How to Agonise before Fire-Walking - Let's Go - Go - Go.
Fire in the Sole - Ouch
Have you ever considered walking across hot coals in bare feet?
Have you ever wondered why do people do it?
Is it possible to walk on hot coals and not experience burns?
Is the firewalking considered ‘mind over matter’ - or is there a scientific explanation?
Here is my experience as I joined a group of firewalkers to try out the experience.
1. What to wear?
An asbestos suit comes to mind.
I reluctantly settle for casual cotton clothes.
2. The ‘What If’s.’
What if - I begin to walk and freeze halfway across?
What if - I ignite from my soles upwards?
What if -I smear my feet with grease for protection? I think of sizzling bacon and decide against it.
What if - I change my mind? I can chicken out. Or become Kentucky fried.
3. The Destination
The ordinary back yard in the suburbs is disappointing.
I can’t stop the thoughts parading through my mind.
I want exotic. I want bongo drums, palm trees, waves lapping on a sandy shore, children laughing.
Bring on the natives with swaying hips and beautiful smiles.
The mood here is sombre.
4. New Best Friends
It’s consoling to bond with my fellow, about to be, firewalkers. We look for the fire but not a spiral of smoke is to be seen. The torrential downpour I’d prayed for is not about to eventuate either. It is a cool, clear, starry, night.
Our leader, Nick, begins to motivate us. He reminds us that fire walking in many cultures is customary.
Of course it is. I’ve seen them do it many times and they don’t ignite. They positively stomp over the red-hot coals.
5. Lighting the Fire
En masse we assemble and light a bonfire. It’s big. It roars into life. Flames leap into the air. I’m reminded of Joan of Arc. I’m reminded of funeral pyres.
Ritual is part of the catharsis. We write our fears down on pieces of wood and symbolically burn them. For someone who usually has heaps to worry about my contribution is limited.
I’m scared of fire, one in particular.
I’m scared of being burnt to a crisp.
I’m scared of everything.
Not long now.
6. Overcoming Fear and preparation
We are told that Western society has developed an aversion to fire. We know that it burns. We have grown up with the understanding – fire is dangerous.
Tonight, we are overcoming fear. There is no reasonable explanation of why we cannot walk on fire. It’s a proven fact. Overcome that fear now – you can walk across a fire in bare feet.
Whoopee. I am motivated. Bring it on.
My negative voice kicks back in. I burnt my finger on the stove yesterday. Ouch. It confirms a point – fire is dangerous. I’m sure I didn’t imagine the pain.
Time to forget such thoughts. Everybody else looks radiant. I concentrate on positive thoughts.
There is no reasonable explanation why I cannot walk on fire.
The fire is raked - a red molten glow. Silence descends on our group.
I can clearly see my epitaph – Tripped while fire walking. Huh. At least my grandchildren will have something to remember me for.
9. Go Go Go
Nick is first over the coals. I watch his bare feet crunch into the burning red-hot embers.
My own feet consult with my mind – ‘we are not going to do that. Right?’ Wrong.
What you are afraid of can be overcome.
One by one my new friends take the plunge. They make it.
If they can do it I can. I think I can. I think I can…I can.
I take my first step and the next and the next – look at me.
Look at me, almost strolling across the 300 degree burnng embers - suddenly I’m celebrating at the other end. I’m still intact.
Wow I did it. I consider I’ve conquered something inexplicable. Guess what? I want to do it again. And I do
Our group is ecstatic. We’ve all made it unscathed. We’re noisy and full of praise for each other. I feel gloriously decadent and curiously self satisfied.
The evening concludes by cooking sausages on the sizzling embers that once held my feet. Frankly I’m proud of myself. I hope this feeling of elation lasts.
On the drive home I imagine throwing a barbeque and treating my guests to a new experience. But then I remember the rules – Don’t try this at home.
Walking on fire must always be under supervision.
Firewalking is one of the oldest rituals on the planet. For thousands of years it has been It has been practised all over world with records dating back to India, circa 1200 BC.
Christians in Bulgaria firewalk during a popular religious feast.
Japanese Taoists, Buddhists, Indian Fakirs, Polynesians, etc, all traditionally firewalk.
It is often used as a rite of passage marking a transition from one status to another, child to adult, as a test of strength, courage or faith. In many cultures around, people have used firewalking as a means of healing or purifying their communities.
And of course, in many places firewalking is demonstrated as entertainment for the tourist.
Today, firewalking is an incredible tool for modern humans to use. Corporate and team building seminars often use it as a way to instil self-confidence.
Many people consider firewalking to be a supernatural or paranormal event. The individual focus is so strong it presents as a mind over matter experience, a test of protective power. This is what we were taught before the firewalking event - we had to believe in ourselves.
There is an alternative, sceptical view, denouncing the supernatural theory and the belief that it requires a particular state of mind, or anything extraordinary.
This view considers the length of time the sole of the foot is in contact with the coals, suggesting the each step at half a second is not long enough to cause a burn.
Add to this the theory that wood is good insulator even when burning and charcoal is even better. Plus, the ash left from the charcoal is also an insulator and therefore can help to protect the feet from burning and blistering.
This doesn’t necessarily detract from the feeling of empowerment by having walked on fire, or that it may improve self-confidence.
It does denounce firewalking as a supernatural or paranormal event.
I am still out on the verdict.
Curiously, several weeks after my debut, a group of firewalkers were rushed to hospital with burnt feet. Does this mean the motivational failed? Or they walked too slowly or in the wrong place? There are no answers.
Other Fire Connections
Fire breathing is the act of creating a fireball by breathing a fine mist of fuel over an open flame. This is often used by street buskers.
Spontaneous human combustion (SHC) describes reported cases of the burning of a living human body without an apparent external source of ignition.
Nostalgia – Keep the Home Fires Burning – a British patriotic First World War song composed by Ivor Novello in 1914.
There is still debate how the earliest humans first used and controlled fire. Clearly it evolved to provide warmth and keep predators away at night. Cooking food and socialization also became a ritua
We still use fire in the most positive ways – cooking food, outside on a barbeque, warming the house with an open fire. Lighting candles to add atmosphere and relaxation.
Sitting and staring around a bonfire, the flames are mesmerizing, in this way we tend to socialise much as the ancestors did.
Fire can be a hard taskmaster. Living in a fire danger area I am always aware of the possibility of a out of control blaze and most respectful of it.
Fire in the Australian bush can lead to devastation both human and wildlife.
Let’s not forget the Olympic flame the origins hail from the ancient Greece Olympics where a fire was always kept burning. The fire was re introduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam and has played a part in every Olympic games since – bonding athletes and audiences throughout the world.