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Fire worship



    Worship or deification of fire is known from various religions. Fire has been an important part of human culture since the Lower Paleolithic. The earliest known traces of controlled fire were found at Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov, Israel and dated to an age of 790,000 years, and religious or animist notions connected to fire must be assumed to reach back to such early pre-Homo sapiens times.

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Oriental fire worship

Although the term "fire-worshippers" is primarily associated with Zoroastrians, the idea that Zoroastrians worship fire is originally from anti-Zoroastrian polemic. Instead, fire — even in a Fire temple (the Zoroastrian terms are more prosaic and simple mean "house of fire") — is considered to be an agent of purity and as a symbol of righteousness and truth. In the present-day this is explained to be because fire burns ever-upwards and can't itself be polluted. Nonetheless, Sadeh and Chaharshanbe Suri are both fire-related festivals celebrated throughout Greater Iran and date back to when Zoroastrianism was still the predominant religion of the region.

In Vedic religion, fire is a central element in the Yajna ceremony, with Agni "fire" playing the role as mediator between the worshipper and the other gods. Related concepts are the Agnihotra ritual, the invocation of the healing properties of fire; the Agnicayana ritual, which is the building of a fire altar to Agni; and Agnistoma, which is one of the seven Somayajnas. In Hinduism which is really Sanatana Dharma, Agni or Fire is cosidered to be the tongue of the Supreme Lord Narayana, hence all the sacrfices done even to any demigod ultimately is a sacrifice to the Supreme Lord Narayana.

Archaeologically, the earliest evidence for Indo-Iranian fire worship is found at the transition from the Sintashta-Petrovka to the Fedorovo culture around 1500 BC, together with first evidence of cremation. While cremation became ubiquitous in Hinduism, it came to be disavowed in Zoroastrianism.

Fire is also an element of theophany in the Hebrew Bible (Burning bush, Pillar of Fire). Additionally, the Biblical Hebrew language is sometimes referred to as "the flame alphabet" because many devout Jews believe that the Torah is the literal word of God written in fire (for example Aish HaTorah). The Holy Spirit in Christianity is described as "tongues of flame."

Occidental fire worship

Fire-worship in Graeco-Roman tradition had two separate forms: fire of the hearth and fire of the forge. Hearth worship was maintained in Rome by the Vestal Virgins, who served the goddess Vesta, protector of the home, who had a sacred flame as the symbol of her presence in the city (cf. Sacred fire of Vesta). The Greek equivalent of the goddess was Hestia, whose worship is less well attested. The fire of the forge was associated with the Greek god Hephaestus and the Roman equivalent Vulcan. These two seem to have served both as craft-guild patrons and as protectors against accidental fires in cities. Also associated with fire is the titanic god Prometheus, who stole fire for humans from the gods. Most forms of worship in Graeco-Roman religion involved either cooking or burning completely an animal on a fire made on an altar in front of a temple (see Hecatomb).

Celtic mythology had Belenus, whose name, "shining one", associated him with fire. In Slavic mythology, Svarog, meaning "bright and clear", was the spirit of fire. Loki of Norse mythology may also have been a fire spirit.

See also

  • Sun worship
  • Immolation
  • Cremation
  • Lightning, thunder god

Literature

  • Madhulika Sharma, Fire Worship in Ancient India, Jaipur, Publication Scheme, 2002, ISBN 81-86782-57-5.
 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Fire_worship". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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