Fire Magic & Meditations
To Tend a Ritual Fire - by Dawnstar
Fire Scrying - by Phoenix Le Fae
Creating a Scrying Cauldron - by Andy Paik
A Witch's Perspective on the Sacred Fire Walk - by NIghthawk
California Witchcamp Fire Magic
To Tend a Ritual Fire....
The fire is laid in the center of the ritual circle at California Witchcamp. Firewood is gathered by a team of volunteers.
The evening’s firetender builds the structure. Here, large structural logs and smaller kindling are shaped into a cauldron.
Additional wood is sorted by size and stacked around the periphery, to be fed to the fire during the course of the ritual.
Wood for a long evening of ritual and campfire camaraderie, stacked in neat piles, marks the periphery of the fire circle.
During the ritual, only the firetender steps into the ring. The fire is fed as needed, and a key skill is the ability to move quietly in and out of the circle during the ritual.
Twilight has fallen and drums are beating. A small clearing in the woods is filled with gaily dressed people gathered in anticipation of sharing a night of ritual. I center, breathe deeply, and ground myself in preparation for priestessing the fire. The signal is given. I walk to the center in a semi-trance and bend to the structure before me.
The wood had been lovingly gathering by members of the community. It had taken several hours to gather and several more to construct the structure that would house the spirit of fire and provide, warmth, light, and focus for the ritual.
Many people had helped to create the structure I was about to light. Some had gathered buckets of small twigs that filled in the base of the structure to ensure a good “catch” once a lit match was applied. This wood also provides “flaring” material for the first lighting and provides the necessary quick-burning material needed for the spontaneous fire building and “coning” that would come later in the ritual.
Others had gathered wood in various sizes. This wood was layered smallest to largest in the structure. This gradation would ensure that the fire rapidly spread from the thinner-diameter bottom layers to the thicker-diameter layers above. Wood was also piled in a ring around the fire grouped by size. This outer ring provided a physical barrier and created a safety zone around the ritual fire when lit. It also kept the materials needed for tending during the ritual close at hand — as much wood as was used to create the main fire structure would be used to tend the fire during the course of the ritual. All the wood had been carefully selected to ensure it was dry so it would catch easily, and was free of bark and moss, so that it wouldn’t smoke.
Holding a box of matches in my hand, I strike one, call to the element of fire and ask fire to join us in the ritual and to aid our work. I put the match to the kindling, then move to the other side of the structure to repeat the calling.
I step back and watch as the fire spreads quickly, catching first the thin twigs, then the slightly larger sticks, and, finally the larger-diameter wood. I breathe and go deeper into trance as I watch the fire rise through the structure, eventually reaching the flare material at the top. The fire pauses as it starts to consume the piled twigs and then suddenly it rises well above my head as it springs to life, filling the clearing with a burst of light and a ring of heat.
The ritual starts and I focus on feeling both the energy of the fire and the energy of the ritual. I know when the fire is about to fall. I feel it calling to me when it needs more wood. It is a physical pull which sometimes I can respond to immediately, or sometimes I must wait to answer depending on what is going on in the ritual. I am in a ritual within the ritual, keeping the energy of the fire in sync with the energy of the ritual.
Sometimes the fire burns softly and gently, sometimes the fire roars above head height. It is a dance within the dance and I do my best to provide whatever is needed. The only thing that exists for me in my semi-trance state is the fire and I am in relationship with it. I feed and nourish it and care for it while it is with us.
Eventually the ritual ends and people begin dispersing. Sometimes there is drumming and dancing afterwards and sometimes just quiet contemplation. I continue to tend the fire until the wee hours of the morning. When it is time to end the evening, those remaining in the clearing take hands and ring the fire. We thank the fire for the blessings we have received and for aiding us in our work. When we have bid it hail and farewell, we douse it with water. All is dark and there is a glowing bed of stars at our feet as the embers struggle to remain alive despite the deluge of water. One by one, we put them out and then stir the steaming darkened ash bed to ensure that none were missed. Then we embrace and say good night and I head to my cabin for a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow afternoon we will clean the ashes and repeat the cycle.
I have been a fire tender for California Witchcamp for over ten years. I apprenticed to the previous fire tender, learning first how to build the special structure needed to support a ritual fire and then how to tend during a ritual.
