By Sandy Penny, excerpted from her blog Writing Muse
I circled the fire with a tambourine in my hand, striking the instrument on my thigh in time with the chant, "My body does whatever it takes to protect itself." I gazed into the glowing red and orange eyes of the twelve foot by four foot bed of coals and watched a coating of white ash begin to form. "The fire and I are one," I chanted with the others.
The fire pit looked back, studying me with its many eyes. "Will you walk tonight?" it silently asked. Would I cast aside caution and logic and make a tremendous leap of faith with a few small steps on an 1800 degree bed of coals? Could I?
The chant changed to "I am the light, I am the love" and then swelled around me again with "The fire and I are one." I thought about how I came to be standing on the edge of eternity, a 42-year old woman, questioning the very nature of reality.
It was only a couple of weeks ago as I entered the Chapel of Prayer with fifty or so people to listen to a Hindu Guru tell traditional Indian parables, that I met Charmaine McGhie and Tore Fossum. We were seated next to each other and connected so quickly that Charmaine invited me to a New Year's Eve Party and Firewalk.
I was intrigued. I had seen firewalking on TV and read about it in National Geographics, but never had I witnessed it in person.
Meanwhile, the couple gave me a book called "Firewalk" by Jonathon Seinfeld that I read with great interest. The book called firewalking an empowerment tool and a subcultural movement in the U.S. since the 1970s. It said the U.S. has more firewalkers than the rest of the world put together. I couldn't believe it! How could I have missed it?
I had pretty much tried every "new age" experience I had run into. How could such a phenomenon have slipped by unnoticed? My excitement grew as the days passed.
The book helped keep me occupied with a lot to think about in the days leading up to the party. It told stories of firewalking in every culture and quoted scriptures about firewalking. It even discussed the unsatisfactory research that has been done. I was primed for the experience - to watch the experience, at least.
I arrived early at the suburban house in a nice Friendswood, Texas neighborhood. Not really where one would expect to see a firewalk. The preparations looked like any other New Year's Eve party. Guests arrived with covered dishes, and someone played piano—fifties hits for a sing along. The only difference is that no alcohol was present.
At about 9:00 pm everyone gathered in the back yard. A norther was moving through, and the air was cooling down. The grass was soaked with a hose as a safety precaution, and the evening began. The fire department showed up to certify the safety measures, and approved the walk.
Each participant took turns carrying logs to build the fire. They were instructed to think of the logs like children, and focus loving attention on them. A firewalking facilitator took the logs and built an impressive "boy scout" style teepee-shaped structure that would become a large hungry bonfire that would devour about half a cord of wood.
The excited attendees took turns stuffing newspaper in the cracks, and the fire was lit with great ceremony. The blaze reached skyward as a word of thanks and protection was intoned by a lady wearing a long full skirt. Surely that skirt was not a good thing in which to walk through fire. I love fires. I faced the flames and raised a hand in salute. Just as I raised my arm, the fire leaped upward, and it looked exactly like I was waltzing with the vulcan fire god. My friend Juanita snapped a photo of it, and I love that photo.
When the fire was blazing violet and gold, everyone went to the patio to try out some other phenomenal activities. It would be two to three hours before the coals were ready.
Someone announced it was time for the "rebar game" and a cheer rang out. I had no idea what that meant. Rebars are 3/4" x 6' steel bars used to reinforce concrete. Two people stand face to face about six feet apart and a rebar is suspended between them by placing the tip of the metal rod in the hollow of your throat.
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