For the first time in WFBH's seven year history, we are offering a fire-walking ritual on Thursday night! I think I can safely say that most of us in the Pagan community (and adjacent communities) have never experienced this before, and may have numerous questions and concerns... after all, it's WALKING ON FIRE! Here are some things to help you decide if fire-walking is right for you:
1. You don't have to do it if you don't want to! All our events during the WFBH weekend are optional, and you don't have to participate. No one will twist your arm, or make you feel left out. If you'd rather watch the firewalkers, that is your prerogative. We celebrate your freedom to choose!
2. If you do decide to do the firewalk (or maybe want to watch a few people do it to build up some courage), then you'll be joining a long line of spiritual fire-walking traditions that weave through India, Pakistan, South Africa, South America, Indonesia, and more! Check out these Greek Orthodox Christians firewalking on National Geographic here:
3. There is absolutely a science to fire-walking! Science has proven that coals are a poor conductor of heat, so the likelihood of being burned is small. There is a particular type of wood that must be used, a way that wood must be burned down, a type of pressure on the foot to apply, a specific amount of time you want to spend on the coals, etc. Even Bill Nye has examined the science of fire-walking! (FYI, his purpose is attempting to "debunk" the spiritual aspect of fire-walking due to the number of people who pay $5000 to attend a Tony Robbins fire-walking seminar. We at WFBH are not intimidated by this, as our position is that science and magic are two sides of the same coin). Knowing the science behind it does not make this feat any less extraordinary! Check out the science side of it here:
4. Could you be burned? Yes, there's a possibility, but it's pretty small. So we try to minimize the likelihood as much as possible. We don't want you walking if you've been drinking alcohol. You shouldn't do the walk if you have mobility issues. Running or digging your feel in can lead to falling. You will be given detailed instructions beforehand by Sean (aka Cannibal), our fire-walk expert. Take precautions, and if you feel like something is lacking in the experience to facilitate a safe walk, then don't do it. It's that simple. LiveScience.com also goes into some of the science behind it:
"The ancient ritual of firewalking usually works without pain or burning, Willey explained, because of how briefly people's feet make contact with the coals. Coal doesn't conduct heat well, so as long as it burns no hotter than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit (538 degrees Celsius) and you walk across it quickly enough, you should arrive safely at the finish line without so much as a blister. "
Our fire-walk officiant, Sean Mieth (aka Cannibal) has a fairly extensive bio with fire-walking, not-to-mention that he does it every year in March at Gryphon's Nest (so Cliff Eaken, owner of The Nest, is already very familiar with him, and approves). Sean was raised as a Celtic Pagan and his parents are well-known members of the Arizona Pagan community. He was a RenFair performer and active for about 9 years in the SCA. Cannibal has been a leading figure in the Arizona rope scene, and is involved in a number of local rope organizations. He is an active member and presenter within the BDSM and Kink community, and is the former operations producer for Southwest Leather Conference and Wristrained in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a founding member of Phoenix Rope Bomb, and a dedicated member of Edgewalkers Tribe. He has facilitated spiritual firewalks for EWT for over 5 years at Gryphon's Nest Campground. He is a believer in ethical hedonism.
5. Even with all the precautions in the world, you might blister! In speaking to my best friend who has done multiple fire-walks in the UK, she says that people are sometimes "kissed" by the fire (meaning they develop a blister). Sometimes a coal sticks to the skin. There will be a pool of water at the end of the firewalk, and Sean will help to remove any debris that may be sticking to you. If you do blister, the best way to treat it is to run cold water over the blister. When it bubbles up and the skin toughens, pop to release the water, but don't peel off the excess skin until the skin underneath the water is healed... otherwise, you risk infection. Release water, apply some ointment, and wrap it up.
So why firewalk? Because it challenges us all to push ourselves, to overcome our fears, to confront what seems impossible, and to realize that fear can be helpful at times and debilitating at others. What you experience is going to be as unique as every individual who does it. Fire is simultaneously cleansing and destructive. It is probably the most misunderstood of the elements, and developing a better relationship with it comes from understanding it better. At The Wyld Fire Beltane Hunt, we would love to help you deepen your relationship with the elements, and the divine energies that created them and us all.