Salamanders are fire elementals, the unseen intelligences who allegedly inhabit the element of fire. Paracelsus described salamanders as invisible beings of the fire.
Belief in the existence of nature spirits is common to all cultures throughout history. They are said to have been here since the beginning of time, and to have created the landscape of reality. They are sometimes attached to a specific place, such as a tree, river, plant or mountain.
Some are described as human in form, others are like animals or are half-human, half animal; some are helpful, others deceitful or malevolent. They are normally invisible to humans, except to those with the gift of clairvoyance.
As a fire elemental, the Salamanders' domain are the forest fires, lightning (specially St. Elmo's Fire), light and fiery orbs, volcanoes, fire and all it encompasses. Manly P. Hall, in his The Secret Teachings of All Ages, describes the salamanders:
"Mediæval investigators of the Nature spirits were of the opinion that the most common form of salamander was lizard-like in shape, a foot or more in length, and visible as a glowing Urodela, twisting and crawling in the midst of the fire. Another group was described as huge flaming giants in flowing robes, protected with sheets of fiery armor. Certain mediæval authorities, among them the Abbé de Villars, held that Zarathustra (Zoroaster) was the son of Vesta (believed to have been the wife of Noah) and the great salamander Oromasis. Hence, from that time onward, undying fires have been maintained upon the Persian altars in honor of Zarathustra's flaming father.
One most important subdivision of the salamanders was the Acthnici. These creatures appeared only as indistinct globes. They were supposed to float over water at night and occasionally to appear as forks of flame on the masts and rigging of ships (St. Elmo's fire). The salamanders were the strongest and most powerful of the elementals, and had as their ruler a magnificent flaming spirit called Djin, terrible and awe-inspiring in appearance. The salamanders were dangerous and the sages were warned to keep away from them, as the benefits derived from studying them were often not commensurate with the price paid. As the ancients associated heat with the South, this corner of creation was assigned to the salamanders as their drone, and they exerted special influence over all beings of fiery or tempestuous temperament. In both animals and men, the salamanders work through the emotional nature by means of the body heat, the liver, and the blood stream. Without their assistance there would be no warmth."
"Salamanders have been seen in the shapes of fiery balls, or tongues of fire, running over the fields or peering in houses."
In medieval times the conjuration and exorcism of elementary spirits was practiced extensively, the crystal being a preferred mean of evoking them. In every instance, a special consecration of the four elements was a principal and essential part of the ceremonial procedures.
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Sources: (1) Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Harper Collins Publishers; (2) Rose, Carol, Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia, W. W. Norton & Company; (3) Hall, Manly P., The Secret Teachings of All Ages, CreateSpace Publishers; (4) von Nettesheim, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, Brill Academic Publishers.
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