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brown celtic frame


woman blacksmith

Melissa Cole, Woman of Smithwork
© Mark Somerville


Relax and close your eyes. Let the stresses and strains of the day drain away, down through your feet and into the ground.

Now find yourself in a smithy. It is dark except for the red glow cast by the forge and there is the potent smell of burning coals and hot metal. It takes a while for you to become accustomed to the light and to get your bearings.

You become aware of the sound of the hammer on the anvil - it creates a ringing sound, insistent and compelling, drawing you into the blacksmith's forge where you feel the presence of Brigit.

She hands you a bar of iron and you turn to look into the fire in the heart of the smithy. You feel its heat on your face and see the glow of the melting heat in its depths, the soft flick of the flames playing gently on the surface, the black and grey of the coal which is feeding it.

Make sure that the fire is not too large so that no heat is wasted; that it is not so hollow that there is no heat at its heart. If necessary use the bellows to pump more air to energise it.

As you thrust the iron bar into the fire, be aware of the fire as enthusiasm, heating your blood, making your heart beat faster. It is the fire of inspiration and intoxication which will give life to what it is you want to forge.



Carefully gage when the iron has heated enough - too much and it will burn, sending out sparks of light but leaving the iron brittle and misshapen. When it is heated to a bright yellow take it quickly from the forge and placing it on the anvil, strike it with the hammer. As you do so, hold in your mind the image of what it is you wish to create - it may be an actual object, a sculpture or painting, or it may be a poem, project or situation. Consider how your work could benefit the people around you - your family and friends, your community.

Focus your intent, your will and determination on the iron as you begin to forge it into shape. The iron has been heated with the fire of your enthusiasm to the point that it is malleable, now you have to impose on it the shape you desire.

But this is not easy to do - the iron which has been hard won from the rocks and materials of earth will not yield easily to you; it will test your mettle, draw out your strength and your determination before it finds you worthy, before it will accept the shape you wish to make of it.

The iron cools and hardens. You place it back into the forge fire, heat it, withdraw it, and wasting no time begin again to shape it with the hammer. You start to develop a rhythm. The sound of the hammer becomes an incantation which weaves a harmony between you, the iron and the anvil - the rhythm and tone of it depends upon the qualities of all three.

As you work, become aware of the song of your making; hear the rhythm and open to any words which give expression to the meaning of what you are doing.  



The verses of your incantation are punctuated by silence as you stop to reheat the iron. All objects, projects and creations must be periodically dipped into the fires of enthusiasm and inspiration to keep them them alive and flowing. Steadily you incorporate this reheating into your work, into the rhythm, into the harmony you are making. Spend some time getting to know this rhythm and working with it, remembering to keep in mind the image of what you are creating.  

When you feel that the work is finished or that you have done as much as you can - lay down your hammer. Put the object you have forged into the trough beside the forge. The water will harden and fix it for you.

Look at the object you have forged. Is it what you intended? Is it as perfect as you wanted it to be? Is it as beautiful or as useful as you wanted it to be?

When you feel ready, close your eyes and take your leave of the forge. Concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing. After a few minutes, open your eyes again and come back into the everyday world.



© Hilaire Wood 1999


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