May 16, 2012 by Lain
With the addition, possibly, of a “Fire-Walk” to the list of events at this year’s Sunwheel Pagan Arts Festival, I wanted to take some time to pass on my own experiences with this amazing event.
My first Fire-Walk was in 2008, at an event called “Primal Pain“, here in Alberta. Primal is a yearly gathering of some of the most amazing members of the “Modern-Primitive” movement in Western Canada. The Mod-Prims, a close spiritual cousin to Paganism in many ways, are a group of people who believe in experiential spirituality. That is, they seek to experience first hand the “pathways” to the divine, through the experience of the flesh. Hence the use of pain in ritual.
The Fire-Walk, an ancient ritual the world over, has been practiced by Shamans and Warriors, Pagans and Christians, tribal leaders, Kings and common-folk for thousands of years. Considered a test of courage, a Rite of Passage, or dedication to a Deity, fire, and fire-walking have captured the imagination of people for as long as there have been people!
The ritual that I attended, my first, went something like this;
A large fire was built and attended to for several hours, while nearly a full cord of wood was turned slowly into a mound of glowing embers, reaching temperatures well over 1000 degrees. While the fire burned, each person was handed a slip of paper, on it we were asked to write something which we each wanted to put behind us. That could be grief of a loss, something that haunted us with guilt, whatever we wanted to move past in our lives.
Then, one by one, we each dropped our slip of paper into the fire, and watched as the sacred flame consumed our burden. Later, we would all walk over these burdens as a community, each one helping the rest to put our troubles behind us. As it should be.
Next, the mound was raked out into a long, narrow path of red-hot coals, and as is customary, the builder of the fire is always first to walk across the path.
Next it was my turn. As I looked across the bed of embers, flames still flickering on both sides, I noticed that my wife had moved to the end of the long red corridor, and a smile was playing across her face as the light from the flames danced across her. A smile that said… “you can do this, I believe in you”.
I heard the crunch of the coals beneath my feet as I took my first step onto “The Devil’s Dance Floor“. The heat was intense. But oddly, it felt “right”. The next step relieved my first foot of my weight, as it too felt for the first time the sensation of being enveloped by the incredible heat of the coals. One step, and then another, and as I crossed the bed of embers, I felt an incredible surge of confidence. I was doing it! And a smile now began to grow on my face too, as I looked up at my wife for the remaining last steps, and stepped into her waiting embrace.
“Now you’ve walked through fire for me”, she whispered. “You always said you would!”
The ensuing “high” lasted a long time after. In fact, I’m not really sure it has ever really left me.
So, if you are planning on being at the Sunwheel Fire-Walk, and Don tells you that you will never forget this night… Believe him!