A2Z — N — Ner Tamid, Sanctuary Lamp, Eternal Flame


all taken from wikipedia

Ner Tamid in Judaism
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 places of worship. Hanging or standing in front of the ark in every Jewish synagogue … it symbolizes God’s eternal presence and is therefore never extinguished.

ner tamid

Ner Tamid

The eternal light is central to one of many stories behind the celebration of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. When the ancient Maccabees rebelled and reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem, they rekindled the eternal light. However, there was only enough oil to keep the flame burning for one day, and it took eight days to bring new oil. Miraculously, according to the story as recounted in the Talmud, the flame continued to burn until the new oil arrived.

Today, Jewish celebrations of Hanukkah include the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah (Hanukkiyah), which has nine branches: including one for the candle used to light the eight flames (candles or wicks in oil), recalling the story.

The Eternal Flame in Christianity
Christian churches often have at least one lamp continually burning before the tabernacle, not only as an ornament of the altar, but for the purpose of worship. The sanctuary lamp, also called a chancel lamp, is placed before the tabernacle or aumbry in Roman Catholic churches as a sign that the Lord is present.

eternal flame in church

Eternal Flame in a Lutheran Church

The practice of an eternal flame has been going on for a very long time, across the globe.

In ancient Iran the atar was tended by a dedicated priest and represented the concept of “divine sparks” or Amesha Spenta, as understood in Zoroastrianism. Period sources indicate that three “great fires” existed in the Achaemenid era of Persian history, which are collectively considered the earliest reference to the practice of creating ever-burning community fires. In general usage, the term Amesha Spenta denotes all bounteous and holy divinities that furthered or strengthened creation. In this sense, Amesha Spenta may therefore be considered equivalent to the term Yazata, referring to any spirit worthy of worship.

flame of zoroastrianism

Amesha Spenta of Zoroastrianism

Cherokee Nation
he Cherokee Nation maintained a fire at the seat of government until ousted by the Indian Removal Act in 1830. At that time, embers from the last great council fire were carried west to the nation’s new home in the Oklahoma Territory. The flame, maintained in Oklahoma, was carried back to the last seat of the Cherokee government at Red Clay State Park in south-eastern Tennessee, to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, and to the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex in Talequah, Oklahoma.

                       image link                                                            image link

In China, it has at times been common to establish an eternally lit lamp as a visible aspect of ancestor veneration; it is set in front of a spirit tablet on the family’s ancestral altar.


Chinese Ancestral Altar

Eternal Flame for Remembrance
A flame is widely accepted as a symbol of eternal life. An eternal flame at a war or other memorial symbolizes a nation’s perpetual gratitude towards, and remembrance of, its war dead, or those who have died to be remembered.

How many eternal flames are burning today and where are they located?

Those who have 1: Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, England, Finland, Georgia, Ghana, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Serbia, South Korea, Switzerland, Transnistria, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Zimbabwe

Those who have 2: Azerbaijan Baku, Belarus, Brazil, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Philippines, Portugal, Spain,

Those who have 3: Argentina, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, South Africa

Cuba has no less than 4

Canada – no less than 5

Australia – no less than 6

India – no less than 7

U.S.A. – no less than 22

Russia no less than 30

Natural Phenomenon
An eternal flame is a flame, lamp or torch that burns continuously for an indefinite period. Some are natural phenomena caused by natural gas leaks, peat fires and coal seam fires, all of which can be initially ignited by lightning, *piezoelectricity or human activity, some of which have burned for thousands of years.

*Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (such as crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA and various proteins) in response to applied mechanical stress. The word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure and latent heat. It is derived from the Greek word πιέζειν; piezein, which means to squeeze or press, and ἤλεκτρον ēlektron, which means amber, an ancient source of electric charge. French physicists Jacques and Pierre Curie discovered piezoelectricity in 1880.

Ones fueled by natural gas are found in Turkey, the States of New York and Washington in the US, Taiwan, India’s Himalayas, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Indonesia.

Ones fueled by coal seams include, “Burning Mountain” in Australia which has been burning for 6,000 years! Two are found in Pennsylvania, US, that started as mine fires. A coal field fire in Jharia, India, has been burning for almost a century.

The following youtube names even more of these “eternal flames”:

Do you have any stories to share of eternal flames?

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Interesting. I note the UK doesn’t desde to have an eternal flame! I have been to the one in France at the war memorial. It may be a more catholic tradition but Anglican churches do light candles. From the Quaker perspective there is the inner light and the phrase ‘to hold a person in the light’ which I rather like. You have quite a challenge for April.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      England (part of the UK) has 1. Thank you for the additional information. It’s been a fun experience learning so much about world symbols this month. Since I’m retired I’m able to make the time to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I found it but didn’t know about it. It is a memorial for a fairly recent football disaster which has only just brought some members of the police to trial for culpability and cover ups. Am surprised we do not have any for our war dead, although every town and village has a war memorial as all lost men in WW1. Hopefully flames mean we remember and work for peace.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. msjadeli says:

          I appreciate learning what the England one is about and am also surprised none for the war dead.


  2. Jade,

    Very interesting. I love the symbolism of the eternal flame. My spiritual eternal flame is Jesus! I’m so thankful for His forgiveness, love, and compassion. He died, then rose again, so I might live forever. 🙂 My earthly eternal flame is DH – my soulmate! Thanks for sharing & happy a2zing!

    A2Z Little Mermaid art sketch ‘NEPTUNE’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thanks Cathy, glad you connected with the info. I’ve been enjoying your drawings very much.


  3. A very interesting post today Li. I wonder if the eternal flame caused that Notre Dame cathedral to burn down. The Olympic flame is a symbol that continues to burn in the cauldron for the duration of the Games.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Not sure about ND cathedral…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lael-Heart says:

    Goosebumps again! I would buy your A-Z Challenge in book form, should you ever decide to make one ❤
    I feel like my Buddha Nature and basic human dignity, is an eternal flame, flickering away in there, no matter what. That helps me get through tough times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Lael, I’m very happy you are enjoying the entries. I like your concept of Buddha nature and human dignity.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jade,

    I loved reading your post about the eternal flames. I particularly like the ones burning due to natural phenomenon. Such post make me think there is so many things I don’t know or never heard of before

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thanks Namy, I was amazed to hear how long the mountain in Australia has been burning!


  6. A very interesting post, Li.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. msjadeli says:

      Thanks, Sadje.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.