When I was young in Scotland, gypsies would do fire-eating and breathing shows for the shocked villagers and we’d burn enormous effigies – (a ‘guy’ we called it; a ‘Burning Man’ you call it) on the moor park on Guy Fawkes Night with everyone gathered around. It was magic for all, for for me there was a vitality in that magic – an urgency.
For some, it was tradition, diversion. For me it was the whole point of everything. A Calling.
I’d lean and stare into the coal fire which was central in our house, lean in so close that my sweater would melt and my mother would have to pull me back, smoking, and scold me for ‘losing myself in the fire’ again. I examined every glowing canyon in that coal fire burning in the hearth nightly, every erupting flame, every moment of combustion. It would connect me to God and the Universe.
I loved fire but I had no desire to destroy with it, only to build. No wonder I ended up doing what I do!
Back in the village, some people told me I’d go to hell, so my instinct was to get to know flames – my future cellmates – as friends. (Problem solved!) I had a dream of a man on fire – me – and that no-one could put out his flames except himself, and when he did, he was made new. And when I went to college, the Scottish witch-trials is what I studied.
So you see I know what I mean when I talk about a Calling. Somehow – I don’t speculate how – I had a vocation to pull inspiration out of fire itself. To seek its’ warmth and value instead of it’s pain and destruction. It’s ability to melt course metal, so that it may be reshaped into a world of our choosing. It’s ability to send a beacon of celebration in the night so that hope may be restored. It’s ability to transfix those who gathered around it, their faces alive with magic in the dark.
When I first performed with fire I was the only one who did it, and I was a young and drunken fool. I was a vagabond traveller with no responsibilities, living hard and doing only what I wanted to do! Though I treated it with great ceremonial importance, I still wasn’t mature enough to handle fire and I sometimes got burned learning, then burned performing, in those first 7 years. In those days, there were no groups, forums or enclaves No-one played with fire except me and a few lone-wolves in their own worlds. You had to learn the hard way and learn I did.
When I did get burned – once, extremely badly – I’d feel like there was no greater loser.
“How could you have done this to yourself!?” I would lament internally, hiding from the world in a daze of pain and shock.
“Did you think you could play with fire but be the only one who wouldn’t get burnt?!”
And I’d think that I should never go near it again.
At those moments, clarity comes to you by default. And strangely enough, in my moments of greatest clarity I’d know that giving up fire was not the answer. Going back to it, deeper, better, safer, was the answer. In that way, fire taught me to become responsible in my life as controlling my ability to handle fire became a metaphor for learning how to control the impetuous and dangerous madness that was my passionate youth.
I always believed in the fire’s magic, and the ability of that magic to heal and transform masses of people through shows and ceremonies and rituals. So I built that up, learning, trying new ideas, using more and more people in my ‘fire landscapes’ and bringing out the showman and the shaman in me.
I got good through a long time then started making money off it. Now I could get an an apartment! I exercised those muscles, and came to live in the mainstream world naturally, moving through my imagination easier through the years. My calling was always the same since the age of 7 when I first saw the gypsies breathing fire. It never diminished or changed in it’s intensity. Only the circumstances changed.
So what was and what is that Calling?
Cos I know I’m lucky to have it and recognize it so clearly. Some people don’t know theirs’ even though it seems obvious what it is to others from the outside. It seems to be what people call a destiny, an future identity of what could be. You have to stop standing in it’s way for your calling is a pre-ordained possibility for you and the Universe to coincide. It’s not even that spiritual. If someone has a clear line between what they can do and the thing they want, everyday life will bring that calling out.
And I am lucky to have it branded upon me – my Calling is fire.
What could be with me is a huge Broadway or Vegas fireshow. It is possible.
Yes – I feel a clear line between me and the goal.
And I feel indebted enough for, at least, this gift, to be able to use the fire to have others identify and make a goal of their version of The Calling.