Torch

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A burning torch, discarded on the road in the wake of the Lewes Bonfire Night celebrations. Lewes Bonfire, discarded torch.jpg
A burning torch, discarded on the road in the wake of the Lewes Bonfire Night celebrations.

A torch is a stick with combustible material at one end, which is ignited and used as a light source. [1] Torches have been used throughout history, and are still used in processions, symbolic and religious events, and in juggling entertainment. In some countries "torch" in modern usage is the term for a battery-operated portable light.

Contents

Etymology

From the Old French "torche" meaning "twisted thing", hence "torch formed of twisted tow dipped in wax", probably from Vulgar Latin *torca, alteration of Late Latin torqua, variant of classical Latin torques "collar of twisted metal", from torquere "to twist". [2]

An unlit torch as used for fire breathing. Firebreathingtorch.JPG
An unlit torch as used for fire breathing.

Torch construction

Torch construction has varied through history depending on the torch's purpose. Torches were usually constructed of a wooden stave with one end wrapped in a material which was soaked in a flammable substance. [3] In the United States, black bear bones may have been used. [4] In ancient Rome some torches were made of sulfur mixed with lime. This meant that the fire would not diminish after being plunged into water. [3] Modern procession torches are made from coarse hessian rolled into a tube and soaked in wax. A wooden handle is usually used, and a cardboard collar is attached to deflect any wax droplets. They are an easy, safe and relatively cheap way to hold a flame aloft in a parade or to provide illumination in any after-dark celebration.

Modern torches suitable for juggling are made of a wooden-and-metal or metal-only stave with one end wrapped in a Kevlar wick. This wick is soaked in a flammable liquid, usually paraffin (kerosene).

Symbolism

Liberty torch drawing.svg
Detail of frieze of winged half figures with torch of learning in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. Main Reading Room. Detail of frieze of winged half figures with torch of learning. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. LCCN2007684396.tif
Detail of frieze of winged half figures with torch of learning in the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

The torch is a common emblem of both enlightenment and hope. [5] Thus the Statue of Liberty, actually "Liberty Enlightening the World", lifts her torch. Crossed reversed torches were signs of mourning that appear on Greek and Roman funerary monuments—a torch pointed downwards symbolizes death, while a torch held up symbolizes life, truth and the regenerative power of flame. The torch is also a symbol used by political parties, for instance by both Labour (from 1918 to 1980) and the Conservatives (from 1983 to 2006) in the UK, and the Malta Labour Party. In the seals of schools in the Philippines, the torch symbolizes the vision of education to provide enlightenment to all the students.

Uses

Olympics

Li Ning lighting the torch at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Li Ling during 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.jpg
Li Ning lighting the torch at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

A torch carried in relay by runners is used to light the Olympic flame which burns without interruption until the end of the Games. These torches and the relay tradition were introduced in the 1936 Summer Olympics by Carl Diem, the chairman of the event because during the duration of the Ancient Olympic Games in Olympia, a sacred flame burnt inside of the temple of Hera, kept in custody by her priestess.

Juggling

Juggling torches are often used as a prop in toss juggling: they can be flipped into the air in an end-over-end motion while being juggled, in the same manner as juggling clubs or juggling knives, but because of their sound and 'trail of flame', they can appear much more impressive to audiences. To a skilled juggler, there is only a slight chance of being burned, but they are still dangerous.

In Roman Catholic liturgy

In former times, liturgical torches were carried in Eucharistic processions simply to give light. The Church eventually adopted their use for Solemn High Masses.

According to Adrian Fortescue, [6] the more correct form of liturgical torches are non-freestanding (i.e. cannot stand up on their own). However, today, even in the Vatican, freestanding, tall candles in ornate candle-stick holders have replaced the former type. The torches are carried by torchbearers, who enter at the Sanctus and leave after Communion.

Anglicans of the High Church and some Lutherans use torches in some of their liturgical celebrations as well.

Torchlight march

Torchlight march is a type of illuminated procession which is held after dark so that torches carried by the participants form a spectacle (other types of an illuminated procession involve candles, lanterns etc). [7]

Cupid Rekindling the Torch of Hymen George Rennie Cupid Rekindling the Torch of Hymen at the V and A 2008.jpg
Cupid Rekindling the Torch of Hymen

Associations

Love

The association of a torch with love may date to the Greek and Roman tradition of a wedding torch, [8] lit in the bride's hearth on her wedding night, then used to light the hearth in her new home. Such a torch is associated with the Greek god of marriage Hymen.

The idiom to carry a torch (for someone) means to love or to be romantically infatuated with someone, especially when such feelings are not reciprocated. It is often used to characterize a situation in which a romantic relationship has ended, but where one partner still loves the other. It is considered by some to be dated, [9] but still in wide usage. A torch song is typically a sentimental love song in which a singer laments an unrequited love.

See also

Related Research Articles

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A Paschal candle is a big, white candle used in liturgies in Western Christianity. A new Paschal candle is blessed and lit every year at Easter, and is used throughout the Paschal season which is during Easter and then throughout the year on special occasions, such as baptisms and funerals.

The Olympic flame is a symbol used in the Olympic movement. It is also a symbol of continuity between ancient and modern games. Several months before the Olympic Games, the Olympic flame is lit at Olympia, Greece. This ceremony starts the Olympic torch relay, which formally ends with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The flame then continues to burn in the cauldron for the duration of the Games, until it is extinguished during the Olympic closing ceremony.

