Fire consumes, warms, and illuminates, but can also bring pain and death; thus, its symbolic meaning varies wildly, depending upon the context of its use. It is often the symbol of inspiration, and yet it is also the predominant symbol of HELL; fire is the only one of the "FOUR ELEMENTS" that humans can produce themselves, so it bridges the connection between mortals and gods. Rituals often involve an eternal flame, and kindling a fire is equated with birth and resurrection. Can be spiritual enlightenment, sexuality - "light my fire" and fertility.
Fire can also be seen as a force of purification (Cooper, 1978). In a more modern context, forest fires, while looked upon as destructive and costly by modern society (and especially by the various media), are actually, from a scientific and ecological point of view quite positive as a mode of purification -- old growth that is burned away makes way for new growth to begin, and the entire ecosystem is rejuvenated.
Fire is viewed by Christians, the Chinese, and the Hebrews as being a symbol of divinity (Cooper, 1978). In Christianity, fire can also be symbolic of religious zeal and martyrdom. In Egypt it represents a sense of superiority and control. Many cultures view fire as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge.
Freud saw fire as an aspect of the libido (sex drive) representing forbidden
passions, but it is also seen in psychology as destruction and regeneration
and as a mediator between vanishing and appearing forms.
(Related entry: FLAME, FOUR ELEMENTS).
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