I began this program with a relationship to fire similar to others who have grown up camping and enjoying the occasional winter night by the living room fire. I loved playing music with friends and family around a fire pit at the campsite. I loved making a fire in the fireplace on a chilly December night. It’s always been more than just warmth or ambiance. It just felt right, and until the The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School, I never explored why that was.
There were a couple of things that contributed to this deepening. The first is simply the sheer amount of time we spend working on and sitting around a fire in The Immersionprogram. Nearly every class day is spent in the presence of fire. This increased face time has given me a lot of opportunities to stare into the flames and be hypnotized by the flickering dance of this magical being.
The second thing that has deepened my connection to fire is the ceremony of bringing fire forth. Before this program, I would have called this process, “lighting a fire.” Now I know it as a much more intimate and connected process, that doesn’t always succeed in bringing fire.
By learning and practicing friction fire with a bow drill or hand drill kit, I have created a relationship that occurs for me as one of calling forth a deity through a ceremony of gratitude and sacrifice.
Think about it, I start by selecting the proper natural materials and then shaping them to my needs with rapt attention and intention. I practice my technique for utilizing this kit made of my own hands, so that I may better know the proper way to address and call to this Fire deity. Before I begin the ceremony, I prepare the ceremonial space to call forth and welcome the Fire, making sure each piece is in its proper place. Then I give gratitude to the Fire, fixing in my mind’s eye and sharing with my words, what Fire means to me and my desire to be in its presence this day.
I then begin the action of spinning the spindle, either by bow or by hand. I breathe and feel my body warm up through its movement. If the deity is smiling on me this day, a tendril of smoke begins to emanate from the friction point. My body seems to rise in temperature along with the tip of the spindle and the socket of the fire board. As the smoke increases, a drop of sweat leaves my forehead and falls to the earth. This is my offering to the deity. I offer my sweat, my words of gratitude, and my devotion to the practice of calling it forth. I continue to breathe and to move, increasing the temperature and creating the conditions for Fire to join me on the physical plane.
The smoke is billowing now, the dark brown/black dust is filling the socket’s notch… and then it happens. A tiny, glowing coal emerges, as if through some magical portal. Fire has come to visit! The ceremony is not over though, it is now time for the second part, encouraging Fire to stay and be comfortable. If I do not succeed, Fire will leave me, and I will have to begin the ceremony again.
I grab my fist-sized bundle of tinder, made of scraped cedar bark. I tap the coal into the bundle of cedar and begin to give it air. It glows brighter as I blow. I feed more of the cedar fibers close so it has plenty to eat and grow strong. I continue this process until the second magical moment of Fire’s visit occurs… flame bursts forth.
All I need to do now is continue to feed the Fire, making sure it has plenty of food to eat, air to breath, and heat to stay warm. I have prepared a small structure of kindling and usher the flaming cedar bundle into its center so that it may feed on the dry wood now surrounding it. I begin to feel Fire’s warmth as I feed more and more wood to sustain its voracious appetite. I breath a sigh of contentment and gratitude. Fire has come to visit, and will stay awhile with me.
I am grateful this day, because I am to be joined by my friends, to share in the warmth of this fire. We will come together to share food, stories, songs, dance, love, and gratitude. Fire brings us together and holds the space for us to grow closer.
For many indigenous cultures, Fire is a connection to one’s ancestors. I like to imagine generations of my ancestors gathered around this same energy, telling their stories and singing their songs. Through Fire, I experience this deep connection with my lineage. No matter how modern my life has become, and how foreign it may seem to those bygone generations, I will always have this time to share my words and song with the fire, just as they did. The content may be different, but not by much.
Through The Immersion I have to come to know, not just intellectually, but spiritually, that fire is the source of all life on this planet. Without the big fire (the sun), life on this planet, and possibly elsewhere would be possible.
Now when I look into those dancing flames of a warm fire, I feel all of this connection. That feeling I used to experience around a fire, before being in this program, is so much clearer to me now. I can understand and celebrate this new depth every time I kneel on the earth and begin the ceremony anew, every time I add a log to the Fire and smile at my friends sharing its warmth with me.
Looking to deepen your relationship with the elements of the natural world? Check out The Immersion at Wilderness Awareness School!