We finished up last post looking at the idea of taming fire using the archetypally masculine ability to focus. Interestingly, "focus" comes from Latin and refers to the hearth fire, which was tended by women. So the Ilmatar, the Air-lass who tended the spark that was dropped, would have the same sacred trust of the woman of any household in that older time. I'm sure there are still many, many women tending the literal hearth worldwide. At the end of this post find a little more on this matter.
Next, Vainamoinen asks the Air-Spirit to continue her narrative about where the fire went, "to the forest or the sea?"
The woman answering says
she uttered, spoke thus:
'When from there the fire
went and the flame whirls
at first it burnt many lands-
many lands and many swamps;
finally it plunged in the water
in the billows of Lake Alue;
this nearly caught fire
and as sparks glistened...
This poetry is about fire meeting water. It results in a beautiful display, of light-sparks on the water, a sort of transformation, an "enlightening". Of course feminine water and masculine fire don't exist together in physical reality, so this is an inner alchemical event. I can't find a "real" Lake Alue in an internet search. Supposedly alue means "area", but I don't trust online translations. Maybe my friend Kerstin can tell me? However, this imagery could very well be the same as the field on the edge of the forest (last post), for we get more liminal, borderline activity now;
...it foamed high as the spruces
roared up to the brims
in the hands of that harsh fire
in the force of that hot flame;
it foamed and stranded its fish
on ledges its perch.
At that the fish look
the perch consider
how to be, which way to live
and the perch wept for its sheds
the fish for their little farms
the ruff for its rock stronghold.
A crook-necked perch went
and reached for the tine of fire
but the perch did not get it.
So things are getting a little too hot, in Lake Alue, right? Just as the fire singes the wise man's beard, so these fish are out of water. Fish are wisdom animals. I don't know the character details for the various fish mentioned in this bit, but I wish I did. Stranded fish are a metaphor for humans who are thrown out of unity consciousness, since, as I mentioned earlier in this blog series on Fire from Heaven, the most common symbolic meaning of the sea is "sea of consciousness" or oneness. Wisdom does, of course, entail a certain level of living in oneness. So, when too much dualistic or immature fire is added to the mix, we live our lives like stranded fish; we forget our wisdom.
Notice the fish are very pointedly compared with humans. On that level, when they are thrust from their comfort zones, they "consider/how to be/ which way to live". This very same phrase is used elsewhere in Kalevala. Here, we're getting instruction specifically on fire's transformational nature. Like the tyrant Louhi (back to 1st post in series) who stirs things up by stealing the fire, sun, and moon, prompting Vainamoinen and Ilmarinen to go searching, this fire-induced discomfort the fish are experiencing inspires self inquiry, "how to be, which way to live". The lesson is, when you've been burnt, by human anger, by pain and illness, by rejection and other forms of self-and-other punishment, think of it as a spur to transformation. Use it; as a tool for considering who you are, and who you want to be. From this perspective, nothing appears in our experience that can not be put to some good use.
The fish who weep at the loss of their homes, their physical security, basically, dramatize how we humans feel in the throes of a fire-transformation; we will likely feel loss and grief for the old way, for the person we used to be. Weeping over loss is a frequent event in transformational story. The Birch Kantele, interped here before Fire From Heaven, addresses that particular water element thing of weeping.
This first fish mentioned "doesn't get it". S/he looks for this source of fire, but doesn't reach full understanding. We will have sacred three tries on the parts of the fish, then three tries on the part of Vainamoinen.
So a bluish whitefish went:
it swallowed the tine of fire
it gulped the flame down.
Now Lake Alue turned back
to water, came off its brim
to where it had been before
in one summer night.
The color blue can either be air element or water element. If I take the translation of "whitefish" to be exact, i.e. that the fish is called also in Finnish "whitefish", white edges us towards air element, since air element is also the white of the transcendent light that is not fire, of the ethereal that is not the Earth's blue atmosphere. So we could say that this fish has such an air element power of transcendent, meditative, or detached mind. Applying this power eases the burn; the lake is once again returned to its balanced state.
