Ring of Flame Portal
As we approach the Spring season, and around Equinox, we enter the Ring of Flame Portal to the Otherworld for this year’s Crone Goddess Conference. I am Katinka Soetens, ceremonialist for the ‘Lady of the Otherworld’ in the East of the wheel of the 2023 Conference, where we find Her elemental Fire portal.
Fire has been a vital part of human development and is a primordial form of Goddess, sacred since at least the Lower-Palaeolithic. It is an ancient symbol of transformation, creation, spirit, insight, presence, and protection.
As a fundamental part of rituals since earliest time, Fire is a magical elemental portal that opens to the Other Realms. It has been used in ceremony to call the spirits, access the power of illumination for -scrying, -shadow hunting, -and the seeking of wisdom insight, as the transformational gateway into the Underworld of the dead, as well as for the casting of circles for protection, healing and creation of ceremonial space.
Culturally, around the world, we find evidence of traditional Deification of Fire, or at least a spiritual practice of appreciation for this sacred element.
Fire is intimate and it is universal.
A symbol for life and passion, it is also the one element in which nothing can actually live.
It can protect and it can destroy, heal or hurt.
It lives in our heart and resides in our belly.
It illuminates in the sky and it rises from the depths of the earth.
A part of all living things, it offers of itself as warmth and light, like love.
It can run unstoppable, burning and destroying, consuming all in its way, violent like rage.
Or it can be down under the surface, in the depth of substance, hiding there, latent and pent-up, like hate or vengeance.
Fire was revered by many Celtic peoples as a sacred bridge between realities because it is the element to which opposing values can be so easily, and definitively, attributed.
It is precisely this apparent opposition that creates the portal into that which lies beyond our perception of dualistic opposition, which is always an initiatory experience, an epiphany of lived realisation of that which is beyond our ideas of separation. Some of the Celtic celebrations that have survived into the present day therefore are especially based around some form of the two major polar modalities of Death and Life, of dark and of light.
In many Celtic lands, at the threshold times of the year, like the equinoxes or the cross-quarter fire festivals of Beltane and Samhain, fire rituals involved opening sacred spaces, making offerings to the spirits and/or ancestors, lighting cleansing herbs from a central flame, so that the Ring of Flame Portal could be celebrated with music and dancing. People and their cattle would walk around or between bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers for the blessing this portal offers.
Fire was used in rituals of protection in many parts of Europe up to the early modern era. The need-fire or force-fire was a special fire kindled to ward-off plague and infectious diseases affecting livestock in parts of western, northern and eastern Europe. At specific ceremonial times, to ward off bad luck or to bring in the blessings of the Goddess and the magic of Her fire, all household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the sacred flame, often kept burning perpetually, like the sacred fire of Vesta or of Brighde.
The sacred Fire of the Goddess of course burns within us too, and we can experience our inner fire: the flame of love, creative desire-fire and spark of inspiration, combining to make the Ring of Flame by connecting our heart, sex and mind, to form a dynamic and mutually supportive flow of life-force to serve and benefit the Path of Love.
For me the Ring of Flame is both the dancing kundalini of our sacred aliveness in the vessel of our body, and the spirit fire that ignites and illuminates our vision, our soul purpose.
Because of Fire’s power and obvious transformational ability, fire is alchemic. Ritually, fire needed to be approached with due care, needed to be handled by those trained to do so, and needed to be fed with the correct offerings, for She Herself was the portal of transformation. When done in the correct, reverent manner, Ritual Fire is the living presence of the Goddess.
Thus, She is the devouring flames of the funeral pier, opening the portal for the journey into the Otherworld between life, death and rebirth. At the same time She is the wild dancing joyous flame of life rekindled. Alight in the heart as our courage passion and love, and nurtured in the womb and in the greening earth, as the budding light of life’s renewal.
To me, this portal of the Crone is one that requires courage and trust. Her Ring of Flame portal into the Otherworld does not feel like an easy portal to consider, perhaps because fire has been used in the burning times against all those who were different, or who choose to be authentic, or who walked the ‘old ways of Goddess’.
