Firewalking is one of the oldest rituals on the planet. Hot beds of coal are prepared and people walk through them briskly in an attempt to transform fear and regain personal power. Participation in such rituals are probably therauptic and solidify a persons cultural identity , apart from re affirming mans inherent nature to prove to himself that he is a superior being.
Firewalking has been practised by many people of many races since thousands of years. Many considered it as a kind of tool for moving beyond the limitations imposed by fear. The earliest known refernce to it is in an Indian story , from about 1200B.C. In India this ritual is still practiced and is called agni yajna where the firewalk is preceded by elaborate rituals, chants, and sword brandishings and lighting of incense . This is supposedly to subdue the"demon of fire". The firewalkers believe that they have acquired the strength and supernatural power through fasting, pilgrimages and prayer.
The firewalk is a common place practice in Japan where it regularly occurs at several Shinto Budhhist temples . It is a religious experience, conducted by the head priests of the temple. On the sacred island of Miyajima on Mount Misen, in Japan takes place the annual Buddhist firewalking ritual in November every year. Held near the mountains summit it is officiated by temple priests of the Shingon sect of the island.
Firewalking has long been prevalent even in the south east Asian regions of Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan. In some of these regions , participants observe certain restrictions in lifestyle and diet beforehand, wear white during the rite and carry protective images. In Bali, the beautiful and mystical south sea island, it is not the men who dance on fire but young girls.
Accounts of firewalking have even been found among the Hawaiian Kahuna, who walked across lava flows. The Vikings are reported to have walked on red- hot steel chains. Instances have also been found among native Americans, the people of Fiji and a number of Christians saints are said to have firewalked.
It is interesting to note that the !Kung bushmen of the Kalahari have firewalked since their tribal beginnings. The !Kung use fire in their powerful healing ceremonies. They call it the n/um. Dancers go into the fire, walk in it, put their heads in it , pick up the coals and rub them over their hands and body and their belief is that when the n/um or energy in their body is as hot as the fire they will not be burned.
Although mostly practised by priests, shaman, and medicine men,
in the modern era firewalking caught the fancy of people during the late `80s and early 90`s. Sundoor International Firewalking School , a brain child of Peggy Dylan , a fire walker herself, organised a programme of firewalking as a way to inspire creativity and empower visions of higher horizons in their employees. At this unique event, corporations such as Microsoft, Coca-cola, American Express and Price -Waterhouse participated with great success. Peggy Dylan , who began her institute in the 80s says that, " The firewalk is allowing people in western cultures to experience a depth of healing, inspiration and life altering change not usually available to us
we have only just begun to explore this ancient ritual and am excited to see where this ancient path of fire will lead us in the future."
However, firewalking has been under the skeptic microscope of the scientific community for quite a while , though no definite answers are forthcoming. Scientists are still trying to find out how a man can walk through fire unscathed ; Most firewalking cults portray the act as something in the realm of " mind over matter", but the laws of physics cannot be neglected.
Several questions come to mind if one is to consider how this kind of a feat is possible- walking over a bed of red hot embers without sustaining injury. Some researchers are of the belief that the time span of each foot being on the coal is very short. The layer of ash or coal also supposedly effectively blocks the radiation from the foot. Researchers also believe that since heat is also transmitted by conduction, and because both charcoal and skin are bad conductors of heat, when the soles of the feet touch the embers the thermal conductivity is not enough to burn the skin. Additionally , the duration the feet remains in contact with the coal is very short. All this still does not explain why some people are able to stand for extended periods of time on the hot coal or why only some people are able to do this and some not at all.
In the end , it goes without saying that though in life most things obey human logic and follow the laws of cause and effect; in some cases we are completely stumped.