Priestesses and Naked Flames – cautionary tales

Priestesses and Naked Flames – cautionary tales

Before I became a Priestess of Cerridwen I was a solo practitioner just doing stuff in my bedroom.  In one Full Moon ceremony I did, I remember lighting a candle and then bowing my head over my altar in prayer.  As I was praying, a strange burning smell entered my nostrils and I could hear a faint crackling sound.  It took me a few seconds to realise that it was my hair that was burning.  Fortunately, it didn’t really catch light but just fizzled and I ended up with singed hair.

On another occasion, I lit a candle and then shook the match.  Thinking the match was out, I then threw it in the bin.  My bin is always full of paper (part of the creative process) and when I looked round I realised my bin was on fire!  Thankfully I had a big chalice of water on my altar and I just picked it up and emptied it into the bin thereby extinguishing the flames.  Both incidents got my heart racing and encouraged me to be a lot more careful when using naked flames.




Gail: Outdoor rituals are so important to me.  Temple buildings can provide accessible space for all and can be a warm, comfortable, safe space.  However, I feel the connection to the elements so much more strongly when my feet are planted on the earth, my chin tilted to the sky and my arms outstretched to the lake, river or sea in front of me.  I live in Snowdonia, Wales.  I have been involved in outdoor rituals and ceremonies at all points of the wheel of the year.  I have very few memories of dry days and sunshine!  It is important to keep an open mind and not to be too literal and fixed in your representations of the elements. 

I was lucky enough to be invited by a friendly Druid Grove to take part in their Imbolc Ceremony on the shores of Llyn Tegid.  We stood in a circle on an exposed stony promontory while the freezing wind whipped up hundreds of spiky waves on the surface of the Lake.  The cold was biting and some of the Druids were elderly and their bones were not as well provided with natural insulation as mine.  I became increasingly concerned as the drip on the end of my neighbour’s nose started to freeze into a snot-cicle.  I was asked to take the water round the Circle and speak the lines of ritual to honour and invite water.  The rain was happily hurling itself at us at this point and I tried to remember that it was alright really, after all, our skin is waterproof.  

The poor lady who was representing fire, however, was not having any luck.  She had attempted to confound the weather by bringing a glass-walled lantern with a tea-light inside it.  She even had a cigarette lighter (matches would have been completely useless).  Every time she opened the little glass door to try to light the wick a huge gust of wind would extinguish the flame.  Once she put her cloak up as a shield and managed to light it and slam the door shut.  Unfortunately the lantern was a cheap decorative one and the poor construction let the wind in through many and varied places, snuffing out the candle immediately.

Given that my poor neighbour was definitely starting to have hypothermia by this point, we had to satisfy ourselves with thinking about the properties of fire… I am pretty sure all of our visions were the same – a blazing log-burner and a steaming pot of tea!

Another group I am part of, who regularly hold a camp with rituals at the lakeshore take a far more practical approach.  Forgetting aesthetics, at the appropriate moment the person in charge of fire whips out a butane-filled barbecue gas lighter which sounds like a jet engine.  Even then, I think he has a blow-torch as a back-up.




My altar to Cerridwen is on top of a small chest of drawers in the corner of my bedroom. One morning, having lit the tea-light candle in the centre, I completed my prayer to Cerridwen and then lent down to plug in the extension lead for my computer which I unplug every night so I can sleep better. The power socket is slightly awkward to reach being at skirting board level between my chest of drawers and the bookcase on the adjoining wall.

As I leant down, I suddenly heard a WHOOSH!!! sound. Brain, go figure – what does WHOOSH!!! mean? Whether the smell of burning hair immediately kicked in to help me put two and two together, I don’t know, but the initial alert was the WHOOSH!!! Aagh! My hair was on fire! I patted my hair down (maybe grabbed a towel and put it over my head – I can’t remember, but I should have!) and naturally rushed to the mirror! Phew, not too much damage, eyebrows and lashes intact and only a few bits of blackened, crispy hair to pull off. It’s amazing what a stink a tiny bit of burning hair can make though!

Hmm, better disguise the smell. What shall I use? Ooh, how about that wonderful Cerridwen spray from the lovely Priestess of Cerridwen Mary Bonas! Stops dead in tracks! Oh, you mean the wonderful spray I spray in the air and walk into before I say my prayer to Cerridwen every day – the one whose exquisite-smelling OIL-based mist settles lightly on my fine hair – the perfect flammable mix?!

Ah! Extreme care taken ever since and a relieved laugh at the time – how could I have been so daft?! Be warned!

(Priestess remaining anonymous to avoid eviction!)


Please feel free to add your own cautionary fire tale in the comments.

One thought on “Priestesses and Naked Flames – cautionary tales

  1. Such an interesting relationship with fire, not just in this story however, in general. I’m always very cautious with candles after a friend of mine had an incident in her home with a lit candle through the night. Since then, if I’m not near my altar, I will place a battery operated or usb charged candle.

    I hope your hair has recuperated and not much was cut off. I had this happen to me during the Autum season and I suddenly got fringes from a fireplace that I got too close to. I learned my lesson. Cerridwen has a way of sparking us in the moment we need to be more alert. Thank you for this story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *