This Cherokee ceremony focused our thoughts on appreciation for our walk through life and our connection with the world. Appreciation was the foundation for the fire we were building. It had been a satisfying and surreal experience. But that had only been the beginning.

I watched the fire now. It was alive with faces dancing in the flames. Their flickering expressions sparked skyward, sending our prayers into the Great Mystery. The crackling and whispering of the fire reached deep inside of me, illuminating my thoughts. Time passed. The moon had sunk below the horizon now. The fire dimmed until after almost two hours, the logs had burned down into beautiful, glowing coals. They were raked into an 8-foot long path to prepare for the fire walk. The heat that ensued, blanketed us in a shimmering orange aura.

We were silhouettes dancing in the shadows around the fire. The air was filled with electricity. Heat waves beckoned from the fire walk. We were dancing, but I couldn’t feel my feet anymore. I was dancing in my head, negotiating, doubting and suddenly, raving mad. Had I come too far this time? Who are these people anyway? Was I out of my mind? My body rocked gently from side to side but it was not comfort that I felt.

I had forgotten the words of the Cherokee Elder who earlier, had shared her people’s wisdom of the fire walk; “Those who felt it in their heart that this was ‘their fire’ would choose to walk and those who felt it wasn’t would choose not to walk. We shouldn’t feel any pressure to do what we were not ready to do. We would be transformed just by witnessing the ceremony. The fire wasn’t something to conquer.”

I found myself staring at the flickering coals as anticipation tingled up and down my spine. It seemed I had started dancing the fire in my own way. Then my ramblings ceased abruptly as I saw a shadowy figure walk across those coals. I anticipated a shout as the coals touched the souls of her bare feet, but she glided across silently and effortlessly. My ego was disappointed.

People began hooting and calling out with loud animal sounds. One by one, they followed the glowing path, moving from the south towards the north. According to the Cherokee people and their medicine wheel, the south symbolizes truth, growth and love, and the north symbolizes higher power, give-away and renew. People danced along this path for remembering and clear intention. For transformation.

Each time I passed the south entrance a gentle magnetic pull beckoned to me, but I passed by with self-imposed expectations weighing on my shoulders. Soon this frustration had aroused a raging fire inside of me. I really wanted to do this. I wanted to allow this experience. What was stopping me?

I approached the south entrance and stopped, feeling like I was about to jump off a cliff. The sound of the rattling, the drumming and my thoughts was deafening. Instinctively I knew that this was a sacred passage and one that I desperately wanted to make. As a warm breath of air from the firey coals touched my face I felt more alert and aware of my senses than ever before.

Looking down at my bare feet again, I let go and found clarity. Much to my surprise, the coals were warm and I felt welcomed by them. I was not aware of anything else but my feet and the path. Triumph surged through me. I had done it! Conquered the fear. Trusted the moment.

More wild drumming, loud animal calls and hooting from the group. I stepped into the bucket of water at the end of the path to clean my feet. Amazement and disbelief grabbed hold of me. The mind’s chatter started. Questions darted through my thoughts, “How could this be? Did it really happen? How is this possible?”

I stepped out of the water and onto the grass, with this busy mind chattering away. Then I gasped and cried out. I had stepped onto a hot coal that had strayed from the path.

© 2008 Davina Haisell