The first year of my apprenticeship I only built the ritual fire structure. The next year I tended a single ritual fire; the year after that, I tended two fires; the year after that, three; and so on until I was sharing the fire tending equally with my teacher.
At first my tending was clumsy and I was thinking too much about what I was doing. Over time, I began to feel the energy of the fire and to know it as a living, breathing entity to be called intentionally into the ritual to support the work at hand. I fell too deeply into trance in those years and only realized it when I was abruptly thrown out by one of those leading the ritual.
Once I realized what was going on, I learned to control my trance state and keep it light enough to respond and interact with those leading the ritual but deep enough so that I was still in contact with the spirit of the fire.
I began to tend more fires until my teacher moved on to other things. I tended alone for a few years and now I am a teacher with an apprentice fire tender. I am doing my best to lead my pupil along the path I took and bring him to spiritual understanding and awakening to the true nature of the ritual fire quickly and purposefully. To this end, I have instituted various “levels” to the apprenticeship. Last year, he achieved the first level and tended his first fire. Next year I will take on an additional apprentice. This new apprentice will spend her first year building and learning about the wood while her older fellow apprentice will move to the next apprenticeship level. My vision is to eventually have four to five tenders all equally capable of tending the ritual fire and who understand its living nature.
For me, tending the ritual fire is a sacred honor and a privilege. My relationship with the ritual fire is deeply, spiritually fulfilling. I am blessed and thankful to be of service to the Goddess in this manner. Blessed be.
Dawnstar is a Reclaiming spiritualist whose passions are the fire and the harp. She occasionally teaches Reclaiming core classes in her community and loves to be outdoors.
by Phoenix LeFae
Scrying is one of the oldest forms of divination. It is done by staring into an object with the intention to gain insight about a question or problem. There are many ways to practice the art of scrying. It can be done with a mirror, in a bowl of water, with a crystal ball, or the most ancient way of scrying — with fire.
To scry with fire you can use a roaring campfire, a small hearth fire, or even a simple candle flame. The size of the fire doesn’t matter. What does matter is your focus, intention, and will. It is a magical act and just like any magical act, you get out of it what you put into it.
While scrying you might see images, symbols, words, or get flashes of insight. You might also hear messages, sense an answer, or smell a clue. All of these forms of information reception are valid. Each person will experience scrying in their own way. What is important to remember is that if fire scrying doesn’t work for you, don’t feel discouraged. Instead, try the following steps with a different form of scrying, perhaps a crystal ball or bowl of water.
So how do you do it? The first step is to have a question or issue that you want some insight on. Make sure your question is clear and concise. The more vague your question, the more vague your answers will be. Then light a candle and get into sacred space. Take your time in setting your reading place. Remember this is a ritual. When fire scrying it is best to work with no light except for the flame. You might find that you prefer to have soft ambient music playing in the background, or not. Try it with and without music to see which way suits you better.
Once you have created your space, sit in front of the candle and just watch the flame. Allow your vision to soften and your breathing to become regular. Sometimes focusing your vision on the periphery helps the insights to come more easily. Don’t let your eyes go out of focus or cross, just let them relax. Let yourself watch the flame as if watching a performance. Notice the movement, color, and shape of the flame.
As you relax into this process, allow whatever messages you might receive to come through without judgment. You might get an idea about something. You might see a symbol or word in the flame. Whatever it is, take note and keep watching. Don’t try to interpret what you see in the moment.
You might want to keep a journal with you to jot down information as it comes. This way you won’t be distracted trying to remember what you have seen. Instead you can focus on the fire and continue with your scrying.
When you stop receiving messages this is a sign that your reading is over. Snuff out the candle and open up your sacred space. Now you can review your messages and see what you might have discovered. For anything unclear follow up with another scrying session at a later time.
Phoenix LeFae: Priestess for hire, writer, and lover of Earth, Sea, and Sky.
Creating a Scrying Cauldron
Here is a list of things you will need or may want for the scrying fire:
• A metal bowl
• rubbing alcohol
• a damp towel
• a pitcher of water
• a long candle
• fireplace matches or spark-lighter
• burn cream
• fire extinguisher
• Epsom or other salt
• boric acid
by Andy Paik
Fire is dangerous.
