has, for millenniums, exerted extreme fascination on
It is known that the first iron to be discovered came from
meteorites that fell from the sky, the place where gods resided,
hence the sacredness that it carried since the beginning.
At early stages, meteorite's iron properties were not know to
man, so it was worked stone like. However not all were allowed
to touch the gift from the gods, as we are talking about the
sacredness of it in archaic cultures that were not the property
of any given continent. Much on the contrary, meteorites fell
all over the world, originating the rise of similar beliefs
based on the divine origin. This sacredness that was conferred
to iron was to be increased when it was discovered that iron was
to be found deep in the ground. Man was digging into Mother
Earth's fecund womb, which was an activity considered dangerous
for the intrusion it represented.
Unlike the later rise of alchemy, which acknowledged the
liveliness of metals, modern science decided to define just
three main realms, spreading the Truth in school books and
papers. Minerals, which are lifeless, Vegetables which have a
very simple life form, and Animals with its species and
sub-species dominated by Man's superior intelligence. These
three modern sub-divisions of a recent and profane science based
on academically proven facts, contradicted and disdained the
relationship that was built over the History of Man between
matter, rites and values.
Barba, the XVII century Spanish writer, quoted by
Mircea Eliade, stated that an exhausted mine is capable
of re-creating its deposits if it is suitably blocked up and
allowed to rest for fifteen years. Those who think that metals
were created at the beginning of the world are grossly mistaken:
metals grow in mines.
It is known that the formation of a ruby takes time until it is
ripe. The color itself is a sign of the mineral's maturing.
Those who work with iron or with precious metals know how
temperature affects coloration.
The alchemist was a most noble profession pertaining to
the superior understanding of Nature, based on factual
experiments and consequential discoveries and its relation to a
Universal Order. The many legends that surround their work place
alchemists in many parts of the world, as being those
who, by different paths, discovered the life of metals.
Metallurgy was born subsequently, showing the deep
understanding of Nature's language by those who smelted iron,
taking up and perfecting the work of Nature. The ultimate role
of the smith concerning steel, is very much that of the
alchemist who knew how to transform metals.
It is however imperative to emphasize the close relationship
between metallurgy and agriculture, as both feed from the same
womb and interact among themselves. Swords were not the only
tools made. Agriculture utensils were of paramount importance
for the societies to develop and evolve in straight connection
with the structure of values, morals, ethics and rites.
Many African tribal smiths were also uncircumcised
priests, thus possessing male and female qualities, therefore
being complete entities who were the only ones allowed to work
with iron, while in other places the change of a metal's
properties could only be achieved with the sacrifice of a human
life. Such is the Chinese legend of Mo Ye.
That is, for something to take another structure, basically
through fire, an immolation was required, even though
In today's world steel does play and important role, having
crossed millenniums of technos, while swords have been
rendered obsolete by firearms, therefore being raised to a
different level of meaning, understanding and of perception
mostly connected with the paradigm of important moral and
ethical values as well as paths to self perfection.
Let us think about how the Japanese martial suffix jitsu
was transformed into a more spiritual do as in
iaijitsu to iaido .
Combat with swords lost its deadly meaning, turning into a more
physical and spiritual search path, while the appreciation of
East and Western swords became much more relevant.
Some important reading is recommended to further deepen this
appreciation, such as
The Forge and the Crucible
by Mircea Eliade,
The Psychoanalysis of Fire
by Gaston Bachelard, and the work of the writer and
anthropologist Carlos Morais Josť called
Clarity and Virtue.