A guest post by Kaigi-Ron.
Fire makes all the difference. I know this from two personal experiences – both of which didn’t have a fire the first night, but did on the second…and that one change transformed everyone and everything.
The first event occurred years ago, in another state. We were going to share songs and stories around the campfire, as hominids have done for millennia…but that year, we were denied a permit for a fire in our campsite.
Ever the innovators, we wove together a basket of branches, decorated it with strips of red cloth, and finished it off with a helpful sign that said “Fire”. We all did our Pagan best to pretend it was a fire, really we did. Some people tried to get into it, “warming” their hands in it. But we all knew it wasn’t a real fire. The bardic circle closed early, and we left to crawl into bed, feeling vaguely unfulfilled.
But the next night, we got an invitation from the American Indian tribe across the river – did we want to join them? Oh My Goodness YES we said! And it turned out They had a Fire Pit and They had a Permit and OMG we were going to actually have a FIRE!!
It was glorious: Shared food and drink, stories, drums, whistles, songs, masked dancers – everything we like…and it went on for hours. This was what we came here for!
The scene roughly repeated itself at a more recent event. The first night, we didn’t have all the equipment we needed to safely have a fire, so we didn’t. While a small contingent of us ambled down to the fire pit late at night to have an Experience, it wasn’t quite the full experience.
It felt awkward and vaguely apologetic, like it was mostly just an acknowledgment that an experience was supposed to happen here. As if we were acting out the words “Insert Genuine Pagan Feeling Here”. Knowing that it wasn’t ever going to feel completely right…not that night, anyway.
But the next night, the rest of our fire equipment arrived! We prepared eagerly for its coming, gathering tinder and clearing the debris around the fire pit. We lit it with flint and steel, carefully placing the tiny glowing ember into the bird’s nest, then blowing on it to coax it into full life – Whoompsh! It burst into a fireball and we placed it under the kindling…and in minutes, we had a roaring, vibrant FIRE!!
Again, it was glorious: We shared our rituals, songs, stories, and dances all night long. Just as our forebears have done since the day we first figured out how to control this beast. A real, burning Fire of heat and light and smoke and ash – and real social connection.
Accept no substitutes!