Fire... The ancients called it an Element, this strange substance that is neither solid, liquid, nor gas.
Over the last several years I have been immursed in the study of the Elements, not those 92 Elements of the Periodic Table, but rather the Elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.
It seems today that if we refer to these forces as the Elements we encourage the criticism of science and the "educated" around us. Strangely, our current perception of the laws of physics seem perfectly in line with this ancient belief. Heres what I mean.
Today in physics we refer to four distinct states of matter, Solid, Liquid, Gaseous, and Plasma, each representing matter at different states of energy. As an object is heated (or absorbs thermal energy) it moves from its solid state into a liquid state. If it can continue to take on energy it will next become a gas. If it can be energized still further it takes up the fourth known state of matter we call plasma, a super heated ionized gas, the stuff the stars and nebulae are composed of.
These four states of energy can be -and were- known as Earth (solid), Water (liquid), Air (gas), and Fire (plasma).
Now the Sun exists in the Plasmatic state, and we also encounter plasma as the arcs of electricity the tear through the sky on thunderous nights... Lightning. It is present in the ionosphere as Aurora Borealis as well. It is the celestial Element, the substance of stars and interstellar space.
For most of our history here on Earth we only experienced this Plasma in its most juvenile form, as Fire... the Proto Plasma.
As a species, Homo sapiens sapiens has been using Fire for a long time. Maybe the whole time.
It is believed in paleontology that Fire was controlled by Neandrathals, our paleolithic cousins, and even (there is some debate) by Homo Habilis, our earlier ancestor.
It seems very likely that we humans have been using Fire as long as we have been humans. So much of Anthropology is dedicated to what it is that makes us human. Is it our ability to reason? Perhaps it is our opposable thumbs (I snicker a bit at this one).
To me it seems obvious - if not apparent - that it is our conscious and deliberate control of Fire.
Today all known humans the world over use fire, to include even those most "primitive" peoples still living tribally as hunter gatherers, tucked away in pockets of uncut forest and jungle. And many unique methods were developed to kindle the sacred flame into existance from the naturally occuring items of our local environment. The image here is of a Bow Drill, one of the most effective and relatively easy ways to coax a flame into being, and has existed for countless thousands of years.
I would like to show you another method, even older and more pure... The Hand Drill. I have been practicing this method for some time now, and have become fairly proficient. Not nearly as proficient though as my good friend Arthur Haines, who has a particularly fascinating command of this nearly forgotten primitive technological force. He makes it look easy here, though I assure you that it requires not just the knowledge of the proper plants for the job, but also a considerable endurance and physical fittness that comes from practicing it again and again.
Today people jokingly call it "rubbing two sticks together" which, after one has been initiated into this wisdom, seems somewhat over-simplified if not even a bit irreverent.
Now you might ask, why take the time and energy to develop this skill when we have so many sources of flame around us all the time? Perhaps as an Emergency Survival Skill? It is often taught as a survival skill though this seems a bit far fetched to me. The materials that are used must be properly selected, processed, dried, and prepared. It is hardly something you whip together when you find yourself in a dire situation. For me it is something more.. a few things actually.
First, I love to deepen my practice of personal sovereignty... Learning to be self-sufficient is a deeply satisfying experience for me (well... for many of us actually). Knowing how to conjure a flame forth from an otherwise cool and very inert biome is a magick that I would feel vulnerable and even alienated without. It is afterall the basic human skill.
Even more, I am moving always towards a lifestyle where I am free from reliance on the purchase industrially produced items that pollute the environment I live in and weaken my relationship to the natural world around me. Now I know that I, like the rest of us, am a part of this massive and almost all-encompassing machine we call civilization. I am writing this - just as you are viewing it - on a machine that will one day pollute our environment. Still, there is something sacred to me about making a flame without a plastic tool that seems revolutionary... Perhaps it's just a symbol, but it might be the perfect symbol for the role.
This image was instrumental in shifting my perceptions about the creation of fire. Yes, that is a plastic lighter in the belly of a bird. These are the kinds of atrocities that we are all responsible for. So for me, fire mastery is a keystone skill, and I am working towards it all the time.
If skills like these are exciting to you, and you would like to learn to do this, please stay tuned. Arthur and I will be leading classes on practices like these as well as Wild Food gathering, processing, and medicine making. It is all part of a movement towards a more gratifying, sustainable, and very tangible Neo-Hunter Gatherer Lifestyle.
Thanks for watching, and I hope that this inspires you!
Let me know your thoughts!