According to one calendar, the ancient Greeks celebrated the ‘Feast of the Stolen Fire’ on or around November 7. I was unable to find any other mention of it, but I like the idea, so I’m adding it here. I think November is as good a time as any to celebrate the gift of fire.
Alternatively this could be celebrated on the 8th day after the November dark moon. The date will vary from year to year, but since the 8th lunar day is a day for fire, it seems appropriate.
This feast day is held in honor of the old Titan god, Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and presented it to mortals, thus saving the human race. Many lamps were lit in his honor.
Prometheus was the Titan god of forethought and crafty counsel who was given the task of molding mankind out of clay. His attempts to better the lives of his creation brought him into conflict with Zeus.
First he tricked the gods out of the best portion of the sacrificial feast, acquiring the meat for the feasting of man. Then, when Zeus withheld fire, he stole it from heaven and delivered it to mortal kind hidden inside a fennel-stalk.
As punishment for these rebellious acts, Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora (the first woman) as a means to deliver misfortune into the house of man, or as a way to cheat mankind of the company of the good spirits.
Prometheus meanwhile, was arrested and bound to a stake on Mount Kaukasos (Caucasus) where an eagle was set to feed upon his ever-regenerating liver (or, some say, heart). Generations later the great hero Herakles (Heracles) came along and released the old Titan from his torture.
For the Greeks and many who followed, Prometheus was revered as a champion of humanity, as well as a bringer of wisdom, reason, and knowledge. In Athens, the center of his ritual observance, Prometheus was credited not only as the bringer of fire, but of metallurgy as well. Alongside Athena and Hephaestus, Prometheus was celebrated by the city as a wellspring of technology, craft, and the civilized arts.
Prometheus is the archetypal figure of revolutionary defiance, chained to a rock with an eagle eating his liver, which regenerates only to be eaten again the next day. The story of Prometheus has mesmerized the imagination of philosophers, painters and poets ever since.
Despite his prominent role in their mythology, Prometheus was seldom worshipped by the ancient Greeks. His cult was limited to Athens, where, alongside Hephaestus and Athena, he served as part of an unofficial triumvirate of deities associated with technology and culture. Artisans, in particular, paid homage to Prometheus, who gave them the gifts of fire and metallurgy.
The Athenians erected an altar to Prometheus in the grove outside the Academy, a key learning center founded by Plato in the fourth century BCE. This altar served as the starting point for a torch race held during the Panathenaic festival, an Athenian civic festival held every four years.
A Ritual In Honor of Prometheus
- Colors: Blue and red
- Element: Air
- Altar: Upon cloth of blue place a great torch, a large and ugly stone with a chain laid over it, and a great curved blade laid against it.
- Offering: Stand up for something that you believe in, even if it will do you harm.
Invocation to Prometheus
Long ago, wars tore the land
And the great and powerful laid waste
To all things, and some won,
and some lost, but the true losers
Were those unfortunate humans
Who were beneath the notice of either side.
One Titan took pity on them,
And tricked the gods who would have
Robbed them of even their food,
And taught them to keep the best part
Of their sacrifices for themselves.
And then, to help them further
In the face of the wrath of the powerful,
He stole fire from the sacred forge
And gave it to weak humanity.
And for this he was punished,
As he knew he would be punished,
Chained to a stone and torn by a vulture.
And yet the knowledge of that punishment
Did not deter him from his goal,
For when there is something that must be done,
And it is right to do it,
Then harm to body and mind
Does not stop right action.
For this we hail Prometheus,
Lord of Forethought,
He who sacrifices for the good of all,
He who knows what it is to be right,
And what will be the consequences.
All stand before the altar and salute the torch, and speak of their own convictions.
A Fire Meditation
This is a day for transformation and purification.
- Purification with fire.
If possible, sit by a woodfire in the evening. Prepare yourself for complete interaction with the fire, concentrating on the flames and slipping into its energy field. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the center of the fire. Feel how it burns out all your negative emotions and clears your energy channels.
