A while ago on a quest to the vision realm I found myself back at the Sacred Fire Circle. It seemed natural to be there. Sacred Fire Circle in Paradise is more a part of the vision realm then it is of normal reality.
We are surrounded by darkness in a place of light which we created as a contained sacred space. We enter intentionally. We work intentionally. We spend night after night with focus in a ritual environment.
The sacred circle takes place from midnight until dawn for three nights. Every night, many people experienced divine possession, especially whilst dancing, but also whilst drumming, singing, healing, meditating, or other activities. The place just lends itself to it. Every religious path has some tradition of ecstatic connection to the divine and SFCiP is a place to experience it.
It is deeply experiential. Even without the connection to the divine, the experience is still powerful. The combination of all things, the drumming, the dancing, the holding of space, the singing, the mindful intention, all of it creates an environment which is conducive to profound experiences.
Tamara, one of this year’s participants described it,
“The ‘experiential’ can take you places that you cannot think your way to and fire circle is very experiential. The hugest part of ourselves is within … in those non-analytical places. Fire circle is a journey into that place. We do use our intellect to sort out our deeper selves, but, we are not, at our center, primarily intellectual creatures. We are emotional, spiritual creatures capable of thinking and reasoning. But, it isn’t our intellect that is the primary ‘can opener’ to the soul and to other realms. It is our deeper selves. Fire circle is a ritual experience that (I would describe as almost shamanic in nature) that assists in setting aside the intellect and, with the help of dance, song, chant trust, fellowship and more, can help people to transcend normal barriers and live, move, resolve and heal while walking through the ‘soul stuff’ within and between worlds.”
Tamara also described, “There are so many types of experiences that one can have at Pagan retreats! Some are focused on fellowship and connection, some workshops and information, some on ritual, some on a blending of all. I believe fire circle is rich in all those areas but has a deep and meaningful focus on immersion in a deep, penetrating, and powerful ritual experience that is built over days.”
Marla, who had been to other fire circles, but this was her first time to Paradise, expanded on this point,
“Personally, I identify with a lot of ‘roles’ in my life and even though I deal with lots of emotions, the ‘intellectual sentinel’ stands guard over all; what ‘should’ be done. Through Sacred Fire Circles there have been times when the intellectual sentinel is ‘released from duty”‘ and an immersion occurs, and I bear witness to myself embracing and embraced by the Divine. My soul makes a journey to itself, and surprises me with words coming out of my mouth or a flow I do not know I am upon.”
Marla continued, “Then, there is just some really good singing; good because so many are joining in and trusting their voices, which feels great to me to be part of that, along with the drumming and a growing groove as we trust ourselves and each other, and free-form sound, and laughter and stories and dancing and sharing and spinning. I see the word ‘fellowship’ in Tamara’s response and think; ‘Yeah’.”
Julie H., another of this year’s participants, also shared her memories of her previous experience.,
“With only one fire circle under my belt, I can’t say much except this is an incredibly powerful experience! The bonding with the other participants is deep and meaningful. It is a safe space to experience whatever comes up for you. I got to play w/the drums, something I’d not done before, and really enjoyed that a lot. Chanting/singing is one of my favorite ways to express myself & there’s plenty of opportunity for that as well – to say nothing of dancing! Creating the circle is magical”
According to Nels, who with his wife hosts the event,
“For me, fire circle is about joy, and transformation. I find myself totally happy, empowered, and satisfied with my life within this experience. That joy is infectious. Months after a fire circle I discover insights, strengths, wisdom, and determination that I did not know I had. I credit much of those discoveries to those few days of knowing joy, and then not being willing to accept the absence of joy within the rest of my life experience.”
This was the third year of this fire circle, and it had 36 participants, the largest yet. Through the generosity of a scholarship donations program, 6 people were assisted in being there. This year, the capital expenses of creating a new circle were covered, so next year more can be dedicated to the scholarship program. The site can accommodate up to 50.
Those who could arrived a day early for what is called Early Village Building. This was when most of the structures were erected which would define the outer circle of the sacred circle. There were structures for sheltering musical instruments, healing, meditation, food, nesting and transformation. All the structures were used throughout the nights for the enhancement of the experience. The structures defined the outer circle, but there was also an inner circle around the fire defined by a circle of tikis, raised ten feet in the air atop white PVC poles. This inner circle was where most of the dancing would take place, and was the energetic focus of the evening. The tikis were filled. Kindling was gathered. Wood was stacked. The wards were refreshed around the property. Offerings were made. Those who were there for the Early Village Building had a small informal fire in the newly created space that night where we fired the beads which were crafted for participants to wear throughout the event.
