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Firewalk: A Poem

Updated on December 24, 2013

Wood was piled twenty feet high,

An ancient ode to the burning sky.

All day the fire roared and spit,

To be raked at five into a pit

Thirty feet long and six feet wide.

Around the perimeter, garlands were tied

With orange and yellow sacred blooms

And exotic resinous perfumes.

While in the distance music drifted

On the breeze, the focus shifted

To chanters in a hypnotic daze,

Dancing and shouting—coming this way.

In long procession, they perambulated

Around the coals, while we watched and waited;

Then all at once the frenzy surged,

And all attention seemed to merge

Into the walk across the blaze,

As each one strode with arms upraised.

And so it went without respīte,

As faith flamed deep into the night.

© 2011 Kate Parker / Faceless39

About My Firewalking Experiences

I got the chance to live in South Africa from 1999-2004, and in that time I learned all about India, Indians, and Hindus. After all, I was told, SA harbors the largest percentage of practicing Hindus outside of India.

In the 1860s Indians were brought to South Africa as indentured laborers on the sugar cane plantations. What's so fascinating is that the Hindus amongst them were cut off from mother India for so long that they kept traditions that were all but lost in India itself.


I had the opportunity to attend multiple firewalking festivals each year I lived there, though much more often when I moved to Durban (where the sugar cane area is located.) Unlike most other firewalking experiences of modern times, they do it the old-fashioned way: Traditional, hardcore, and no messing around. It was really like stepping back in time.

Most of the festivals nowadays have very short walks, but in South Africa they were up to 20-30 feet in length, a foot deep, and six feet wide. The heat from the fire was too hot to get within 60 feet, but was more bearable after the coals had been raked. Those raking the coals were continuously doused in cold water, which instantly turned to steam. They took short turns, as the heat was intense!

They say it is an act of faith, and that Goddess Draupadi covers the fire with a white cloth for devotees to walk over. Ambulances were always on hand, though of hundreds of firewalkers, some of whom stood in the middle of the coals for up to 30 seconds, I never saw one whose feet were burned.

Copyright © 2012 Faceless39. All rights reserved.


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    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 2 years ago

      Great writing, a really nice piece of work, very enjoyable to read, thanks!

    • Keith Matyi profile image

      Keith Matyi 6 years ago from Denton, TX

      Good Hub!I've always wanted to try it! Mind over matter.

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 6 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Thank you all for the wonderful feedback. And I've never heard of Bonfire Night; that sounds really neat! :)

    • nenytridiana profile image

      nenytridiana 6 years ago from Probolinggo - Jawa Timur - Indonesia

      An amazing experience in the beautiful poem, I like this line "An ancient ode to the burning sky". I think it deserves AWESOME.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 6 years ago from Guwahati, India

      I like it. It has also given a lot of information of Britain's Bonfire night.

    • caitmo1 profile image

      caitmo1 6 years ago from Lancashire England

      This is a great poem and is in keeping with the time of year here in Britain, 5th November Bonfire night, when we will be going to an organised bonfire and fireworks display and tomorrow the 4th we will be setting fireworks off in our garden. Voted up and everything except funny

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 6 years ago from Isle of Man

      A lovely poem that pulled me into the scene and I writing about your own personal experience of being a witness to this amazing feat really does add to the hub.

      I feel that fire walking is an example of how the world we perceive as real is actually an illusion a construct of mind. I have written extensively on this subject and am delighted to come across a tangible example of this.

      Thank you.

      You might also enjoy this video which explains more what I mean by "illusory" world.