An Introduction to Mythology
Fire-gods are usually associated with the sun, but later achieve a certain domestic and mechanical significance. Undoubtedly fire with its movement and appearance of life would be regarded in animistic times as informed by spirit. In later times there is a departmental god of fire who is often an artificer in metals. This idea could not, of course, have arisen before the discovery of the uses of metals, so that departmental deities of this type must be of comparatively recent origin.
In India the great god of fire was Agni, who ruled not only over the lightning and other fires of Heaven, but over those of earth as well. He is occasionally confounded with Indra and Varuna, but in the earlier hymns he is the fire which men prize as an indispensable boon. He bears up sacrifices from men to the gods under the dark canopy of the smoke which arises from the sacred fires below. He is occasionally credited with the wisdom of the sun-god himself. He is 'black-backed' and 'many-limbed'; like the serpent, he is laid hold of with difficulty; he is the regulator of sacrifices, and is regarded as the guide of souls in the unseen world.