Lighting a Fire

Fire has always had great importance for human development.

In all cultures, fire is linked to religious beliefs.

During classical antiquity, it was believed that a titan named Prometheus, a demigod, was the one to bring fire to mankind. In Norse mythology there was the belief that the god Thor would strike lightning bolts across the heavens to create fire. In ancient Egypt, it was the goddess Het who ruled over fire, and in the Roman era the god Vulcanus was the guardian of the flame.

Regardless of religion, society, and historic epoch, fire symbolizes either the good or the bad. Fire represents both life and death – it brings with it warmth, light and protection, but also danger and threat. Fire is both hell and safety.

Knowledge of how to light and keep a fire are decisive factors for survival. Making fire is a problem humankind has struggled with for nearly a million years.

A bow drill was an antique tool used by the ancient Sumerians. From the start, it was used for lighting fires, but it came to also be used for woodworking of different kinds. It consists of a handle, a spindle, a base board and a stick or bow with a string.

Friction tools for lighting fires have been in use in Scandinavia since antiquity. The harder piece of wood in the fire tool was commonly made from birch while the softer piece was made from fir, pine, or hardwood. You would embrocate one piece of wood against the other, like a saw.

During the Middle Ages, fire strikers made from steel and flint were used. The steel was struck along the flint to make sparks. The sparks would be caught by tinder. Tinder was made from a fungus which grows as a parasite on deciduous trees. This method was used in Sweden up until the 1870s.