Homa / Michelle Castleberry



A homa is an ancient Vedic ceremony in which offerings are cast into fire. The offerings become both sacrifice and message. It can be performed to bless, to purify, to protect, or to celebrate. In ancient times the fire sacrifice was an elaborate ceremony that could involve the sacrifice of horses, cows, and goats, as well as.…gems and other precious items cast into the fire.

In my memory it is like a shoebox diorama, that night we went to the Manhattan after dinner. I barely recognized you outside of work, in everyday clothes, your black-on-black uniform gone. There we were, two little pipe cleaner counselors bent over drinks. Mine a glass thimble of beer, yours a tiny amber bead of scotch. Off-duty helpers, talking shop.

Later, I asked about your paintings and how they came to you. Whenever I talk to painters I feel the same as when approaching horses; one part captivated to two parts afraid. You told me about a woman who (did I hear this right?) wanted to buy and then "trim" your painting to fit above her couch? Then you told me about the house fire.

Agni, the god of fire, is both a deity and a way to address other gods.

Dear friend, I don't know how to make peace with fire, even in poetry because I was schooled in hellfire before God-is-love. That is why I cannot, even in a pretty piece of writing, make sense of paintings on fire. If I call it a sacrifice of horses, it is beautiful only here, and only in the way that some scars are beautiful.

Or maybe, if you go back and throw something into that house on fire and smudge the ash on your forehead, it becomes a durga homa—an offering to remove negative energies. To protect you from the art-blind buyers of art. To make fire-horse gods out of oil and canvas, quick to carry the message that is now and forever being sent in the air, a warning, a promise, a prayer.



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