Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Need Fire

There’s an ancient tradition in the Scottish Highlands called Tein'-éigin (Tine-Aye-Gan), In English: The Need Fire. Whenever a group of farmers or clansmen felt a particularly bad patch of luck had hit their cattle or community, all the home’s hearth fires were put out and a new fire was started for all. This fire was special, incredibly so. It was a fire for the commons, started not with a match or fuel, but by friction. You needed to light embers with the traditional methods of rope against wood because it was a blaze to be earned. Once it got started in earnest it burned high and wet wood was added to create smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. Farmers would run their cattle or horses through it, a baptism and cleansing, a prayer on the ashy hoof. The smoke was supposed to heal, and all it touched would aid those in need.

After the fire was smoldering, prayers sent up to the likes of Brigit (Saint or Goddess, depending on personal leanings or time period)—everyone grabbed coals and burning logs from the common fire, and took it home to start anew. They lit their own hearths again from that ritual, knowing that the whole clan was there together in whatever happened. They’d deal with the cattle, the limping horses, the bad crops—they were a community and they had the embers to prove it.

I have yet to gather my own clan up here for a Tein'-éigin, but I can assure you this much, they would all come. Everyone will have different ideas about religion, some will have no faith at all, but the Need Fire isn’t necessarily about deity, it is about each person’s trust in the larger community. That as a group we are more and capable of support and the healing of each other than any household or farm alone is. If my farm hosted a Need Fire I’d know Jesus, Buddah, St. Brigit, and Gaia would be present in the hearts of the attendees. Each religion would walk us separately to our bonfire. All those beautiful internal fires of belief just add to its strength. Like different woods create different sparks and slow burns, they come as one under the heat of the moment, the need.

And whether your friends and family actually create a smoky fire in a state park or just meet for coffee, the point and spirit of the Tein'-éigin lives on. It’s about coming together to work through pain. We see examples of it every day: Town Meeting Night over in Vermont, Personal interventions with addicts, prayer groups in church basements, Rotary Club and Girl Scout meetings alike. These are all examples of common hearts and minds coming together in support and change for something bigger than themselves, something better. Perhaps it is the farmer in me, or the romantic, but I can’t see a difference in any of these examples. I see the same hope swirling from the smoke of a 1356 Bonfire in the Highlands and the steam coming off a coffee cup in a church basement’s AA meeting. Strength comes from community support, so does change for the better.

So, dear friends, who would light a Need Fire with you? Who are the members of your clan? If there is something you ache for, or wish to heal, why not gather the support of your people? It took moving to a farming community for me to fully understand the idiocy of self-suffiency. Either in survival or spirit, community is what has the ability to thrive.

You don't have to be a religious person to let the Tein'-éigin burn in your heart. You just need to believe that a better life is something worth believing in. May your clan light the way.

-Excerpt from my upcoming book, Days of Grace.


Blogger Lilbitbrit said...

Yes Jenna so agree with you. It is the support of friends and community that bring you through.

Lil Bit Brit

June 28, 2012 at 5:14 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

Eerie timing... Yesterday I had the kind of day that needed some healing from. Rather than wallowing, I lit the first fire of the summer in our chiminea in the backyard, sat and watched the flames. I burned some herbs from my garden I had gathered at sunrise on the Solstice, to let the smoke cleanse the air. And it helped.

When is the book coming out? Thank you for writing things like this.

June 28, 2012 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger kaelak said...

Agree with Elizabeth - thank you for writing things like this. This - is magical.

June 28, 2012 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

Love this! Thanks, Jenna.

June 28, 2012 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Thank you, Jenna! Looking forward to the book!

June 28, 2012 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Meredith said...

What a great through to start the day with. Thank you!
Looking forward to the new book!

June 28, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Plant City Homestead said...

I can't wait to read the book! Our connection of need is the best part of living in a rural community. We have to depend on each other. No one man ever raised a barn alone. We may not raise a barn every day, but a cup of coffee with a friend sure helps with the daily challenges.

June 28, 2012 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger wendy said...

that was a lovely way for me to start my morning - i do so enjoy your blog on an every morning basis - looking forward to the book.

June 28, 2012 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

beautiful and inspirational

June 28, 2012 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

This reminds me of our camping trip every year with our dear friends from Connecticut. Our families have been camping together for 7 years but we have been friends for 20. Our children have gone from creating imaginary worlds together to talking around the campfire (almost adults now). We build our fire immediately when we get to the campground each year and we start talking over our dinner. On Friday we pull the children in from their activities and celebrate Shabbat with our friends and I relish the sense of appreciation for every single soul present while my friend sings the traditional songs of the evening (we are not Jewish, I don't know what the words mean, but the familiarity of her voice singing brings feelings of love and peace into my heart).
Last year we experienced a horrific tragedy in our family. The anniversary of which is Monday. We'll leave for our trip on Thursday and sit around the fire and appreciate each other's company. We'll smell the smoke, sing songs on Friday, and swim in the ice cold waterfall. Our friends keep us moving toward the life that we love. They soothe our grief and make us laugh. We'll light our fire, cleanse our souls and return home with an ember to burn brightly in our hearth until the next Need Fire.
Thanks Jenna, for giving it a name.

June 28, 2012 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

this was a great show. It was highlighting the community that the Atlantic provinces in Canada share.

June 28, 2012 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Love this. :)

June 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Woman Seeking Center said...

So true (and beautifully written).

My seeking of and arrival at my old farm began as an escape. A headlong run fueled by the belief I never would, could or should trust a community of people again.

To my amazed, thankful, wondrous surprise the people of my new(very) small farm town patiently taught me. They gently, warmly and kindly showed me what a true community of souls is about, how those connected work together. Care for each other.

I am forever indebted to the handful of farm-folks who taught me that what really matters in life can still be found and shared...

Now I am counted as a part of the
warp and weave of them and honored to be amid them, sharing life.

June 28, 2012 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger ebwhite said...

Tell Battenkill Books to be ready when this is published. I think there are many who will want to have a copy of this book.

June 28, 2012 at 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Alicia said...

I love this post. My Scots-Irish grandmother told me about the Need Fire. She also left offerings for the Good Folk and Brigit.

June 28, 2012 at 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Heather said...

CANNOT WAIT to read the whole book!!

June 28, 2012 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Why's woman said...

Hi Jenna,

Thank you for this post. Reading it, I feel a good kind of pain.

I hope you won't mind that I have put it on my own blog - with credit to you, and your blog link.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

June 28, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Simply beautiful...can't wait for the rest of the book. :)

June 28, 2012 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger jules said...

This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing. I think, after this next week, I'll gather our clan.

June 28, 2012 at 2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, you write so beautifully. Can't wait to get this newest book!!


June 28, 2012 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

How beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I'm looking forward to this book.

Jenna, I hope it's okay for me to share this here, but I am working to get momentum on my own blog and Etsy shop, and I am having a giveaway right now.

If you like embroidery hoops or handmade greeting cards, please stop by!

June 28, 2012 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Bovey Belle said...

A wonderful piece of writing to wake up to. I live in a close-knit rural community (have done for 23 years now) and we all look out for each other. Moving here was like going back in time, to an unchanged social structure long lost in towns and cities.

I also have an on-line clan too - friends I have made over the years, met up with, connected to on different levels, and they are just as important. Friends for life - made through that machine in my spare room . . .

June 29, 2012 at 4:05 AM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

Can't wait to see the new book!

June 30, 2012 at 9:46 PM  

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