AirSMLFires Rising Orientation
An Alchemical Alignment

Finding Our Way ‘Round the Fire

"The Tao that is written is not the Tao"

This familiar quote reminds us that words can only reflect the actuality of the fire circle. We hope you will do your best to read this Orientation "between the lines" and meditate on the possibilities implied within.

The fire circle can be thought of as a microcosm of the daily world we live in. We define our Circle as a unique expression of that reality by ringing the outer perimeter with prayer flags, to remind us that the space within is Sacred, and co-created by all of our intentions. Please enter through the Smudge Gate, a place to be cleansed and purified. Breathe, center, and be aware that you are entering an extraordinary realm each time you step through. Linger a moment and prepare yourself to engage artfully with others, evoke healing energy, pray, do personal magic, or simply celebrate the multitude of blessings in life.

Many cultures have healing practices or rites of passage organized around ordeals. Whether they involve pain, non-stop dancing, sensory deprivation or other mechanisms, all ordeals share a common thread of challenging the celebrants to maintain focus and participate fully for the purpose of personal and community transformation. Together we journey into uncharted territory, where mundane life can be understood from fresh perspectives.

The Fires Rising Gathering is designed to create a safe environment, free from distraction and intoxicants, within which we commit ourselves to a midnight-to-dawn ordeal of creativity and artful interaction. Our practice is to mindfully engage with each other as a way to discover more about ourselves, our relationships, and our own highest vision.

There are four portals commonly recognized by those familiar with our sacred fires: Voice, Music, Movement and Service. Each is a doorway through which we can access the deep magical potential of the Circle. This document hints at ways to open these portals for your own fulfillment! Bring a willingness to risk and become SOURCE for these creative modalities. You will soon depart the domain of spectator, animated by the synergistic potency of contributing your inventive essence to the organically unfolding rite.


"Find where your breath begins. Sing from there."

One easy way to energize the Circle is by singing. Simple chants will emerge throughout the night, thematically aligned with the current stage of the alchemical working - please join in! Part of our adventure is devoting the attention needed to learn the words "on the fly". If it takes a while to pick up all the lyrics, so be it - we have ALL NIGHT!

We generally chant in English, allowing us to connect emotionally with the meaning of the songs. It is understood that anyone can start a chant, and that we'll all dive in and make it soar! You might cluster up with a couple of friends, making it easy for them to learn the song, and then bring it out together to share with the group.

Some of us were conditioned to think that our singing voices aren't "good enough." Release that limiting belief! Sing with gusto, and without fear. Spiritedness is more important than perfect pitch. Our hearts and voices bring energy that empowers everyone in the Circle.

Some of our chants have multiple parts. If a second song layer begins, new people are encouraged to continue on the original chant line, riding the magical wave as the two melodies interweave. New chants are often invented around the Fire. Feel free to contribute to the lyrics as ideas and themes blossom from the group mind.

Our Circle also features periods where there will be acapella chanting. During these periods, drummers will be asked to refrain from adding rhythmic accompaniment and encouraged join with the group in song.

The Portal of the Voice has many other expressions: humming, howling, whistling, moaning or laughing with delight! You are invited to share a poem, recite a quote, invoke spirit or ancestors, or spontaneously speak from your heart. Ritual theatre celebrating deities, seasonal cycles or sacred days, transition rites and more are all welcome. Spoken word segments tend to be brief, allowing us to return to shared group expressions such as chanting, music making or movement.
Further meditations on Vocal Magic are available in the article Songs In The Fire Circle.



"Add your Fire to the Prime Rhythm. Play from there."

Our Circle is not a "drum circle." It's a time and place of personal discovery through artistic interaction and self-expression. The musician's role is to be in balanced, harmonious relationship with all who are accessing the four Portals of Music, Movement, Voice and Service. Sound is the one pervasive element throughout the night that directly affects everyone. Our instrumental music is predominantly percussion based. Within this domain, we embrace and integrate a diverse range of expressions: fast and slow, soft and loud, different "feels" or styles, and the DEEP STEADY GROOVE that is foundational to trance.

