chapter
17 Pages

FIRE

The discovery of this element in prehistoric time, which is probably accidental, enabled pre-historic humans to make a transition from a raw to a cooked diet, which is associated with more developed forms of culture. In his study of South Indian cultures, the anthropologist Lévi-Strauss relates a variety of myths about the origin of fire in his work The Raw and the Cooked. In many versions, Indians lack fire, but they learn about it and appropriate it for their own uses from the jaguar, thus enabling them to cook food, warm themselves, and light the village at night. If cooked food is equivalent to being civilized, it is the element of fire that makes this possible for humans. During his research, Lévi-Strauss finds that the Indians identify two kinds of fire: celestial and destructive and terrestrial and creative. The former type of fire takes life and the latter type makes life possible.