Have you ever caught yourself staring, lost in thought, at a candle flame or a log fire in your fireplace? Time seems to slow to a halt and your mind feels free to wander, unencumbered by everyday burdens. What is this fascination that we have with fire and flame, and why does candlelight have the power to mesmerise us and unfetter our thoughts? A scientist might explain it in terms of combustion and entropy, an artist might point to the constantly changing beauty of a flame, an anthropologist might talk about the importance of fire in our evolutionary history, and a philosopher or religious scholar might point out the rich symbolism of fire and flame, bringing light to the world. In this blog post we'll look at why something as simple as a candlelight or a fireplace has such resonance and casts such a spell on us.
There is evidence that early hominids, ancestors of humans, learned how to control fire over a million years ago. As early as half a million years ago our ancestors were maintaining fireplaces in caves and settlements for warmth, cooking food and making tools. This technology of fire had a dramatic impact on our evolution. Using fire to cook and preserve food gave us access to more calories, and using fire for warmth and to deter predators allowed us to expand into new habitats all over the world. Around twenty thousand years ago we discovered how to make ceramics, which opened up a whole new world in the manufacture of utensils, art and religious symbols. Then, around eight thousand years ago, we discovered how to smelt metal from ore, and the age of metals had begun. Fire and flame helped us become stronger, healthier, smarter, and gave birth to our culture, allowing us to ask philosophical questions about why we are so drawn to fire and flame.
One huge innovation in the story of fire and flame was the invention of candles, which first appeared in Ancient Rome more than 2,500 years ago. We talked about this in our March 2023 blog - Soy Wax Candles, A Fascinating Quest For Perfection. The development of candles allowed us to easily and conveniently light our homes, and create a cosy and secure candlelit atmosphere on dark nights as autumn drew in. Like electric lighting today, everyone from Kings and Emperors to the most humble members of society could benefit from this candlelight technology. Candles were so important that they were exchanged as gifts in important Roman religious festivals and, as Christianity rose in importance, candles became inextricably linked with Christian traditions as well, from the votive candles in church to the candles we decorate our tables and fireplaces with at Christmas and other celebrations, including those with deep roots such as harvest festivals with candles in the autumn. Nowadays, with the popularity of scented candles, people are in some sense returning to those early days by decorating their homes with beautiful candles all year round.
Imagine lighting an EVA Candles natural soy wax scented candle, staring into the simple, perfect flame and letting your mind be drawn back through the centuries and the millennia, through the age of candles to the age of metals, further back to the discovery of ceramics, back through the ages to the first campfires and the dawn of humanity itself. Our ancestors may have looked up to the stars and speculated that they were the campfires of other tribes of people, far away in the sky. Our knowledge and understanding have come a long way, but we still share with those ancient pioneers a fascination and love with the enduring power of fire and flame, from campfire to fireplace to the candle you light in your home.