Keep that in mind when fire scrying. Light your fire in an open area, leave space around it. Indoors is okay, but leave a window open nearby for ventilation. Also be aware that your fire alarm will probably go off if you are indoors and don’t turn it off.
Take a large bowl, or a cast-iron cauldron or pot, that won’t burn. I use one of those big silvery metal salad bowls. It has taken on a nice burnished, rainbowy look from all the fires. Put the bowl on the floor or on a low altar. Leave at least two feet of room all around it. Put a towel under it if you don’t want what is beneath it to be scorched. You can surround it with large rocks to keep it from being knocked over if you are going to have people moving or dancing around it or if your bowl has a round bottom. Make sure that any animals and small children are safely occupied elsewhere.
Pour in a cup of isopropyl alcohol. Light it on fire with a long match or already-lit long candle. The fire won’t roar up instantly, but it will do it quickly enough that you will be grateful for the length of the match. Lighters (the short ones) are a good way to get burned. I use one of those long barbecue lighters both for safety and reliability in the often windy conditions of outdoor rituals.
One cup of isopropyl alcohol will get you about 10 minutes of flame. Plenty of time for a good vision. The flame will probably be about two feet high. The higher the alcohol content in the rubbing alcohol the hotter the flame will be.
Ninety percent alcohol fires will leave more ash and are more likely to set off the smoke detector. Start with the seventy percent until you get comfortable with it. The first time, it will look much bigger than you expect. Practice before using it in ritual. Start with small amounts and work up.
Let the flame burn out naturally. If you must stop before the flame is out, ext
inguish it with the cauldron lid.
Never refill the bowl while the flame is burning! Make sure every last bit of flame is out before adding alcohol. I lit myself on fire once this way. I was careless and did not respect the flame. It reminded me of respect, completely disrupting a Lughnasad ritual in the process.
In case of emergencies, probably a spill, don’t panic. Look at the fire to see if it will actually light anything else on fire. Unlike wax/oil fires, you can put rubbing alcohol fires out with water so keep a lot handy. The alcohol will float at first, but then go out. Smothering with a damp towel also works. Just drop the towel over fire.
Ninety percent alcohol will produce more interesting fires, but seventy percent will hurt less if you are burned. A bottle of burn cream or a fire extinguisher, even though you will probably never use them, will greatly reassure the pyrophobes around you.
When I first started doing scrying bowls, everyone told me I had to put Epsom salt in the alcohol, but no one knew why. Epsom salt makes the flames more even and less wild. When using ninety percent, this can produce the occasional ring effect (a ring effect is like a smoke ring of fire), but overall, the effect of Epsom salt is minimal. Using sea or table salt produces random flashes of gold color late in the burn. Using boric acid instead of a salt, will give a much more pronounced effect turning much of the fire bright green. Epsom salt and rubbing alcohol are both in the pharmacy part of a large grocery/drug store. Boric acid will be by the contact lens stuff (it is a cleaner). Sea salt is by the food.
For the salts, use as much salt as you do alcohol. For the boric acid, put in as much as you have alcohol, then add more until it gets thicker and souplike. Mix the stuff well and let it sit for a while before lighting. Additives usually decrease burning time. None of the additives are good after burning. They will be smelly, crusty, and you will actually have to scrape out some bit of the boric acid. Throw this stuff away after each use.
Andy Paik is a Witch and magician from Los Angeles who is working to master as many different kinds of magic as possible...
A Witch’s Perspective on the Sacred Fire Walk
by Judith Stachowski aka Nighthawk
Fire walking has been practiced since ancient times, with the first recorded fire walk in 1200 BC. Shamans and priests as well as common people in cultures all over the world have connected with their Divine beings, performed healing, and celebrated coming of age rituals by fire walking.
In the late 1970s, a man named Tolly Burkan () brought fire walking to the United States after he was taught by a friend who had learned from a Tibetan monk. Burkan began holding public seminars to teach people to overcome their fears.
Fire walking was used as a means to inspire creativity and empower vision in large corporations. Many celebrities such as Dr. Andrew Weil and Anthony Robbins challenged themselves by walking on hot coals. Burkan established a school to teach fire walking instructors who could then hold public fire walks in their communities around the country.
My good friend and soul sister, Dorita, attended a fire walking school called Sundoor () in California run by Tolly Burkan’s ex-wife, Peggy Dylan. Dorita had been walking the coals for several years and felt called to become an instructor in order to facilitate fire walks for a community in Pennsylvania.
