Befriending Discomfort & Transforming with Fire of the South

August 19, 2022 7:29 pm Published by

Summertime shifts us towards the south and the element of fire on our sacred seasonal wheel. The fire of the south offers a time of passion, growth, culmination, action, transformation, and, less frequently talked about, discomfort.

In this share, you’ll learn more about the element of fire, some of the wisdom it has to offer, its connection to discomfort, common correspondences for south and fire, and three ways to engage in ritual and magic alongside fire. Before we dive in, let’s explore the position of the south and fire on our seasonal wheel, and what it means.

Listen to this post on the podcast, here.

The South and Summer Solstice is the full moon of the year on our wheel of seasons, and the neighboring celebrations, Beltane and Lughnasadh, are the peek of the waxing and waning energy of the seasonal year. We live amidst fiery energy until we reach the Autumn Equinox and shift fully towards the West and the element of water.

campfire, bonfire by the sea, sunset

Astrologically, the Summer Solstice moves us into Cancer season and then later into Leo. The Summer Solstice and Cancer season alignment is one that confused me for a long time. I had difficulty seeing the connection between the water sign of Cancer, the south, and the element of fire. I recently listened to the Summer Solstice episode on Tarot for the Wild Soul by Lindsay Mack. She did a good job of breaking down these overlaps, especially in relation to the Chariot card, which is the card that corresponds with Cancer. 

The Chariot card offers a side of water that encourages action, movement, and being in the flow. The fire connected with this season inspires this Cancerian energy to come out of its safe and cozy crab shell and begin taking action, and tap into any wells of emotional energy you may be harboring as fuel. You can visualize the stagnant pond vs. the flowing stream as an example. It’s like a marriage of water and fire. This season’s fire forces us out of our comfort zone, and the water of Cancer season encourages us to be in a state of flow with all that arises and the discomfort of it all. It’s a call to feel and act, act, and feel, and to not get stuck and stagnant amidst it all. 

The Chariot card featured from Journey Tarot. Water card featured from The Ritual Deck.

It makes me think of the famous quote by Anais Nin quote “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” These south-facing seasons are asking us to notice where we must come out of our shells and blossom in new ways. I don’t know about you, but I have never gone through an easy or painless transformation. 

Every transformation has been uncomfortable in my spirituality, business, and relationships, but they’ve also been necessary, inspired growth, and made me a better person. And it will be like this on a collective level, which can feel scary and uncomfortable. The deep transformations we’re facing require many of us to face and look at parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at and that, in many ways, we’ve been trained not to look at, especially folks in white bodies like myself. 

It may feel enticing to sink back into those still waters or the cozy crab shell, but the gifts of growth are calling each of us in unique ways needed to create the changes we need on an individual and collective level to create a more equitable and sustainable world. The element of fire is waiting to be called upon to assist. Because if we do not, the wildness of fire will, eventually, create the transformations that need to happen whether you’re ready or not. Here’s a sweet message about the need for fire from the book, The Great Work by Tiffany Lazic.

Passion is the energy of fire that propels us toward that which activates our Spirit. In 

order to create any new thing, there needs to be a spark—something that leaps across 

the gap between the material and the ethereal, bringing the two together and 

transforming them both in the process. Fire is the motivator, both the soft flame that 

gently guides and the blinding conflagration that changes all in an instant.

The Great 
by Tiffany Lazic

How can what’s dear to your heart be used as a spark to bring about transformation or change? This is a time to notice what’s arising for you, your family, and your community. What is calling out for attention to be more closely examined with the light of a fire or burned up and transformed? Let’s explore some of the wisdom fire has to offer us.

Wisdom of South and Fire

To understand the scope of fire, we must honor all of its faces and abilities. Like all of the elements, fire can nourish and destroy. It’s easy to see the nourishment and the destruction of fire, especially in the summertime. The nourishing warmth of the sun inspires plants to grow and thrive. Fire is also the seat of the hearth and home because it offers us warmth and nourishment. Yet, we can also see the capacity for fast-acting destruction that fire holds, 

The multifaceted nature of fire is reflected in its corresponding colors, red and green. Red holds the energy of passion, intensity, and the ability to destroy and transform, while green holds the energy of nourishment and growth. Like all the elements, fire offers a spectrum of wisdom. It offers both destruction and sustenance.

Having been embedded in various spiritual spaces for over two decades, especially in white spaces, I can confidently say that there’s a focus on the more “positive” aspects of fire like passion, growth, and action and far less on themes like destruction and discomfort. I’ll be focusing on the latter for this section. Though destruction is often lumped into the “negative” side of the spectrum, it also has a lot of important gifts to offer. Destroying or burning up is a necessary part of the transformational process. We cannot transform without letting something fall away or die. Wrapped up in this process, for some of us, is a need to be with discomfort and build a greater capacity to hold discomfort. Fire can be the spark that inspires us to continue facing our discomfort and bolsters our ability to act alongside it. 

