Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

In September 2016 we embarked on a weekend of Sacred Fire & Fire Quest with both adults and young people coming together to undergo a Rite of Passage. As a culture we have all but lost our traditional ways to mark transitions and to support us to move to another stage of life and relationship to the natural world.

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In 2017 we look forward to welcoming Salvatore Gencarelle from the Helpers Mentoring Society to share teachings and offer immersions through the ‘Living Fire Course’ – a four part training throughout the year commencing May 2017 (exact dates TBC). This offers an opportunity to adults to undergo a Rite, then support young people to do this in Part 3. For more information about this click here.

 

DANIEL FORD, from the University of Hull joined us in September to record his impressions and to begin to share the experience to others beyond the forest.

“We are forest people, and our stories and social networks are forest born”.
(Sara Maitland, Gossip from the Forest, 2012, p. 9)

“I prefer being in the forest than in school and I believe the more important lessons can be found there”.
(Teenage Fire Quest Participant 2016)

Stories from the Fire

It is dawn. Raven calls ring out through the wood, stark over the distant sound of traffic. The calls are not being made by birds but rather by a small group of people who, having tended a community fire throughout the night, are now making the agreed signal of return for those out beyond the encampment. Before long men, women and children emerge from the trees and gather together in a large circle. Some take seats, whilst others move closer to the fire. The man who has held vigil at the fire throughout the night, the acknowledged teacher and leader, sits on the far side of the circle silently welcoming those who are returning. When quiet descends on the gathering he asks for those present to sing the song or tell the story that has made it itself known throughout the night. Individuals are called upon to tell their stories, to share their visions and sing their songs from the solitary quests that began at dusk and that have now ended with first light. Those that have worked with these Fire Quest participants as guides gently encourage the members of their groups to share their experiences of being out in the wood, alone with their own fire.

InipiThe first group speak a little about their unexpected experience of time throughout the night. They talk of how they spent their time in preparation for their quests, how they tackled time passing in the wood through the night, and of how they collectively believed that dawn was breaking only to realise that it was the unexpected brightness of the full moon rising. There are murmurs and nods of affirmation from the others seated in the circle acknowledging shared experiences.

Attention moves to the next group. A teenage boy, standing in the outer circle, speaks out. He makes a statement that he feels sums up his quest, “that you don’t really miss something until it’s gone, but if you look hard enough you can bring it back”. He recounts how he slipped in and out of a pattern of sleep and attentiveness throughout the night accidentally allowing his own fire to die out in the process. Despite almost being overwhelmed by darkness he tells how he was able to re-kindle his fire from just an ember. An adult at the far side of the circle celebrates both his mistakes and his determination by offering a personal insight “that we can give things away, all of us, without tending to ourselves”.

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Returning to the sharing of stories around the circle a teenage girl is called on to speak of her experience. She begins by recounting the personal question that she took into the forest with her. “How can the dark be a friend, how can it be kin, and how can I not be afraid”. She speaks matter-of-factly about how her time spent in selecting and preparing her space for the night helped to settle her anxiety and make the experience literally grounded and friendly.

As the sharing at the fireside continues a boy is invited to share the song that he ‘received’ whilst he was out in the wood throughout the night. His voice is fragile at first and the group, perhaps through solidarity of experience, begin to sing with him. The song is a simple, repeated refrain giving shape to the boy’s experience.

I’ll be climbing in the treetops,
I’ll be hiding in the bracken,
I’ll be running with the wolves,
and I will find you.

He tells the assembled group that the focus of his thinking through the night was a question about how he could learn the land and that the song was his answer. The guide of the group explains that there were also many questions from the young participants “around school and college with the question – what shall I do?” being a common theme.

