The home fires where I grew up were largely electric fires. An orange glow from the coiled filaments warming the atmosphere or a cold metal radiator that could become hot at the flick of a switch. Central heating was the fashion, and many homes no longer had a hearth with an open fire. People didn’t gather around fires outside in their communities, we lived in blocks of flats and there was nowhere to do it. So I had too few early experiences with the natural flame. We had to form our own relationship with the fire. On bonfire night, we would find whatever we could to burn, pile it all together at a local dump, and set light to it. They were not the most mindful fires and sometimes the black smoke would be choking. Still, a certain tribal spirit was felt. It was just us kids; we were missing the elders in the community, so had no one to teach us and guide us.
When we had power cuts everyone would light candles. We would all go outside with our naked flames and meet others in the candlelight. It was a wonderful time, walking through the corridors, meeting friends and neighbours, using the flame to find out who they were, bringing our own light out into the darkness. Many of those living in the cities lost our sacred connection to fire during the 70’s and 80’s and these exciting encounters stand out in my memory as monuments of a past largely devoid of a natural flame.
Last month saw pockets of rioting in London and other cities in the UK. The steaming shells of buildings were left standing stark, even in the bold city landscape. There is a deep rage among some of those who live in the cities and it erupted. The touch paper was lit on a summer weekend and fear gripped those who saw the flames ripping through their communities. An inferno raged in one building, a white hot vortex blazing through and around the curved roads. The wind feeding it, blasting the heat out into the street. It held such power that to see it, even on the TV, took my breath away.Buildings that days ago were aflame with a fury and discontent that many who set the fires don’t know how else to express. The destruction of those fires symbolic of the destruction of the spirit of community. The riots were out of control, the people taking part had lost all moral connection, and the heart of the community burned. Without empathy or care for others people in the city were out there causing chaos. It screamed out to me how we have lost our connection with the sacredness of fire, yet even in the destruction those out on the streets felt alive, purposeful and powerful.
We had a firewalking ceremony that very night in Glastonbury. This was a powerful fire of awakening. It shifted our perceptions of reality, and it made us feel whole, alive, purposeful and powerful. When we use the potent energy of fire for positive change, then we transform our relationship with ourselves, with our community, and with our connection to the divine. Reclaiming our sacred connection to fire gives us the power to rise up and be a potent force of positive change in the world. Let us embrace the fires of change.
We are having a BBQ today, Max has just walked in with a sore toe … saying ‘ It’s amazing, We regularly walk across 8-12 ft of burning coals without any problem, and just one tiny coal jumps out of a bed and burns the end of my toe in an instant!’ Even after 12 years of firewalking the magic is still so potent.
The evidence that fire burns is all around us all the time. Indeed it has been there since we were tiny children just crawling around. Fire Burns! To break down this fundamental and elemental belief and make it possible to walk over hot coals without injury is to break down the illusion of reality. It is a confirmation that life is not what it seems, and that far more is possible than we could imagine.