Fire-gazing Folklore: A Guide Seeing Through The Flames


Have you ever found yourself staring into the dancing flames and seeing shapes or become mesmerized by the hypnotic flickering blaze? CLAIRE BARRAND tells us about the folklore of fire-gazing…

Weather is closing in on us, and as we reach the pinnacle of autumn, many of us have put the central heating on for the first time in months.

If you are lucky enough to have a real fire in your home, you will relish the heartening smell of logs burning and crackling in the hearth, warming your toes in front of the fire must be one of the lives most comforting ways to relax in my opinion!


But have you ever found yourself staring into the dancing flames and seeing shapes or become mesmerized by the hypnotic flickering blue, yellow-orange and white blaze?

Well, you may be surprised to know that the practice of fire-gazing was once a method of foretelling the future many centuries ago.

Folk would gather around the hearth and peer into the depths of the fire, and decide omens from the irregular movements of the coals and burning soot.

Superstitions of fire-gazing

A flake of soot hanging from the grate was said to foretell the arrival of a stranger; while coals burning in a pile with a hollow center or split into two parts would signify a parting of ways.

Escaping gas spluttering from a piece of coal hissing and spitting means a quarrel is imminent for someone in the household, but this can be avoided by vigorously poking the fire.

If you lived in Dorset, a stranger is anticipated if you see a smoldering fire suddenly burst into flames, while in Lincolnshire, people thought that a death was imminent if a neglected fire burns for a long time.

A glowing coal that rolls out of the grate signifies that a wedding will be announced, and a tall smoking flame indicates terrible news. Do not spit on a hearth as this action will bring seven years bad luck!

Cinders have lots of meanings

Cinders that float out of the fire can have numerous meanings.

Generally – look at the shape. If there is an oval shape then this is regarded as a sign of birth, an oblong shape spells good luck and prosperity.

In East Anglia – people would spit on the cinders to see if the crackles, it was good news if they did, for that meant money coming your way however if not – it meant death.

Poking the fire when visiting a new house in Yorkshire brings good luck to the family, and this was a widespread superstition.

However, this was only a ritual to be undertaken by guests that have been acquainted with the family for more than seven years.

Otherwise, the reverse is true!

Tell us about your fire-gazing experiences in the comments section below!



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