The approach to Music Making at Fires Rising is unique in that the drummers utilize a method designed specifically to magnify the group alchemical process. The essential idea is that there will be structured periods when drummers will take turns wordlessly creating and guiding a mono-rhythm that all other players will nurture into a unique, deep grooving, soul swirling, hip turning, polyrhythm.

Please Note: It is highly recommended that you attend both the Friday and Saturday sessions of The Practice. These sessions are designed to explore and refine group understanding and approaches to this alchemical method.
     Detailed information on the "Practice of Alchemical Rhythmatism."

In general terms, it is helpful to remember that as a musician you are in Service to the entire Circle. You will note that the seats are set in an arc to allow all players to easily see and hear each other. Drummers are expected to keep their eyes open, heads up, and be fully present and engaged. Rather than trancing-out, in the Alchemical Fire Circle, drummers strive to trance-in to deep relationship, pin-point focus, and clear open awareness.

Please allow everyone ample time to learn the chants before adding rhythm. When you start to play, enter quietly, carefully accompanying the singers. We avoid abrupt starts and stops in order to nurture trance, allowing the music to gently fade away into silence. Let complete stillness hold us for a while in rich anticipation of the next offering to emerge (Silence is fertile soil from which new chant seeds sprout!). One drum played thoughtlessly can short-circuit the birth of a delicate new song.

In terms of etiquette, please ask before using anyone else's instruments. There are shakers you are welcome to play on the Rattle Altar. Be sure to remove rings or bracelets before drumming to prevent blistered hands or damage to the drum-head. Remember to return any instrument you use. To help avoid clutter in the musician's area, leave your gear bag at your nest

In addition to djembes and dununs, we also value frame drums, doumbeks, congas and other Sacred Sounds! We cherish immersion in the softer musical magic of didgeridoos, crystal singing bowls, gongs and chimes, temple bells, berimbau, mouth harps, conch shells, shruti boxes and rainsticks. Occasionally a melodic instrument may contribute spice to the sonic swirl, accenting a chant, or offering a brief interlude before the return of chanting or dancing.
Please see "A Letter From The Conspirators" for more information.

Finally, remember that music making is just one of many magical portals in our spontaneous ceremony. Be sure to also go chant, move, and be in service to others in the Circle.


"Find where your water flows. Dance from there."

    Feel free to express yourself through dance, moving around the fire as you relax into trance. You don't have to be a professional dancer to move your body in the circle. Listen for the flow within, and follow where it leads. Your dance might be a simple, steady walk, or become animal-like, or the movements of a god or goddess. You may feel the rhythm moving through you, with your various body parts expressing different parts of the rhythm. Improvise partner or group choreography, add symbolic movements to more fully express the words of a song. Mirror the steps or gestures of others dancing, or simply walk around the Circle. As our dear circle sister Katlyn Breene wrote:

    Dance each step with only now
    with the spirits of place
    with divine intent
    with a prayer of perfect presence

    Dance where the roots of ancient trees meet underground
    like the hands of the ancestors speaking in signs

    Each movement filled with grace, not of form
    but of surrender...

    Dance your prayer into the present.
    Spiraling between heaven and earth

    Dance for those who have no bodies
    Not too fast, not too slow
    Be their heartbeat,
    Then bid them on their way with a breath and prayer,
    In Peace.

    Dance for the Gods
    Every cell a shrine for the divine
    Be a vessel overflowing with the water of life

    Let each movement be born in a place of prayer.
    Let each gesture be filled with thanksgiving.
    Let each step come from that place
    Where you and spirit become one,
    Where You are One,
    With every One.


"Find the center of gratitude within. Serve from there."

Service is the easiest portal for everyone to access. During our journey, there are many opportunities to tend to each other's needs! Make a new friend, or deepen an existing connection by nurturing someone deep in the night.

