Who by Fire? – Fire Deities and Symbolism in Paganism

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt

From the Hindu God of fire to Celtic Lugh to Loki, from the bonfires at Eostre’s Day, Mittsommer and Lughnasad to the candlelight of carved pumpkins and Yule tree candles or logs and from the fires of Muspelheim and its sons and daughters to the smoke rituals in Shamanic traditions – fire, it appears, is central to all Pagan religions. Fire represents the Gnostic “spark of life”, creation itself but just as much it stands for the inferno of destruction, for Ragnarök, the end of the world, itself.

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In northern European Shamanic traditions the act of ceremonially or ritually making a fire by hand, wood and stone is an act of creation. The wooden hand drill symbolizes the phallus, whereas the fireboard is yonic. The spark or fire created could be viewed as the “fire child”. Without each other phallus and womb are nothing, together they create the sacred fire of existence.

The Anglo-Saxon “Runesong” speaks of the yew tree as the “keeper of the fire”, in Germanic traditions it is either the yew or ash tree (Yggdrasil) that represents all of existence. But fire was not only viewed as friendly as we can see in the Anglo-Saxon Yr- and Elder Futhark Eiwaz-rune, both representative of the yew tree as much as death. The circle of life is complete in the fire-symbolism. Death begets life begets death and so forth.

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One of the more popular fire deities is the three-faced (life, death, rebirth) Hindu God Agni. Most other indo-Germanic high Gods of fire are based on him, not only etymologically. Agni might be connected to Irish Goddes Aine and he is Ogni in Slavic Paganism, the German word Ofen (oven) derives from it. The Russian word ogon means “ignite” in English. – Germanic Ing, Yngvi or Ingvi-Fro (Frey) is the God of the sun, of growth, creation, crops. He is also an aspect of Sahsnotas (Saxnot-Týr). The Ing-rune stands for the hearth and hearth fire and the sun wheel is dedicated to him and his sister Freija. And Agni is married to Swaha, whose name means offering or literally “offering gift”. The Sanskrit word Swastika (Hindu sun wheel) is related to it.

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The holy Hindu Swastika and our indo-European sunwheels deriving from it have nothing to do with the 3rd Reich, Hitler or nazism.

Germanic Sol is not just the Goddess of the sun, she is the sun itself. When the sun goes down her brother Mani (“moon”) gifts the earth with his silvery light.

Lugh is an Irish deity and former hero/semi-deity, whose name means “the shining one”. He is usually depicted with his spear, which is referred to as “the finest of the yew”. Here we find the yew-fire correlation once more. Lugh’s holiday is Lughnasadh, (“nasád” meaning assembly). Historically, the Gaels celebrated very differently than today’s Pagans, Wiccans and some Celtic Reconstructionists do. Nowadays the sun (Lugh) is praised and given thanks to, the harvest season is welcomed, lavish celebrations including food and drink are mostly a part of the holiday.

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Lughnasad was originally dedicated not only to Lugh, but especially to his foster mother Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after having plowed all of Ireland so it would be a fruitful island.

Lugh was known as a fine craftsman and crafty, albeit in a different way, is Loki, his Germanic equivalent. Loki is a son of Muspelheim, the realm of fire, but his father is none other than the Jotun (giant) Fornjot(ur). Loki’s brothers are the northwind (Air) Kári and Aegir, God of the Sea (Water) and Byleist (maybe an earth or forest jotun?). – This would complete the cardinal points. For the four elements played a greater role in the Germanic and Norse traditions than is usually acknowledged today. (For example we have Austri (East), Vestri (West), Sudri (South) and Nordri (North) the dwarves, and four stags eating at the branches and roots in all four cardinal points of the worldtree, namely Dainn, Dvalin, Duneyrr and Durathror amongst others.

Loki appears to be etymologically related to Lugh, yet his name (also) means “closer”, “ender”, “finisher”. He closes this cycle by ending the world, he brings on Ragnarök, so a new, fresh world can come from it. Surt, the King of Muspelheim, sets fire to the world, but it is Loki who prepared the way throughout lore.

