Imagine the time before the discovery of fire. Then imagine one day witnessing a strange phenomenon of a bolt of light flashing through the sky, and a tree exploding into bright dancing colours. Scared and curious at the same time our ancestors may over time have approached that tree, and discovered this strange new sensation of extreme heat. Watching the fire engulf the tree, sparks darting off into the sky, flames dancing. Maybe they were mesmerised, what is this strange being. It made them warm, maybe they took a burning branch back to their shelter.
Those events and our ancestors learning to control and use fire changed the course of human evolution.
You could say we are born from fire.
It is thought that it took a very very long time, for our ancestors to learn to make fire, they would have kept the fires burning.. Imagine the fire going out, with no means to light it – what would you do? Go looking for other peoples and beg\borrow\steal their fire. There are many old stories from indigenous cultures of how people\animals would steal fires from others, usually through trickery!
Over time, our ancestors eventually learnt how to coax and welcome fire, maybe through accidentally dropping rocks and seeing sparks, maybe through witnessing natural phenomenon such as trees being violently and vigorously rubbed against each other in high winds and smoke emitting from the friction.
Old stories tell of how fire was taken in by the trees and the only way to coax the fire out was through friction.
Over a long long time, they learnt how to coax the fire out. Can you imagine how that must have felt, and those who could make fire must have been revered, maybe viewed with some suspicion and superstition.
That also then shaped the ongoing evolution of humankind.
You can understand why fire was worshipped.
Today, humankind takes fire for granted, along with everything else! Without fire we would not be where we are today (whether that is a good or bad thing!) I do think humankind as a whole thinks it’s above nature, rather than being a part of nature (anyway that's a whole different subject!)
The main reason I started teaching myself friction fire, wasn’t for bushcraft or survival but to be able to light fires in a sacred and honouring way. To honour the fire, which you could say humankind has stolen for it’s own selfish needs. And you could say that each time I coax the ember, I’m stealing it for my own needs too!
My focus has been quite practical to date (including my videos\posts), but over the last year I’ve become more absorbed in the old stories and sacredness of fire. The welcoming of fire through friction has now become more of a practice for me (like yoga or meditation.) And that is where I wish to try and re-focus myself, rather than just focussing on the skills in a practical way, teaching in a more holistic way drawing on the old stories and indigenous cultures, respecting and honouring fire and the natural environment, and with awareness, and if I do eventually decide to run my own workshop it would be more of a ritual as the welcoming of fire through friction can be seen as a ritual in itself, without even trying or being aware of it!
Here is a short video demonstrating how to successfully use weak\thin cordage with the Bow Drill.
Here is a short film of me foraging for materials, and making a bow drill set from scratch, which I then attempt to tempt an ember from the wood, and welcome in the fire. As can be seen, sometimes it takes a few attempts....
English Oak was seen to be sacred by both the ancient Celts and Slavs and used to light fires ritually within ceremonies (e.g. Beltaine, Samhain) at at times of distress. Even though Oak is a hard wood, it is possible to tempt an Ember using Oak with the Bow Drill. You need to ensure that the Oak is very dry and it may take some time to get used to using it, and it doesn't always work. You do need to apply as much downward pressure as possible, as Oak polishes easily. Here is a short film clip demonstrating Oak on Oak.
After a few months break, I decided to have a break from the hand drill, and started to pick it up again earlier this year. As last year, I find it requires regular practice and it's taken a few weeks to build up the strength again. Yesterday, I decided to focus more on my hands and changed their position slightly rather than being parallel I angled the leading (right) hand slightly downwards and the other hand slightly upwards, I found I could apply more downward pressure without tiring my hands as quickly, and managed to tempt 4 embers from the hearth throughout the day. However, today I've not yet managed to tempt an ember, which reminds me not to get cocky or think I've cracked it! So the practice continues, but the change in hand position did seem to make a notable difference. I also used Teasel on Clematis which worked well together.