"Smooring the Fire" by John Rice

I’ve just read of a very interesting practice in old Ireland and Scotland that I wanted to share. As
you probably know, Ireland and Scotland are very damp and often cold countries. The terrain is
mostly rocky and the weather is harsh much of the year, especially on the islands of the Atlantic
Ocean where storms often drench the land. Before electricity was available to light and heat the
houses there, the Celtic people had a special practice to keep their houses as warm and dry as
possible. It was called “smooring the fire”. Wood was very scarce on these islands and peat
very precious, so if you wanted to stay warm, smooring the fire well was a very essential skill to

To smoor the fire, the woman of the family would prepare the coals in the hearth for the night by
spreading them out in a circle in three parts and then sprinkling some ashes on top of them to
slow their burning. A little peat was put in the spaces between the three sections. and then a
prayer was said. This was the smooring prayer:

The sacred Three,
to save,
to shield,
to surround
the hearth,
the house,
the household,
this eve,
this night,
Oh! this eve,
this night,
and every night,
each single night.

The next morning the woman would add fresh peat and get the fire going full bore for the meals
and for heating the house. Performing this night after night, day after day, week after week,
month after month and even year after year, there were some family fires that were kept
continuously alive for generations. And not only that, but a common practice was that when the
girl of the family got married, her mother would give her as a wedding gift some of the coals
from her fire so that the girl’s family would start their family fire with the same fire that had
burned in her family for generations.

This smooring of the fire in some way reminds me of our faith. The fire that burns in our hearts
as the Spirit of God dwells within us must be tended carefully if we want it to continue burning
brightly. Through difficult circumstances or neglect or distraction our fires can go dim, barely
burning, which dims our light and can’t keep us very warm. The gifts God has given us can also
burn brightly or dimly according to our awareness and attention to them. Paul encourages
Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6 to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on
of my hands.”

So how do we keep our fires burning? Well, it seems to me that God gives us the fire freely as a
gift of grace and then our job is to recognize it as a precious gift, a treasure, an inheritance, and
to keep it burning by practicing the presence of God every day. This is our “smooring”: turning to
God, talking with God, listening for God’s voice, worshipping Him, thanking Him, opening up to
Him, obeying Him, loving Him. And if we pass these practices on to our children, the spiritual
fires God has given us may not go out for generations.

2 Timothy 1:6
Acts 11:23
2 Corinthians 4:6

This information in this devo came from the writings of Deborah Cronin in her book Holy
Ground, 1999, Upper Room Books.