The Hearth Fire

Originally presented at The Eyeless Owl

Appalachia has a strong Scotch-Irish history, many of the settlers that ended up in the Appalachian mountain range were from Gaelic colonists moving West as the solidification of the United States during the 18th and 19th century conflicted with their ideas of fair taxation and freedom to practice their trades without the interference of government regulations. In the process of this migration they encountered other groups facing similar displacement; indigenous cultures and freed slaves that had found refuge in the wilderness of Appalachia seeking to escape from the expanding horizons of the fast forming United States. This intermixing of cultures provides a place where ancient traditions and various lines of transmission came together to produce a potent folk life which unconsciously holds the seeds of gnosis. In Gaelic communities the beginning of February is marked by the festival of Imbolc, Christianized as the feast day of St. Brigid. This celebration is held in the honor of the first appearance of spring, represented in Gaelic myth as Brigid, the Bride.
“She is goddess of the household fire; her position is that of the hearth goddess Vesta, as much as that of Minerva,

for evidently she is primarily a fire-goddess. Her name is probably from the same root as the English bright, Gaelic brco. The British goddess, Brigantia, is doubtless the same as the Irish Brigit Mr Whitley Stokes picks out the following instances in proof of her character as a fire-goddess; she was born at sunrise; her breath revives the . dead; a house in which she stays flames up to heaven; she is fed with the milk of a white red-eared cow; a fiery pillar rises from her head, and she remains a virgin like the Roman goddess, Vesta, and her virgins—Vesta, whom Ovid tells us to consider ” nothing else than the living flame, which can produce no bodies.” Cormac calls her the daughter of the Dagda. “This Brigit,” he says, “is a poetess, a goddess whom poets worshipped. Her sisters were Brigit, woman of healing; Brigit, woman of smith work; that is, goddesses; these are the three daughters of the Dagda.”
- Celtic Mythology & Religion, Alexander McBain

The Divine presence in the famed European cathedrals exists in the very . which never whitened into ashes.Celtic Mythology & Religion. the last nun. Giraldus (12th century A. take charge of your own fire.The Hearth Fire Originally presented at The Eyeless Owl Fire is a potent traditional symbol of the eternal spirit. its last representatives may very well deliberately entrust to this aforesaid collective memory the things that otherwise would be lost beyond recall. and on the evening before the twentieth night. and Deutsch Pow Wow among the Amish and Mennonite.Symbols of the Sacred Science.” . their manifestations still continue to hold the powerful impetus of true tradition. census shows that there were 961. enable us to decide. Alexander McBain By 1850 the U. the fire is allowed never to go out. and was finally extinguished.) informs us that at the shrine of St Brigit at Kildare. that lack of understanding that is one of the natural characteristics of the masses is a sure enough guarantee that what is esoteric will be nonetheless undivulged. and though such heaps of wood have been consumed since the time of the Virgin. and the hearth fire is. but hardened into a strong mass. ‘Brigit. and in the morning it is found that the (ire has not gone out. in later times. and another in Giraldus Cambrensis. as the center point of migration for the remnants of so many traditional cultures. what goddess answered among the Gaels to the position of Minerva. By this time they had already spread into Appalachia. became a storehouse for these traditional forms. shall be capable of understanding It. that is in fact the sole means of saving what can in a certain measure be saved.) says that in Britain. only with the extinction of the monasteries by Henry VIII. taking with them the traditions they had kept alive at home. the eternal flame is taken home by the faithful. At the same time. having heaped wood upon the fire. says.D. of Hoodoo.” This sacred fire was kept burning continually for centuries. a continuation of this symbol in the domestic setting. remaining merely as a sort of witness of the past for such as. yet there has been no accumulation of ashes. and that in her temple there flamed a perpetual fire. for this night belongs to you. A passage in Solinus. Here the house becomes a temple to the eternal. the faithful and the gnostics. and that the usual quantity of fuel has been used.719 Irish living in the United States. Solinus (first century A. in some ways. Minerva presides over the hot springs. When the community temples are destroyed.” .S. an outward manifestation of the temple built within the believers. Each time the secular authories (whether by government or religion) sought to divide the people quietly pursued the truth. Rene Guenon Appalachia. show that even when these transmissions were weakened by forgetfulness. “Each of her nineteen nuns has the care of the fire for a single night in turn. stretching from Illinois to the east coast. that “rock of ages” that can never be destroyed. “Minerva is the fifth and last deity mentioned by Caesar as worshipped by the Gauls—their goddess of arts and industry.’ She then leaves the fire. “When a traditional form is on the point of becoming extinct. The manifestations of the Holiness Churches.D. with absolute certainty.

