The Fire is Here
A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire is Here will be released very soon.
Here is the introduction, written by editor and poet Lorna Smithers.
Information on ordering is available below.
‘I hunted out and stored in fennel stalk the stolen source of fire that has proved a teacher to mortals in every art and a means to mighty ends. Such is the offence for which I pay the penalty, riveted in fetters beneath the open sky.’
– Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
‘Each of them has the care of the fire for a single night in turn, and, on the evening before the twentieth night, the last nun, having heaped wood upon the fire, says, “Brigit, take charge of your own fire ; for this night belongs to you.”’
– Gerald of Wales, The Topography of Ireland
A stolen fire passed down by generations.
We are the flame-keepers of a questionable heritage.
In many cultures fire is taken from the gods and gifted to mankind by a trickster, who suffers for their hubris, or is kept alive by a group of virgins serving a goddess. These are the costs and vetoes of fire.
Fire, of itself, is amoral. It lights and heats our homes. It burns in the furnaces of factories and power stations and burns them down. It inspires revolutions and burns martyrs. It burned the victims of the Holocaust.
The uses we make of fire are our responsibility. When we look back at its misuses we are suffocated by horror, fettered by sky gods as eagles descend to peck upon our guilty livers.
However, we remember Prometheus was unbound. The unfastening of fetters is a Herculean task. By learning to listen to voices consigned to the flames, walking through fire and awakening to uncomfortable truths, gifting back to the gods (“fire… belongs to you”) we can become good flame-keepers.
‘Svasud is the name of the father of Summer. He is a man so content that from his name comes the expression ‘it is svaslight’ referring to what is pleasant. The father of Winter is alternately called Vindloni or Vindsval (Wind Chill). His is the son of Vasad (Damp Cold). These are cruel and cold-hearted kinsmen and Winter takes its nature from them.’
– Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda
‘there was to be battle between Gwyn and Gwythyr every May Day until Judgement Day, and the one that triumphed on Judgement Day would take the maiden.’
– Sioned Davies, The Mabinogion
Eternal Summer is founded on the death of Winter.
For thousands of years we have been stealing fuel for our fire from the underworld: the bones and breath of dead worlds.
The smog-blackened chimneys of mill towns, the concrete towers of coal-fired power stations, a million million vehicles chugging on oil have together contributed to the asphyxiating build-up of gases that may postpone the next Ice Age.
Glaciers are calving. Sea levels rising. Last winter in northern England heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks, washing away venerable old trees and an historic pub, flooding towns and cities and leaving hundreds of people bereft of belongings. This summer is set to be the hottest on record again.
The dialectic between summer and winter is represented by the battle between two gods: Summer and Winter Kings, and their courtship of the sovereign goddess of the land.
On May Day Summer’s King wins and takes the goddess’ hand in sacred marriage. Winter’s King dies and retreats. He returns for his beloved at summer’s end. But for how long?
If either King keeps her forever it will bring about the end of the world.
‘Whoever until this day emerges victorious, marches in the triumphal procession in which today’s rulers tread over those who are sprawled underfoot. The spoils are, as was ever the case, carried along in the triumphal procession. They are known as the cultural heritage. In the historical materialist they have to reckon with a distanced observer. For what he surveys as the cultural heritage is part and parcel of a lineage which he cannot contemplate without horror.’
– Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History
‘It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.’
– Ursula Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
Our heritage is as questionable as the stolen fire in which it was forged.
It has taken two devastating world wars, and the dedicated effort of thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, to put into question the ideal of progress which drove the industrial revolution and gave rise to dehumanising and militant right and left-wing ideologies.
Benjamin died of an overdose fleeing the Nazis at Portbou. His Theses on the Philosophy of History were passed on to his colleague, Theodor Adorno, by Hannah Arendt. Another manuscript, which some scholars have speculated may have been his completed Arcades Project, was forever lost.
The transmission of our heritage and connection with our ancestors are fragile and fraught with danger. They run beyond paganism into interconnectedness with all humanity.
When we look into the flames of a fire we see what collectively we share with the rest of the world: a shared history, a shared responsibility.
The shadow cast by that fire will never go out.
It reminds us as pagans, magic-workers, devotees of our gods, of the need to sustain the fire of love for each other and our seared earth.
On May Eve we gather around the fire in love. We hold hands in the darkness.
We are flame-keepers of a stolen fire brought at great cost.
The fire is here.
Use it wisely.
The Fire Is Here is the work of 26 writers, 5 artists and 2 photographers. The narrative flickered into life as the contributions arranged themselves into a tapestry bound together by summer’s burning thread. Taking the form of a Beltane / May Day rite it crackled and roared.
The first section IGNITEs the Bel fire and calls in the revolutionary spirit. THE SICKNESS AND THE MEDICINE forms a journey of purification where the ills of capitalism are exposed and cures are found at its ailing core. SOVEREIGNTY AND THE TRIALS OF LOVE focuses on relationship with the land, gods, and each other and gives voice to the tribulations and joys of love. The spirits of the greenwood offer A FOREST ALLEGIANCE and lead to the storytellers’ grove. With fire in our heads we confront our social and political situation and depart with revolutionary ancestors leaving FOOTSTEPS IN THE EMBERS.
The title The Fire Is Here is borrowed from the title of an inspired piece in the journal by Heathen Chinese. My introduction was born from meditating on Li Pallas’ stunning cover art. The layout and design have been completed by Li. I was thrilled when Emma Restall Orr agreed to write the foreword and more so when I read her thought-provoking words.
It has been a pleasure and honour to bring together these thoughts and visions as an act of service to the authors and their lands and deities. To witness pagans from all paths coming together in resistance to capitalism ‘to create the world we want now’(1).
As a way of introducing the individual pieces, as an awenydd and poet, I have chosen to compose a cento. This is a poetic form crafted from the words of others. For the artworks I have used a combination of titles and personal impressions.
These words are a spellbreaking,
a subterranean fire.
In the valley of sickness
we are healed by what can end us
six hundred feet deep
raise the tainted cup
in the soul of every man.
Only connect! A bond in blood.
We are living on Turtle Island.
The ancient new seductive healing sound
clothed in enchantment
myth and folklore
addresses the False Kings.
The Mother of the Gods answers
“My body is not acreage
savage, immoral, uncivilised, wild,
Earth Mound Mother, Sustain-her of Life.
Come voice yourselves
from tree heart to tree top
in revolutionary magic
shake up the sanity of everyday life
in the Holy Grove
pen roaring and bloody words
trembling and flooded with moonlight.
Tell stories in the summertime.
Hold close the fire until it burns your mind.”
The magic-wielders are waking up.
Soulfood for imagination
the fire is already here.
The dead wait for us who are willing to cross
then heal. Then build. Then sing.
As Summer’s King triumphs I go to mourn the death of my god.
May the gifts of this journal fire your inspiration
and guide you through the wakening wood.
Lorna Smithers is an awenydd, Brythonic polytheist and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd based in Lancashire. She is the author of Enchanting the Shadowlands and editor of A Beautiful Resistance: The Fire Is Here. She blogs at Signposts in the Mist and is a contributor to Awen ac Awenydd and Dun Brython.