Image: Sue Vincent
Sue’s writing challenge this week gave me a good kick up the bottom, in the nicest sense I have to say! The creative fires needed stoking, they craved an injection of oxygen. My enthusiasm for writing had been waning for a while, it happens now and again and nothing to worry about. As for the subject matter for this challenge, Ignis, it’s Latin for Fire. Elemental Fire was considered by Alchemists to be an element that was active in nature. It’s masculine, energetic, spontaneous and uniting in quality. It was considered to have a place at the centre of things and be a force of transmutation. Fire was seen to be the seed force of the Universe and had two purposes:
- Being an expression of spiritual energy
- Being a symbol of regeneration and transformation due to its ability to purify, destroy and burn. Due to such actions does the new emerge from the ashes of the old.
To pass through fire is to transcend the human condition. I speak of things symbolic of course. That most mysterious of animals, the Phoenix, must be mentioned at this stage. It’s a bird of rebirth and symbol of alchemical resurrection and has a part to play in my story and possibly my life.
The action takes place in an Alchemist’s laboratory. There are three participants in this drama, an Alchemist, his daughter and a Phoenix:
The Alchemist stoked the fire slowly and carefully. His face was pensive and tinged with a little sadness. This was the culmination of centuries of work, often filled with disappointment and danger. The charlatans had transformed these ancient mysteries and made them an object of derision and suspicion in these troubled times. Now only greed prevailed. He had the skill to transform base metal into gold but chose to use it sparingly. His real goal was the transmutation of gross matter into spiritual gold, a pursuit he and his ancestors had made the centre of their existence. A woman watched from the other side of the fire, it was his daughter. She was the heir and recipient of every drop of love his soul and heart were capable of producing.
They both stared deeply into the flames as if searching for a sign. Their blood quickened through the veins, its scarlet radiance shimmering with tiny sparks of golden light. Soon, soon would the moment be right. There it was. Both figures stood erect. The significance of this moment would be engraved upon their hearts forever. A tear slid down the Alchemist’s cheek. For all his life experience and wisdom he was still subject to emotions assailing the human condition. His daughter hugged him tightly; overcome by emotion she was unable to utter a word.
The Alchemist’s laboratory faded into nothingness and silence enclosed the two figures instead of walls. An extensive plain opened up before them, with mountains forming a crescent around the plains. Behind them rose a great fire and high above it shone a glorious Sun.
In silence did they make this parting and then the Alchemist’s daughter walked towards the fire. Her robe reflected the light of the Sun, each feather glinting with gold dust. Flames engulfed the human figure, an unearthly light blazing forth during this transformation, in her place stood a Phoenix. The bird’s cries rang across the Universe. The Alchemist’s eyes blazed with wonder and happiness. The Great Work would continue. Few had witnessed this transformation.
The ferocity of the flames died down leaving a mound of ashes in their place. He approached, keen eyes spotting the glint of an eggshell. Many days and nights did he spend guarding that egg. Then, on the ninth sunrise the egg began to move and the infant within increasing its efforts to break through the shell. He willed the infant to persevere. Soon a hatchling emerged, a baby Phoenix. She stared up at the human and flapped her tiny wings excitedly. The Alchemist bent down and gently lifted the hatchling to his breast. She listened to his heartbeat and after a while entered the realm of dreams.