FIRE WORSHIP AND FIREFIGHTING.

FIRE WORSHIP AND FIREFIGHTING.

IN all probability the first departure from the worship of the one God was the worship of fire That cult, at all events, dates far back to prehistoric ages, and as it, together with air, earth, and water, was looked upon as one of the primal elements, so, like the other three, it was awarded divine honors as a beneficent deity and the source of power and life. Naturally enough the sun was selected as the original object of worship, and by glancing back at the history of Egypt, Chaldea, Assyria, or Babylon, we find traces of the adoration of the sun, not only in the accounts of their ritual and ceremonial, but also in the style and ornamentation of their buildings. In or close to many of these buildings and temples are found lofty towers (like the old round towers of Ireland, relics of ages before St. Patrick had driven fire worship and snakes off the sacred soil of the Emerald Isle), built for the express purpose of catching the first and the last rays of the rising and setting sun, and watching the course of those other suns, the planetary bodies that stud the sky at night. Hymns, such as those to Phoebus Apollo, the later representative of the Sun-god, were sung during this worship, accompanied by rhythmic motions of the body, which evolved themselves, first, into sacred dances, then into the wild excesses which under the same name disgraced the Saturnalia of the Romans or the Eleusinian mysteries of the Greeks. The objective form of actual fire was also an early development of the cult. It is most clearly seen in the Pyramids,with their flame-like pointed summits and their very name suggestive of fire,and in the obelisks, whose needle tops, golden tipped, caught, and threw back again the first rays of the sun’s morning glory and kept alive as long as possible the last rays of the declining orb of day as he sank out of sight. To the same cult pointed the cruel worship of Moloch, in whose honor the children were made to pass through the fire, and the erection of “high places”—Altars In the mountains, hills, and other high ground dedicated to the Sun-god, in whose honor fires were kindled, and the sacrificial feasts were celebrated. When we come to Greek and Roman mythology Phtohus Apollo stands for the snme deity; the never-dying fire of Vesta, kept up night and dAy and never supposed to be let out by the Vestal Virgins, or rcklndlud, if it did go out, not by any ordinary Are, but by sparks from a flint and steel, had their origin in the old fire worship—the worship of the Magi who traveled so far to greet the divine Infant in the manger at Bethlehem, of Zoroaster, the Iranian sage, who lived 700 years before the Chris tiuu era and systematized and classified the cult, which the Parsis of today, his descendants in the East Indies, still keep up with a zeal us pure and lofty, and a devotion as fervent, us they did some two thousand six-hundred years ago—the worship of the “Fireglory,” the “Glory Divine,” which through those many ages has continued alive and centered round the spark of the sacred fire, the holy flame which has never been extinguished. As Moore sings iu his Lalla Rookb

Still did the mighty flame burn on,

Through chance and change, through good and ill.

Like its own God’s eternal will,

Deep, constant, bright, unchangeable.

The death of Zoroaster by a “flame from heaven,” and the story of Elijah mounting to the skies iu a chariot of fire smack of the same tradition. It lives in the legend of Prometheus, who for carrying away hidden in a reed the sacred fire from the realms of Zeus himself and vivifying with the divine spark the poor clods who then did duty for men, was crucified on Mount Caucasus and tortured for his sacrilege throughout countless icons by the vulture that unceasingly gnawed at his liver. It breathes again in a Christianized form in the Pentecostal tongues of fire; in the lights used in public worship; in the Breton and Irish legends as to the fires that light up the mountains on the eve of St. John Baptist; even in its more modern and familiar form of fireworks and bonfires which today are lighted and set off in token of rejoicing. All are significant of the same idea of fire as the representative of power, wisdom, knowledge, high souiedness, warmth of temperament, of life itself, and all that makes life bright and strenuous. So it appears to the ordinary mortals—only not a deity—to the fire chief a fiend to be wrestled with, struggled with, fought, and downed.

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