Fire in the Skin: The Spark of Ritual Fire and Magic

Ritual fire in the hyperdome, fringe fest New Orleans.

Fire was the first magick: the first pagan tool to warm us, feed us, inspire us. It is truly awesome in its power from spark, to flame, to raging fire. I have performed hundreds of voodoo rituals over the years, both public and private, and most have included fire. I would be ashamed if they hadn’t. Now, I’m not claiming I pull out the flaming machete for every ceremony, but candles, hearth fires and campfires, bonfires, fire breathers, flaming poi spinners, and sometimes even flaming machetes are all ritual tools. Fire also is ideal for ritual because of its WOW factor. It doesn’t matter if you are 8 or a fighting 88, fire is wondrous.

Vodou Fire

In Haitian Vodou, there is an entire legion of divinities who are made of fire, dance on fire, breathe fire, are fire manifest. Legba la Flambeau is the fire at the crossroads, the first stirrings of will manifest. This Lwa, or God, is the embodiment of fire. He represents beginnings, lightning fast communication, the divine light of the sun. The fire of love comes to divine life in the form of the goddess Erzulie la Flambeau. She can be the flaming passion of love or the fiery sting of jealousy. This Erzulie is said to dance one’s heart into the ground.

The following is an interview with fire ritualist, performer, midwife and priestess in training, and someone I am proud to say is part of my spiritual family, Tanith Asherah.

Tanith Asherah eating fire at a performance in New Orleans.

How does the magick of fire manifest for you?

Fire manifests for me in the form of performance with the element. I work with fire in many ways as a form of artistic expression and as a means of opening my spirit and connecting with the primal energy of fire.

In what ways have you combined fire and ritual?

I honor the spirit of fire as a priestess of the element. The energy is representative of the life and death forces of the Great Mother. She gives warmth, light, energy…but she can also be the cosmic destroyer and take away everything in order to rebuild new life. Whenever I work with fire it is a ritual in and of itself, and is a means of expressing my devotion to the element that is sacred and necessary for life. I ask the energy to work with me and give to it respect and reverence, accepting the consequences of the moments where my ego rises above my awareness of the energy.

Is there anything beginners shouldn’t do?

Forget that they’re working with fire. Fire is not something to be conquered. It is not something “cool” that you can show your friends to gain popularity at a party. Fire is a dangerous and sacred element that must be treated with respect at all times. Otherwise you’ll burn your face, and trust me…that sucks. Ask the spirit of the element to work with you, as it is letting you work with it, not the other way around. Take it slow, and as always, safety is the most important factor in working with fire.

Do you have any advice practical or spiritual that you would like to share with readers?

Our instinct is to fear fire, but instead of fearing…you should work with flame magic and expand your practice!

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About Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey M.A. , hails from many magickal traditions, including Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and Native American spirituality. Her traditional education focused on Plant Science, Anthropology, and Film at the University of R.I, New York University and the University of London, and her magickal training includes numerous initiations in Santeria also known as Lucumi, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo. Lilith Dorsey is a Voodoo Priestess and in that capacity has been doing successful magick since 1991 for patrons, is editor/publisher of Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly , filmmaker of the experimental documentary Bodies of Water :Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation, author of Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism and The African-American Ritual Cookbook, and choreographer for jazz legend Dr. John's "Night Tripper" Voodoo Show. She believes good ritual should be fun and innovative, and to that end she led the first ever Voodoo Zombie Silent Rave Ritual in July 2013, complete with confused Thriller flash mob.