Note: The firewalk ceremony I am speaking about in this post took place nearly two years ago. Writing about the experience has seemed so daunting, as there was so much to share and so much that couldn’t be put into words. This summer, the women in our retreat have decided to firewalk again, and the time feels right to share this blog with the world. – Krystle
Things I Learned in the Fire
“The soul walks the fire, not the body.”
Brian’s words met my ears and trickled down into my consciousness. I took a deep breath to steady myself and allowed myself to relax.
I was at a women’s retreat held at Quantum Leaps lodge, near Golden, British Columbia. It was the first women’s retreat I had attended, and while it had taken a bit of getting used to at first, by this point I was not only adjusted to being surrounded by women in the mountains, I felt like I never wanted to leave.
For the last few days we had shared our skills, our gifts and our truth with each other, and tonight we would share our fears, transmuting them into courage and strength as we were led through the fire walk ceremony by our hosts, Annette and Brian, the stewards of the Quantum Leaps Lodge.
Firewalking is an ancient practice that is thought to have originated in Iron-Age India, around 1200 BC. A bed of glowing red-hot coals is prepared and participants then walk through them barefoot. Most fire walk ceremonies take place on coals that measure about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just a couple of days prior to the fire walk ceremony I had led the group of women at the retreat through a guided meditation I prepared which took us on an inner journey to meet our inner Divine Feminine self, and as I heard Brian’s words Her image came to mind again – wild, powerful and free.
Mentally I allowed myself to connect with that ancient, Divine Feminine part of myself that I had met during the meditation.
I asked her if she could really walk across this bed of fire.
Her eyes sparked with the challenge and she threw back her head and laughed, as if to say, “Let me show you what I can do!”
If the soul walked the fire, I was going to be just fine…
Building the Blaze
Our group was lucky enough to book the retreat at a time when there were no other programs happening at the Lodge, and for those few days it was like getting to enjoy a piece of paradise all to ourselves. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would be, sharing space with so many women who I had never met before. The experience challenged preconceived notions I had about what sisterhood and existing in community with strong, empowered women would be like. It was nourishing, uplifting, supportive, heartbreaking and excruciating at times as we navigated through the retreat, opened up to one another, and became friends.
When the day of the fire walk ceremony arrived we were all excited and nervous.
“I’m not sure if I’ll actually go through with it,” we nervously confided to each other, “But I’ll definitely go participate in the rest of the ceremony, and see how I feel when the time comes.”
The fire walk ceremony was planned for the evening after dinner, and as we ate our meal Annette and Brian shared with us about their training and history with the fire walk ceremony. The couple have incredibly gentle and supportive energy, and have firewalked in sacred sites around the world for many years. Both of them are Shamanic practitioners, and the reverence and affinity they have for Nature and all of Her beings can be palpably felt the moment you step foot onto their land.
They shared stories of their first fire walks, how it felt to completely transcend what you thought you knew was possible for yourself as a human being.
If you’ve ever touched a hot stove, or touched your arm to the oven while cooking and gotten a nasty burn, then you know how quickly your tender skin can burn when exposed to heat of around 350 degrees. The thought of walking barefoot, mindfully, over coals that are generally around 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and coming through the experience unharmed confronted the ingrained beliefs that I held about what was possible for my body. I was intimidated, a little afraid, powerfully curious.
After we finished the delicious dinner of wild-caught salmon, fresh salad, buttery potatoes and a berry tart that Annette had prepared for us, we returned to the main lodge to collect ourselves and prepare for the ceremony.
I was firmly hedging my bets as we made our way down to the Teepee where the fire walk ceremony was going to take place, reassuring myself that I could choose not to participate at any time. Waivers were passed around that would absolve our hosts of any liability in case of injury and ensure that it was crystal clear that our participation was 100% voluntary.
My trepidation ebbed and flowed.
Brian and Annette led us to the packed dirt in front of the Teepee, and asked us to gather round a mound of freshly split cedar.
“The fire could not take place without the trees that provided the wood for fuel.” They explained. “We are going to stack the wood together. Please stand in a line and pass the wood along to us so that we can build the woodpile for the fire. We ask that you remain silent and think of your gratitude for the trees as we do this.”
We dutifully lined up in two rows and passed the aromatic logs down the line to Brian. We did this in grave and sober silence, not even making a sound when a spider or other creature happened to be clinging to the logs we passed, but gently and very seriously allowed the little being to run down off of the log into the dirt before continuing to pass them along.
When we were finished, Brian had created a beautiful and sturdy wood pile that would burn hot and fierce with plenty of space for wind flow. Four of us volunteered and each one lit a corner of the pyre in alignment with the 4 directions. The fire burst into life with crackling heat, stretching towards the evening sky.
Brian and Annette led us into the teepee. It was surprisingly spacious, warm and dry inside with several comfortable beds to sit on and we each climbed onto our perches and waited expectantly for the next part of the ceremony to begin.
To be continued….
Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post!
P.S. If you resonate with my writing and don’t want to miss Part Two make sure to join the mailing list!