Not just a guy with a fork

Not just a guy with a fork…

Many times when I’m arranging lodges at retreats and festivals, I get asked why I need to bring a fire keeper. What I often hear is that they have someone who can make a fire and carry stones on a fork. Well I’d like to say something in praise of fire keepers.

The work we do to prepare a lodge takes a while and it’s demanding. Stones, wood and water have to be carried, the fire has to be built, the lodge cleaned and made ready for the next ceremony. Usually we have to clean the space around the lodge, take care of things left behind from the previous ceremony and so on. Then the fire has to burn for a while at the right temperature to get the stones good and hot, people turn up before the ceremony and need to be met and supported. All of this happens before we even get into the lodge…

The ceremony itself is demanding, physically and emotionally. I’m inside the lodge so my fire keepers are my back up. They check in with those who leave the lodge early, support them and keep the space safe. They let me know if I need to come out and give support, but otherwise they are taking care. And keeping the stones hot. And supporting me with whatever I need.

Finally we’re out of the lodge. Ceremony is over. We make sure everyone is ok to go back to daily life. We take care of the fire and the place, close it down so that we can leave. We rest for a while, and then we start again. Every lodge we hold is the result of about 8 hours of work. Not including building the lodge and taking it down.

These days I only work with my own fire keepers at festivals and retreats, men and women that have trained with me for at least a year. They’ve invested a year or more in learning the ceremony, the practical work and the spiritual discipline of keeping the fire. Many of them will go on to lead their own lodges. So if you’ve been in a lodge, and see one of these awesome people coming back after the lodge is finished, send them some gratitude. They are really so much more then just “a guy with a fork”.