Ceremonial Burn

Sometimes you just need to purge. And sometimes, when it’s really personal, the purging needs to be ceremonial and include fire. So of course a summertime beach bonfire with the girls is the answer to all that holds you down in life.

Armed with a fistful of letters, pictures, cards, and what nots from lovers past, I grabbed my best girlfriends and a pile of wood and headed out to the beach to cleanse my soul. You know the saying; clear out the old to make room for the new. We were clearing with fire! And wine, lots of wine - let's be honest.

We sat up a camp at a beach where bonfires were “mostly” legal, in an alcove protected from the wind. After popping open some bubbly, I set forth to make fire while the other ladies put out a nice food spread. With only one injury (do not pick up a smoldering log with your bare hand), we had a bona-fide ceremonial bonfire.

There were four of us gals, each coming to the purge with our own items to clear. I with my items from ex-lovers, Adrianne with her utility bills from a previous residence, Carri with gifts from her last love, and Rachel offering ceremonial support. We also brought a Sharpie and paper to write down items we wanted to bring into our lives to offer the fire. It was a very well rounded ceremony plan.

We started to attract attention from passers by on the beach as our piles became smaller and the fire larger.  An older, elegantly dressed couple approached us as we fed the fire.

“Who are you burning?” The lady asked, unabashed to be intruding on our ceremony.

“We are clearing out the old,” Carri replied, not yet willing to divulge our ceremonial plans.

“No,” the lady replied, “you guys are giving it to someone. A man. What did he do?”

Again Carri clarified, “It’s just old stuff we’re getting rid of, clearing space.”

“No. It’s a ‘fuck you!’” Said this extremely proper looking lady on the beach. “A ‘fuck you fucker!’ I always wanted to do that! Can I help?”

My jaw just dropped. Does every woman dream of seeing evidence of unrelinquished love being engulfed in flames. It’s such a brutal but satisfying image. No one gets hurt, but you get to see fire physically removing these items from your life. It’s very cathartic.

“You can write a note and add your own to the fire,” I offered.

“I am happily married. That’s my husband right there.”

“Hi,” waved the handsome, quiet white haired man at her side.

“I want to give it to your guy. Fuck you fucker!” exclaimed the lady, jumping excitedly about the fire and twitching her hand towards it as if practicing.

Carri, not one to decline someone joy, handed the lady one of her own cards. The lady jumped excitedly as she took the card. Then she read it… this stranger actually began reading Carri’s personal ceremonial burning item.

“I don’t think you are supposed to read it dear,” whispered the nice husband, obviously getting it.

“Hush,” She said, “It’s alright”

Carri nodded, “No it’s ok, it’s not a good one.”

The lady started bouncing again, preparing to get her burn on. “FUCK YOU FUCKER!!” And with a twitch of her wrist, the card darted into the fire and was slowly consumed.

“Thank you so much! I’ve always wanted to do that.” As the lady watched the card burned, a smiled spread from her mouth to her eyes.

The husband circled the lady’s waist with his arm and directed her back towards the beach as she beamed giddily at us. “Thank you,” he said, somewhat embarrassed. But the lady was exhilarated, obviously a result of the power of the F.Y.F. burning ceremony.

As the couple walked away, the four of us stared at each other. “Well that was something,” Rachel remarked. We refilled our glasses and resumed our burning activities.

As soon as we did, the fire grew and drew another older couple our way.

“Is this a burning ceremony?” asked another older lady, this one with long, flowing white hair streaked with purple wearing an ornate purple blouse and matching purple slacks.

“Yes,” Adrianne responded. “We are purging the old and making room for the new.”

“Ohhhh. I love it. I did that once. I stripped down and danced around the fire as I burned everything I had from an ex love.” She waved her hands above her head, illustrating how she danced around the fire, and I couldn’t help but picture her naked.    

“How did that work out for you,” I asked, immediately intrigued by this unique creature.

“Wonderfully! I met my husband, over there,” she said, pointing to a man who had remained a reasonable distance away from our woman fire festivity. “We’ve been married 30 years.”

I offered her paper and a sharpie, “Do you want to write something to burn? Either something to let go or something to invite in?”

“Ooooh! I’d love too!” She squealed and snatched up the offered goods. She spent some time scribbling down her thoughts, her tongue jutted out the side of her mouth as she gave all her focus to the activity. When she completed the note, she folded the paper neatly in two and walked over to the fire.

“Do you want to say something before you burn?” Carri asked.

“No thank you,” the stranger replied, obviously not trusting us with her innermost thoughts. She leaned over the fire and placed the neatly folded paper into a hot spot, then leaned back and watched it burn, intent on the flames.

“Thank you ladies for letting me share in your fire ceremony.” And with that, she turned and left us.

“Wow! How different were they?” Rachel exclaimed. Two extreme examples of women and ideas on fire ceremony brought to us by a purge bonfire.

We refilled our glasses and watched as the fire burned down, giggling over the images these two women brought to mind. The last of the burn glowed a bright orange, letting go of what no longer served us and ushering in what may. The sun was beginning to set and the tide was coming in - it was just about time to leave.