My eyes pop open in the hours before dawn as though a dim voice has spoken plainly into my ear, “Time to get up. Come to the fire.” I swing out of bed and whisper to my wife, Carin, who is still asleep, “I’m going to the fire.” I quietly get dressed, drink ½ a cup of coffee, and head out the door with a medicine bag over my shoulder.
“Come to the fire” is a silent whisper, a gentle call to slip into the woods in the morning stillness.
The soft crush of dirt underfoot and the shush of wind through the trees are the only sounds. The air is cold and crisp and stars twinkle in the darkness before dawn. There is nothing to disturb my peace while the ego sleeps and the mind is awake.
In the woods I walk to a place I know well, a rough hewn fire pit set in the middle of a large circle of rocks, surrounded by old pine and juniper. I enter into the circle with reverence and humility.
I shrug off my medicine bag (an assortment of ceremonial items–rattles, feathers, herbs, sage, a braid of sweetgrass, tobacco, sacred objects for an altar, my journal) and immediately begin gathering wood to make a fire.
Fire is Tangible
The ritual of fire making is naturally calming, a connection to the elements–rough wood, damp earth, hard rock, cold air, hot fire–a tangible relationship with nature, a visceral link with the ancestors and the ancient ones who come to the fire.
Once the fire is blazing, I light a bundle of sage and waft the sage smoke over my head and all around with a feather wing, blessing first myself and then my world.
I walk the perimeter of the circle with a pouch of cornmeal, salt and tobacco, sprinkling the mixture on the ground to establish a soft boundary, a delineation between the world outside the circle and the world inside, setting sacred space. As I walk, I speak aloud words and phrases, prayers and intentions, to set the circle.
With a pinch of tobacco, I honor each of the four Cardinal Directions–East, South, West, North–the Earth below, Sky above and the Spirit within. Shaking a pair of rattles, I make my presence known, pay my respects to the Ancestors and the Traditional Owners of the land, and offer prayers of gratitude.
When all is done, I kneel, hand roll a tobacco smoke, and open my journal to begin a quiet conversation with my inner guidance. The fire burns bright and hot while I listen in silence for my true voice to come.
Fire is Community
For thousands of years people have gathered around the fire for warmth and light, storytelling and community; to commune with Nature and the Divine.
Fire is a primary element (Fire, Air, Water, Earth) and connotes action, energy, vigor, and passion. It is symbolic of life and transformation, and transmutes form. For example, when we burn wood, the sun’s stored energy is released as heat, light, gas and ash.
Fire represents the energy of the Sun, the source of Light, Life and Intelligence.
Gathering around the fire is a soulful activity, whether alone or with others. At the fire there is solace and peace of mind. When the mind becomes quiet, the answers to questions are more readily available. Solutions to complex problems unfold with less effort. The truth dawns upon a relaxed and open mind.
Fire is sacred
When a need arises for greater clarity, for peace or resolution; in matters of death and loss; when a crisis looms or a challenge presents itself; when a conversation is called for about things close to the heart, these are the times when we come to the fire–a sacred place on the earth to connect with what matters most in life.
We come to the fire undefended with an open heart and enter a safe space. We quiet our noisy minds and restless hearts. It’s a place to return again and again to let go of the accumulated detritus, the burden, of daily life.
We come to the fire to offer our prayers, blessings, and gratitude for Life, and release what no longer serves us. At the fire we find peace and forgiveness, light and strength, and the courage to live with integrity and wholeness.