Fire Circle: Or Why You Deserve an Ordeal

by Joshua Levin

Yes, you, and yes… you do. You deserve an ordeal, not a drama mind you, but a real old fashioned ordeal. I’m not talking about more of the same, more of the ups and downs of the bill paying, baby changing, boss kissing, people fencing, worry feeding, road raging, depression jumping, trouble grunting, exhaustion.

I’m talking about climbing out of the cages and boxes that we build every day, and stepping mindfully back into the wide-open circle of blessed existence. I’m talking about the ordeal of stripping away the armor and weapons of social combat, and all the emblems of identity that have us pinned, day after day, like butterflies behind dusty glass. I’m talking about walking out into the mythic landscape of our highest potential, where we can reconnect with ourselves, our environment, and each other. I’m talking about waking up to the miracle of now. 

You deserve an ordeal because that’s what it takes to transform death into life, guilt into choice, and old patterns into new possibilities. To grow and transform, to really feel life pulsing with the passion of waves upon the shore and the infinite depth of a starry night, we must choose to do something differently.  To light the candle in the darkness, to tempt the shadow on the wall, we must drive ourselves out of our minds and back into our hearts, our bodies, and each other’s loving arms. 

Quite fortunately, and unbeknownst to many, there is a readymade, wholesome, family-oriented, drug-free ordeal just waiting for the courageous and the mad. Every summer, when the long days of the season bathe the land in the scented light of life’s flowering splendor, an extraordinary trial of the spirit unfolds around the sacred all-night Fire Circle.  Hundreds of adventurers, cultural creatives from around the world, travel like pilgrims of old to offer their gifts of wisdom and radiant joy, to receive the gifts of others, and to be counted among the waking at the hour of dawn’s light. These are the family of fire. They are a circle unbound by blood, marriage, age, race, class, sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, or creed. They are a people who come to exchange the leaden rings of psychic bondage for the golden ring of freedom. This is the treasured halo of a journey made together, and it is forged of sweat and of spirit in the shared ordeal of the Fire Circle.

The rite is as simple as life’s sweetest truths. In its essence, the ordeal consists of staying awake and engaged in a circle of movement and sound for three nights.  No one is compelled, but all are encouraged to find their own way of dancing, singing, and playing into the dawn.  During the days, there is rest, friendship, food, family, and carefully crafted experiential lessons focused on the arts of transformation: movement, rhythm, song, sound, symbol, and the blossoming of the infinite potential within us all. Between the ordeal of night and the light of day, these rites of fire produce an atmosphere of extraordinarily deep camaraderie.  It is a world between the worlds, where people share an intention to invite the very best of themselves and each other to dance in reflection of the perfection of now.  The combination of physical and psychic trials with this shared vision of personal and interpersonal beauty, provides a safe empowering space for the birth of miracles. 

But don’t take my word for it — don’t take anyone’s. Beyond the mythopoetic rhetoric, the Fire Circle provides a space and a method. It is basically an open-minded ecstatic ordeal that offers a powerful opportunity to discover and rediscover your own ways of being and relating.  

There are two paths from this and every other moment of your life; you can either do more of the same, or you can do something different. The former leads to where you’ve been, the latter leads somewhere else. You should know, however, that there really is a fire in the belly of the world — passion, play, subtlety, love, ecstasy, infinity — and there’s nothing like an ordeal to awaken these mysteries within. Now, don’t you deserve one… at least once in a while? 

©2006 Joshua Levin: No part of this may be reproduced in any form without express written consent of the author.