The next day was dedicated to decorating the circle, and preparing for the first night. Water was hauled to the circle. Food was prepared. A rangoli was created around the fire. The space was crafted with care. And most importantly, most of the participants arrived. After dinner we all gathered together for the first time for orientation. We all gathered in a circle, many of us meeting for the first time, and establishing the connections and understanding of each other which would be built on for the next three nights as we work together and trust each other. Then we napped in preparation for the night.
Napping is also an important part f the experience. It creates a separation between the day and the night. Even if we aren’t able to sleep, there is an expectation that people will be quiet.
At around midnight, we processed to the circle. We processed in darkness into darkness. Then, together we lit the candles on the alters. We lit the tikis. And we lit the main fire. We were able to witness together as the circle of light emerged from the darkness.
The first night tends to be mostly dedicated to burning away the dross, so that we are more able to fully immerse ourselves in the process. We howled at the full moon. We drummed. We danced. We sang. We played singing bowls. We offered healing. We allowed ourselves to seek healing. We utilized and experienced the space.
Morning came, and with the first chirping of the birds, we began to release from the seriousness of the night. Songs shifted to theme songs, and pop songs. People laughed more. It was all given to the fire and burned off, preparing us for further immersion the next night.
We ate breakfast, we slept, and while we slept, it rained. It was a perfect rain. It created the perfect white noise for the perfect sleep.
The next day we refilled tikis, hauled more water, stacked more wood, created a new rangoli around the fire, and generally prepared for another night. We also had some workshops, swam in the creek, chatted with new and old friends, and experienced each other.
Again we slept, and processed to the circle. It had rained and there was rain in the forecast. The universe gave us water, and so upon entering the circle, we were blessed with water. The evening was dedicated to the element of water and all it symbolizes. We embraced where we were and what we were offered.
Again we drummed. We danced. We sang. We played singing bowls. We offered healing. We allowed ourselves to seek healing. We utilized and experienced the space.
Just as the birds were beginning to herald the coming of a new day, the rain began. This was not a light rain. This was a torrential downpour, and yet just about all of the participants stayed in the sacred space until the night was over, and several stayed in the inner circle around the fire.
The rain continued, creating yet more perfect white noise for perfect sleep.
The next day, the circle was dried out, and preparations were made for the last night. Another rangoli was created. We had some workshops, swam in the creek, chatted with new and old friends, and experienced each other.
We slept. We processed. We entered the circle under a clear sky with the full moon shinning down upon us. It was a perfectly night. By this point, we all seemed prepared to embrace and utilize it, and we did. At the end of this evening, there was very little silliness. We were completely immersed and completely present.
The circle closed with participants taking a moment to one by one look at each other honestly and openly.
We then tore down the circle. The decorations were removed, the structures were broken down, everything was hauled away and packed for next time.
And then we slept.
Before coming, people would hear about where I was going and say, ‘Well, have fun.” I did have fun, but this experience was far beyond fun. This was the deep spiritual connection that people of all paths seek. Because of the serious nature of the work, this event is only for people over 18. This is not a place for children to play. This is a place for grown-ups to grow. Sacred Fire Circle in Paradise is the event that I look forward to all year-long, and can’t imagine ever missing.
As a little epilogue, a few of us stayed to handle the last of the packing up after sleeping. It was an exceptionally hot day, so afterward we went for a swim in the creek. Our wonderful host Judy tells the story better,
“Several of us had finished folding the tarps and decided to cool down in the river, which was still at least a foot higher than usual, due to the massive gully washer the previous morning. The dogs were swimming with us under the cliff, and Woody, the big male, would not stop trying to climb the rock face for a clump of hanging debris. Finally Marla swam over check it out. As she reached for the clump of earth it fell into the river. It was then that we all realized the truth, it was a nest of cliff swallows dislodged by the storm, now swirling in the swollen current, with two of the several babies floating freely, and peeping in panic. Marla swooped in and rescued the nest, Nels sprang into action retrieving the other two, and the nest and it’s contents were placed in a safer crevice not far off. Within 5 minutes the mother reunited with her offspring, crisis averted, hopefully wiser about nest location, and with a larger than life mythos about the day they were rescued by the giant dragon-dog and the beautiful river goddess . My takeaway? When your dog insists that there’s something of interest, pay attention.”
*Editor’s Note: Nels Linde, PNC-MN Co-Editor, is co-host of the Sacred Fire Circle in Paradise . On July 24th the Sacred Fire Circle in Paradise donated 25% of its net proceeds to the Sacred Path Center’s ‘Change and Grow’ fund raising effort. Another regional Sacred Fire Circle takes place at Circle Sanctuary, this Labor Day Weekend.