Created By: NocturnaAugust 29, 2012 Last Edited By: ParadisesnakeMay 30, 2015

Symbolic Flame

Fire which is given religious or cultural significance.

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Main
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Trope
This is one of the many fire-related tropes that were identified as part of the Kill It With Fire TRS thread. Name suggestions and description/definition refinement suggestions are welcome and encouraged.

Indicies: This Index Is On Fire


Fire has long been associated with power, purity, endurance, and destruction. As a result, it is often gains symbolic associations, bearing special significance for a group of people. Often, this symbolic association will be religious in nature, like the sacred flame of Diana in Rome (representing the goddess and never allowed to go out), but it can also be cultural.

Sacred Flames occur when a god imbues his symbolic flames with magic (or holy) power.


Examples

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    Tabletop Games 
  • Among the many religious or mystical denominations in Fading Suns, the Templar Avesti are the most prone to kill things with fire. Their church's symbol is a holy flame. Avestite inquisitors and zealot monks wear fire-retardant robes with breathing masks and carry flame throwers when they do battle with mutated monstrosities.
  • Flamethrowers are used extensively by the Sisters of Battle in Warhammer40000, as purifying flame that will purge aliens, mutants and heretics of their faults. Sisters of Battle Seraphim can even dual-wield flame throwers. Less devoted troops use it as, well, a weapon that's extremely effective at killing things.

    Video Games 
  • The burning flame is one of the symbols of the Andrastian Chantry in the Dragon Age series because its founder Andraste was burned at the stake (cf. how Jesus' execution device is the symbol of Christianity IRL).
  • Final Fantasy VII gives us Cosmo Candle (a bonfire, in fact), which is the symbol of Cosmo Canyon, the settlement of wise men and the last place defying the rule of the resident evil corporate state.

    Western Animation 
  • Megas XLR: Coop wrecks a sacred flame that a civilization of robots value greatly. They quickly decide to make getting revenge on him the new task for the successor of the throne.

    Real Life 
  • Some memorials have Eternal Flames.
    • The Eternal flame in Sarajevo, a memorial to the military and civilian victims of the Second World War in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
    • The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, has one.
    • The grave of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery is marked with an Eternal Flame.
    • Soviet World War Two monuments and memorials.
  • The Olympic Games's "Olympic Flame" are a fairly prominent modern example. The flame is transferred from torch to torch in a relay which begins with a ceremony in Athens (where the games originated) until it reaches its destination (which might or might not involve a tour of that games' host nation) until it's used to light a "cauldron" in the opening ceremony which burns for the games' duration before being extinguished.
  • In ancient Rome, the Vestal Virgins (priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the heart) tended a sacred fire that was not allowed to go out.
  • Holy fires are kept in Zoroasrian Fire Temples as symbols of the divine, and were likewise kept ever-burning in ancient Greek temples.


Community Feedback Replies: 33
  • August 30, 2012
    Koveras
  • August 30, 2012
    Damr1990
  • August 31, 2012
    Arivne
    Religion
    • In ancient Rome, the Vestal Virgins (priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the heart) tended a sacred fire that was not allowed to go out.

    Real Life
    • Some memorials have Eternal Flames.
      • The Eternal flame in Sarajevo, a memorial to the military and civilian victims of the Second World War in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
      • The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, has one.
      • The grave of President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery is marked with an Eternal Flame.
  • August 31, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In a cross between this and Practical Flame (or whatever that one's called) in the Doctor Who serial "The Brain of Morbius" there are Keepers of the Flame, which is both sacred and symbolic to the planet upon which it's lit, and the actual power source for the Elixer of Life, which keeps the planets humanoid inhabitants alive.
  • August 31, 2012
    Bisected8
    • The Olympic Games's "Olympic Flame" are a fairly prominent modern example. The flame is transferred from torch to torch in a relay which begins with a ceremony in Athens (where the games originated) until it reaches its destination (which might or might not involve a tour of that games' host nation) until it's used to light a "cauldron" in the opening ceremony which burns for the games' duration before being extinguished.
  • August 31, 2012
    aurora369
    Final Fantasy VII gives us Cosmo Candle (a bonfire, in fact), which is the symbol of Cosmo Canyon, the settlement of wise men and the last place defying the rule of the resident evil corporate state.
  • October 15, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    Holy fires are kept in Zoroasrian Fire Temples as symbols of the divine, and were likewise kept ever-burning in ancient Greek temples.
  • October 16, 2012
    Chabal2
    Flamethrowers are used extensively by the Sisters of Battle in Warhammer 40 K, as purifying flame that will purge aliens, mutants and heretics of their faults. Less devoted troops use it as, well, a weapon that's extremely effective at killing things.
  • October 16, 2012
    aurora369
    Real Life: Eternal Flames in Soviet World War Two monuments and memorials.
  • October 22, 2012
    JenBurdoo
    The Living Flame in Tales Of The Branion Realm is a fire god resident in an alternate Britain's royal family. The religion based on this pervades the series.
  • October 22, 2012
    Chernoskill
    • Schindlers List: When the color fades out in the film's opening moments, when a Jewish family lits candles for a Shabbat service, it gives way to a movie in which smoke comes to symbolize bodies being burnt at Auschwitz. Only at the end do the images of candle fire regain their warmth when Schindler allows his workers to hold Shabbat services.

