Earth Drum Council and Friends present
Advanced Hanging Out!
July 2-5, 2010
At a beautiful retreat in the Taconic Mountains of Upstate New York
Roots of the Magic Fire Circle
by Morwen Two Feathers
(please scroll to the bottom for Links)
Fire Circle is a label that has been bestowed upon a certain tradition of gathering around a fire with drumming, dancing and chanting, by an eclectic group of spiritual seekers and cultural creatives who call themselves the Fire Circle Tribe, or Family of Fire. In this tradition, the community comes together around the fire for the purpose of individual and communal transformation, using rhythm as the vehicle. At a Fire Circle the whole is more than the sum of its parts, by design. And in most cases that whole has a decidedly spiritual flavor, albeit an ecumenical one, for while participants in the Fire Circle come from a wide variety of religious affiliations including none, they do generally understand drumming, dance, and song to be spiritual in nature.
Fire Circle aficionados embrace the polyrhythmic complexity and ensemble orientation of traditional music, even if all the drummers are not traditionally trained. While the drummers provide the pulsing heart of the organism that is the Fire Circle, they are not the whole body. The physical set-up of the Fire Circle emphasizes the relationship of drummers to dancers and the relationship of both to the fire. Chanting, rattling and small percussion, and other forms of self-expression are also provided space in the Fire Circle set-up. The result is a single complex entity which can include anyone irrespective of drumming skill or even interest in drumming, and which allows for heartful self-expression and personal transformation for all participants.
While we are certain that there are people gathering to drum around fires all over the U.S., the particular form of Fire Circle described here has its roots in New England in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in the coming together of a dynamic and creative group of drummers within what is known as the Pagan community, who have gathered regularly over the past 30+ years to share Earth-based spiritual practice and celebration. Many members of the original group have since left New England and taken their drumming skills and experience elsewhere. This original "family group" has evolved into an extended Fire Circle Tribe, which currently includes clans in Boston, Santa Cruz, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Vermont, Boulder, Hawaii, and the newest sacred fire circle community in Southern California. (See list of links at end of this article) As happens with human culture, the tradition has evolved in a variety of ways in its various settings, and continues to be influenced by people coming into the Tribe from new places.
Among the "elders" of the Fire Circle Tribe, there is a fundamental understanding of the healing energy of rhythm. There is also a deep understanding of the nature of magic, the power of imagination, will, and spiritual energy to transform reality. With these tools, this group of drummers developed a team approach to facilitation, co-creating a sonic container for human transformation.
The rhythm music at a Fire Circle is eclectic and symphonic, deeply rooted in rhythmic traditions and solid playing, listening, and improvisation skills. The history of this group of drummers with each other is not an incidental part of the Fire Circle. It is the existence of a critical mass of drummers who know how to play together that creates the framework for newer or less experienced drummers to join, and that provides the reliable polyrhythmic pulse that carries the larger circle.
For those who are interested in creating Fire Circles in your community, the best advice for where to start is to nurture the development of a core of drummers who have studied some rhythms together and have mastered non-verbal communication signals to direct the flow of the music. For while it is possible to engage in the other elements of a Fire Circle (dancing, chanting, rattling, etc) with thunderdrumming or even recorded music, the achievement of ecstatic heights for the entire Circle is greatly enhanced with skilled polyrhythmic drumming. Oh did we mention that ecstasy is a primary goal of the Fire Circle?
In many places, people are coming together in circle around the fire, to drum and dance and connect with each other and the Earth. Across all boundaries of religion and race, age and station, the people gather in rhythm to commune with Gaia. Each circle is unique, a living rhythmic being with its own life cycle. Yet each such gathering of pulsing drummers and swirling dancers has the same potential to transform the participants and bring them to that ecstatic place where the particular dissolves into the universal and the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. When that potential is realized, each fully embodied person shines with beauty, and the location of the circle becomes irrelevant because everyone is simply Here Now. This place is perhaps the most profound Home of all.
Fire Circle Tribe Clans and links
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Greater Boston: Earth Drum Council (you are here) www.earthdrum.com
Phoenix Fire Gathering 2008
New England: EarthSpirit
Washington DC: Conscious Collaborations www.consciouscollaborations.com
Las Vegas: Magical Arts Center http://www.vegasvortex.com/
Southern California Sacred Fire
Hawaii: Hawaii Fire Tribe http://www.FireTribeHawaii.org
Vermont: Village Green Drum Collective/SpiritFire Festival http://vgdrum.org
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