Fire burns and protects. The fire element is one of the fiercest and yet required for our survival. Our ancestors needed it for light, to cook their food, to warm their bodies in the cold, and to ward off predators. In ancient times, they worshipped it. From fire sprang the mighty gods and goddesses of fire. A pattern we see in multiple ancient pantheons with remnants in our major religions today. Let’s meet a few of the strongest and most untamed fire deities from cultures across the world including Hephaestus, Pele, Ra, Ogun, Brigid, and more.
Just like all of the elements that keep this planet alive, FIRE is not only creative but also incredibly destructive. In our post about Sea Gods and Goddesses, we discuss the complex qualities of water and how it is the liquid that supports all life on this planet. Yet it only takes a storm or giant wave to destroy all in its path. Fire is the same way. It provides us with survival in warmth, cooking meat, and wards off predators. Yet when it grows out of control becomes a wildfire that destroys half of an island. And, while it is sad to see the destruction of an entire forest and ecosystem, the fire itself leaves behind ash and soot with vital nutrients to support new growth and LIFE.
The embodiment of creation and destruction in the fire element makes its presence known in ancient deities like Pele, Hephaestus, Hestia, and dozens of others. They are gods and goddesses to be studied, feared, and honored.
There are certain desert and tropical cultures we might associate with the fire including the Egyptian and Hawaiian. But nearly every ancient people had their own deity that ruled the element of fire. Here are seven gods of fire from the Norse, Greek, Celtic, Vietnamese, African, and Egyptian pantheons.
At first glance, you might think how is Loki a god of fire? First, the Norse trickster Loki is born of a lightning strike hitting a birch tree. So, he is born of the flames. Second, some scholars believe Loki was originally a spirit of the hearth before he was deified. And obviously hearth spirits are linked to the hearth fire. Loki is considered a “hot” spirit and often makes his presence known with fire. Read more about Loki here.
Hephaestus is the Greek God of the forge, the Divine Blacksmith, God of the Subterranean Fire. He is also the husband of Aphrodite…the jealous one who ensnares his wife and her lover (Ares) in a net of gold. Hephaestus is credited with creating the first woman out of his forge. He can be found on his sacred island of Lemnos, crafting beautiful jewelry and tools from the fire.
Belenos, also called Bel, is the Celtic god of the sun whose cult was once widespread from Italy to (potentially) the British Isles and Ireland. His name Bel translates to “Bright”, “Shining”, or “Brilliant”. And since he is a sun god, this makes perfect sense. He is also linked to the fire and some believe his name influenced the Celtic fire sabbat of Beltane, as well as the word “bale-fire”. He is a god of fertility, like so many other fire deities, and we know this because of archaeological evidence. Statues of swaddled infants were left as votive offerings at his shrine in Saint-Sabine, according to Judika Illes.
Agni, whose name in Sanskrit means Fire, is the Vedic god of fire of ancient India. But he isn’t just a ruler of one form of fire but fire in ALL of its forms. Agni’s domain is the hearth fire, the fire that makes up the Sun, as well as lightning. Like the fire element, Agni has two faces: one benevolent and one malevolent. He seems to be a trickster spirit, which is a quality seen in many fire deities. As well as a messenger spirit that goes between mortals and gods.
The Vietnamese kitchen god Ông Táo is a messenger between the gods and humans. Once again, we see the link between messenger gods and the fire element. Ông Táo’s story is one of love and ultimately he is changed into one of three hearthstones that watches over the kitchen fire. He is included in many folk tales and plays and aids Vietnamese families on the New Year. After aiding the family, he takes their messages up to the Heavenly Lord. Being a god of fire and a messenger, he is also a god that brings prosperity and good luck.
Not only is Ogun a god of war, but one of his primary domains is over metalworking. And, if you didn’t already know, metalworking requires fire. Which means Ogun is an African god of fire. In addition, to being a metalworker, Ogun watches over drivers and many drivers carry an amulet in Ogun’s image or a piece of iron that’s been blessed in Ogun’s name to ward off bad luck while traveling.