When you feel it’s enough, imagine yourself stepping out of the fire and deeply breathe in the clear fresh air. Your channels are now filled with pure new energy, your aura is light and transparent. Realize that your aura and body have just experienced some new chemical reactions, which renewed your life.
Give thanks to the fire for your purification. If making wood-fire is impossible, practice the same meditation with candles.
The following is an article about starting a fire from scratch when you are camping out in the woods. I thought it would be a fun and interesting way to celebrate Prometheus and his gift of fire. Enjoy!
Hopefully, you’ll never be in the position where you won’t have any matches or lighters to start a fire with when you need one. However, no matter how cautious you are about taking fire-making instruments with you, it’s good to know more than one way to start a fire when you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors.
For example, if you’re caught in an unexpected thunderstorm, your matches might get wet, despite your best efforts to keep them in a waterproof container. Since anything can happen, be prepared for anything. Here are six ways you can start a fire without a match.
- 1. Always carry tinder.
Starting a fire from scratch is difficult enough even with matches. Without matches, it’s even harder. To give yourself a head-start on starting a fire, bring a tinder kit with you.
A tinder kit should consist of material that is dry and easy to use in the creation of a fire. You can tease apart rope fiber into soft, thin threads; cotton balls soaked in Vaseline work especially well; and you can always buy tinder kits.
If you’re caught without any tinder material on you, or if what you have has gotten wet, look for cedar trees or birch trees. The bark of these trees can be shredded to create some quick tinder. Cattails also work as natural tinder material.
- 2. Using Flint and Steel
One of the easiest match-free ways to start a fire is to use flint and steel. Flint and steel kits can be purchased relatively inexpensively and are easy to start a fire with if you have a tinder kit, especially if your tinder kit includes charcloth.
Making a fire with flint and steel has three essential steps: First, you need to create a spark. Second, you need to catch that spark. Third, you need to turn the spark into a flame.
To complete the first two steps, take a small bit of charcloth and lay it flat against the flint. Next, strike the flint with the metal striker. You should see sparks immediately if you strike the flint at the right angle.
One of these sparks should eventually land on the charcloth, giving it a tiny orange glow. That tiny glow is enough to start a fire with; you should transfer the charcloth to the tinder nest when the glow appears, gently wrapping the charcloth into the tinder nest and then blowing on it.
The tinder nest should smoke and produce a flame almost right away. You can feed the flame with small kindling, such as dried grass, pine-straw, or twigs, and then use the more stable flame to light your logs on fire.
- 3. Using a glass lens.
Some of us discovered this method quite on accident as children when we melted toys with a magnifying glass or accidentally caught bugs on fire. Hopefully, you won’t be using your magnifying glass to torture bugs when you’re on your next hiking trip, but if you have an unobstructed view of the sun, you can easily use the magnifying glass method to start a fire.
A magnifying glass that rotates in and out of a vinyl case, as opposed to a magnifying glass with a handle, is ideal for traveling with.
This method is very simple. Put your tinder nest on the ground or with your kindling, then aim the beam of the sun at the tinder nest until it begins to smoke. When it starts smoking, gently blow on the tinder nest until you produce a flame.
Using a magnifying glass to start a fire is easy, but it depends upon having a decent amount of sunlight. Since you can’t always depend on the sun being out, it’s good to have more methods on-hand than just the magnifying glass.
- 4. Capture the rays of the sun.
Besides using a glass lens to capture the rays of the sun and produce a fire, you can also use a water-filled balloon or a mirror to achieve the same effect. When using water inside a balloon, try to make the shape into a sphere. The more spherical the container is, the more effective it will be at focusing the rays of the sun.
If you don’t have a mirror on hand, you can polish the bottom of a soda/beer can with toothpaste or chocolate and turn it into a mirror. By the way, if you use this last method, don’t eat the chocolate after you’ve polished your aluminum can with it; the chocolate may contain toxic residue.
