilns and ways that pottery may reach its final vitrified state.

Back to fire itself.

As the next few months pass, we may be wishing to sit by a cozy fireplace like this. 


Until then, perhaps you're a backyard chef, using some kind of grill occasionally.


Which reminds me of my ancestors (well, mainly the women who got to do most of the cooking, after all).  There were many centuries where our foremothers cooked all meals in fireplaces.  I'm so awestruck.  Have you tried boiling water in a fireplace?

But even before fireplaces, the tribes that predated the women in long dresses, there were women and men who had a pit with a fire to cook over...fire was one of the things that made the difference between our species and others.

And rites and rituals honored fire.  Our tribes (our ancestors were definitely tribal at one time)  would put out all the fires except one special fire, perhaps lit with a branch that had been burned by lightening.  Then that new fire would be passed along the community to be shared.





Fire is a blessing.  It comes sometimes out of the blue (lightening).  And it can become out of control.

Forest fire is needed for certain plants to regenerate, as my friend Rosie reminded me yesterday.  But she's also concerned about a nearby forest fire.
My son who is about to go to grad school as a potter, has been a wildlands fire fighter.

Today fire helps people gather for celebration.  Bonfires are traditions for a tribal type ritual which is held still by many people prior to a school having a dance, a football game, a pagan holiday like midsummer, or just for the fun of it.

If you've never sat around a campfire after the sun has gone down, staring at the embers, you have missed a really special moment.  There is a hypnotic quality to a fire, especially when you feel safe because it is under control.



People are skittish when fire isn't controlled well.  It can be dangerous, and perhaps of all the elements, we have a natural fear of it.  It goes very fast, for one reason.  It hurts immediately for another.  We can easily see the power it represents.

Yet we have it as part of our beings as well.  Without an inner fire, we wouldn't be warm blooded beings.  Without an inner fire, we wouldn't feel the passion that leads to the next generation.  Without an inner fire, each of us wouldn't feel emotions that lead us to do some of the wild and wonderful things we do.  Human beings have fire as part of ourselves, and we need to control it even there.  Anger is a common example of a fiery emotion...and it can become rage if we aren't careful.

My pagan friends call the direction of south to represent fire when we have ritual circles.  This fits for us in the northern hemisphere where travelling south takes us to warmer climates.  But it also is the direction our sun shines from.

That is the source of all fire in our lives.

Thanks for reading and making your comments.  It may take a while for me to post them, but they will appear soon!

1 comment:

  1. Been a while since I've done a barrel firing, soon I think after we get some more rain, Gary has worked as wildland firefighter in California and it is sad the devastation it can create.

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