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Torch


A torch is a stick with combustible material at one end, which is ignited and used as a light source. Torches have been used throughout history, and are still used in processions, symbolic and religious events, and in juggling entertainment. In some countries, the word "torch" is used as the term for a battery-operated portable light.

From the Old French "torche" meaning "twisted thing," hence "torch formed of twisted tow dipped in wax," probably from Vulgar Latin *torca, alteration of Late Latin torqua, variant of classical Latin torques "collar of twisted metal," from torquere "to twist".

Torch construction has varied through history depending the torch's purpose. Torches were usually constructed of a wooden stave with one end wrapped in a material which was soaked in a flammable substance. In ancient Rome some torches were made of sulfur mixed with lime. This meant that the fire would not diminish after being plunged into water. Modern procession torches are made from coarse hessian rolled into a tube and soaked in wax. There is usually a wooden handle and a cardboard collar to deflect any wax droplets. They are an easy, safe and relatively cheap way to hold a flame aloft in a parade, or to provide illumination in any after-dark celebration.

Modern torches suitable for juggling are made of a wooden and metal or metal only stave with one end wrapped in a Kevlar wick. This wick is soaked in a flammable liquid, usually paraffin (kerosene).

The torch is a common emblem of both enlightenment and hope. Thus the Statue of Liberty, actually "Liberty Enlightening of the World", lifts her torch. Crossed reversed torches were signs of mourning that appear on Greek and Roman funerary monuments—a torch pointed downwards symbolizes death, while a torch held up symbolizes life, truth and the regenerative power of flame. The torch is also a symbol used by political parties, for instance by both Labour (from 1918 to 1980) and the Conservatives (from 1983 to 2006) in the UK, and the Malta Labour Party. In the seals of schools in the Philippines, the torch symbolizes the vision of education to provide enlightenment to all the students.


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