The Elements in Magic and Witchcraft: Fire Symbolism, Meaning & Uses
“We should take from the past its fires and not its ashes.”
Fire was undoubtedly the most significant element to our ancestors. The sun’s fire provided light and warmth, as did the tribal fire at night. The discovery of fire forever changed humankind’s fate in this world. So, it’s not surprising to hear Shamanic Witches tell us that fire is very powerful. It is also the most difficult element with which to work spiritually.
Like a sword, the element of fire has two very different sides-one is warm and illuminating, the other is furious and burning. These are neither “good” nor “bad” in and of themselves. It’s simply fire’s way. It cannot help but be what it is energetically. Thus, when we talk about fire magick, we do so cautiously and respectfully, knowing that it can empower, enlighten, and comfort as surely as it can destroy if allowed to get out of hand.
Fire Symbolism and Meaning
In Greek, philosophy Fire is featured as one of the four classical elements. It was the hero Prometheus who stole fire from the heavens and gave it to humankind. The gods weren’t pleased, but life on earth certainly benefited from the gesture. Overall the Greeks associated fire with energy, power, passion, willpower, and resoluteness.
Heraclitus wrote that the human soul was filled with fire and water, with the goal of our existence to eventually burn away every drop of water and become pure flame. Aristotle was a tad less poetic feeling that like other elements, fire was an abstract symbol and principle of reality. By the Middle Ages, the element of fire became associated with summer and the solar disk itself.
Other meanings for the element of fire include illumination, inspiration, fertility, and rebirth. In nature, fires also purify by removing old (and often diseased) growth. This opens the land for new seedlings to start taking root.
It is also worthy of noting that religion in many parts of the world sees fire as a symbol of the Divine, or divine-like knowledge and wisdom.
Global Correspondences for Fire
So what did our ancestors around the world think of Fire and its associated energies?
- Native Americans used a sun symbol with seven rays to represent fire. Each of the rays is a different aspect of human spirituality and growth.
- In the Vedas, the God Agnis is a three-fold Being embodying the sun, lightning, and fire. He oversaw all offerings and became a messenger between the Gods. Agni never dies. Like the sun, his fires return every day. The South-East direction on the compass is where fire resides.
- Shinto philosophy has the image of a fire wheel, often with three flames. These flames represent the heavens, earth, and humankind in balance.
- In the Nordic Futhark, the Ken Rune represents both fire and strength. The Futhark was both a means of communication and divination. It embodies the energy of sexuality, understanding and action.
- Mayan tradition illustrates the symbol for fire is actually a fire holder, which symbolizes the inception of all magic.
Finally, Alchemically Fire both begins and completes all metaphysical processes. It represents the soul’s forward movement and eventual transformation through fire beyond the physical world (smoke).
Defining the Element of Fire in Magic
Fire represents the heart and hearth both domestically and spiritually. It was around a fire that our ancestors gathered to share food and maintain communities. It is no small coincidence that modern neo-Pagan gatherings nearly always feature a community fire where attendees can dance to the sound of drums, sing, and engage in fellowship. This is an excellent use of fire!
Many firekeepers tell me that they try to use natural lighting supplies so that the spiraling energy isn’t hindered by chemicals so you may wish to consider that option when building your own. If someone else has built a fire, however, please honor that person’s duty and responsibility. Don’t go poking in the fire without permission. This is part of respecting the element as well as each other in the sacred space.
Regarding utilizing small or large fires specifically for magickal goals, the easiest way to do so is by placing herbs or other natural items therein to burn. Such things should be chosen to represent your goal. Then as the smoke moves out from that point, it carries your wish with it.
Another way to use the fire’s warmth is by placing an item or object that symbolizes someone or something to which you wish to bring more energy (literally “warming it up”). This can be particularly effective when it comes to emotional matters (including when you’re feeling rather cold-hearted). Note that if you can’t have an actual fire, another figurative fire source will do, like a household heater, the stove, or even a hair dryer! [wisew_rectangle_large align=”left”]
Candles or other enclosed fire sources offer us another way to utilize fire’s energy. Candles show up in so many types of magick that it’s nearly impossible to mention all of the applications. The flame of the candle represents the light of our spirit or the Divine (especially the Sacred Masculine). As it burns, our energy is directed outward toward manifestation.