Deliver food or water from the Food Altar to someone making music or dancing (be sure to make eye contact first and check that the time is right!). Take care to move in the same direction as those circling, and to keep water off drum skins. Devote a few moments to go and restock the food altar, light candles which have blown out, or re-chalk the Earth track. Check in with the Fire Tender and help feed the flames of our sacred Fire. Settle in for a turn at the Smudge Gate, purifying people with sage smoke and your blessing as they enter the Circle.

The Wellness Nest nearby is a perfect place to share healing energy. You might give a foot massage to a dancer, or a hand or shoulder rub to a drummer. Help care for the entire crucible by picking up litter, sticks or stones underfoot, or return unattended instruments left in the musician's arc to the covered area nearby. When you seek ways to serve others, remarkable opportunities will arise!

The Fire Circle

Many people understand the architecture of our fire circle through the metaphor of the planets and their orbits. The Fire in the center represents the Sun, source of energy, heat, light, and transformation.

The inner orbit around the Fire is the Mercury track, a fleet-footed ring of motion for active, energized dancers. Moving outward from the center is the "medium speed" path of Venus, an orbit attuned to the sensuality of movement and song, rhythm in motion. Next is the Earth track, often marked by cornmeal or flour, a slow moving orbit for those in deep trance, doing rattle work, or personal grounding.

The Mars track is a standing place for witnessing, sonic guardianship or energetic support amidst the inner ring of torches. The flow of people and energy moves continuously around the Fire. If you wish to be still, pausing to chant or play a rattle here helps to physically define the container, and contributes much to the safety and intensity of the vortex we create together.

The Jupiter track between the inner and outer torch rings is an zone for interactions that would be distracting within the ever-moving orbits of the trance circle. Here people feed each other, share water, breathe together, hug or rub shoulders. This is a place for conscious encounters of a stationary nature.

The Ring of Saturn is the outer perimeter of the Circle, including the prayer flags, torches, wood pile, and altars or shrines. The Comet track is an outer pathway for walking meditation, magical exchanges, and container work.

The Gratitude Zone is a heart shaped area directly in front of the musicians for those who wish to interact directly with the drummers. Visit occasionally, and then move onwards to create space for the next dancer.

Seven Simple Agreements
the Fires Rising community shares about our work and play within the Circle:

* Enter with a willingness to dive into and "juice up" whatever is happening.

* We access fresh possibilities by inventing ways to stay engaged with each other, self and spirit.

* Please take casual conversation outside and away from the Circle.

* The Fire is Sacred and only receives material for transformation (No trash please, and no jumping the Fire).

* Sacraments, smokeable or drinkable, stay outside the Circle.

* Please keep all audio or video recording devices away from the Circle. No flashing lights of any kind, please.

* The seats in the musician's area are reserved for people playing instruments.


Be sure to take care of yourself. The most common reason people unexpectedly leave the Circle is dehydration! Drink plenty of water, be sure to eat occasionally, and plan useful times for sleeping! Your alarm clock, or a friend, can ensure that you awaken at the time you desire. Quiet hours are dawn to 1pm, and during The Silence from 8:30 pm to 10:30pm

No one is required to stay awake all night, although we do encourage you to be a part of our dedicated dance to dawn! Some people join us until 3 or 4 am and then sleep; others sleep first and then join the Circle in the pre-sunrise hours.

Your Nest is a comfortable space you might prepare outside the Fire Circle, ideally with a good view of the Fire. Most nests include a low beach chair and a blanket, as well as personal items like a journal, oils and incense, divination tools, etc. Your nest is a nurturing place to go and relax, reflect, stretch muscles or visit quietly with a friend.

Real magic is no accident. Investing time in reading the various articles and resources on our Web site will serve to deepen your understanding of our intentions and central concepts. You will be fully empowered to become a co-creator of our collective magic.

When, over the course of the evening, our minds begin to drift and the brilliance begins to fade, a deep kind of work begins. In order to stay present and engaged, it is helpful to remember that we are each other's inspiration. To find and renew this inspiration, we need only to discover and rediscover the mysteries within our relationships. We create and explore relationship through our artful interactions in the Circle.