Historically, at Midwinter, fires were kindled to encourage the return of the sun. At Midsummer, similar fires celebrated the sun’s attainment of its greatest strength. Lighting fires at these sacred times was a hugely significant act, because it was believed that even the tiny light of a human fire could help draw down the greater light of the sun.
Fire is one of the most important elements in human development. Our planet revolves around a ball of fire which in its turn dances in a universe of blazing stars. Fire can evoke wildly disparate emotions – in a domestic setting it can create a feeling of contentment, warmth and reassurance, in a religious setting a sense of the sacred and in its massively destructive form it can produce primal, abject terror. Around this powerful and elemental mystery the Ancient Greeks created the myth of Prometheus. Its object was to draw a connection between the mysterious world of the gods in the heavens and the tangible world of humans on earth. So jealously were the secrets of fire guarded that Prometheus had to steal it from the gods themselves and as a consequence had to endure having his liver pecked out by an eagle and eaten on a daily basis as punishment. (Do we get the idea that somebody is trying to underline the importance of this element?)
In our post-modern world we still pride ourselves on our mastery of fire. After all we have successfully tamed and compressed it into the heart of the internal combustion engine. We are, however, virtually helpless in the face of the increasing number of wildfires that rage out of control around the continents. Whether there is a connection between the two is possibly debatable. What is not debatable is the connection of the world of nature to the fate of our human existence. The Promethean myth may have a Midsummer message.
Personally I am feeling a little liverish. Paddy Swanson