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Officially fire is the rapid oxidation of substances by the process of combustion, releasing energy in the forms of heat and light and a variety of by-products, depending on what exactly is burning. The visible portion of a fire is known as flame. The colour of the flame depends on the temperature (generally the hotter the flame, the more blue/white it will be) and the material that is burning (pure hydrogen burns with a colourless flame, wheras the presence of some elements will introduce specific colours to any flame1. In general the debris left behind by fire are termed ash and the pall of partially burned particles evolved from the flame is called smoke.

Fire has a somewhat ambiguous role culturally - whilst under control it has been mankind's sole source of artificial heat and light for most of history. We have used it to cook and preserve food, work metal and cure ceramics. Fire has cleared ground, hardened wood and cleansed both wounds and inanimate objects.
When out of control - or when deliberately used as a weapon - fire inspires terror, destroys insatiably and inflicts wounds that are extremely difficult to heal. Perhaps some of humanity's most atavistic fears concern fire, particularly fire that escapes from human control.

Fire has also been worshipped, either in and of itself or as a symbol (e.g. of Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism). In Christianity fire is generally associated with the Holy Spirit, especially when the fire fails to consume what it burns (hence possessing only the positive qualities of normal fire).

Mystically, fire is one of the four classical elements and associated with the humour of Yellow Bile. It symbolises both energy, drive and passion and the destructive influence of these when uncontrolled. It may also symbolise purification.

In western Astrology, fire governs the houses of Aries, Leo and Saggittarius.

Mythological creatures assocaited with fire include:

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