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Firekeeper or flametender describes a specific ceremonial role, common in the religious practices of a variety of cultures. A firekeeper or flametender tends the sacred fire in the manner specific to the religious traditions of that culture.
The open flame was a necessary and important part of ancient human civilizations, and often was invested with religious meaning. Similarly, those entrusted with tending this flame often held a sacral role in the culture. This role continues in many traditional cultures into the present day.
A sacred fire is often a place for the offering of prayers, herbs, food, and sacrifices of artwork. An eternal flame or perpetual fire provides hot coals for the smoldering of herbs. A sacred fire is usually kept separate from any cooking fire, and placed in or near a ceremonial enclosure.
In the past world of no matches, and no easy ways of making fire under wet conditions, it was necessary for someone to keep the flames or red coals burning for long periods of time. In some Lakota or Indian Ceremonies, they would take turns, day and night, tending the sacred fire.
- Brigid - Irish Goddess served by women who tend an eternal flame
- Hajji Firuz, Zoroastrian firekeeper.
- Inipi - Lakota purification lodge
- Sweat lodge - Ceremonial structures involving purification by fire and steam
- Vestal Virgin - Roman flametenders