by Susan Pesznecker
(From Llewellyn’s Witches’ Calendar 2014)
Stone: Amethyst • Animal: Otter
Flower: Violet, Primrose • Ruling Planet: Uranus
In his Carmina Gadelica, folklorist Alexander Carmichael captured the traditions of the highland Scots, recording their stories, charms, and incantations and numbering the collected items. Incantations 82 to 87 are about building and smooring fire. To smoor is to “smother, put out, or extinguish.” But in the folklore context, the point wasn’t to extinguish the fire but to bank it with ashes so a few coals would survive, making it easy to rekindle in the morning. For the hearth dwellers of old Scotland, fire was life, and managing fire was central to survival. When smoored, embers were spread out in a circle and divided into three sections, leaving a sturdy piece called the “boss” in the center. Pieces of peat were laid between and touching each pile, with each piece of peat also touching the central boss. The peat and embers were covered with ash, protecting the fire without snuffing it. At the same time, blessings were murmured — usually by the mother figure. In this simple but profound ritual, a routine bit of housekeeping became sacred and holy and demonstrated the value perceived in the life-sustaining smooring of the fire.
February is deep winter. We sense the promise of spring, but weeks of darkness and cold must yet be endured before spring rekindles life in the world. In metaphoric terms, we “smoor” our internal pilot lights during this time, guarding that inner spark and keeping our magickal intentions and inspirations alive and well through the quiet, dark sleep of late winter. February is an excellent time to find inspiration through readings and Craft work, nurturing your own life-spark. If you have a fireplace or fire pit, try your hand at smooring some actual live embers. In the morning, poke away at the ashes, add a bit of shredded paper or laundry lint, and see if you can coax the coals back into flame.
A Ritual of Smooring
Carry out this ritual at night, just before bed. Have your evening ablutions complete so you can turn in immediately following the ritual.
Begin in a well-lit room. Place a small candle in a canning jar and light it. Sit quietly, experiencing the light and warmth of the room. When you’re ready, turn the lights off, leaving the room in complete darkness with the candle serving as the only light. Return to your seat by the candle. Concentrate on how the tiny light is the only thing holding the darkness at bay. Wrap a blanket around your shoulders and over your head, and envision yourself smooring your own internal light against winter’s darkness.
Speak Carmina Gadelica (“Smooring the Fire”) No. 84 aloud:
The sacred Three
To save, to shield, to surround
The heart, the house, the household,
This eve, this night, Oh! This eve,
This night, and everynight, each single night.
Meditate on the words and their meaning. When you’re ready, either leave the candle burning in a safe location (e.g., within the fireplace) or extinguish the flame. Go quietly to bed, contemplating the idea of smooring as you fall asleep.
Posted on March 1, 2014, in Wicca and tagged Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, darkness, embers, February, fire, folklore, ritual, smoor, smooring, winter. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.