Brief historical context

The phenomenon of fire, its use and misuse, has figured significantly in myth and literature. Examples include the Phoenix, which lived for hundreds of years, burned itself to death, and then rose again from its ashes, Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and who became the mainspring for much later psychoanalytic theorizing about fire-raising, and the inexperienced youth Phaethon who, having lost control of his father Helios's chariot (the sun), was killed by Zeus with a thunderbolt before he could do further damage. There are numerous historical references to incendiary mixtures and devices, including sketches of mortars made by Leonardo Da Vinci.(4) In the mid-nineteenth century, the medical profession began to turn its attention to explanations of fire-raising behaviour, and subsequently psychoanalysts proposed various complex if somewhat dubious explanations, in particular linking fire-raising with sexual dysfunction of one kind or another. However, it is fair to point out that sexual problems do seem to appear in the backgrounds of some repetitive fire-raisers.(2.,5) Fire-raising is a very complex phenomenon and more than one motive may operate in an individual case.

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