Transforming and Expanding Our Capacity for Discomfort 

As we move deeper into this conversation around expanding our capacity for discomfort, I want to share a quote from a little book I often reference, “The Sacred Wheel of Our Ancestors” by Roberta Lee. She is one of my mentor’s mentors. 

Noon. The Summer Solstice. Heat all about us. The sun beating down upon our heads.  

Thirst. Fire. This is the place to come face to face with ourselves for sure. Modern 

society seems to be obsessed with comfort. And sacred suffering is feared and frowned 

upon. We all suffer. Let us not waste it by trying to avoid it… Let us not resist the heat, the hard 

times; let us embrace them and this time of year, this part of the Wheel, this part 

of Life and in doing so, we notice that the pain is abated and becomes our history and 

joins the other drops of water in our well of experience.

Roberta Lee, Sacred Wheel of 
our Ancestors

The fire of the South does not lie. It is truth at its core. It burns away and exposes us. It makes us naked and vulnerable and brings us face to face with our truths. It can be painful when you approach fire with a desire to transform. Like the frame of a house revealed after its exterior has been burned away, fire shows you what’s on the inside. Each layer that is burned away offers different stories and wisdom. Stories and wisdom that beckon you to look at and feel everything on a soul level, the good, the ugly, and everything in between. Each layer gives more wisdom and fuel to transform. 

Herein lies much of the discomfort associated with fire, which is two-fold. First, we have the discomfort of being with, witnessing, and feeling the pain and the truth of what is no longer working or that you can no longer view as acceptable. The second, I’d argue, more illusive part of the discomfort brought about by fire is the discomfort of not knowing what’s on the other side of a transformation. When we decide to return to ash from the fire, what happens next? What’s on the other side?

I think collectively, we are sitting in a time of transformative fire, on the precipice of something new, but still unsure what it will look like and how exactly we will get there. So many of us, myself included, are feeling the intense discomfort of this time. Knowing deep down that more needs to happen, much faster to save ourselves, our more than human brothers and sisters, and the planet. 

It is uncomfortable to witness the suffering and to suffer right now. It is also uncomfortable not to know what’s on the other side. We are in the throws of a significant and profound transformation. However, the not knowing, the mystery of where we’re headed does bring one gift—a gift of unlimited possibilities. These limitless potentialities are part of this collective transformation bringing me a sense of peace and the fire to keep going. There are so many solutions, and outcomes are yet to be discovered. The unknown is uncomfortable, yes, but there’s also hope there. 

Most transformations we embark upon are sparked by an unwillingness to allow a certain action or feeling to persist. As we collectively sit in the heat and discomfort of this time, I invite you to continue to sit with the discomfort while reserving space for all the unknown solutions and outcomes yet to unfold. I’d further invite you to continue working towards a more equitable and sustainable planet as that’s where those unknown solutions and outcomes live. We won’t know what’s on the other side of this current transformation until we walk through it together. 

Fire element card featured from The Ritual Deck.

It’s important to note here that the discomfort of this time has not been evenly dispersed. Large groups of people have been sitting in the discomfort of this transformational time since the onset of spreading patriarchy, imperialism, white supremacy, and capitalism. White-bodied folks, like myself, have been taught to avoid this discomfort, separate ourselves from it, and seek comfort at all costs, even at the expense of others’ lives and our planet. In contrast, many BIPOC communities around the world have been forced to become comfortable living in discomfort. 

I want to take a moment to give credit to one of my teachers, Thérèse Cator, whom I had recently completed her course, Embodied Allyship. Comfort, discomfort, and nervous system regulation were big themes in the course. I want to credit her for how I’ve made many of these parallels between the element of fire and this time. 

What if the constant seeking of comfort is what’s keeping you small, keeping you from growing, and keeping you disconnected from your power? I want to offer that it is. Sitting in discomfort builds resiliency, a kind of resiliency that many folks with black and brown bodies have been forced to build and that myself and fellow white-bodied kin have been lulled into avoiding. I’d argue that for many of us, our proximity to comfort is what’s keeping so many silent and complacent. The transformation we’re in is going to happen one way or another. We can sit back and let it happen, or we can work together to ensure that when we come out the other side, we’ll be more equitable and sustainable. 

I’m not advocating that you should be a masochist. I’m advocating that we’re in an opportunity calling us in, especially white-bodied folks, to build our capacity to hold more discomfort and bolster our resiliency. With that also comes a greater need to make space for joy and pleasure. We must become more comfortable being in discomfort and simultaneously recognize when we need to pause and step into joy and pleasure. We need to become the pendulum moving from side to side, not remaining stuck only in the comfort that keeps us small and tame. 

Some questions to consider and that I’ve also been sitting with.

