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Bonfire Night – Time For a Little Pyromancy

Saturday, November 5, 2016 2:59
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No, I’m not suggesting anyone embarks on a bout of fire-starting. Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night as it is often called, is traditionally a celebration of preventing acts of arson, not encouraging them.

Pyromancy is the ancient magical art of divination by fire. It is one of the earliest forms of divination, probably practised soon after fire was first discovered by man. One can imagine ancient shamans staring into the burning embers of the fires that warmed our Neolithic ancestors, foretelling a good hunt or how well the tribe would fare through the winter to come.

In Classical Greece, virgins at the Temple of Athena in Athens used pyromancy and it is likely that followers of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire, or Vulcan, his Roman equivalent, did too. In Renaissance times pyromancy was a “forbidden art” along with necromancy, geomancy, aeromancy, hydromancy, chiromancy and spatulamancy.

The most basic form of pyromancy involves staring into a fire or flame to watch for patterns and shapes that form. The magical art is in interpreting what these mean. In modern homes without real fireplaces it is usually easier and safer to scry into a candle flame, but Bonfire Night provides a great opportunity to have a go at pyromancy with a proper fire outdoors under the stars.

There are several variations on pyromancy, including:

  • Alomancy: Divination by salt, by casting salt into a fire
  • Botanomancy: Divination by burning plants
  • Capnomancy: Divination by smoke. Thin smoke that rises straight upwards is a good sign; smoke that wavers, drifts or billows is a bad omen.
  • Lychnomancy: Divination by the light of a candle flame (from the Latin ‘lychus’ meaning ‘light’).

Here are some things to look for:

  • A bright, steady flame is considered a good omen. 
  • If it burns low and dim, the future could be tough. 
  • One that goes out is bad and indicates some sort of ending. 
  •  A flame that flickers and flutters indicates there are forces acting against you, uncertainty is holding you back, or you might struggle to get what you desire. 
  •  A twisting flame warns you to beware of treachery or unscrupulous people. 
  • A spark means an important message will be heading your way. 
  • If a candle or other fire burns much more strongly than you expect, is hotter, brighter or burns down extremely fast, you can expect something extraordinary to happen. It might even indicate your wishes will come true in the most unexpectedly good way. Do be careful, because a sudden rise to success can sometimes then be followed by a crash.

If you do try a little pyromancy on Bonfire Night or at any other time, obviously pay attention to safety. Do not start fires too close to anything flammable that you don’t want to burn down, and do not leave naked flames unattended.

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