by Solstice Singer (contributor)

Pagans believe in the power of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. For those of us who are blind or have impaired vision, three out of the four pose no problems. Fire, on the other hand, has proven frightening, and even dangerous, for some of us.

I have to start off by saying that not all visually impaired or blind people have difficulty with fire. Just because some of us do, one should not leap to the conclusion that we all do. However, if you are someone who is blind or visually impaired, and the idea of fire is distressing to you, I hope this article will give you some helpful hints.

So, let’s start off with a discussion of a variety of lighting techniques. Many people light fires with cigarette lighters. I know of several blind people who have no difficulty with this at all. For me personally, that kind of lighter requires me to get just a little too close to the flame. I prefer to use a long-handled lighter, something you might use to light a barbecue or fireplace. That way, I can line the end up with the candle or incense stick and light it, without feeling like I could burn myself at any second. Still other people prefer matches. I’ve heard people with low vision talk about having success with these, but I haven’t heard of any blind people who use this method. Of course, if you do, that’s great. You might leave a comment to this post, explaining how you do it.

Some people decide that working with fire is just too dangerous. So, they use the unlit candles as symbols of fire. Others talk about using battery-operated, flameless candles instead of those that require lighting. Sometimes, people are reluctant to admit that they don’t actually light candles for fear of being thought of as less capable. Let me assure you that Paganism isn’t about following every single rule you’ve ever been taught. Instead, it’s about finding what works best for you in a variety of situations. So, if lighting candles just doesn’t work, feel free to do something else.

If you’d rather not mess with candles at all, you might consider finding something that reminds you of fire, and having that be your physical representation of the element. Many people have chosen to use cinnamon for this purpose. Others have told me that obsidian is their fire symbol. Again, find what works for you.

I also want to address the topic of incense. These do require lighting, but they do come in different styles. There is the traditional incense stick, a cone-shaped incense, incense disks, and incense powder that is burned in a charcoal burner. From what I understand, the discs can also be burned in the charcoal burner, although, since this is not a method I use myself, I can’t say too much about it. Cone-shaped incense are burned in small holders with tops on them. The tops resemble chimneys, and the smoke comes out the hole. Many blind people prefer cones because there is no danger of falling ash. However, it has been my experience that cones are harder to light if you can’t see, as they seem to burn best if you light them from the exact tip. I use incense sticks. At first, the falling ash alarmed me. In fact, I burned holes in several altar cloths before I found something that worked. Most Pagan shops or online retailers will sell a coffin-style incense burner. This style of burner allows the stick to be placed inside, and the lid closed. The top is vented, and the smoke escapes through the vents. I have found this to be the safest way to burn incense, as the ash is contained in the holder, and so, I don’t have to worry about where it might fall.

All of the information I’ve given here is based on my experience, and the experiences of those I know. It is in no way meant to be representative of all blind or visually impaired Pagans. As I said before, find what makes you the most comfortable, and let it shine.