Fire is powerful, entrancing and awe inspiring. It speaks to our primal soul, reminding us we are part of something greater…connecting us to that Tribal force we all hold deep with in ourselves.
Years ago I was visiting a Druid camp in England and watched as the fire tender collected ash from the fire pit in a small jar. He went on to explain how it was their practice to collect ash from all sacred fires and sprinkle it onto the next fire they started. In this way they were carrying the energy of their gatherings from one fire to the next. This struck me as such a powerful practice that I have taken it up as my own. I do not collect ash from every fire I build, particularly if they are in the same fire pit. But when I attend a particularly powerful ceremony or family/tribe gathering I gather a few coals or ashes.
What makes a Fire sacred?
There are two fields of thought here, the first being all fire is sacred. I can relate to this and try to give respect to fire on a regular basis. As someone who heats my house with wood, I have a close and personal relationship with fire. Working with fire in this way, the regular…day to day fire building that sustains my home for a good portion of the year…I have come to notice how much better the fire starts and stays going when I truly pay attention to the action of building it. When I sit and nurture its beginning there is definitely a better response then when I haphazardly throw stuff together and walk off letting it do its own thing. As much as I consider my daily fires of fall-winter-spring important, I do not personally see them as Sacred Fire. I guess that means I follow the second train of thought which is that Sacred Fire is built with intention.
Building Fire with intention-
Fire tending is an important job among many Earth based spiritual practices. The person or persons in charge of the fire may spend hours preparing the fire for large events and generally spends the entire ceremony holding the fire in their consciousness, tending to it like a lover. They are responsible for feeding the fire and managing it. When creating space for a Sacred Fire it is important to consider what you are putting into it. As a general rule (not to mention a good environmental one) you do not throw trash into a Sacred Fire. This includes paper plates, napkins and tea bags. You are not using your fire as a garbage disposal, but as a power source & focus for your work. Intention is key…what you place in a Sacred Fire should be meant to go there. This might mean a bit more planning is necessary, but not really. Some people may choose to be selective in the types of wood they use for their fire, or herbs they place on it. In some cultures it is common to give offerings to the Ancestor Spirits by placing them into the fire. Common offerings are honey, candles, flowers, herbs, cornmeal & tobacco. Me I am a practical gal. I hold intention when building Sacred Fires, but I have a tendency to use what wood is available, I even use recycled pallets in my fire. I do give offerings to the Fire, often of herbs and tobacco. Again intention is key here, I never carelessly throw things into my sacred fire. What goes in is meant to be there.
Collecting Sacred Fire-
When collecting Sacred Fire, I generally go for a few coals and some ash. After a ceremonial fire has died down or gone out, I will collect a couple of coals (do not collect hot coals unless you have the means to store them properly for carrying) and some ash. I like to collect the coals as I see them as being directly activated in starting a new fire. But ash is enough. If you are only collecting ash…sprinkle it over the wood of your new fire. Whether sharing the coals or ash from fire to fire, remember that intention is key. I like to sing to the fire when starting it as it helps me to connect to the energy I am sharing. Here is one of my favorite Fire chants.
I am the Fire..the union of opposites,
I am the Mystery.
I am calling you in your dreams,
I am bringing you home to me.
Sacred Fire does not always have to be Ceremonial in the deep, serious nature. To me Sacred Fire is created any time I am honoring my family or tribe. When a fire is lit at a family reunion, wedding, or celebration it is Sacred. That fire becomes the gathering spot of friends and family who often sit and reminisce. The stories they tell, the jokes they share and the songs they sing are part of the Tribal nature of human beings. We gather around fire to remember…we gather around fire to connect!
I wish you all a fantastic summer with many opportunities to connect with Sacred Fire.