There has been a common misconception that Loki is nothing but a “trickster god”, “chaos deity” and especially to American converts to Heathenry he is often a kind of Nordic Satan. This is not a polytheist way of thinking but stems from the old mindset as found in monotheistic religions. The inability to fully comprehend polytheism seems to be one of the biggest challenges that modern Paganism or Pagan revival movements face today. The cruel aspects of life and nature were equally held sacred in the “old ways”.

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Ragnarök is a metaphor, one which emphasizes that fire is both representative of death as much as life (or rebirth) and to say that the giants are “the enemies of the Gods” is hence incorrect. The giants and the Gods (as much as all other beings) are all part of a very complex belief system that developed over thousands of years, it is too simple to state that they are enemies of each other because they pursue different goals. In the end, both of them “win”, the giants as the forces of raw evolution destroy this world, but the Gods return and as the forces of “consciousness” and stability ensure the duration of the next one. Well, until the next big leap that is.

 Ragnarök - earth burning

However, luckily not all fire deities are as controversial and have been demonized as much as Loki has been by pseudo-polytheists.

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Pele is the Hawaiian Goddess of volcanos and magma (liquid fire) who is in constant rivalry with her siblings, all water-related deities.

In the Vodun religion (“Voodoo”) Maman Brigitte is a Loa (spirit) who tends to and lights the candles on the graves of the deceased. She is related to the other spirits of the dead. There is Baron Samedi, Baron Saturday; Saturday being Saturn’s or also Loki’s day, the 6th day of the week, whereas the 6th rune of the Futhark is Kenaz=fire.
Baron Cemetiere means Baron Cemetery and last there is Baron De la Croix, Baron of the Cross. Maman Brigitte likes it hot – usually the offerings to her include (cayenne) pepper, often mixed into rum. Hot beverages and foods have often been associated with the burning sensation of fire and thus it comes as no surprise that she is syncretized with Celtic and Irish Brighid/Irish Catholic Saint Brigid who is also associated with fire.

MamanBrigitte

Maman Brigitte

 The Aztec Goddess Coatlicue (coatl = serpent, snake) is also known as “the one with the skirt of serpents”. She is the Goddess of life, death and rebirth, mother of the South and southern stars and of “fire and fertility”, sometimes called the “fire *of* fertility”.

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Tohil is the sungod in the Mayan religion.

In Japanese mythology Kagu-tsuchi is the kami of fire, the Chinese “kitchen god” or God of stove fires is Zao Jun.
Shapash is Caanite El (YH) and Asherah’s (WH) daughter, she is the “torch of the Gods”, in related tribal religions Asherah’s name is also Shua and the union between her and her husband is “Yeshua” – Jesus, also known as “the light of the world” in Christian mythology.
In Gnostic traditions Lucifer (often) signifies the fire of enlightenment, knowledge, self-gnosis.
See https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/the-forgotten-lord-of-self-gnosis-lucifer-the-lightbringer/

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Many Pagan fire and solar deities have crowns of fire, Jesus, the “light of the world” has his halo.

Slavic Svarog is the god of blacksmithery, fire, the sun and his Greek equivalent is Hephaistos.

Aryaman is another Hindu deity of fire (note the similarity to Zoroastrian Ahriman). Ar or Ahr is an Armenian God whose name means life, his son is Mihr – “Fire”.

You could possibly also link Germanic Thunar and his Slavic equivalent Perun to fire as they are the Gods of lightning amongst other things. Lightning brings rain, which in turn helps crops grow. Another cycle of life symbolism.

 perun-lightning

There are just too many examples of fire deities, fire beings such as the Phoenix or generally fire representing life, death and rebirth/evolution to list on here. A google search will surely reveal a few more or less complete lists for those interested in delving into this topic a little deeper.

Today, fire has become something so common in everyday life that most people, especially non-Pagans, completely overlook how much we depend on it. Lighters, cigarettes, candles, batteries, guns, stoves and ovens, light bulbs, street lamps… Electrical devices are powered or set into motion by a “spark”, an impulse. Yet we do not even take this into account anymore. Everything is fire, everything is alive.