    (Copied with minor modifications from the wikipedia page for Schindler's List)
  • October 22, 2012
    jastay3
    In Traveller Sword Worlders every household maintains a hearthfire as a symbol.
  • October 30, 2012
    TBeholder
    Uh... [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] I think TV Tropes got the Official Pyromaniac now. :]
  • November 10, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    ^ No, Pyro Maniac's already a trope.

    But seriously, Kill It With Fire is just a mess of about 14 tropes that need to be de-tangled and sorted out.
  • November 30, 2012
    justanid
  • December 22, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The eight candles of Chanukah symbolize the oil the Macabees used to light the temple flame, where there was only enough oil for one day but it lasted for eight!
  • December 22, 2012
    MrRuano
    Warhammer 40K also has the Salamanders Space Marine chapter place a cultural significance on fire as their primarch Vulkan was The Blacksmith among them all because of his upbringing. Because of the symbolism of the forge, they tend to have fires and hammers painted on their armor and use plenty of flame and melta weapons in combat.
  • December 22, 2012
    ArcadesSabboth
    I think this trope may be a feature of the Karsite religion in the Heralds Of Valdemar series -- can anyone confirm it?
  • July 12, 2013
    Generality
    • In The Wheel Of Time the Aes Sedai use the Flame of Tar Valon, actually the white half of the yin-yang symbol, upright with no internal dot. The black half is called the Dragon's Fang and held as a portent of evil.
  • July 12, 2013
    henke37
    • Megas XLR: Coop wrecks a sacred flame that a civilization of robots value greatly. They quickly decide to make getting revenge on him the new task for the successor of the throne .
  • December 6, 2013
    CrazyCatKid
    Pokemon has Moltres's fire.
  • December 6, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Linked the Megas XLR example to its work page.
  • February 23, 2014
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Dungeons And Dragons
      • 1st Edition module I4 Oasis of the White Palm. In the underground temple of Set in the title oasis, one room has a brazier filled with deep violet flames. The flames don't give off any heat and don't require any fuel.
      • 1st Edition module I10 Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill. Inside the Weathermay family mausoleum is a large dish filled with an eternally burning fire.
  • February 23, 2014
    DAN004
    I'm confused: I thought Symbolic Fire worked like Symbolic Blood: having attribute of fire, but not real fire.

    Fire Symbolism?
  • February 24, 2014
    Tallens
    • In the last two seasons of Stargate SG 1, fire is associated with the Ori, and there is a flame kept burning in their capital of Celestis, which is apparently the composed of Ori themselves.
  • February 24, 2014
    Generality
    Fire has long been associated with creation (it's the origin of the Idea Bulb trope) and purification (because of its sterilising effects), and as such has been used as a primary symbol for many religions. These days, fire is most often associated with Fire And Brimstone Hell, so a religion that uses a flame, especially a red one, as its main symbol is often taken to be a Religion Of Evil.

    • In The Wheel Of Time series, Aes Sedai, The Magocracy of Tar Valon have the Flame of Tar Valon as their ultimate symbol, which is actually the upward-pointing white half of a yin-yang.
  • February 24, 2014
    DAN004
    Fire is also a godly symbol and that's why Prometheus wants to share it with mankind. He's punished for it, though.
  • February 24, 2014
    Generality
    ^ That's related to the significance of creation. Fire in the Prometheus story is symbolic of mastery over nature.
  • February 24, 2014
    BaffleBlend
    Film
    • In The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Paris is on fire, and after Frollo falls from the belfry, special focus is given to show him plummeting into the flames below to give the audience a pretty good idea where he's going.
  • February 24, 2014
    MaxWest2
    On gravestones, an urn with a flame represents the death of the flesh with the spirit rising out of the remains and ascending to Heaven.
  • February 24, 2014
    jatay3
    The pyrtaneum(sacred fire) of each Greek city-state was it's equivilent to a flag on a capital building.
  • February 24, 2014
    DAN004
  • May 30, 2015
    Willbyr
    The entire 40K entry needs to rewritten like so:

    • Warhammer 40000:
      • Flamethrowers are used extensively by the Sisters of Battle, seeing this as a purifying flame that will purge aliens, mutants and heretics of their faults. Sisters of Battle Seraphim can even dual-wield pistol-sized flamethrowers.
      • The Salamanders Space Marine chapter is heavily steeped in blacksmithing. Also, their homeworld is prone to violent tectonic shifts, and thus volcanoes are commonplace. These deep ties to fire are represented by them using more flamers and melta weapons than many other chapters. Their Forgefather, Vulkan He'stan, carries this one step further by using a wrist-mounted heavy flamer, wielding an ancient spear with a burning blade, and having a eternally burning standard mounted on his power armor.

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