- 5. Use friction.
One of the most famous ways to start a fire without a match is also one of the most difficult: using friction. To use this method, make a v-shaped notch in a board or log, and choose a spindle that will create the friction.
Rub the spindle between your hands as fast as you can, moving your hands up and down the spindle rapidly. When the board or log begins to smoke, use your tinder nest to catch the glowing spark you’ve produced.
You can also create a bow drill instead. The bow drill is easier than the primitive method described above, but it requires you to make a proper bow first, which is harder.
- 6. When it’s wet outside.
What if you’re in a worst-case scenario type of situation? Your matches and your lighter have both gotten wet and won’t work. You have a tinder kit, along with some flint and steel, but your tinder kit has gotten wet, too. The downpour has also made the forest around you wet, so there is virtually no dry kindling or logs anywhere to be found.
Are you stuck at this point? No. If you’re resourceful, you can still start a fire.
Start by finding some dry tinder. The aforementioned birch or cedar bark works well in this scenario, but you’ll have to peel a few layers of bark off to get to the dry bark.
As for finding dry wood, look for a standing dead tree. Unlike a dead tree that’s lying on the forest floor, a standing dead tree will usually be dry inside. Peel away the rotted, wet, outer section of the tree to get to the dry wood on the inside.
You can use this dry wood as your kindling. Once you have a decent blaze going, you can use even damp limbs and twigs in your fire, because the heat of the fire will be strong enough to catch damp wood at that point.
Fire is a very powerful symbol, human progress did not begin until we established fire. The gift of fire opened the door to so many things such as cooking our food, melting metals, and providing warmth in the winter. It represents the start of civilization, consciousness, new ideas, and symbolizes man’s development of art and technology with its promise to better our lives, but not without respect for it and the gods.
Most cultures with a story to tell about fire’s origin see it as a theft. Fire is stolen, from someone who does not want to share it. Sometimes by a bird or animal blazoned with red because the fire left a scar.
Why have people always felt that fire was stolen? There’s a simple material explanation: earth, water and air, the other traditional elements of the world, are around us all the time but fire must be coaxed out of wood and stone, unless it comes down as lightning, as divine fire. Fire also needs special knowledge. You have to learn to kindle and nurture it, so it won’t go out. This knowledge must be guarded so the secret won’t be lost.
The theft of fire for the benefit of humanity is a theme that recurs in many world mythologies:
The San peoples, the indigenous Southern African hunter-gatherers, tell how Kaggen, in the form of a mantis, brought the first fire to the people by stealing it from the ostrich, who kept the fire beneath its wings.
- Native America
Among various Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and First Nations, fire was stolen and given to humans by Coyote, Beaver or Dog. In Algonquin myth, Rabbit stole fire from an old man and his two daughters.
In Cherokee myth, after Possum and Buzzard had failed to steal fire, Grandmother Spider used her web to sneak into the land of light. She stole fire, hiding it in a clay pot.
According to a Mazatec legend, the opossum spread fire to humanity. Fire fell from a star and an old woman kept it for herself. The opossum took fire from the old woman and carried the flame on its tail, resulting in its hairlessness
According to the Muscogees/Creeks, Rabbit stole fire from the Weasels. In Ojibwa myth, Nanabozho the hare stole fire and gave it to humans. According to some Yukon First Nations people, Crow stole fire from a volcano in the middle of the water.
According to the Rigveda, the hero Mātariśvan recovered fire, which had been hidden from humanity.
In one of the versions of Georgian myth, Amirani stole fire from metalsmiths, who refused to share it – and knowledge of creating it – with other humans.
The Vainakh hero Pkharmat brought fire to mankind and was chained to Mount Kazbek as punishment.
In Polynesian myth, Māui stole fire from the Mudhens. In the mythology of the Wurundjeri people of Australia, it was the Crow who stole the secret of fire from the Karatgurk women.
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