  • What’s making you uncomfortable right now?
  • What areas of discomfort have you been avoiding?
  • What might that discomfort have to teach you?
  • In what ways could you lean into play and pleasure more deeply to build your resiliency and explore your discomfort more deeply?

I will share some of the fire rituals I’ve been leaning on to help with this in the ritual section later in this share. Let’s take some time exploring common correspondences for south and fire.

South Correspondences

Correspondences are ways to honor and invite in specific energy. They’re also a way to layer in specific energies to spellwork and magical practices. Understanding common correspondences, or similar energy, gives you the tools to craft your own magic and rituals with fire and the cardinal direction south.

  • Moon Phase: Full moon
  • Phase of life: Motherhood / Adulthood
  • Themes: Fulfillment, action, transformation, magic, confidence, strength, passion, discomfort
  • Color: Red, green
  • Element: Fire
  • Time of Year: Summertime
  • Time of day: Midday
  • Energy center: Solar plexus
  • Items and tools: fire, candles, wand, brass items, anything that personally represents fire or summertime for you
  • Crystals: Sunstone, yellow jasper, red jasper, rutilated quartz, sodalite
  • Plants: Rosemary, cinnamon, clove, ginger, sunflower, anything in bloom near you during summertime
  • Tarot: Suit of Wands, the Sun card, Strength card
  • Ogham: Hazel, Apple, Vine
  • Runes: Sowilo, Wunjo
  • Planets: Sun, Mars, Jupiter
  • Zodiac: Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Artwork featured from Zenned Out Guide Series by Cassie Uhl with Quarto Knows.

Rituals to Connect with South

Here are some ways to work with and honor fire in your spiritual practice. These are all tools and rituals that I’ve personally used or plan to and have found helpful. As always, take what you like and leave the rest. I’d also like to read an important reminder from the book The Path of Druidry by Penny Billington before we embark on this section. 

Each element can harm, but fire is the most mercurial of the elements; it is lightning-fast 

and operates to its own rules. Treat any naked light with respect and never leave it 

unattended. Fire is living. Think carefully about an appropriate way to extinguish a flame 

and stick to it. Many Druids pinch out a candle flame rather than use the breath of life to 

extinguish it. Choose a method, and make it a mindful action each time. 

When you light fire, you are connecting to an action shared by our ancestors, often with 

prayer and gratitude. Some of these ritual customs still survive in the old prayers from 

the highlands and islands. Devise your own simple ritual words or phrases to be part of a 

living chain of devotion.

Penny Billington, The Path of Druidry

I think that respect is something I’ve not discussed enough in the previous episodes on the cardinal directions and elements. It is essential for all of the elements. All of them have the power to nourish or destroy, especially fire. 

Dance Meditation to Connect with Fire 

When I think of the energy of fire, I think of dance. Like creating visual artworks, many of us have an idea of what “good” dance or movement is intended to look like. Allowing our bodies to move in ways that don’t match what we’ve seen as “good” dance or movement can be uncomfortable. I love to dance, but I am not a professional or trained by any stretch of the imagination. Becoming more comfortable with my body’s organic and natural movements has taken time. I say this to remind you that wherever you’re at with your relationship to dance or whatever accessibility you have to move your body, there’s wisdom and magic to be found. 

Anytime I write these episodes for the directions and elements and hold space for guided journeys to them, I spend a long time journeying to the direction and element. When I journeyed to the south to connect with fire, it asked me to move and shake my body. I was overtaken by the energy of the fire working through my body. I let go entirely and gave myself over to the process of connecting with its power. Having a private sacred space or being surrounded by folks you love and trust to do this work can be helpful. 

Something important to remember when engaging with elemental energies is that, more often than not, insight and wisdom are offered to us not through oral dictation but through states of being fully embodied and in communion with different energies. Why would fire speak to you in words? That is not the language of fire; fire flickers, dances, and moves. This is the medicine fire offers. This goes back, again, to get uncomfortable. Held in the discomfort and vulnerability of giving your body over to being with fire, you open yourself to embodying and holding new truths. If dance and movement feel like they’re going to push you out of your comfort zone, I think the medicine will be even more potent!

If you feel called to connect with fire in this way, here are some simple suggestions to get started. 

  1. Carve out 20-60 minutes for yourself. 
  2. Spend about five minutes connecting with your breath and body (or any other rituals that help you root into your body) to soothe your nervous system.
  3. Create sacred space in a way that feels good to you. This could be casting a circle or calling on guides, Gods, or Goddesses you work with. 
  4. Optional: light a candle to honor fire and assist you in connecting with it. 
  5. Go within or stare at your candle flame and state your intent to connect with fire. 
  6. Imagine yourself meeting the fire element. What does it look like, and how does it make you feel?
  7. Take this time to connect with the fire and learn from it. Perhaps it will inspire you to move. Maybe it will not. Trust what comes through and stay with it for as long as you’d like. Your experience may be different than mine, which is normal and okay. 
  8. When you feel complete, be sure to thank the fire before leaving and ask if there’s anything you can do to reciprocate your time with it and any wisdom you received. 
  9. Close your space and consider journaling about your experience. Spend some time reconnecting with the world around you and perhaps have some food and drink. 

