Fire. Both the word and the image bring so much to mind. It scorches. It desiccates. It smolders and burns. It sparks, it inspires, it enflames, and it emboldens. Like the other elements, it has its positive side and its fierce side. And yet, though water can be as dangerous as fire, we typically see water as a gentle, emotional, intuitive element; earth as fruity and abundant, solid and dependable; air as free, open, light, and thoughtful. So why does fire at first inspire thoughts of your house burning down?
Just look at how quickly one spark can burn down millions of acres of brush, forest, and homes—there simply isn't the same volatility with water, earth, or air except in extreme and rare situations. Fire can burn down your house any time, any day of the week, in any type of weather. Which is why you'd want to tend to your inner fire with special care: you want to keep it burning, but not all-consuming.
In Ecoshamanism, James Endredy points out how an imbalance of fire can lead us either to be pessimistic, lifeless, and dull (lacking the fire element) or rash, intolerant, and agitated (too much fire). Endredy writes, "When fire energy is balanced within us we have a high degree of passion for life, but we don't let our fire rage uncontrollably." The whole trick of fire is getting it in balance—which can be very tough indeed. Although the general population relegates "New Year's resolutions" to January, witches are constantly working on their path and reevaluating how they would like their lives to look. So perhaps this year at the summer solstice you can make a vow to work on balancing your fire element. Ask for help from the Sun or any solar deities with whom you work. Burn some herbs that correspond to the fire element, such as cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon, or allspice. Reflect on how active or passive you are, how hostile or ineffectual, how creative or dreary. How can you work with fire so that your life is better, for both you and the people around you?
"Fire energy is stimulated by bursts of physical and creative action," says Endredy, giving a clue as to how we might see balance achieved. "Activities that speed up the rhythm of our organism, metabolism, and cognitive functions raise the level of fire energy. Think of it this way: when you connect to a tree, your rhythm slows and you could touch or hug the tree indefinitely, but if you put your hand in a flame, you will draw it back as quickly as possible. This applies to fire activities as well. Strong physical activities, such as chopping wood for the fire, will only last a short while, but during that time the fire level inside you could be very high. This also goes for creativity. Those moments when your creative expression just seems to pour out of you don't last continuously for days on end. But when you are inside those moments, your organism is filled with fire energy."
To put fire in a "witchier" context than our shamanic friend, let's look at The Way of Four Spellbook by Deborah Lipp. In it, she outlines specific goals that best align with fire spells: to increase sexual desire or energy; to gain physical or psychic energy; to gain personal power, charisma, attraction, life force… you get the picture. These are all things you'd probably want to do in short bursts for specific situations, rather than doing them all the time and burning out. There are many ways you can incorporate the element of fire into your spells: you could light a fire by which to perform the ritual (bonfires being especially common at the solstice), burn items as a way of releasing the energy and sending it to spirit, or simply perform candle magic. Keep these in mind as you devise your plan for celebrating the Solstice, the longest day of the year. As you stand on the cusp of the sun's cycle, going from waxing sun to waning sun, reflect on how the cyclical balance of the Sun can also help you balance your fire element.