A teenage girl, seated cross-legged by the community fire, continues with this thread on behalf of the next group. She speaks of how her fire bundle flared as she left the community fire at dusk on her way back alone to her chosen site and how it burnt out completely. She recounts how she retraced her steps along the path and found an ember. In the darkness she carried the ember back through the wood to her fire site and was able to bring the fire back to life. The girl continues to speak of insight gained through the process of tending fire and tending herself throughout the night. She says that she feels now “that growing in knowing is not an intellectual activity, that it is active and located in action”. To clarify her point she talks about working with her personal questions. She says that she recognised that she “had the need, the knowledge, the awareness that she had questions that needed answering but not sure about what they are or were… this led to the realisation that it is action itself that leads to knowing, and that this in turn leads to questions arising”. The teacher smiles on the opposite side of the circle.

The teacher continues by addressing the group as a community in relation to the girls sharing. He speaks of a teacher from his own wisdom tradition. “Black Elk, was an Indian elder and he had essential things to say about processing what happens out there, he spoke beautifully about this and although I not want to paraphrase – his message was this: ‘a vision without action is just a dream’”.

As the last group are invited to share their experiences attention turns to a teenage boy who decided not to venture out into the wood and instead remained behind with the teachers and guides, tending the fire throughout the night on behalf of the community, creating a link with all those out in the darkness.

Greenland sunset 4The sharing and harvesting of stories and experiences in the circle reaches its conclusion. The teacher finally turns to a woman who had joined the morning circle late and who was clearly upset and had been crying. The woman had been a key part of the ceremonies of the weekend and held an opening gratitude ceremony where all participants shared a little of their thanks for the coming experience and for life itself. She is asked if she will share her story of the night. Holding back her tears she begins.

It was a glorious night, with the strong light of a full moon and a sweet breeze. It passed slowly. I dozed occasionally, my fire dozing with me but rising back up every time I tended to it. I watched the fires of the young ones around me, rising and falling similarly to mine. I tracked the length of the night with the moon as it passed over us and with the change in traffic noise. We were near a main road and as the night wore on, the sound of traffic dropped until we were finally in total silence. In the depth of the night I heard a tawny owl call out a few times and the sound of a fox barking. The moonlight was so bright that I found myself listening out for a chorus of birdsong to confirm the approach of morning. We had been given strict instructions that our fires needed to be fully extinguished before we left them and tending the fire down to cold was an important element of the whole. I sat there, spreading the coals around with a stick and watching the embers sparkling up at me. I heard a crow call. I heard a great tit. And then I heard the traffic start up again, and the sound of traffic increasing. There was no further birdsong… The commuters were already on their way towards London and I knew that morning was upon us. And that’s when I began to drop into a well of grief. I sat there. Where were the rest of the birds? What were we facing as humanity? Going to work day in day out, by car, coming home by car, windows and doors closed to the elements, the wildlife leaving us… What have we done to the Earth? Stirring the last of the hot coals, listening to the traffic, pondering and feeling, I could not leave my site – I did not want to return. I just sat there in my well of sorrow.

At my most grief-stricken I heard the sound of movement in the branches above me. A few leaves fluttered down and then acorns started landing around me. As I looked up I saw a squirrel on one of the branches, looking down and scolding me in a way that only squirrels can. I had to laugh at myself. If nature communicates with us through signs and symbols, the different metaphors that emerge from a flying acorn brings us much information. Who knows what will happen in the future after all. Those young ones out there all night, tending to their own fires, igniting their passion and their personal fire – what acorns were being planted in them that night? How the Earth is now is how they know it to be. They have never seen a murmuration of starlings, chased butterflies or tripped over hedgehogs nightly. I realised that my grief was for how it was when I was a child and how it used to be. The weight of age.

Many, many people around us today are committed to doing what they can to change the world. We are planting acorns, both arboreal and metaphoric. With the energy and the optimism of youth – well maybe there is still hope for the future of my grandchildren and the future generations of all living things. I’ll keep praying that is so.

After this final story, the sharing of which leaves those listening in deep reflection, the group is invited to pay its respects to the site itself and encouraged to leave the woodland in better condition than they found it. The preparation to leave is unhurried and leisurely, with participants returning to their individual sites, raking over coals, covering fire pits with disturbed earth, and scattering leaves with the aim of leaving no trace of human activity. Once this had been satisfactorily completed people begin to clear away their belongings, leaving the wood without apparent sentimentality or the need to effuse to one another about the power of what has been shared.

