“It is time to rise again, My Winter Child…”
Here follows a tale of the alchemical nature of fire.
The Phoenix rises towards the Sun in these glorious images from the 12th century manuscript “The Aberdeen Bestiary”
The wild west wind blew and vicious branches scraped at the little lattice windows. Clawing, scratching trying to gain admittance into the warmth of the stone cottage. Ellis shivered, the howling sound unsettling her, it had a life of its own, nocturnal and numinous. Shades of an unseen creature only perceptible by its tortured screams. Ellis was slightly apprehensive at being all alone in Myrtle Cottage. Wrapping a brightly coloured mohair shawl tightly round her, more for comfort than warmth, she raced downstairs, somehow feeling that the heat of the fire would offer protection from the cacophony outside. However, the fire was out, she had slumbered longer than she realised. There was no warmth, just a pile of grey ashes. The wind began to howl once more and the pale moonlight was casting long shadows against the whitewashed stone walls. The feeling that a living, breathing entity was wrapping itself around the cottage grew, and Ellis began to feel her heart pump louder and louder, hearing the rapid heartbeats in her ears like tumultuous waves crashing upon a lonely shore. A loud screech shocked her, it was an Owl, but the fierceness of its call jangled her already shattered nerves even more.
“E l l i s…” distorted and carried on the wind as a wraith seeking a lost love. She started to sob, becoming tremulous and very afraid. Every fibre of her being acutely aware of being absolutely alone in the isolated little cottage. This morning, in the bright light of day, it have been so welcoming and warm, encompassing her in a sense of belonging. What madness had caused her to stay here, so far away from all that was familiar?
A loud and urgent “rat a tat” jolted through her awareness like an electric shock, it was the final straw in Ellis trying to keep it together. She let full reign to a primordial scream, as someone or something pummelled the thick wooden door from outside. Almost in slow motion the door was slowly being pushed open by God only knew what sort of phantasmagorical creature. The last thing Ellis recalled, as the room closed in around her, was a large and ominous dark shape lurching into the cottage. The creature was all black and came billowing through the door, a giant crow like bird, talons outstretched and sharp beak cawing and coming directly at her. Ellis fell heavily on the hard flagstone floor in a dead faint.
The smell of burning wood, pungent with incense stirred her senses, Frankincense mixed with traces of Spikenard, Benzoin, and Patchouli. Slowly opening her eyes Ellis was aware of smoke spiralling up the chimney, chased by flickering amber flames. Crackling and hissing from the resin scattered over the logs. The air hung heavy with the smell of the heady resins. The room felt warmer, calmer. She was aware of the comfort of cushions and the embrace of the mohair shawl. No longer on the hard flagstones, the comfortable big old couch was providing this safe haven. She did not question how she had arrived on the couch. All was in darkness save for the light of the fire, and as the flames took hold of the logs and kindling, Ellis was drawn to the pictures within the flames, watching them leaping, dancing billowing. The orange and red and gold, warming, calling… Seeing creatures leaping and dancing with abandon within their own world, the element of fire, tiny lizard like creatures-slithering and sliding, in and over and under the crackling logs. Looking closer, she saw they were paying particular attention to what looked like a green log. Leaning in to get a better view of their antics, Ellis was surprised to see what looked very much like an iridescent green egg. Reaching for the old cast iron poker, she gently nudged the egg. The little fire Salamanders scuttled into hiding under the logs, yet she knew they were watching, they too fascinated by the green egg nestling within the flames and smoke. With a start, Ellis saw a crack forming in the egg and the Salamanders, gathering courage came to pay close inspection, perhaps the strange hatchling was one of their own kind? Face glowing with pleasure, Ellis watching the little ones dance through the tongues of fire, welcoming the newcomer from the egg. The flames appeared to converge, the red and orange and gold merging as one giant flame, rushing up the chimney. The flame seemed to be taking on a solid form, more colours, blue, green, and purple, fusing into what very much looked like a face that rather disconcertingly was staring out at her!
Piercing eyes, sharp beak and wings, gloriously coloured, slowly unfurling. There was a squawk, piercing to her ears. Then fluttering and whooshing of air. The flame seemed to leap out at Ellis and frightened she drew back into the sanctuary of the big couch as the bird formed from fire, swooped from the hearth into the room. Its magnificent wings unfurled, flames extending out from the tips of the outstretched wings. The splendid creature hung numinous in the room, creating a brilliance that eradicated all the gloom. Then, fixing her with a steely stare the Firebird opened its beak and spoke…
“Ah Ellis…I have been reborn and come to tell you, child of the Winter Solstice, so shall you be…The path has been long and hard for you, but that life is dead and buried in the cold hard ground. You have been purified by the element of fire, and now it is time for you begin anew, such is the turn of the wheel as it moves from life to death and renewal…” The Firebird flexed his talons and continued “You are charged with being brave, for this way is not for the faint of heart nor those whose spirit is not of the Light. You, My Winter Child, will rise again triumphant, as a Firebird!”
A swirling multi-coloured spiral of energy filled the room, and as suddenly as he had arrived the Firebird was consumed back into the flames. Once more, the burning embers crackled and hissed, dancing flames playfully chased the smoke up the Chimney. Had she imaged it all?
By the flickering firelight, Ellis saw something glinting on the grey flagstones, curling smoke rising towards the low beamed ceilings. Slowly she got up from the safety of the couch to retrieve the strange, smouldering object and gingerly picked it up at the edges.
“Oh!” she gasped. In her hand dangled a perfectly formed Firebird, fashioned of stained glass with the molten glass newly set within a casing of silver. And as the firelight caught the radiant colours of the glass, Ellis marvelled that the Firebird was made many hues, red talons and beak, a body of green, neck of blue, a vibrant purple head and opalescent white eyes, the outstretched feathers on the wings graduated from red, orange and yellow. All colours beautifully aligned and balanced, and then she realised they were also the colours of the Chakras. The words of the Firebird hung delicately on the air…
“It is time to rise again, My Winter Child…”