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Religion 200: Religion and the Human Exerience
Symbols of FIRE in Rituals
Home | FIRE as a symbol in Religion | Symbols of FIRE in Literature | Symbols of FIRE in Art | Symbols of FIRE in Rituals | Symbols of FIRE in Life


~The Burning Man Festival~

One ritual that has a main focus of FIRE is the Burning Man Festival; a week-long festival that is known about internationally.  It's held annually the week before Labor Day on the beach of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada; 120 miles north of Reno, NV. The culmination of the event is the burning of a large wooden sculpture of a man on Saturday night, the 6th night of the event. Below is a link that can explain more about this ritual.



By Jeff Magnus McBride and Abigail Spinner McBride

Since the dawn of time, human beings have gathered around the fire to make music, to dance, and to weave magic in the fire light. In the past fifteen years, there has been a resurgence in our Western culture for this type of ritual, a reawakening of the shamanic spirit. What is happening during the course of an all-night fire? After observing the ritual process for a number of years, and comparing stories and experiences with others, we have found that the alchemical model is a useful tool for understanding the all-night sacred fire circle ritual.

While fire circles and drum circles range from very informal social gatherings to all-night intentional magical workings, here we will focus on the style of intentionally created magical drum and dance fire circles that have been evolving for the past fifteen years on the East Coast, which have now found their way across the country (to FIREDANCE). One of the main differences in our rituals is the "container" which we create. In the alchemical tradition a container or vessel is often hermetically sealed to outside influences. At our fire circles the participants enter the vessel with the intention of doing their magical work.

Every fire circle ritual is different, but there are some elements common to all. In alchemy, the Magnum Opus, or "great work," is the creation of the "philosopher's stone," which has many magical qualities. This philosopher's stone has the amazing power to turn all that it touches into gold, or to spiritualize matter. Basically, as we see it, we're using a pattern that we know works to change and grow more fully into our souls. We are turning lead into gold, on many different levels.

We see the primary goal of staying up all night, drumming, dancing and singing at a fire circle as an alchemical process. Each one of us is involved, on some level, in the great work. We accelerate the processes of personal growth by accelerating the fire of Nature, which transforms the lead of our lives into the gold of Spirit. One of the basic ideas behind many alchemical traditions is that of transmuting or purifying one thing from a "lower" form into a "higher" form. When we consider the history of Alchemy, we find many different traditions.


Celtic Rituals

Some rituals were observed by the entire populace, as part of the sacred fire festivals of Samhain and Beltane. During the celebration of Samhain (Nov. 1.), the Celtic New Year and the beginning of the long, dark half of the year, the entire village would extinguish their hearth fires and ceremonially relight them from the King's fire. This fire was ritually lit by the King's chief Druid.

The Pagan fire festival of Beltane was, in contrast to Samhain, a celebration of spring - of fertility, new life, and the awakening of the earth after the long hard winter. Young people sleep outside all night, make love, and return home the next day with flowers in their hair. Another well known element of the Beltane festival,

was the dance of the May pole. The Maypole, symbolic of the world tree, is circled by two rows of dancers spiraling and weaving in and out, each holding the end of a ribbon tied to the top of the pole. The weaving ribbons represent the turning of the earth's axis, the turning of the seasons, and the turning wheel of the universe.

Kate O'Looney
Religion 200-01
Professor Schearing

Gonzaga University
Summer Session #2