And one could say that it could be akin to a spiritual practice, like meditation, and to continue using the hand drill (unlike the bow drill which once you've grasped it needs little practice) you need to keep "practising" to keep your hands and muscles conditioned and so one could say that it does become a "practice." I don't get the same profound experience with the bow drill most likely due to the added technology but with the hand drill it is just you and two pieces of wood, so I find it very primordial and I can not be helped but to be moved by it, and I see it as a gesture, an offering to that something which is bigger than us all.
I also acknowledge that this is very personal to me, and I don't want to get preachy by it or enforce my way onto others, but I do somehow want to impart some of this awareness through my teaching (if I do hold any"workshops") by introducing story and a little light ritual where appropriate rather than it just being a practical workshop. I also think that learning friction fire should be your own journey and once a little knowledge has been imparted on how to make and use friction fire kits then it is for the individual to take it forward in their own way as they so wish. And for those who continue to light fires without awareness, so be it, but for me I will continue in my own way, and if some more people decide to do it with a little more awareness then that is all good too.
In a couple of days we'll be going off-grid to Spirit Horse, an archiacially inspired encampment in a beautiful Welsh valley in mid-wales. Spirit Horse is what first inspired me to learn an old way of lighting fires, to be authentic and in the moment, and just be yourself.
There will be plenty of opportunity to light fires and teach others who are interested and willing, and just be with like minded souls.
I will also try to create bow drill sets from materials I find on site, but it's not known for dry wood, the dead stuff is mostly damp and rotting (!) being in mid Wales!, so that'll be one challenge. But I'll also have some dry materials with me - for me it's also about preparation!
I personally think that is one of the main messages to give when learning friction fire or anything for that matter. If you really want to master it, then you need to keep practicing, experimenting, further your knowledge and learn from others. It is harder nowadays to learn "old" skills as the skills aren't passed on down from generation to generation anymore, so it's starting from scratch but learn from others, review what you are doing and keep trying.
Today I managed 2 embers with the hand drill but I know that the next ember may not be as easy. I put a post on the Primitive Fire UK Facebook page, and acted on some tips. I had success today, but I know I need to remember what I did right (and wrong) and learn from advice given by others.
I need to source some more spindles, a little bit thinner and practice on the technique to try and use more of my hands, and as one person said "relax into it!"
Keep going, and you'll get there. As can be seen here, I say a little thank you at the end and remember my ancestors - for me it's more than just a means to lighting fires. Everyone learns friction fire for different reasons, and that's all good!
This evening, I continued with my hand drill practice and for the life of me I couldn't get an ember. I tried everything, and I haven't been able to get an ember for over a week. The result was a blister and my drill being thrown across the garden.
It made me think and made me remember. Creating fire isn't easy. We have made it easy over thousands of years, and now generating heat is too easy! We take it for granted. We push a button or flick a switch and we have instant heat (central heating, cooker etc.)
Lets remember that it took our ancestors thousands of years to develop techniques to create a fire, and the knowledge was passed on from generation to generation. There was a time when creating fire was seen to be magical. Those who could start fires were revered. And also remember fire was here long before human kind....
Fire was worshipped. Most cultures worshipped fire gods and goddesses, and gave offerings. For example: The Navajo fire god is Black God. He is the inventor of the fire drill and was the first being to discover the means by which to generate fire. Brigit is the Celtic goddess of fire (and water.) Fire was also a key part of ceremony and ritual. During Beltaine (the May Celtic festival), all fires and candles are extinguished and a bonfire is lit, using friction fire as it is deemed a more sacred way, and all other fires are then lit from this sacred fire.
There are also many old folk tales, myths and legends about how people discovered fire.
In the early days, people carried the embers with them, as they did not know how to create fire. And when they did learn how to create fire, it was only done when necessary and offerings would be made. Fires were kept lit whenever possible.
So learning to create fire should not necessarily be easy. It should be challenging. It should not be taken for granted. The majority of us do not possess the skills or knowledge, it has to be re-learnt.
So the next time, I attempt to create an ember I shall try to remember this. It has become a task. 6 weeks even months of learning the hand drill is not long in the scheme of things. It is a mere blink of the eye!
Awareness is needed, and even praise. For it is a magical moment. Creating an ember from rubbing two pieces of wood together is alchemy!
So the next time, I attempt to create fire whichever way I do it, I shall attempt to do it with more awareness. In today's world we want everything now, this minute! It wasn't always like that!
For those chasing the next ember, take a moment, take a pause, have a thought for our ancestors. And maybe, give thanks to the sun, for that tiny spark of possibility!