Jane A. Simington PHD (2014)
What is it about the camp fire that mesmerizes? What is stirred within? What dormant memories are awakened?
Fire on most of the great Medicine Wheels of the world is the element associated with the South. Sacred teachings connected with the South are about summer; about growth and productivity. These reflections from nature, the sun-filled days and the long evenings of summer sunlight, are metaphoric reminders that the energies of summer also provide us with opportunities for growth in productive and fruitful ways.
The Hawaiian Goddess Pele is a summertime Goddess. As the Volcano Goddess, Pele prompts us to recall the power of the fire within us and how it can sometimes take a major eruption before our fire can burst forth in all its fullness. As a Fire Goddess, Pele reminds us that the ashes from fire eruptions create new soil, fertile for new growth.
Ancient teachings such as those of the Medicine Wheel and of Goddess lore remind us that the fire energy that penetrates all living things, even the burning core deep within the earth, also burns within us . We are a part of the Life Force of the Creator and of all that has been created.
And yet, as William James noted, “Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.”1
The long evenings of summertime offer many opportunities for gatherings around a fire. Campfires can, with a few minor adjustments, be used as ceremonial fires for healing and transformational purposes. During Fire ceremonies the Spirit of the Fire is called upon to burn away that which is no longer providing the rich fuel needed to turn our glowing embers into full blown flames.
When I conduct a Fire Ceremony, I begin by having each participant write a letter to the Fire Spirit naming the things they are requesting to be burned away. As the fire is lit, an offering of tobacco or other medicine considered sacred by the group members is offered. Members of the group are then invited to hang a colored ribbon in a nearby tree in each of the directions. A red ribbon is hung in the South to represent fire. As this ribbon is hung we pray that the fire burns away what is no longer of growth potential. Next, a blue ribbon is hung in the West. As the blue ribbon is hung we pray for healing, since the West on most Medicine Wheels represents the place of healing. A white ribbon is then placed in the North and as it is hung we pray for strength and endurance. A yellow ribbon is used to represents the East. As the yellow ribbon is hung we pray that the element of air, which correlates with the East, blows newness into our lives.
Following the hanging of the colored ribbons, to the beat of the drum and the rhythm of rattles, one by one we approach the fire, offering our letters. As the papers burn and the smoke ascends, we pray that our Creator take from us what is no longer working and in exchange provide us with what we need to support our new growth in the most successful and abundant ways
Each time I conclude a fire ceremony I am reminded of the words of De Chardin. “Someday when we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. 2
1). James, W. (1958). Varieties of Religious Experiences. NY: New American Library.
2). De Chardin, P. T. (1984) On Love and Happiness. San Francisco: Harper & Row.