Fire All Through Time

Graduation Date

Spring 2004

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


The symbol of fire is a complicated symbol that throughout time has developed a variety of meanings and expressions. The main purpose of this thesis is to establish a further understanding of fire as an archetype in today’s society and how its current meaning has evolved from various cultures’ relationships with fire. This thesis also views how the symbol of fire is used in client’s artwork in art therapy and the possible meanings related to fire. The historical research consists of four different cultures across the globe that represents a variety of eras. The four cultures are Aztec, Persian, Greek and Native American. This thesis will also look at a fire symbol that is influential to numerous cultures, the Phoenix.

The research conducted for this thesis was completed at the Notre Dame de Namur University as well as neighboring fire stations. It was a convenient sample population of art therapy graduate students, undergraduate students, and firefighters. The questionnaire compared the historical significance of the archetype fire with its current meaning to people. It is hypothesized that due to advancements in technology people no longer have the intimate relationship with fire they once had. Due to electricity people no longer need fire for essential daily living. Fire is often thought of as destructive and is no longer the gift it once was. The results of the survey found that most of the population relates fire to just a few words. There were six words that were chosen by fifty or more subjects; they were warmth, burn, power, energy, light and passion. This survey aides in understanding the current relationship we have with fire today and how that relationship is represented in artwork produced by clients in a therapeutic setting.

Only available in print