Every time Dorita told me about walking on fire, I thought she had gone mad. I could not understand why anyone would want to do such a thing! However, I did see a very great and deep change in Dorita which seemed related to her fire walking experiences.
I am a Reclaiming Witch and have attended Vermont Witchcamp several times. I have been a participant and facilitator of small and large rituals and understand that personal transformation can happen in many different ways. I still resisted walking on hot coals. While it seemed good for my friend Dorita, I never expected to participate myself.
Before Dorita left for her two-week training at Sundoor, she asked me if she could hold her inaugural fire walk at my home. I asked her if I would have to walk the coals if I agreed. I believe she laughed at me! Not only did Dorita want to hold her first fire walk at my home, she wanted me to tend fire along with her husband David. I found it difficult to say “no” to something that meant so much to someone very dear to me. It also seemed to be Dorita’s new spiritual path to walk and I would do whatever I could to help her.
I decided to attend a fire walk beforehand so I understood what I was getting into. I signed up to attend a fire walk in Pennsylvania led by Dorita’s mentor. This fire walk was held at a tavern/meeting house. The fire was built in the courtyard and the “pre-walk talk” was held in a meeting room. During the class, we were given a corporate-type presentation – how to attain our goals, keep the vision of completing the walk in our minds, and find our passion/acting on our passion. We paired up to talk about our fears and goals. Then, we trouped out to the courtyard, where a huge mound of glowing coals greeted us. I couldn’t believe that anyone could walk on those coals and certainly didn’t think I could do so!
Once the coals were raked out, experienced fire walkers started to walk and dance across as everyone chanted and danced to the drumbeat. I recognized the energy-raising that was occurring and understood that it was an important part of the entire experience.
Yes, I did walk the coals that night, many times. And no, I didn’t get burned.
Each time I walk the coals, whether I’ve been fire tender or participant, it feels like the first time. I feel the fear and anticipation. I feel my mind clearing as I watch others walk across the coals. Then, I know it’s my turn to walk and I hold the vision of being on the other side of the coals in my heart.
After providing me with a brief training in tending fire, Dorita held her debut fire walk at my house, in spite of pellet-like snow. Her husband and I tended the fire. Neither of us had trained at Sundoor, although David had experience in walking the fire and had assisted in fire tending for another fire walk. In spite of the cold and snow, many people challenged themselves and experienced the power of walking on coals. For the first time, I felt the power and passion of the fire as a fire tender.
Magic happens in several different places during a fire walk. It begins, of course, with a group of like-minded people coming together to share the experience. It grows when this group gathers to build and light the fire. Each piece of wood placed on the pile is “named” with an intent or a blessing. Singing and chanting help the magical energy build once the fire is lit. During the seminar, the instructor continues the magic by “planting seeds,” which the participants can nurture and grow — seeds such as self-love, the ability to overcome fear, and connecting with the Divine. When the coals are ready, the participants drum and chant, which of course raises the energy of everyone, making walking on coals possible.
The magic of the fire reaches out to envelop me each time I tend fire for a fire walk. The intensity of the fire, the way it changes as it burns to coals, the glowing coals in a pile, just waiting to be raked out. I note how different wood gives off different energy and that each fire is distinct. I feel the wonderful energy of the coals moving around the circle of people — those walking on them, those supporting and chanting. I watch the transformation that happens when people walk the coals for the first time – the amazement and joy, the tremendous sense of accomplishment.
The transformations I’ve experienced and witnessed involve finding inner courage, the connection of a group of people working with one goal, and rediscovering self-love. The magic of the coals can open people to possibilities in their lives. I have seen children as young as six years old walk the coals and feel the joy of overcoming their fears. I have seen a blind woman walk the coals as she challenged herself to grow. Physically disabled people have walked the coals, finding healing and personal growth.
The magic of the fire and fire walking helps me to understand my own personal power as well as my vulnerabilities, both of which are very important for me to grow. This has been a means of re-connecting with the Divine and redefining my Spiritual path. I find great blessings in fire walking.
Nighthawk lives in Western New York. She has practiced Witchcraft for fifteen years, most of them in the Reclaiming tradition, and has attended Vermont Witchcamp.