the history of firewalking

Firewalking has been used extensively throughout recorded history, in Asia, Polynesia, Australia, Africa, Europe and North and South America. Cultures and religions worldwide have used firewalking as a rite of purification, healing, initiation and devotion. Here in the United States it has evolved as a ritual of empowerment.

In early Christianity, many monks and martyrs were noted for their fire immunity, which was considered a mark of grace. In a religious ceremony in Bali, young girls seven to 14 years of age trance-dance on the fire. Tahitians and Fijians walk over glowing-hot rocks. In Surinam, men cavort in waist-high flames and chew on glowing coals.

In his astonishment after observing Hawaiian Kahunas walk on semi-molten lava — and then walking himself — ethnologist William Tufts Brigham wrote, "There is one set of natural laws for the physical world and another for the other world... The laws of the other side are so much the stronger, that they can be used to neutralize and reverse the laws of the physical."

Australian aborigine tribesmen danced on fires to enter "dream time." In India, Tibet, Sri Lanka, many thousands have walked and danced, joyously, exuberantly, and devotionally, on the fire. In Peru, Brazil and Argentina, people find spiritual upliftment in fire ceremonies.

Dervishes in Egypt and Algeria fill their mouths with burning coals. In the Chinese solar festival of fire, peasant laborers dance on burning charcoal. In an initiation ritual north of China, shamans walk over a number of white-hot iron plowshares. In Japan, Shinto priests walked on burning logs to receive special protection in the coming year. In Singapore, devotees walk on glowing coals as a spiritual test and for healing.

The Vikings walked on red-hot iron chains. In Rome, members of certain families were exempted from paying taxes by walking barefoot over live coals (sorry, this will not work with the IRS). In Greece, during an annual religious festival, believers run, dance and hop on blazing coals until only ashes remain, to demonstrate their faith and to gain power to heal themselves and others. In a Bulgarian ritual, women dance ecstatically on the fire.

In Africa, the bushmen of the Kalahari desert have firewalked since their tribal beginnings, dancing on fires for hours as a means of performing cures. They're the master firewalkers. They roll and squiggle on their bellies through it; they pick up red-hot coals and rub them on their bodies. They rub the coals on each other's bodies, and even stick their heads in the coals.

Among many native American tribes, the sick walked through fire to renew their spiritual power for healing, and warriors walked in preparation for battle.

More recently, firewalking was introduced into a two-day personal growth workshop by Tolly Burkan in 1978. Since Tolly and Peggy Dylan offered the first firewalk workshop in 1982, hundreds of thousands have participated in contemporary firewalks for personal empowerment.

adapted mostly from "Firewalk: the Psychology of Physical
" by Jonathan Sternfield