Ra is an ancient Egyptian creator god who is inextricably linked to the Sun and therefore also to the FIRE element. He created the Heavens, the Earth, and the Underworld and also ruled over light, warmth, fire, and growth. While he isn’t the oldest of Egyptian deities, he is one of the most important. When the Upper and Lower Egypt united during the Middle and New Kingdoms, Ra merged with Amun and became Amun-Ra. When Ra created Sekhmet, she was born from the flames of his eye. Read all about Ra here.
No, these goddesses of fire didn’t all arise from the hearth. In fact, quite a few were born of the desert flames, of the Sun, or carry fire in their hearts. Let’s meet them, shall we?
Hestia is an ancient Greek goddess of fire via the hearth. And while she ruled over the hearth fire, she was a fiercely independent goddess. She chose to remain a virgin and never marry. Both Apollo and Poseidon tried for Hestia’s hand, yet she rebuffed and vowed purity. Because of her vow, Zeus granted her domain over all sacrifices made to the gods. Hestia is a powerful fire deity and you can learn more about her here.
Brigid is a beloved Saint in Ireland and Scotland, and one of whom is a continuation of an ancient Celtic goddess of fire. Her name, Brigid, is believed to mean “Fiery Arrow” or “Bright One”. Being the goddess of the sacred flame, her priestesses were required to keep her fire burning at Kildare day and night, all year round. After the Christianization of Ireland, the sacred pagan flames of the goddess became the sacred fires tended by holy women, Saint Brigid herself being one of them. Learn more about Brigid here.
Sekhmet is an ancient Egyptian lioness goddess of war and destruction born of the flames from the sun god Ra’s eye. Ra created Sekhmet when he had gotten sick of humanity. She came to destroy us and nearly rid the earth of human beings completely. Sekhmet, goddess of fire, is felt in the hot desert winds and in the sun’s hottest rays. She is known as the Eye of Ra, and her name means “Mighty”, “Violent” or “Powerful”. Read more about Sekhmet here.
Somewhat of an obscure Celtic goddess is Nantosuelta of the Gauls. She is cognate to the Celtic Irish goddess of war, The Morrigan, as her sacred animal is the Raven. Nantosuelta rules over fire, fertility, prosperity, and the Underworld. She is often depicted as carrying a beehive or birdhouse on the top of a long staff. And sometimes with a cornucopia of plenty. When she calls to you, she will send you multiple bee omens and signs.
If you’re a baker or chef, you might be delighted to know there’s a goddess who is the personification of the oven. And therefore is the patron goddess of bakers, culinary artists, pastry chefs, and home cooks. Her job isn’t just to provide fire in the oven but to also make sure it stays at the right temperature so as not to burn bread and other food stuffs. Sadly, her worship would merge with a new goddess of the hearth later on known as Vesta. Fornax was honored during the Fornacalia festival and in the making of the ritual cakes.
The Norse Germanic goddess of the Sun is known as Sunna. Another name for her is Sol. She is the personification of the Sun and her brother Mani is the personification of the Moon. What’s interesting is that she wasn’t originally the Sun, but the story goes that she was so beautiful her father named her after the Sun. And in punishment of this arrogance, she and her brother were thrown into the sky and merged with their namesakes. Sunna’s worship might have morphed into the veneration of a Saint named Saint Lucia or Lucy in Italy and Sweden where her feast day, December 13th, is celebrated annually. There is some speculation that Saint Lucia is Sunna because in the old calendar, December 13th was the Winter Solstice. Also being the day that Sunna might have been recognized since the next day the sun would begin to grow once more.
In recent years, Pele’s name has been in the limelight. When the volcano erupted at Kilauea, a few of the pictures revealed an image in the lava that people recognized as the local goddess. But Pele isn’t just a goddess of lava and fire, she is the goddess who created and shaped the Hawaiian islands. Remember when I said fire gods are both creators and destroyers? Volcanic deities like Pele are the perfect representation of how life can spring forth from death and ash.
Maiden of Life. Bringer of Death. Goddess of the Underworld. These labels evoke strong visuals …September 4, 2023