A dancing fire is mesmerizing. How often have your eyes focused on the bright glow rising from a candle, a bonfire or campfire, or within the fireplace? For the love of the fire, the sound of crackling, the surprise burst of sparks, and the need to see the flames have positive effects on the body. Gazing at the light may have roots dating back to evolution, but science has proved its natural tendency to relax the muscles within the body, and decrease blood pressure levels.
For millions of years, humans have attempted to control fire. Dating back to the stone age, enjoyment of fire encouraged responsibility, social interaction, and a place of safety. There was no other important job than maintaining the flames. By the 12thcentury, the fireplace evolved to eliminate smoke-filled rooms by enclosing side walls, adding a smoke hood and enlarging the hearth to accommodate large logs and kettles. Beyond the most important benefit – the warmth provided – the hearth continued to be the centralized location to sit and talk.
Despite safety tools, instruments, and seasonal practices, the overpowering release of flame prevails to devastate and threaten life, home, and possession.
Superstition and Omens
What better way to protect the house than to use beneficial omens! In the 16thcentury, homes were built to feature symbolic symbols around doorways, and drawn on the mantel or concealed within fireplaces. Iron was an essential metal deemed for protection and was placed strategically around the house. Besides these talismans, hand-drawn stars on the mantle were believed to prevent mice infestations, for instance, or to aid in health, fertility, and longevity of life.
In the 19thcentury, objects were concealed within the chimney, floorboards, and walls of the home to ward against evil spirits or threats to the house, its inhabitants and livestock. Iron, placed on the hearth, defined a defense against misfortune.
On the other hand, watch for favorable omens such as:
- A cat who washes its face directly in front of a burning fireplace.
- The act of a cat pointing its tail toward the flames.
- When sparks appear, the young lady of the house will receive a visit from her sweetheart.
The Blessing of the Home
A long-standing tradition is to invite a religious or spiritual person to bless the home. The ceremony of walking through the rooms of the house voicing prayer and conducting a symbolic action provides the homeowners a feeling of great peace of mind and happiness.
- A Christian blessing may include holy water spirited in rooms and mirrors.
- In Jewish households, bread and salt are the first items to enter the home. Jewish and Muslim customs both gather family and friends to enjoy a meal and read aloud selections from their holy book.
- The tradition for Hindu individuals and families is to conduct a ceremony on the morning of moving day. Rice, mango leaves, coins, herbs and spices, and fruit and flowers are symbolically used to evoke the blessing from the Hindu gods.
Consider blessing your home at the beginning of the new year. A well-chosen prayer can be as simple as the Celtic blessing, which states, “My fortress, the sacred three, my fortress be, encircling me. Come and be round my hearth and my home.” Lighting candles is a ceremonial process to petition our heart and purpose.
Fireplace Safety and Precautions
Fireplaces are a favored amenity many homeowners and buyers desire when searching for the ideal home. The comfort in having a traditional open hearth, enclosed or inserted fireplace is personal. Wood stoves, which typically give off a dry heat, led the way to kettles or steamers. Water vapor added moisture to the air, improving the tendency for dry skin and cracked lips, as well as other living things such as houseplants. (Make sure your kettle is cleaned frequently and contains high levels of water.)
While rituals and blessings are an added comfort for any new homeowner, one of the most useful preventions against misfortune is to have a professional inspect and clean the fireplace and chimney annually. Hazards are preventable with proactive measures to ensure your love of the dancing flame and warmth continues!