Alternative Tinder Nests
If you can't find any suitable dry tinder (grass, bracken etc) then an alternative is a bit similar to feather sticks ( they don't really work with embers) .... just whittle a nice big pile of (dry) wood shavings from a suitable bit of dead wood such as hazel or ash (or any wood which burns well), oak works too, place your ember in the middle and blow! You don't even need ember extenders (e.g. willowherb etc) .... I've tried this way a few times now and it works well ....it's good to put the smaller shavings and dust in the middle underneath the ember, and pile a few ontop. This basically means you can create a tinder nest anytime (as long as you have wood!), even when it's wet.
"Holistic" fire welcoming!
One of the things I'm trying to do is move away from just the practical ways of teaching fire lighting. I have run a few practical sessions on teaching bowdrill but I didn't really enjoy it which is one of reasons it has brought me to where I am today - exploring the sacredness of fire and my connection with fire. When it comes to sacred fire or just having a deeper connection, I feel the approach needs to be slightly different. So instead of just teaching individuals a practical way to make fire, it will be about connecting with fire on a deeper level before working as a group(s) to welcome in fire whether that is in a short taster session or a full blown "workshop", weaving in stories, folklore,mysticism, ritual, history and traditions as appropriate.
A lot of us humans (and animals\plants etc too!) tend to be competitive and this shows in a lot of things we do, and as a species we wouldn't have survived if we weren't competitive! Maybe we want to be the best we can, or better than everyone else , or get some sort of acceptance or gratitude for what we do. In bushcraft this may be - making a bow drill set from scratch in under an hour, being able to create an ember from the smallest bow drill set, being able to create an ember with the bow drill as quick as possible etc. And yes I've been there and found myself doing those things, and I'm sure I will in the future too :) And yes those skills may be the difference between life and death in a survival situation, and some people like putting themselves in a survival situation just to prove they can do it but yes there are others who do it because that's their passion and they enjoy it.
Also, once you have learnt friction fire, it can be just as easy for it to become another mechanical way of making fire and taking it for granted just as much as using a lighter - and I have found myself there on several occasions. For me it's about not going through the motions, but trying to keep that connection and one way of doing that is to slow down and instead of going for the quickest time, going for the slowest! Take your time over the selection of materials, take your time in making the set, and be aware of everything you do.
And if you are welcoming fire as part of ritual, then it's not about speed or efficiency (aside- yes I have written an article about bow drill efficiency!) but about preparation and doing it with awareness and presence - and in fact you may want to fail and get it right on the 3rd time which is quite ritually symbolic! And also do you have to do it on your own?, Why not do it as a group , and as I've written before most rituals involve several people communally welcoming in the fire.
Also the woods you choose may not be the easiest or most efficient woods, but may be more to do with their symbolism etc - for example Oak was seen to be sacred by the Celts and Slavs.
So if you do just want to learn the practical way then that's all good and there are plenty of very good bushcraft schools but if you want to try something a little bit different, then keep an eye out for my future offerings :)
Forged From Fire
My connection with Fire
Over the last few years my connection with fire has deepened, and from that has evolved Sacred Hearth Friction fire. Here I will share a bit of that connection which will underlay the work of Sacred Hearth. We are created from fire, or as I like to say Forged from fire. The universe was created from the big bang.
Life on earth depends on the sun, a ball of fire. Without fire, we homosapiens would not have evolved into how we are today. Without fire there would be no Bronze Age, Iron Age, Industrial Revolution, the Digital Age etc. We are forged from fire. Fire creates life, but just as easily Fire taketh Life, and can destroy.
So Sacred Hearth will be based on these connections and beliefs, which will form foundation for my workshops, demonstrations and practice.
Warning - XXX rated!
WARNING - This site is XXX rated. There are explicit images of a sexual nature.... got your attention? :) Some cultures and traditions relate the fire drill with the sexual union of male and female, the drill being the male lingum and the hearth being the female yoni, and like in sex the friction of the lingum within the yoni can lead to procreation of new life - in the case of friction fire the embryonic dust pile forming into a ember which when fed with oxygen and food (wood) develops into fire. This is a view of Vedism in that Lord Agni was born from the churning of the male and female Arani (fire sticks), and this is still a ritual performed in India today (though not as widespread as it once was.) ..... you may never view the churning of wood the same way again!
Communal Welcoming of Fire
As is common throughout many indigenous cultures and ritual practice, the welcoming of fire invariably involves more than 1 person as can be seen in the below images. Cut to the photo of myself practicing the bow drill. It is quite common in modern bushcraft for it to be more of an individual pursuit (and a challenge) - there is nothing wrong with this, and in indigenous cultures they can and do, do it individually as it's essential for survival but commonly you see people working together. This is more the direction I shall be going in the way I shall teach\demonstrate\ ritually welcome in fire - in that it will be done with people working together more and I will also weave in awareness, respect for nature, stories and folklore into the teaching. Breathing into the sparks of possibilities..... watch this space 2018