The Fire Quest itself had been led by a man who openly drew on the traditional wisdom of his own culture, and of his own teachers and elders. This cultural aspect of the Fire Quest suggested that “the role of indigenous cultures” was to “ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy human being”. Promoted as a “rite of passage, which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood” this development would be brought about through “processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy”.

Although the processes of this Fire Quest had now been completed, the unfolding and blossoming of the young participants was perhaps only just beginning.

Daniel Ford is a doctoral research student and the recipient of a Freedom to Learn scholarship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Hull. He is currently working on an inquiry into what happens when young people have wild experiences within and alongside their formal education.

Correspondence: d.ford@2015.hull.ac.uk

For details on The Living Fire course with Sal Gencarelle, commencing in May 2017, please see the Circle of Life Rediscovery website.

The Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest

The Community Sacred Fire

Are you or your child ready to participate in a Fire Quest Rites of Passage? Do you want to come and support the village and Sacred Fire, whilst learning about this ancient ceremony?

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Join our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend

The Community Sacred Fire is a special container which holds space for people to connect on many levels. It is a place to remember departed loved ones, to honour the ancestors, to remember our ancient relationship with the elements, to reconnect with people, to share stories, to laugh, to cry, and to return to inner harmony. It is also a place remember the blessings of life, and to remember to live in service to the future generations.

 

 

The Community Sacred Fire is a multi generational event held at times of need. That need can include times of deep sorrow and times of great joy and celebration. It is a place that allows the safe processing for grief; and it can also be a focal point for a community during Rites of Passage.

In September 2016, we are offering a weekend of Community Sacred Fire teachings for people wanting to learn more. The weekend will be led by Salvatore Gencarelle.

People will be introduced to this powerful container and some of its applications. As part of these teachings we will be exploring our relationship with the natural elements (fire, water, stone, and air) and how to combine these elements into the event. On Saturday September 17th we will hold an overnight Community Sacred Fire for all those attending. The fire will be tended throughout the night allowing a time for people to connect. This Community Sacred Fire is being held in support of people doing a Rite of Passage called a Fire Quest.   We will also participate in an Inipi, more commonly known as a Sweat lodge – all ages welcome.

The Fire Quest

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Taking place in September 2016, Fire Quest Weekend & Sacred Fire for adult, young people and families.

Many people in the modern world so desperately want to live lives full of connection and love. Yet we were never given the opportunity to go through authentic Rites of Passage to support our growth out of childhood. People now find themselves locked into a childlike state of reactions and views.

 

 

 

How can we help ourselves and the next generation of children to become well grounded, completely connected individuals?

Historically, the role of indigenous cultures has been to ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy “Human Being”. The ancient cultures hold a deep understanding of the life stages, as well as how to meet the challenges that come with these life stages. They had processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy. This knowledge and understanding was necessary in order to prevent people from stagnating in their personal development and getting stuck in loops of adolescent behaviour, something we can often observe in modern societies.

The Fire Quest is a Rite of Passage which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood. The quest traditionally occurs during the formative teenage years, approximately between 12-17 years of age. The quest involves a person being honoured by the community, sent out from a Community Sacred Fire into nature to tend a personal fire throughout the night. During the night the quester reflects on their life, their gifts, their wounds, and learns directly from their interaction with the fire and nature. During the night the quester is supported by their family and the people at the Community Sacred Fire. In the morning the quester is welcomed back to the Community Sacred Fire where they share their experiences from the night.

In the modern world any adult undertaking this Quest will gain deep insight into themselves and their relationship with all of life.

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Taking place 16th – 18th September 2016 with Salvatore Gencarelle

 

Please click here to find out about our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend, taking place from 16th – 18th September 2016, for adults, families and young people.