This swallowing act doesn't solve the problem entirely, though. Things are back to "normal" on the outside, but there are still problems inside. Maybe this is actually just a case of fire suppression again. For, says the Air-woman
'A little time passed:
pain came to the swallower
and hardship to the gulper
suffering to the big eater.
The transformation is not complete; fire is still not mastered. It still causes internal pain and suffering. Like I said, fire is a very difficult element to master!
Now Vainamoinen's going to get in on the act. He's going to catch the matreshka-like fish within a fish within a fish in a net. Just as he fashions his boat by hand, so he does the seine. He first got the women to do his casting, but
they cast the seine upside down
they pull it in wrong
The men don't fare any better;
fishes are small, meshes few.
The wisdom-pike is disappointed; it wants to be caught, despite its elusiveness! That's an interesting idea. Of course the wiser self or "higher self" or soul or spirit aspect of ourselves is indeed always pulling for our wisdom development.
Now at that the fish complained;...
'Have they died, the famous men
have Kaleva's sons been lost-
knitters of the hempen seine
makers of the net of yarn
wielders of the great beater
workers of the long handle?'
This seine-work is, of course, the same as raking and combing. It's self inquiry, the development of wisdom through "casting a wide net", in this particular image; the nets will increase in size through the three tries. I think the pike might be a deep water fish compared with the others. If we are combing for the "source of fire", for the true nature of fire, for the many ways we personally relate to and with it, the ways we embody it, we won't get far if we're lackadaisical about it, if we take the first, easy answer.
The net implies to us the ways that our perceptions and beliefs are woven together. By association, we can make, create, a different belief-net, one that is not limited by our conditioning. Conditioned consciousness is limited, to put it mildly. New thoughts and beliefs and experiences create a consciousness-net that's original, like Vainamoinen's boat; it dispels the conditioned aspects of our experience and drives the wisdom to places where we can catch it! Thus the beater. Theoretically, every correct observation made about fire would create another mesh in our inner wisdom seine-nets. When we recognize a fire imbalance, when we see and feel it, we have woven another mesh into the net! That particular aspect of fire won't escape us next time, right? We've got its number, you could say.
'No, the fellows have not died
Kaleva's people fallen:
one has died, two have been born
who have better beaters, who
have handles a span longer
and seines twice more terrible.'
Here Vainamoinen is confirming that a change has certainly occurred within. Some old aspects of the personality have died, the fish mourning the loss of their old homes. But, he says, when we sacrifice the old way, we become twice as strong, in the department he's in charge of- alchemical wisdom development! We get better and better at catching the wisdom-fish; our scope of experience is longer or broader, and our recognition, our discrimination, our knowledge of how the elements work, only gets better.
To continue this tale, Kalevala starts with a new chapter; Fishing for Fire. I'll start there next post.
As saint/goddess of birth and newborns, we see a strong association between Brighid and the Air-lass who tends the Old Man's spark. We can imagine the seed of every creative endeavor as an archetypally masculine spark of light that seeks to enter into form, to become one with earth element, with Earth. These seeds are tended within feminine wombs, eggs, the body of Earth or soil. The flame or more ethereal inner light powers the growth of everything here. Brighid, like the famous vestal Virgins who tended the sacred flame of the Roman Temple of Vesta, has a flame that's tended in Kildare now.
by Kellianna ©2010
I am the spark before the fire /from winters cold I do inspire
I am the promise of the Spring/I am the tiniest of flames.
A dancing fire upon the snow/in darkest night a mighty glow
I circle toward the coming spring/I am all life awakening.
Mid-Winters' slumber I do shake/I coax the seed and bulb to wake
I pull them slowly from their dreams/I am the Maiden of the flame.
Protecting all at time of birth/In love and safety draw them forth
I wrap all newborns in my light/I am the Maiden dressed in white.