Sacred Fire Ceremonies

My Reflections on Seasonal Fire Ceremonies
Coming to a fire ceremony symbolizes my willingness to burn away all that does not serve me and invites me to reconnect with my deepest desires to surround and nurture myself during each Earth cycle.  The stick/gift I prepare for the fire represents what I intend to release, invite into my consciousness, give gratitude for, commit to, dedicate for others, etc.  It is an offering to feed the element of fire and to rekindle and remember not only who I am but what my Divine purpose is at this time.

I consider the Summer Solstice to honor the South as a time for healing of my physical body and that of my Pachamama.  The Autumnal Equinox is my West fire for facing and healing my emotions and moving my intentions ever closer toward impeccability.  The Winter Solstice is my North fire to honor all of my ancestors and teachers (from the seen and unseen) and to recommit to being my own best teacher.  The Spring Equinox is my East fire that reminds me to open my mind (and heart) to always seeing and knowing the Truth.

Why a Community Fire?
For thousands of years, people have gathered together around fire to cook, stay warm, use the light to see into the darkness, celebrate with ceremony and give gratitude.  The seasonal fires have been offered to the people of San Diego since 1997.  It has been my gift, my giving back for the privilege of living and learning in this beautiful city.

Over those years, many hundreds of people have been “called” to share the energy of the fire and our Shaman’s circle.  I come to the fires to hold space for others to play in the energy of the fire and our community.  It thrills and feeds me to be allowed to participate in these seasonal celebrations.

When we share this ceremony with others, it is our privilege and necessity to enlighten them as to why and how we conduct this rite.  It would not honor the fire or them to be uninformed or unprepared for what is available to them.  Meeting before the ceremony to help them find and prepare their stick would be appropriate.  Making sure they have a noise maker – rattle, drum, 2 stick to hit together, etc. – so they can become part of the tempo and rhythm which allows us to entrain as one with the fire.  Then and only then are we ready to meet the fire as a friend rather than a foe.

Consciously collecting the materials for a ceremonial fire
As in most conscious acts of celebration, the ceremony begins long before the day of the fire.  I usually gather the Torrey Pine needles, for the tinder, 2-3 months before the fire.  This gives them time to be very dry so they create instant heat rather than instant smoke.  I have a special “giving” tree in the Crest Canyon section of the San Dieguito River Park.  We have a tender relationship.  It gives the starter for each of our ceremonial fires and for that I return my love and gratitude.  Have you found your “giving” trees?

The sticks that I gather for the kindling are from specific eucalyptus trees around Torrey Pines High School.  These trees have been providing the wood for our fires since 1997.  I collect them 3-6 months in advance so they are also very dry.  There are times when my car trunk is loaded with fire sticks for weeks at a time.

The large logs have come from trees around my property that have been cut down or from wonderful people who know that I use the wood for ceremony and they want their trees to be honored in a ceremonial way.  You would be surprised to see who shows up with sacred firewood when you share you needs with others.

What does a Fire Tender Do?
I have been in week-long ceremonies where the fire is honored and tended 24 hours a day.  I have sat and stoked a fire in the middle of the night into the dawn by myself.  It is an amazing experience – one can never predict the magic that can show up for you in the alone, quiet times with those fires.

As a group fire tender, one is expected to:
Direct the assembling of the firewood with the community
–    set the container using corn meal to create a circle and tobacco to mark the      north-south and west-east axis
–    pine needles placed north to south and west to east as the tinder
–    24-30” sticks set up in the shape of a teepee
–    large logs placed around the outside of the fire pit to be used as soon as the fire is established

Lighting the fire – always from the east (the direction of fire in our medicine wheel and the direction were our central fire, the Sun, rises every morning.  I often ask for the eldest and youngest or birthday people to light the fire. Remember to provide a long handled lighter to start the fire.

Stoking the fire and adding logs when needed – Logs usually need to be turned and rearranged for even burning.  Remember to allow despachos to burn without being disturbed.  It is important to know how long you intend the fire ceremony to last.  This will determine how many logs you will be adding to the fire. Even though it is safe to leave fire embers at the end of the ceremony (in a fire pit), it is important to honor the fire by staying with it until the flames are complete.

Feeding the fire – some of my favorite fire ceremonialist bring many gifts to feed the fire through out the ceremony.  This can be anything from flowers, incense, prayers and prayer bundles, florida water and personal treasurers.  Please no paper since the ashes often float up into the air and can light people’s hair and clothing on fire.

Stalking the fire – I delight in walking around the fire and watching it from all angles.  During our ceremonies, people don’t usually move from their spots but I would encourage movement.  Some people want to dance around the fire.  Others like to remain still and feel the energy from that one space.  The only people who should not move from their place are those who represent and hold the energy of one of the four cardinal directions.

What does a Fire Ceremonialist or Leader(s) do?
These duties/privileges can be perform by several members of an ayllu:
–       Assign or determine who will be the holder (and caller) for each of the four cardinal directions
–       Assign or determine who will welcome and set the intention for the ceremony.  Share any information about the current phases of the   moon and stars, or current holidays
–       Determine when the fire is “friendly” to receive our gifts
–       Assign or determine who will instruct new participants as to why and when they might choose a particular direction to offer their gift to the fire.
–       Assign or determine who will instruct on how and why to hold space when participants go to offer their stick by protecting their back.  Please welcome any and all who want to participate in this service.
–       Determine when it is time to offer despachos and give directions on how to offer them to the fire.
–       Be directed by Spirit to interject comments and questions to create a community of celebration.
–       Be open to receive and to be the empty vessel.

What do the participants bring?
Bring a gift for the fire
usually in the form of a stick empowered with your dreams, thanks, fears, beliefs, etc. and let the fire symbolically and energetically transform and transmute them
Bring an open heart
to hear and connect with the heartbeat (vibration) of the earth
Bring a rattle or drum
to build and hold a vibrational container of honor and celebration
Bring your friends and loved ones to share the magic with

Please remember to honor the sacred circle by arriving before the fire is lit.

 

12/11

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