And what about the remnants from fire-namely ashes? Well, these can become part of power pouches and portable altars. Sprinkling the ashes from a sacred fire around an area is one way to bless it. Carrying those ashes likewise transports the energy of the fire (and the fire’s purpose) with you.
Note that Wicca places the element of fire in the Southern Quarter of Creation, having the fundamental nature of force and action. Its corresponding hour is noon, and its tool is the Wand or Rod (usually wooden).
Themes for Fire Magic
- Improving the happiness and compassion in any relationship
- Discovering the truth or hidden things (coming out of the shadows)
- Increasing personal energy
- Banishing negative thoughts, habits, or vibrations
- Protecting: keep those you hold dear near to the fire
- Illuminating the path toward transformation
- Kick-starting passion for anyone or anything
- Motivating improved self-image (the light of awareness and confidence)
- Heating up passion; manifesting fertility
- Generating strength or victory
- Inspiring comprehension on a deeply meaningful level
As with any magick fire is but a tool. You are still the enabler. Please be careful and wise. Let your fires burn slowly, and tend them well so that they don’t go out, nor spark something that you did not intend.
Fire Crystals, Minerals, Plants and Animals
Crystals and minerals include any metal used for forging (brass, steel, nickel, gold), stones from a volcano, bloodstone, garden, red jasper, fire opal, obsidian, and ruby.
Plants & Herbs: Nettle, basil, garlic, onion, red pepper, poppy, cinnamon, chili, tobacco and cactus.
Animals: Desert dwelling creatures. Snakes, coyote, lion, fox, scorpion. The mythological phoenix.
Astrological Associations for Fire
Mars, Pluto and the Sun come under the dominion of fire.
Zodiac Birth Signs associated with the Fire Element are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. People born under these signs are highly passionate and dynamic. They can have terrible anger but also an amazing capacity for love.
Element of Fire in the Tarot
The Suit of Wands or Rods in the Tarot represent the element of fire. The symbols here focus on our passions, enthusiasm, controversy, vitality, and creativity. There are also sexual overtones, masculine characteristics, the primal self, impulse and our will.
In the Major Arcana the cards associated with Fire are:
- Emperor : The Sacred Masculine; Father God; Grandfather Spirit
- Strength: Inner power; the core of our fire. Virility and vitality
- Wheel of Fortune: Change in fortune; Destiny illuminated
- Temperance: The alchemy of fire. Everything in moderation
- Tower: The destructive/creative cycle of fire
- Sun: Banishing illusion. Enlightenment
Fire in Numerology; Master Number 11
The Master Number 11 can best be described as a living dynamic. Like a fire burning brightly, the mental and physical aptitude of 11 is not in doubt. Like fire itself, 11 in Numerology is ancient and respected. This is the number of prophecy (of seeing true) and healing. Like 11, as long as fire stays on an even keel, it offers warmth, safety, community and a sense of continuity. When it is left unattended, however, it can harm or burn itself out.
Forms of Fire
As with the other elements, fire has more than one dimension. The form that fire takes creates the vibrational characteristic for specific types of magic:
Candle Flame: an all-purpose magical tool for marking sacred space, divination, symbolizing Spirit, spellcraft and so much more. Candles are a gentle fire embodying more of the warmth and love of the fire element than its explosive nature. Candles are common in wish magic.
Hearth Fires: The hearth fire (stove) is the heart of a home. As such work magic for family and kin here – for peaceful homes and abundant happiness.
Bonfire: Jumping a bonfire symbolizes moving from one part of life to another. It was also an ancient rite for healing. In a community setting, a bonfire is a place of gathering and mutual celebration of the human spirit.
Sparklers: What a dazzling form of fire! Sparklers speak of celebration and special occasions. Visually they resemble stars so might be useful in wishing magic.
Torches or Lanterns: Tools that light our way in the darkness. Many rituals use a torch or lantern light for marking the beginning and end of the event. Some spells call for lighting a lighting a lantern (or candle) at dawn to begin energy and putting it out at dusk to dispel it (or end it).[wisew_rectangle_large align=”right”]
Flash Paper: This is a very fun and functional tool used by stage magicians for creating visual effects. There is no reason not to apply it similarly for that “wow” factor in our magic.