Holy Week Calendar date

In Christianity, Holy Week is the week immediately preceding Easter. It is also the last week of Lent, in the West, – Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – are all included. However, Easter Day, which begins the season of Eastertide, is not.

Sanctuary lamp

A sanctuary lamp, chancel lamp, altar lamp, everlasting light, or eternal flame is a light that shines before the altar of sanctuaries in many Jewish and Christian places of worship. Prescribed in Exodus 27:20-21 of the Torah, this icon has taken on different meanings in each of the religions that have adopted it. The passage, which refers to prescriptions for the tabernacle, states:

And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always. In the tabernacle of the congregation without the veil, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel. (KJV)

Lantern Portable lighting device

A lantern is an often portable source of lighting, typically featuring a protective enclosure for the light source — historically usually a candle or a wick in oil, and often a battery-powered light in modern times — to make it easier to carry and hang up, and make it more reliable outdoors or in drafty interiors. Lanterns may also be used for signaling, as torches, or as general light-sources outdoors.

Wreath Ring-shaped ornament used for decoration and commemoration

A wreath is an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, or various materials that is constructed to form a ring.

Acolyte Ministry in the Christian Church

An acolyte is an assistant or follower assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession. In many Christian denominations, an acolyte is anyone performing ceremonial duties such as lighting altar candles. In others, the term is used for one who has been inducted into a particular liturgical ministry, even when not performing those duties.

Thurible

A thurible is a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services. It is used in Christian churches including the Roman Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Oriental Orthodox, as well as in some Lutheran, Old Catholic, United Methodist, Reformed, Presbyterian Church USA, Anglican churches. In Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican churches, the altar server who carries the thurible is called the thurifer. The practice is rooted in the earlier traditions of Judaism in the time of the Second Jewish Temple.

Fire eating

Fire eating is the act of putting a flaming object into the mouth and extinguishing it. A fire eater can be an entertainer, a street performer, part of a sideshow or a circus act but has also been part of spiritual tradition in India.

Fire performance Performance art using fire skills

Fire performance is a group of performance arts or skills that involve the manipulation of fire. Fire performance typically involves equipment or other objects made with one or more wicks which are designed to sustain a large enough flame to create a visual effect.

Votive candle

A votive candle or prayer candle is a small candle, typically white or beeswax yellow, intended to be burnt as a votive offering in an act of Christian prayer, especially within the Anglican, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic Christian denominations, among others. In Christianity, votive candles are commonplace in many churches, as well as home altars, and symbolize the "prayers the worshipper is offering for him or herself, or for other people." The size of a votive candle is often two inches tall by one and a half inches diameter, although other votive candles can be significantly taller and wider. In other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, similar offerings exist, which include diyas and butter lamps.

Torch (juggling)

Juggling torches are one of various props used by jugglers. Torches are usually commercially made props that are made of wood and/or metal with a wick attached at one end. The wick is soaked in liquid fuel, usually paraffin and ignited before use.

Candle wick

A candle wick is usually a braided cotton that holds the flame of an oil lamp or candle. A candle wick works by capillary action, conveying ("wicking") the fuel to the flame. When the liquid fuel, typically melted candle wax, reaches the flame it then vaporizes and combusts. The candle wick influences how the candle burns. Important characteristics of the wick include diameter, stiffness, fire-resistance, and tethering.

Ceremonial use of lights

The ceremonial use of lights occurs in liturgies of various Christian Churches, as well as in Jewish, Zoroastrian and Hindu rites and customs.

Also known as a "perfume lamp", "effusion lamp," or "catalytic lamp", a fragrance lamp is a lamp that disperses scented alcohol using a catalytic combustion wick consisting of a cotton wick threaded through a natural, porous stone. The catalytic combustion wick was developed and patented by Maurice Berger, a French pharmaceutical dispenser, in 1898 as a means of purifying the air in hospitals and mortuaries. It is claimed that this catalytic oxidation process destroys bacteria in the air and increases oxygen levels.

Altar candle

Altar candles are candles set on or near altars for religious ceremonies. Various denominations have regulations or traditions regarding the number and type of candles used, and when they are lit or extinguished during the services.

Tealight Type of candle

A tealight is a candle in a thin metal or plastic cup so that the candle can liquefy completely while lit. They are typically small, circular, usually wider than their height, and inexpensive. Tealights derive their name from their use in teapot warmers, but are also used as food warmers in general, e.g. fondue.

Candle snuffer

A candle snuffer, candle extinguisher, or douter is an instrument used to extinguish burning candles, consisting of a small cone at the end of a handle. The use of a snuffer helps to avoid problems associated with blowing hot wax. Extinguishers are still commonly used in homes and churches.

Swedish torch

A Swedish torch is a source of heat and light from a vertically set tree trunk, incised and burning in the middle. It became known in Europe during the 1600s and is now used by forest workers, and for leisure activities. Due to its flat surface and good embers, it can also be used for cooking. Compared to a campfire, it is more compact, and therefore several small heat sources can be distributed over an area.

References

  1. merriam-webster.com
  2. "Torch". Etymology. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  3. 1 2 "History of Torches". History of Lighting. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  4. Pressley, Benjamin (1996). "Conquering The Darkness: Primitive Lighting Methods". Bulletin of Primitive Technology (12). Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  5. Lindberg-Wada, Gunilla (1 January 2006). Studying Transcultural Literary History. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN   9783110920550.
  6. "The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy [1912]"
  7. Beverly N. White. "Torch Light" . Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  8. Re: To "hold a candle" for someoneThe Phrase Finder
  9. WordReference Forums – carry a torch for someone