Thig an nathair as an toll Là donn Brìde. the sagacious individual. her memory sleeps in the Winter of a fallen culture. even as it takes its place in the eternal domain of God’s attributes. Brigit. returns the seed of wisdom to the folk who venerate him. to propagate wisdom. Though there should be three feet of snow On the flat surface of the ground. “The serpent will come from the hole On the brown Day of Bride.“Fair Nottamun Town”: Mystical and Alchemical Symbolism in an Appalachian Folk Song. in secret the people still carried many of their ancient traditions. In the most material understanding these are manifest in the allegorical and symbolic statues and stained glass that adorn the cathedral. that which receives the imprint of forms. The folk correspond to the Aristotelian materia. symbol of wisdom and fire. something as simple as a hearth fire keeps the secret alive among the people who await the purification of the community. who. also cyclically returns to the field from which it grew. A traditional culture permeated by half-understood mystical lore on the folk level is a fertile matrix for the full development of the gnostic. and the sage to forma. prayers and blessings awaiting the day when those would come who could hear her again.The Hearth Fire Originally presented at The Eyeless Owl measurements used to create them. but the heart of the secret lies in the very roots of the cathedral’s construction. representing as it does the eternal design or prototype of Humanity itself.” . If the folk are the field. Alexander Carmicheal (1900) Alexander Carmichael collected the folk traditions of the Gaelic people of Scotland in the late 19th century.Carmina Gaelica. his willingness to allow himself to be contemplated as a representative of spiritual Truth. which has always been known by the “gnostics” of the race since it is eternal in relation to human time. Just as her release from the Crone of Winter is celebrated in the first days of Spring. and discovered that despite institutional attacks from the organized church to stamp out “pagan” practices. Charles Upton . the sage is the fruit of the tree which grows in the center of it. Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd Air leac an làir. lying at the core of every religious revelation and a great deal of folklore and mythology. a fruit which. And the tree corresponds to Tradition in the sense employed by French metaphysician René Guénon: that body of spiritual Truth. the Bride. that which shapes or “informs” the material which allows it to appear. Pythagorean mathematics that contain secrets of the eternal fire. When these truths are displaced from the fine edifice of monuments like the cathedrals. “The mystical truth which is realized in the sage is virtual in the folk.” . via its seed. lived on in the people’s hearts. by means of his darshan.

the true fire burns bright. that it made me moan.Therese of Avila We so often seek the flame in those that reflect the outward power of our culture. and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain. “I saw in his hand a long spear of gold. The pain was so great.The Hearth Fire Originally presented at The Eyeless Owl In folk etymologies there are hidden secrets that dance around the investigations of scholars. awaiting those who can see it to herald the Spring. was said to mean “the fiery arrow. All the while. and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. . Breo Saighead.” Academic etymologist’s scoff at such an attribution and miss the line of truth that it transmits. when he drew it out. In the Sanas Cormaic. a 19th century collection of Gaelic etymologies. in quiet homes in rural Appalachia. our expectations are put to bring us some shred of truth to move forward with. that I could not wish to be rid of it…” . in political leaders and religious figures. In celebrities and scholars. Brigit’s Gaelic name. and to pierce my very entrails. and around the world in places where the tradition has been pushed to the wilds. and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. he seemed to draw them out also. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart.

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