In my various googlings researching into the use of friction fire in ritual, I came across the ritual of Force Fire also called Need Fire, Neid Fire and Teine Eigin or Teine-éiginn (Gaelic for friction fire.) Force Fire seems to have been a ritual within the Celtic tradition and also within other Northern Hemisphere traditions including the Vikings.
Force Fire seems to have been a ritual way of starting fires as part of ceremonies (e.g. Samhain and Beltaine Celtic Festivals) but also as a way to cure ills - for example: when your cattle came down with foot and mouth, or other times of distress. It may also have been use by the Norse for lighting funeral pyres.
In all these instances, all fires within the local community would be extinguished and a new communal fire would be lit by means of friction (by using a device similar to the one pictured.) Once the new fire had been lit and offerings made, then everyone in the community would light their fires from the new communal fire. In the case of curing ills, damp wood would be added to make copius amounts of smoke and the cattle\people would be paraded through the smoke to "cleanse" them. or in other accounts water is boiled on the fire and then sprinkled over the people\animales. The community would also take a brand from the fire and re-light their hearth fires after the ceremony. It seems different communities would have slightly different rituals, requiring a certain amount of people involved in making the fire, or the fire having to be made in a particular depending on local beliefs and superstitions.
It seems this tradition occurred as recent as until the mid 1800s in Scotland.
There have been a few written descriptions of the device used to make Force Fire and in the main it sounds like an over-sized Strap Drill, like the ones in the pictures. The one in the above picture wouldn't really work, the reconstructions below are modern working interpretations.
First off, it may seem a cumbersome, over engineered, ineffective way of producing fire in comparison to the bow drill and hand drill but that was probably the point, and I'm guessing it was supposed to take many people to "force" fire through this contraption as part of the ritual.
I would love to have a go at building one of these. I have made a small model version, but haven't yet fully tested it.
Comments are closed.