Self Lighting Charcoal: A symbol of inactive fire (potential), this is a wonderful tool on which to burn homemade incense in a small, controlled space.
Wood Fires: Be it indoors or out, wood fires have the extra symbolic association designated by the kind of tree from where the wood originates. For example,, apple is for health, happiness, and youth; Birch for new beginnings, cleansing and vision; Cherry for luck, love and good fortune; and Maple represents down-to-earth magic and wisdom.
Hot/Fast Burning: This type of fire expends swiftly. There’s a lot of energy released all at once. Be careful how you direct that kind of power.
Cool/Slow Burning: A more symmetrical fire that takes its time: A nice addition to romance and relationship spells.
Ashes: The ashes from a sacred fire carry the energy created at that working. Add them to gris-gris bags, charms, and other magic “bundles.”
On Being a Fire Witch
When one chooses the path of Fire Magic (or more often it chooses them) be ready for some pretty intense challenges. The Fire Witch must be as brave, bold and strong as the element they represent. There is literally a belly of fire on this path. That means whatever a Fire Witch does, he goes in full-on. Don’t try to tell him “no” – that word isn’t in his or her vocabulary.
Like the embers in their soul, the Fire Witch sparkles and shines. Darkness? Meh. Watch him roll! There is always a little drama in the Fire Witch’s life; they have a flair for the theatrical. Even so, this witch has a sincerely warm heart. In relationships, sensuality is the name of the game.
Some of the common magical themes on which the Fire Witch focuses include:
- Raising Energy
- Personal Power
- Emotions (the entire gambit)
- Transformation (intense)
- The Will
Some Fire Witches gravitate toward the complexities of Ceremonial Magic quite naturally.
In his or her home environment, the Fire Witch enjoys colors that reflect the complexity of embers – warm yellow, red, black, orange. The house needs to be tidy (an improperly banked fire is asking for trouble).
With guests or in social settings he has a sharp sense of humor and an indulgent demeanor, but not one that’s really bothersome. He has no room in his life for liars, and when it’s time to end a relationship that bridge is wholly burned away.
The Fire Witch on a Wiccan Path may choose a patron or patroness in their practices like Ra and Sekhmet (Egypt). Agn and Lla (Hindu), Amaterasu and Fuji (Japan), Hephaestus and Hestia (Greek) and Vesta and Vulcan (Rome).
Divination and Spells with the Fire Element
Fire made a great visual tool for both divination and spellcraft because it was easy to observe the changes in the fire’s behavior or the components added to the fire, respectively.
The earliest forms of fire divination began with burnt offerings. As the smoke rose toward the heavens, seers watched its movements, aromas, etc. and determined whether God was, indeed, pleased. A sweet smell, for example, meant a happy reception.
Many types of pyromancy developed among the ancients. These included observing the way an object burned in a fire (as we might a spell component), observing the way in which a paper burns, and one of the all-time favorites candle observation.
You can try your hand at candle burning using any taper you have available. If you want to get fancy, choose the candle’s color based on the focus of your question. Light the candle and focus on that query.
Steadily burning candles portend good news about your question. Flickering or smoldering flames weren’t a positive sign. If the wax drips on the left of your candle – stop. That means no. Conversely, candle drippings on the right are a positive answer.
This ritual is intended to help you attune yourself to the energies of fire more intimately. Enact this under the light of a noonday sun.[wisew_rectangle_large align=”right”]
Gather items that represent the element of fire to your mind and take them with you outside. You may also want to wear clothing or jewelry that reflects fire colors. Put your symbols down well within your line of sight. If you have something that burns like incense, light it now.
Breathe deeply and slowly until your perception of this setting increases. When you feel calm and centered, call on the element (or its devic energy) through incantation or prayer: “Powers of the fire, Salamanders, I call to you as a friend. Come share this sacred space with me that I might learn. Help me to know your ways of speaking to my heart.”
Once you have placed your request, sit quietly, and meditate. Generally, elements make themselves known to you on an instinctive, sensual, emotional level or through a vision. Try not to have any preconceived expectations, just open your mind. Make notes of your experiences to review later.
Adapted from “Spinning Spells Weaving Wonders” and the “Witch’s Book of Wisdom,” by Patricia Telesco. All rights reserved.