 

 

Date: 16th – 18th September 2016.
Location: Laughton, East Sussex.
Who should attend: Adults, families (including siblings) and young people (aged 12 – 17 years).

 

The Native American Sweat Lodge (Inipi) by Salvatore Gencarelle

The Native American Sweat lodge is one of the most profound healing and transformative indigenous ceremonies that I know. At the age of 16 I attended my first traditionally run Sweat Lodge and personally experienced the power and beauty of this ceremony. I’ve repeatedly witnessed this transformative and restorative power of the sweat lodge for over 23 years.

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Sweat Lodges Around the World

There are many forms of the sweat therapy found across the world, from the European sauna to the Japanese Sento. Understanding of how sweating in a controlled manner in combination with ceremonial approaches can bring about healing and a deeper sense of connection is a universal concept. This is a good indication that sweating as a method of healing is a fundamental principle of health to human beings.

In America the indigenous structure used to induce sweat therapy is commonly called the Sweat Lodge. There are many variations of the sweat lodge among the different Native American peoples. One of the most common versions of the sweat lodge has comes to us from the Lakota Sioux. The Lakota Sioux version of the sweat lodge is called the Ini Kaga (E-nee Kah-gah) – To Make Live or commonly the Inipi (E-nee-pe), which simply means – We Live.

Legends of the Lakota Sweat Lodge

The Lakota Sweat Lodge is ancient. According to one legend, the Inipi originated with a cultural hero called Stone Boy. This young man was a sacred being who had great knowledge at birth. He was the first to construct and use the Inipi to bring his uncles back to life after they were bewitched by an evil sorceress.

Another, less known legend, tells the origin of the Sweat Lodge back in time when the first peoples began to have conflicts over territory. At this time the population of humans grew to a point where people began to compete over natural resources. People began to become more physical orientated and less spiritually connected. Conflicts erupted and people began to shoving matches that soon led to greater violence. These battles were just external expression of what was occurring within people on a deeper level. During one of these conflicts a person killed another, intentionally. This was the first time a human ever murdered another human. After this, people’s spiritual connections weakened even more and they began to experience hardship and difficulty in their lives that was previously unknown.

During this time a young man was internally guided to seek a way for people to come back to a deeper spiritual relationship. He was guided through a series of Vision Quest to the west coast of an ancient land. There, at the place where the earth, stone, water, and air mixed he Vision Quested in the mist of the Ocean. Through his quest he was given a gift of the first sweat lodge. He returned to the people with this new powerful gift of purification, healing and rejuvenation. The Sweat Lodge ceremony aided people to once again live in physical and spiritual harmony with themselves, each other, and the land.

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Sweat Lodge and the Helpers Mentoring Society

For the past 23 years I’ve been educated in Lakota traditions and ceremony, becoming what is known as a Helper. During my training I came to a deep understanding of the power of the Inipi ceremony and how it can benefit modern people. Over the course of my training as a Helper I was taught every aspect of the ceremony; from stacking the fire, to singing the sacred songs, leading the ceremony, and even teaching others how to become Helpers.

The time for many others to become Helpers is now at hand. We, the people that understand the current disconnected and dysfunctional state of humanity, are being called forward to help return balance to human existence. In this task we have been given powerful gifts to assist us – such as the Sweat Lodge. Now is the time to learn how to competently utilize these sacred ceremonies to ensure the continuation of human life upon the earth. If you have the heart and mind to learn then now is the time.

Salvatore Gencarelle
https://manamongthehelpers.com/

This November Salvatore will be travelling back to the UK.  He will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland as well as Life Initiation & Rites of Passage – a four part training commencing February 2016.