If you light a candle on your altar tonight…perhaps give special thanks to the fire deities of your distinctive path and the cosmic force of creation – the fire of life that connects us all.

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Thjazi of Thrymheim, a Frostgiant in the Norse and Germanic traditions

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written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, June 2014

Thjazi (Thiassi, Tjazi, Thaffi) is one of the Norse Frostjötnar (frost-giants). His father is Alvaldi (“almighty”), his brothers Idhi (“the hard-working one”) and Gangr (“gait”), his mother is unknown. When Alvaldi died he left all his gold to his three sons. They divided it by each taking a mouthful so as to divide it equally. This is why the Eddic description “the speech of Thjazi, Idhi and Gangr” is a metaphor for gold itself.
Like most Jötnar Thjazi, who resides in Thrymheim, was a shape-shifter, and it was in the shape of a giant eagle that he made his first appearace in the Eddas. When Loki, Hönir and Wotan were traveling they got hungry and decided to cook one of the oxen they saw grazing on a meadow. As they began wondering why the oven did not warm they heard a voice from one of the trees above. It was Thjazi, who admitted he was prohibiting the oven from warming, but if they would share the oxen’s meat with them, he would gladly heat it up for them. They agreed. Yet when Thjazi went for the best and thickest shares of the meat Loki struck him with this staff so hard it clung to his side. Thjazi escaped high into the air, dragging both staff and Loki with him. Loki begged for mercy and Thjazi made him a peace offering. If he would bring him Iduna and her apples, he would spare Loki’s life.
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Honoring his promise Loki lured Iduna out of Asgard, alleging that he had found even more miraculous and juicier apples than the ones she had. She should bring hers to compare them.
When eagle-shaped Thjazi kidnapped Iduna, the Gods began withering, growing old without Iduna’s magical apples of youth and strength.
When Loki was found out he borrowed Freyja’s falcon cloak and flew into Thrymheim and rescued Iduna. Thjazi, outraged, flew after him, but the Gods were already awaiting the Jotun.

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They lit the walls and towers of Asgard on fire, burning Thjazi’s wings and killing him.
His daughter Skadi swore revenge and made her way to Asgard. Instead of avenging the murder of her father she settled with an Aesir husband (Njörd) and a “bag full of laughter” (which Loki provided). On top of that Wotan cast Thjazi’s eyes into the sky where they became stars, forever watching over the nine worlds. The formation Auguthjaza is the only Nordic star constellation ever mentioned in the Eddas, yet which constellation in the sky is referred to remains unknown.

On a side-note, in the Ring of the Nibelungs it is not Thjazi but Fafir and Fasolt who kidnap Iduna with a completely different background story as well. This as a small reminder that different Germanic countries have different mythologies, folk tales and lore which are all equally important and “true”.

Etymologically Thjazi might derive from Sanskrit Twast(i)r, one of the chief Gods in Hinduism. In one of the early myths Twastr steals the “divine drink” of the Gods. Later on in the Vedanta and other texts there was no mention of him in bird-form anymore though, yet he was often accompanied with the giant bird Garruda or the God Indra in bird-form.

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Quick Facts – The Hindu Goddess Chinnamasta

Copyrighted and written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014

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Chinnamasta, a Hindu Goddess with origins in Nepal and Northern India also acknowledged by Buddhists, is a Goddess of (sexual) abstinence and self-sacrifice. Emphasizing the latter of her main traits, she cut off her own head and thus her name literally means “She whose head is severed”. Depictions of her usually involve her standing on a copulating couple with blood spouting from her decapitated neck. In offering her own head/third eye and crown chakra to the world she represents the triumph of willpower and spirit over flesh. Unsurprisingly, she has few followers and is known as a ferocious and merciless Goddess to those that stray from her path of enlightenment. Her worshippers mainly include yogis, certain kinds of Tantric practitioners and askets or other world renouncers.
Although Chinnamasta is a Goddess, she both possesses as well as grants “demonic” powers to her worshippers. These include control of one’s foes by “poetic speech”, removal of obstacles, ability to sway kings or authority figures in genereal, conquest over the “weak-willed” and finally, salvation.

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