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Fire has been used by humans ever since it was discovered some 1.7 to 2.0 million years ago. It’s one of the most important forces on the planet and became the turning point in the technological development of humankind when early humans first learned to control it.
Throughout history, fire has had an important place in many mythologies, cultures, and religions around the world and there are various symbols to represent it.
Here’s a quick look at a few symbols that represent the element of fire, the meaning behind them, and their relevance today.
1. Alchemy Fire Symbol
The alchemy symbol for fire is a simple triangle pointing upwards. In alchemy, fire symbolizes ‘fiery’ emotions such as love, anger, hate, and passion.
2. The Phoenix
The phoenix is a magical bird that appears extensively in popular culture and is strongly associated with fire. While there are several variations to the phoenix myth, such as the simurgh of Persia, the bennu bird of Egypt, and the feng huang of China, the Greek phoenix is the best known of these firebirds.
Fire plays an important role in the phoenix’s life cycle. The bird is born from the ashes of its own flames, then lives for a span of 500 years, at the end of which it bursts into flames again and then is reborn.
The phoenix symbol serves as a reminder to cast aside our fears and go through the fire in order to start afresh with renewed beauty and hope.
3. Kenaz Rune
Also known as Ken or Kan, the Kenaz rune represents rebirth or creation through fire. The word ken is derived from the German word kien, which means fir or pine tree. It was also known as kienspan, which in old English, means a torch made of pine.
The rune is directly linked to fire and symbolizes a transformative and purifying force. If unattended, it will become uncontrollable or will burn out, but when used carefully with focus, it can serve a useful purpose.
This symbol has various other meanings as well. Since the torch symbolizes enlightenment, knowledge and intellect, the ken symbol signifies these concepts as well as creativity, art and craftsmanship.
4. Seven-Ray Sun
This symbol is one of the most commonly used symbols among the Native American tribes. It’s quite simple in design, featuring a red sun with seven rays.
The individual rays represent an energy center, or the energetic fire in humans (there are supposedly seven energy centers) and as a whole, the symbol represents the healing arts and the love for peace.
The seven-ray sun is also considered an important fire symbol to the Cherokees since each of its rays signifies one of the seven ceremonies that are held throughout the year. Each of these ceremonies revolves around one or more sacred fires.
Since ancient times, the salamander was believed to be a mythical creature, especially in Greek and Roman mythologies, that could walk through fire unscathed. It represents the ability to survive flames.
This amphibian was considered a symbol of immortality, passion, and rebirth, much like the phoenix, and was thought of as a creation of witchcraft that could not be explained. Due to this reason, people feared the tiny creature, which in reality is harmless.
The salamander later became the logo for firefighters, found on their trucks and coats. The creature was a popular symbol in firefighter history and the term ‘the salamander’ was used in place of the term ‘fire truck’.
6. The Dragon
The dragon is one of the most famous mythical creatures regarded as a symbol of fire. In nearly every culture in the world, this magnificent beast symbolizes fire and passion while in certain legends, it’s the guardian of treasures.
Dragons are typically depicted as massive, fire-breathing beasts that are untouchable and cannot be defeated. Therefore, in addition to fire, they also represent supernatural power and strength.
7. The Olympic Flame
The Olympic flame is one of the most well-known fire symbols in the world. The flame itself symbolizes the fire that the Titan god Prometheus stole from Zeus, the Greek god of gods. Prometheus restored this fire to humankind and was punished for his actions.
The custom of lighting the flame started in ancient Greece when organizers kept it burning throughout the games. It’s regarded as a symbol of life as well as continuity since it is always kept burning and doesn’t go out.
The flame hasn’t always been a part of the modern Games and was first used in 1928 at the Summer Olympics. While legends state that the flame has been kept burning since the time of the first Olympics in ancient Greece, in reality, it’s lit a few months before each game.
8. Flaming Sword (The Sword of Fire)
Flaming swords have existed in legends since ancient times, signifying supernatural power and authority. It also represents protection, as the flaming sword is often always victorious.
Flaming swords can be seen in various mythologies. In Norse mythology, the giant Surt wields a flaming sword. In Sumerian mythology, the god Asaruludu carries a flaming sword and “ensures the most perfect safety”.
In Christianity, the flaming sword was given by God to cherubs who were meant to guard the gates of Eden after Adam and Eve left, so that they would never be able to reach the Tree of Life again.
9. The Fox
In some mythologies, foxes are usually associated with the sun and fire. They’re called ‘fire-bringers’ in Native American tradition. Certain legends surrounding these animals say that it was a fox who stole fire from the gods and gifted it to humans.
In various other stories, the tail and mouth of the fox were believed to have magical powers that included the manifestation of fire or lightning.
Today, many people believe that seeing a red fox can ignite deep emotions as well as passion and creativity. The fox’s association with the sun is also believed to bring radiance as well as motivation.
Fire symbols have been around since ancient times. The above list only mentions a few of the most popular symbols of fire, most of which are still in common use around the world.
Some, like the phoenix and the dragon, continue to be extensively used in popular culture, while others, such as the kenaz or the seven-ray symbol, are less well-known.