This Memorial Weekend I was fire keeper for the 27th annual Kansas City Pipe Circle's Stone Dance outside Kansas City. I have received initiation by fire through a couple of experiences. The first was in 2010, when I went to Franklin, NC to help a friend with some ceremonial work on her property. In doing our research, we visited the Nikwasi Mound in Franklin. It is a relatively nondescript bump in the topography between a highway and a street right in town. While I sat in meditation on top of the mound, my inner vision exploded with bright red, orange and yellow billowing flames, as if coming up through my hands on the mound, and into my body. It was cathartic. A "knowing" that I was being given fire. And not just any fire, but the fire that was needed for the very ceremony we were planning. It was an old Cherokee fire that those in that area who were brutally massacred by the British in 1760 and '61, and who were ready to pass over, would recognize. I knew my job was to make and keep a sacred fire, a key component of our two-person ceremony, and now I had what was needed to accomplish it in the right way. You can read about that ceremony, which taught me to listen in many new ways beyond my ears, in Toby Evans' book Dead But Not Gone: Are You Part of the the Soul-Bridge to Guide them Home? (chapter 25: A Good Red Road). Six weeks after this experience I was asked to tend fire for the first time, at a sweat outside Taos, New Mexico, for the lodge where I had done my vision quest earlier that summer. March through August of 2010 was my Homeric Odyssey, leading up to my Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome for a year. And fire was a huge part of the initiation.
In the summer of 2012, after moving to Harmony Farm, I had a very different experience with fire. For six weeks systemic poison ivy, heat stroke, sunburn, fever, and sun stroke literally burned through my body. This was another initiation into fire: a demonstration of what happens when it is not balanced with the other elements. While that was intense, I am grateful for the understanding that came with experiencing this element so intimately and unmistakably. And since that time, I have had numerous opportunities to learn about working with fire from both experience, and wisdom shared by elders. Prairie burns are one of the most powerful experiences for working with the sentient intelligence of fire, and its power to purify and renew the land.
FireheartBurning the prairie-photo by Mitch Kauffman
I have sponsored a dancer, and tended fire before at Stone Dance, so I know the setting well. Every fire is unique, with it's own energy: sometimes needing to be tamed, and other times coaxed and coddled. This one proved no different. From the moment I lit it thursday afternoon, to it's completion Sunday morning, it's intention was clear. I have learned to discern fire's intention through its temperament, especially when created in a ceremonial way. And the temperament of this fire was clearly feminine. I did not know before now, that fire could burn with feminine energy. I thought it was always on the masculine side of the spectrum. This fire taught me different. It taught me that everything, regardless of its form, and how it predominantly presents itself, can have balance in its expression and temperance. The fire burned evenly and with steadiness. No matter how much wood I put on it, it never burned high for long. After a very short period, it would settle in to small flames even with big piles of wood. These flames never reached out in a hungry way for human flesh, as some fires do. It was steady, dependable, and even-keeled. The heat, however, was deceptively deep and strong. While the flames rarely reached out, the heat was intense at the core of the fire, no matter how much wood there was. The sun, our life-source-fire, showed me His feminine side in December of 2014, and now fire was showing me that side of himself too. Fire is a great teacher. An urgent teacher. An elemental teacher.
Lady LibertarianLady Libertarian-the feminine side of our masculine Sun
The vision quest leading in to this Stone Dance, revealed that part of what this year's dance was about was the balancing of the masculine and feminine energies. I pursue the same balancing work at Harmony Farm, so it was evident why I was being called to tend the fire for this dance. Every moment of the weekend, my dance with this fire demonstrated the clear and subtle "power" of feminine energy, rather than the often misguided and imbalanced "force" of masculine energy we see so much in the world today. Perhaps the biggest lesson, among the hundreds I received, is to be wary of stereotypes in any situation. If I only view the obvious, external aspects of something, I risk missing the subtlety of expression that makes it balanced and whole. If I project too much of my past experience onto something familiar, I may miss seeing its entirety. What a beautiful lesson of the feminine principle in action. I am grateful for this powerful and subtle demonstration on my road to harmonizing balance between the elements and energies of physical and energetic expression! My job of listening deeply expands the more I practice it, and my ability to see and listen becomes richer, and more subtle as my bandwidth of understanding core principles of life deepens! I have experienced the surface of fire often. Now I feel like I have experienced His balanced, subtle and complex depth, which includes the feminine principle as well. And this is my Leo sun-sign mission as life's practice.
Honey in the heart
Everything in balance