If this is something you feel you’d like support with, click here to join me in a guided journey to the south to connect with the element of fire. 

Candle Magic for Transformation 

If you’ve been hanging out around me for much time, you probably already know that I’m a big fan of using candles in my practice. Candles are a simple but powerful tool, especially when wanting to connect with the element of fire. I also think they’re a great introductory tool to spellwork. You can make your candle magick as simple or complex as you want; all you need is a candle, matches, and some time. 

This is a topic I’ve covered extensively on my blog and in previous episodes, so I’m not going to go into much detail here. Check out the show notes for direct links to previous blog posts on candle magick. 

If you’re new to working with candles or would like a simple ritual to start. I’d invite you to select a candle color in line with your intentions, hold it while infusing it with your intention, and sit with it as it burns. As you sit with it, notice the movement of the fire and how it dances and moves. Working with candles can be helpful while practicing dance or meditating on fire. 

I’ve been using paraffin wax chime candles for about six years, as long as I’ve been practicing candle magick. I usually recommend these, but after further research, I plan to switch to beeswax candles. Unfortunately, paraffin candles are a by-product of fossil fuels and are therefore harmful to the environment and unsustainable. I have quite a stockpile of paraffin candles from my store, so it’s going to take me a while to work through them before I switch to beeswax. 

If you are starting out, I’d recommend rolling your beeswax candles or finding a supplier for premade beeswax spell candles. I found a few lovely and affordable beeswax spell candle options on Etsy with a quick search and bought some for Lugnasadh while writing this post, haha! Beeswax candles are more expensive, but they are lovely and a sustainable and less harmful choice. 

If you’d like step-by-step instructions for a candle spell, click here to check out a previous post

Building Fire and Fire offerings 

I’m wrapping two up into this section because they can be used in tandem or separately. Another obvious way to build relationship with this season and the element of fire is to spend time building fires, especially in ways our ancestors did. I have built fires in the past while camping but do not have experience building fires in ancestral ways. This is something I look forward to exploring this fall. There’s a lovely article by Dana O’Driscoll of Druids Garden that you can check out here where she discusses the power of learning how to build fires in ancestral ways to connect with fire and our ancestors more deeply. Dana writes in her article, 

In every way, fire reconnects us to our roots, to those ancient ancestors who gave us 

such an important gift. When I look at the fire from this perspective, I realize that fire is 

my most important ancestral gift, and thus, one of the best ways to honor my ancestors 

is to learn and understand fire, to work with fire as they might have, to learn to start and 

build fires, and honor them through this practice.

Dana O’Driscoll

If building fires isn’t accessible to you, it certainly wasn’t for me in my Arizona home. I’d encourage you to build this kind of ritual relationship by lighting candles or incense to connect with fire in this way. One thing I’ve learned from one of my teachers, Danu Forest, is to treat each flame as a unique fire spirit. Each candle I light invites in the presence of a unique fire elemental that I can learn from and connect with. Seeing each fire as an individual, living entity helps me take more time and care in engaging with fire. 

Our new house has space for a fire pit, and we plan to build one before the Autumn so we can enjoy it this fall and winter. I’m looking forward to connecting with fire more deeply in this traditional way. My fire magic is about to get a serious upgrade! 

Finally, and this goes for any interaction with elemental energies or spirits, finding ways to be reciprocal and give offerings is a powerful way to build relationship. Song, dance, art, chant, poems, and herbs can all be beautiful offerings to the fire. Consider asking your fire what it would like as an offering. The article I mentioned above by Dana O’Driscoll also gives some wonderful suggestions for fire offerings. 

For example, my recent fire interactions prompted me to write a poem for the fire. I placed it on my altar and have read it aloud daily as a further offering and a form of connection. Building a relationship with fire through reciprocity is yet another tool for learning from fire and building our capacity for the discomfort associated with transformation. 

I hope these offerings have stirred your internal embers and perhaps even sparked a fire of powerful resiliency within you! If you’d like to explore the element of fire more deeply, I encourage you to purchase the replay, “Journey to the Fires of Transformation.” 

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About Cassie

Cassie Uhl is the author of five books and two card decks, an artist, intuitive energy healer, and death doula. Her lineage and practices are rooted in pagan earth-based spiritual practices of Northern Europe. She approaches her work and clients with trauma-informed support through all phases of life. She currently resides on the land of the Myaamia people in so-called Indiana of the US.