Please click here for details. These introductory talks, ceremonial and teaching workshops are for anyone looking for an immersion experience in Life Initiation, Rites of Passage and Advanced connection techniques. The day workshops will include an Inipi. The experiences and content is especially applicable to people looking to understand how to enhance holistic relationships and bridge this into the modern world and systems.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

The Sacred Pipe – The Legend of the ‘Canupa’

The Sacred Pipe is known as the Canupa in the Lakota language. The Canupa is an essential tool of connection. Of all the tools, it is the one which develops the deepest awareness. It creates an amplified connection with the intelligence that is commonly known as intuition. According to legend, the Canupa came to people a long ago in a time of great need. It was brought to the people to show how to live in right relation with the earth and all of creation.

The Lakota stories of how the Canupa came to the people hold important lessons and contain great wisdom, if one knows how to hear it. The following legend was told to me by Godfrey, my mentor. This story was passed to him from Horn Chipps, his grandfather. I now pass it on to you.

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Legend of the Canupa

The Canupa came to humans back in the days when “the grandchildren were few.”

People were new to the Earth and did not know how to survive in this new environment.  They were dying. People did not yet understand the concept of sacredness, but they knew there were powers in this world. So they “sent a voice out” –  a prayer – to anything that would listen and respond to their cries for help.

An elder in the group had a dream.

The people’s cries for help had been heard. Help was coming. In this dream, the elder was instructed to send a young man into the wilderness to greet the help that was on its way. The elder told his dream to the people, and everyone gathered to hold a council.  During the council, they chose the best young man in the camp to go to meet whatever was coming.

The young man was made ready and walked out into the wilderness. As he left, another young man snuck out of camp and came to walk beside the first. This sneaky one was bad and only sought to benefit from the situation. The good young man allowed the bad one to travel with him into the wilderness as he looked for something, not knowing what.

After some time, they climbed a hill, where they could see out across the land. There they saw an object moving toward them, so they waited for it to come closer. As the object approached, they saw it was a beautiful young woman carrying a red bundle. Now, when the bad man saw this woman, he said they should rape her, because no one was around or would ever find out. The good one told this sneaky man to not say such things and to put those thoughts out of his mind, for she was “approaching in a mysterious manner.”

Finally, the woman reached the men and set her bundle down upon dried buffalo dung.  She told the bad man, “What is in your thoughts? Come do it.”

The good young man watched his companion go to the woman. A mist formed and covered them both. From within the mist, a scream like a dying animal resounded. The mist cleared and the woman stood there, but all that was left of the bad man was his bones. When the good man saw this, he was afraid and began to run away.

The woman commanded him to stop. She instructed him to have the people build a tipi with the door facing east, and that she would arrive at his camp when it was complete.  She told him that she was bringing something for all the people.

The man returned to the camp and told all that had happened, and explained what the people were to do. Over the next days the tasks were completed, just as this woman had instructed. When the people were done, the woman appeared, coming from the east towards the tipi they built. As she walked, she stopped four times and raised the bundle she carried over her head. After the fourth pause, she entered.

The people would normally have offered her something to eat, but at this time there was nothing but water with sweet grass dipped in it. After she took the water, she held council and gave instructions to the people. She presented the Sacred Pipe to the people and explained how they were to use it to pray. She also provided instructions on how people were to live upon the Earth in balance and harmony.

Before she left, she gave this warning: “If you ever do away with the Canupa, then a nation will be no more.”

After she completed her instructions, she exited the tipi and walked to the North. As she walked, she paused, and then wallowed in the dust four times. Upon the fourth time, she stood as a woman, and before the eyes of the people she turned into a buffalo calf and ran off to the North.

Just after the White Buffalo Calf Woman left, a man stepped forward. No one in camp knew this man or had ever seen him before. He also presented a gift to the people: the first bow and arrows. He then showed the people how to fashion bows and make arrows themselves. He taught them how to hunt and kill more efficiently.

From that day forth, as long as humans followed the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s instructions, they flourished in harmony with the Earth.

The Sacred Pipe brought life, and the bow and arrows brought death.  This is the balance.

By Salvatore Gencarelle.

A Man Among the Helpers.

Salvatore will be visiting the UK this Autumn and will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland. To find out more and to read details of our Transformative Learning training commencing in 2016, please click here.