[ by Charles Cameron — curiosity interest: high — actionable: negative ]
California fires, wild and holy:
As a California resident, I keep a weather eye open on the terrible fores that have been and are ravaging the state this season. Among them, the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest has caught my attention by its name, which piques my theological curiosity.
Forrest Gordon Clark, 51, first name Forrest [“rr”], stands accused of fire-starting the 22,986-acre Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest.
Clark was arrested a day after the fire began and investigators said there is evidence suggesting he was the one who started it.
His cabin in the Holy Jim area was the only one of 14 standing after the fire burned through the community, the Orange County Register reported the day after he was taken into custody.
After conferring with Clark’s counsel, the judge made the decision to suspend the criminal proceedings until they assess whether the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile:
Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Easter, in which a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ’s tomb (usually rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed by some to be where Jesus’ body was placed for burial) now in the Holy Sepulchre, which eventually forms a column containing a form of fire, from which candles are lit, which are then used to light the candles of the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims and clergy claim that the Holy Fire does not burn them.
By Benoit Soubeyran from Montpellier, France – Holy Fire in Jerusalem 2018-04-07, CC BY 2.0:
But still, Holy Fire? Whence the “holy” in Orange County?
Apparently, there’s a Holy Jim Canyon Trail with a waterfall, but then, who is Holy Jim?
And it’s here that we meet one of those anthropological curiosities whereby the concept of the sacred unites the two ends of the spectrum. From Wallace Black Elk I learned that the Lakota word wakan, generally translated sacred, means something like the beware: high voltagee warnings you can see where high tension cables would be dangerous for the unaware, but powerfully useful for lighting whole cities..
Here’s the explanation for Holy JIm:
Nature was profaned here by the swear words flooding from the mouth of “Cussin’ Jim” Smith or “Holy Jim” as he was renamed by tightlaced government surveyors who mapped the canyon in the early 1900s.
Cussin’ Jim! Tightlaced Holy!
And Forrest Clark, too, was noted for his “outbursts” in court:
For the third time, the state of California tried to formally charge Forrest Gordon Clark with arson – Clark is suspected of setting the Holy Fire in Orange County – and for the third time, Clark’s erratic behavior caused a judge to stop the normal proceedings, ending with a suspension of the charges so Clark’s mental health and competency can be examined.
In its own way, the Holy Fire in Jim’s canyon has as much place in the spectrum of sacredness as the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does, sliding in, so to speak, by the back door..
And mightn’t that also be an example of enantiodromia?