Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Transforming Power of Fire

Fire is humanity's oldest ceremony.
The Inca believe we are given seeds of knowledge to plant and these seeds are not germinated in water but awaken in our soul through fire.

Since establishing the prairie grasses in 1988, we have followed the Missouri Conservation Department's guide-lines to burn every 2-3 years. Fire clears out the accumulated old growth while jump-starting the new seeds.

The anticipation for this year’s burn began last November when several women at the Labyrinth Society’s annual Gathering asked to come to the Prairie Labyrinth for a weekend to focus and share our perspectives on death and rebirth. This may sound like a strange request, but not to Labyrinth members.

Walking a labyrinth is sometimes referred to as a "3- fold path" because it aligns with the Death/Birth/Rebirth cycles. Those who were interested in coming had been touched by personal loss or the “death” of some aspect of their lives. Creating a workshop that would culminate in burning the prairie seemed like a perfect fit. After all, a burn is the ultimate expression of death and re-birth.

….And then there’s that saying, "If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plan."

The weekend we intended to burn fell smack in the middle of continuous rains. I began to rethink the Inca belief wondering if "the seeds of knowledge we were given to plant" would have to settle for activation in water.
The theme of Birth/Death/Re-birth aligns nicely with the Mother/Crone/Maiden archetypes- giving us the template of the Triple Goddess for the work we did together. The rain paused long enough for us to enlist the Mother’s assistance to prepare the labyrinth for the fire, raking the heavy grasses away from the wooden posts and benches. That afternoon we outlined ourselves on butcher paper and painted the themes of "our stories" inside of us. We cut out our paper-selves and carried them into the labyrinth to reenact the Sumerian myth of Innana's descent into the "underworld”.

The Prairie Labyrinth has been set up to align with the chakras going from the Root chakra (Red) up to the Crown Chakra (Violet). For our workshop, the order was reversed to reinforce the idea that we were journeying downward to meet the Crone at our center. The Crone is the wisdom aspect of ourselves that can assist us in cutting away the “meat” of our stories that keeps us stuck or in denial. In the darkness we tore our paper-selves up in an act of dismembering what no longer vibrates with us, placing the pieces in a small brown bag and tucking the bags into the tall prairie grasses awaiting the burn to be transmuted.

But Fire was not the element that greeted us the next day. Morning brought a deluge of rain that cancelled the prospect of burning for the entire weekend. As disappointed as we were, it didn’t take long to appreciate the rightness of remaining in the energy of the "underworld" and maintaining a contained environment that allowed us to go deeper and then focus on the work that the Maiden aspect of Re-birth" required.

The women returned home, knowing that the shells of their “old selves” were still incubating in the wet grasses (which mostly involved becoming water-logged clumps of pressed together paper) while they went through their own internal process of alchemy.

Sometimes death and transformation takes longer than we think. It is a process that we can’t speed up because we have our own agenda or it's frustrating, maddeing or uncomfortable. Death comes in many forms besides dealing with the loss of a loved one. You may be experiencing the death of a relationship, a job or career, a physical challenge, a financial crisis, or find yourself in an unexpected situation that you were not prepared for. When the old is gone and the new has not quite emerged, you may be numb, angry, depressed and feel like a victim living in a limbo state. Death has its own timing that we don't control. Each step provides us with choices to make adjustments, to resist, to grieve, to rage, to give up, to integrate, to accept, to reexamine our desires, to hang on - or to let go.
Core changes registers first in our hearts and in our guts. The last to get it is our heads. Acceptance of new awareness’s or realizations percolates upwards, forging new pathways in our minds.
In order for us to move from the passage of Death to Re-birth, we must first come to acknowledge the gifts that are revealed through the loss or the challenge.
When the meat of our stories are burned away in the Crone's cauldron, only the bones of our foundation remain. Beneath the bones, lie the gems.

It wasn't until 2 weeks later, on the weekend of Beltane (and our son, Adam's birthday) that Mother Nature pushed a pause button on the water-works and all the conditions lined up for the burn to happen.

The transforming power of fire that swept the land was one of the gentlest burns we have experienced. There is no doubt that it was one of the most intentional and well prepared for burns, but the sweetness came from accepting the possibility that it might not happen at all. Surrendering to those things we can not change is always a challenge until we really get it- that everything is in Divine order – that there is a bigger plan – and as a friend of mine likes to say, “It all works". It gets easier when we have an unshakable faith that this is true.

Many thanks to the courageous women, my dear friends, who came to do the preparation work on the land. By diving into your inner landscapes and making the inner and outer changes that were needed, you helped lay a foundation of safety and grace for the actual burn to occur.

And much gratitude to the Heartland community who were called to be a part of this year's diverse burn crew, setting your own death and rebirth intentions. I appreciate every one of you and the multifaceted layers that were revealed in your process of igniting, tending and being in awe of the fire.

May we nurture the seeds of our newly emerging selves as the greening process takes hold, steadily accelerating what has begun to grow.


Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 Prairie Labyrinth Burn Photos

Below are select photos taken before, during and after the burn on May 3, 2009.
To view more on a slide-show go to: