The Need-Fire (alt. Force-Fire, meaning ‘forced fire’) tradition depended on a structure of exception. In a superstition widely chronicled across Old Europe it was popularly believed that the efficacy of the need-fire (to cure ills, to establish normality where sickness — of animals, relations, etc — had taken hold) depended on the extinguishment of all other fires in the vicinity. Harsh penalties existed for villagers found keeping their fires burning during the kindling of the need-fire; the sovereignty of the need-fire was paramount to its symbolic efficacy. This may in part account for the very etymology of the folk term — the ‘need’ indicating that same co-incidence of ontological necessity with a fully contingent, human-created condition as the co-incidence found in the ‘willed emergency’ or ‘fictional siege’ of a State of Exception.
The kindling of the need-fire acted not only as a ‘hard reboot’ of the fire network, but as a purely virtual point in which a mythic/fictive ‘necessity’ of origin was held indistinguishable from a contingent historical practice of suspension/extinguishment. The re-kindling, ostensibly a performative practice, was not merely a banal re-enactment taking place within the historical field of the constituted order and meaning but constituted in itself a violent evacuation and exclusion of historical meaning. Within the normal space of history an ordinary fire may, at the contingent but meaningful whim of its keeper, kindle another. Here, however, the kindling of the need-fire represents neither an ordinary fire nor a meaningful act but the suspension or collapse of the semantic field within such norms could exist. The need-fire is not kindled via transmission, or the passing-on of something already lit. Rather, its ignition must be intrinsic and summoned forth, created from friction, and in historical terms the need-fire thus appears ex nihilo, without precedent. Ultimately the kindling of the need-fire is the result of organised labour, prior to all semanticisation and valorisation excepting a sense of necessity. As all ‘sacraments’ do in structural terms, such an ‘originary’ act never repeats but subtracts itself from the space of history. That is to say it instantiates a point within an ambiguous, indeterminate space characterised by the conflation of two logically incompatible modalities: a zone of exception, an evental horizon one either commits to and keeps faith with or else dismisses with fashionable disenchantment and repressive desublimation.
As I have very recently secured for myself a year-long period of study leave (in which to recover from emergency surgery and critical illness) let this summary and no doubt over-simplistic post about the Need-fire signify my re-entrance into blogging — let it serve as a spark to fire up my own network of thinking/writing.