And so, it can be an alchemical Fire-walk to enter the Crone’s Otherworld through the Ring of Flame.
Stepping through the Ring of Flame portal of the Crone may be the wisdom quest of transformation that life will offer us regardless of our plans, but in seeking entry to Her realm and to Her wisdom Fire we need to consciously enter this portal, usually by facing our fears, rather than wander into it by chance. The Ring of Flame needs to be specifically chosen and consciously sought out, as the hero’s quest of the seeker.
Step into the Ring of Fame and you will step through the gateway of the opposites of fear and comfort, into the Otherworld of the Crone’s wisdom. This is the realm of the bigger picture, of Soul-Purpose, that illuminates our interconnectivity with all things; the magical Otherworld of non-separation and limitless potential.
This is the Otherworld of the Crone that the wisdom mythologies and fairy tales tell us about. Here we may meet the sacred mirror and come into Divine Union within ourselves. Or this is where we may find the magical gifts to bring back or be rewarded with. Here we may receive the crown of wisdom and the medicine of healing with which we can facilitate the shifts of heart and minds needed in our times.
Within Her Otherworld Realm and dimension, we will meet the Crone Goddess who is the flame of hope, She of the reflective Wisdom Fire. She is crowned with Her circle of wisdom light that is earned and lived. Her radiance emanates from the crown chakra, and She is the initiation into the expansion of the bigger picture. She asks us to do what it takes.
The form She may have can delight and attract, or terrify and repulse us. Like the great shapeshifting Goddess Baba-Yaga, who has the spirit wisdom fire of insight to offer to those who firstly can find Her, secondly can survive that meeting, and thirdly can pass all of Her tests.
For She will challenge us.
The Otherworld Crone can see us, and knows us so deeply, that Her testing will be like the forge-fire in which we will be transformed into our truest form and greatest use. Whatever happens, we will be transformed before we can claim the treasure of the Otherworld as ours. Only then may we carry the ‘Fire within the head’ as the mark of this Otherworld Crone’s blessing upon our ‘shining brow’, like Taliesin after his initiation journey with Cerridwen.
This journey into the Otherworld will make us the still point of the flame, the centre which guides others who have to face challenges.
Of course, on our return, we can become a circle of soul fire as wisdom keepers with other who have passed through this innitiation, as the holders of the Ring of Flame portal. Together, when we gather around the great bonfires to celebrate Goddess, like during the Lammas fire ceremonies of the Goddess Conference, which echoes to these more ancestral times, we hold the Ring of Flame of Her presence.
Around the flickering dance of flames, we are ourselves a ring of illuminated dancers in the dark, reflecting the flames, standing on the threshold between light and dark.
One of the Goddesses I’ve been connecting to for this year as Ceremonialist in relation to the Ring of Flame portal of the Otherworld as initiation journey, is Hecate.
In Her myth with Demeter and Persephone, She is the Crone aspect of this triple Goddess manifestation, who holds the torch of protection. More than just a witness or comforter, She is the way-shower into the Otherworld and holds the wisdom torch for finding the way through apparently insurmountable challenges. Her still flame leads and guides through the pervading darkness of injustice, loss, abuse and grief to integration, understanding, healing and solution focussed action.
In times of a troubled mind, I’ve been lighting a ‘torch’/candle while invoking Hecate, and gazing in the still centre of the flame, which is a form of the Ring of Flame portal. Here we can scry for a vision, visioning for a wisdom way through, and ask for the unseen to become apparent, for the truth to be revealed.
“Within the heart of every person exists the flame of wisdom that transforms all suffering into kindling for the fire of creative energy.” Daisaku Ikeda
May we all illuminate Her wisdom as lived action in the world.
I look forward to sharing the journey and blessings of the Crone of the Otherworld and Her portal of the Ring of Flame with you all in the Goddess Conference in August.