Technically speaking, fire is not an object, but an event: the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion by which heat and light are released into the surrounding environment. What we typically think of as “fire”—the often mysteriously beautiful and strangely hypnotic fireplace flicker of white, yellow, or red-orange glow—is actually just the visible part of the fire’s flame, containing the superheated byproducts of the fire’s incomplete exothermic reaction giving off visible light as excess energy is released. Interestingly, the cherry-red flame of a smoldering campfire measures somewhere around 700˚ Celsius; the deep orange flame of a candle, lit at a bedside or suffusing a living room with gentle aroma, typically burns at around 1000˚ Celsius; and the dazzling white flame created by a meteor as it enters Earth’s atmosphere can often exceed 1500˚ Celsius!
While fire is commonly considered to be a destructive event, it can also be a very effective tool for managing and enhancing fields, forests, and wetlands: Native Americans discovered that while fire killed woody plants, it encouraged the growth of fruit-bearing shrubs and forage-producing grasslands. Of course, fire’s unique potential has been known for some time: It’s likely that humans began using fire to heat food approximately 1 million years ago. Among the classical elements, fire is commonly associated with energy, assertiveness, and passion.
In Greek Mythology, the cult hero Prometheus defied the gods by providing humanity the gift of fire, thereby enabling progress and civilization. People born under the astrological signs of Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are thought to have fire personalities: They are enthusiastic, extroverted, and, like our good friend Prometheus, they are rebellious, passionate, brave, and valiant. It’s no wonder that we have for so long been drawn to fire. A thing to be feared, respected, and loved, fire is that which drives us into the unknown, lights our way through the darkness, and signals our way back home.