The Pacific NW Fire Ceremony – Kindling New Stories

Blog Series: We have crafted and tested deep community tools and visions to support the permaculture and transition movement and it is now time to join together to build a just world, neighborhood to neighborhood.

  1. Prelude
  2. Foundation and Philosophy of Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School
  3. Four Directions Prayer
  4. The Fire Ceremony Ritual
  5. Interview with the Spirit

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1. Prelude

The old myths are burning out while new rituals, Nature-driven initiations and traditions, and archetypes emerge to reveal the pathways to new myths. The modern Fire Ceremony is one such storyteller.


This is not a Boy Scout camp fire ghost tale.


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2. Foundation and Philosophy of Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School –

“Grandfather spoke again, saying, “Trying to live a spiritual life in modern society is the most difficult path one can walk. It is a path of pain, of isolation, and of shaken faith, but that is the only way that our Vision can become reality. Thus the true Quest in life is to live the philosophy of the Earth within the confines of man.


There is no church or temple we need to seek peace, for ours are the temples of the wilderness. There are no spiritual leaders, for our hearts and the Creator are our only leaders. Our numbers are scattered; few speak our language or understand the things that we live. Thus we walk this path alone, for each Vision, each Quest, is unique unto the individual. But we must walk within society or our Vision dies, for a man not living his Vision is living death.” — The Quest


3. Four Directions Prayer –

Creator, it is I. Thank you for today’s sunrise, for the breath and life within me, and for all of your creations. Creator, hear my prayer, and honor my prayer.


As the day begins with the rising sun, I ask, Spirit keeper of the East, Brother Eagle, Be with me. Fly high as you carry my prayers to the Creator. May I have eyes as sharp as yours, so I am able to see truth and hope on the path I have chosen. Guide my step and give me courage to walk the circle of my life with honesty and dignity.


Spirit keeper of the South, Wolf, Be with me. Help me to remember to love and feel compassion for all mankind. Help me to walk my path with joy and love for myself, for others, for the four legged, the winged ones, the plants and all creation upon Mother Earth. Show me it is right for me to make decisions with my heart, even if at times, my heart becomes hurt. Help me to grow and nurture my self-worth in all ways.


Spirit Keeper of the West, Brown Bear, Be with me. Bring healing to the people I love and to myself. Bring into balance the physical, mental and spiritual, so I am able to know my place on this earth, in life and in death. Heal my body, heal my mind and bring light, joy and awareness to my spirit.


Spirit Keeper of the North, White Buffalo, Be with me. As each day passes, help me to surrender, with grace, the things of my youth. Help me to listen to the quiet, and find serenity and comfort in the silences as they become longer. Give me wisdom so I am able to make wise choices in all things which are put in front of me, And when time for my change of worlds has come, Let me go peacefully, without regrets, for the things I neglected to do as I walked along my path.


Mother Earth, Thank you for your beauty, And for all you have given me. Remind me never to take from you more then I need, and remind me to always give back more than I take.


4. The Fire Ceremony Ritual –

The Sacred ritual is to spend 20-30 minutes giving thanks to the earth and sky and all the directions before turning inward…


The Fire ceremony as handed down via Norma includes the casual gathering where guests choose two sticks, one for griefs, one for prayers.


Then ceremony is opened with long prayers of acknowledgement and gratitude to the directions and our Mother Earth…


Then (I may have the order slightly off…) someone beats a handmade drum (fashioned from the skin of an animal tracked and hunted and shot with home-made tools- then the hide tanned by hand the old way…) for 20 minutes while we meditate our griefs and woes into one stick. The rhythm changes and we meditate our prayers and hopes into the second stick.


Then rejoining the circle, one of the capable Firestarter’s takes his bow drill, and fire kit and spends 5-30 minutes starting the fire from the raw materials of: human breath, wood, natural tinder, human effort.


We return to the fire with our two sticks heavily impregnated with our sorrows and prayers.


The fire is kindled- a true miracle every time.


In silence, we walk one at a time around the fire clockwise and off the grief stick. After all grief sticks are burning, the fire is purged with smudge sage.


Then one at a time we offer our prayer sticks to the fire, again clockwise. Then after some time of silence, the circle is closed with more offering of gratitude to the directions and to Mother Earth, all the Ancient Ones, etc.


Then we eat a potluck meal together.


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5. Interview with the Spirit –

The Fire Ceremony sounds like a Native American tradition?

Yes. Tom Brown Jr. was taught, with his friend, in the woods of NJ by an Apache Elder named Grandfather Stalking Wolf. Tom Brown Jr. has written books about his learning to be in nature, the lessons were not easy or kind, but they were enriching in ways we civilized folks can scarcely imagine. He also runs a nature school you can learn more of at Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School


What role do the NW Trackers play?

Most have taken courses with Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School. They are sometimes hired to track missing persons. They have astounding training for living in nature.


What is a bow drill?

A bow drill is a way to twist the vertical piece of wood to create friction into the horizontal piece of wood much more efficiently and with much less effort than “spinning” in one’s hands. That method probably never works. With a string, it’s possible to create much more friction, still with tons of effort, but more efficiently than without the “bow” form.


Tell me about the deep tradition of the fire burning ritual; can I call it a ritual?

I feel like it’s a little inappropriate for me to be discussing as it is not MY training or ritual. I’ve only participated as a guest. I do think of it as a ceremony.


When did this start?

Thousands of generations ago. Handed down from person to person.


It is pagan?

Depends on one’s definition. It is apparently transferred through Tom Brown Jr. and his students from Grandfather Stalking Wolf who was an Apache Elder, thus Indigenous to this continent.


Who typically attends your local ritual?

The one I started last fall? Mostly attended by people from my old Transition PDX-West email list. Now, having posted the invitation on PPG, I have some interest from another half dozen or so, but they might not ever come.


Are you burning to counter Trump’s darkness?

Hmm. Interesting question. From my perspective, this tradition, this ritual, this ceremony predates not only any American Presidency, but western, agricultural civilization as well. It’s simply not about Trump or any one.


Another way to answer that question is: what are the elements of life on earth physically, tangibly? Have they always been the same? What are the elements metaphorically? What archetypes transcend culture?


A third way to answer that question is: I once went on a quest to meet a tree in an arroyo in Sedona, AZ. I was told the tree was 1,000 years old and I should find it and bring any questions to it. When I found the tree, it gave me a tremendous headache and I burst into tears of overwhelm. Then I looked up and noticed the tree.


After I gradually centered and grounded myself and re-approached the tree with awareness, I eventually came to be standing in the arroyo with my forehead at the base of the tree.


I realized with a jolt of humility that there was simply no question worthy of a 1,000-year-old being. That tree had witnessed everything that life on earth has to offer. No question of mine was worth putting into words. I simply prayed.


The fire is too sacred to connect to any particular human individual.


Love to you on your journey.

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: Photo Credit :


Willi Paul is Principal of Willi Paul Studio and Magazine. He contributes interviews, articles, new myths and workshops in the Sustainability, Permaculture, Transition, Sacred Nature, New Alchemy and Mythology spaces.