Honor everyone, everything, everywhere, all the time…
While living in Northern California, I learned of the Native American people’s ancient cultural burning practices. (See Forgotten Fires by Omer Stewart and Tending the Wild by M. Kat Anderson.) Regretfully, I never had the opportunity to directly engage with any of them with regard to fire-tending. But, upon returning to Australia in 2018, and following the writing of my book, one thing I wanted to do was directly learn about Aboriginal burning.
Recently, I had the very good fortune of being able to spontaneously attend an Aboriginal cultural burning event in the Girraween (Place of Flowers) region of south-east Queensland. Capably led by Robbie Williams and his family team, these events demonstrated to local farmers and landowners the benefits of ancient “clever burning”.
These daily fires, in granite country, for me personally, felt preparatory for my forthcoming Australian road trip. I was honored and humbled by the sandy earth, quietly burning fires, calmly moving wildlife, scudding clouds, and the cleansing white smoke. Spending quality time with some wonderful indigenous people, along with the other participants, also felt significant. Imminently, my journey begins.
The quality of these morning “cool fires” is mostly calm and contemplative. Ignition sites are carefully selected for burning downhill and into a breeze. The fire is never rushed. Given their time, these burns are cultural occasions of being together “on country”, where things are intimately learned about the world, others, and oneself. The deeply respected fire only feels friendly, and anciently wise. Being in and around the faintly scented smoke each day felt like a smudging ceremony – straightening and purifying. I felt the fire in my body connecting with the fire on the land in a healing way, settling, and energizing. Inside and out, it is the same fire.
The primary practical and sacred reason for cultural burning is to heal the land… and keep it healthy and safe. Traditional cultures worldwide engaged in various forms of cultural burning related directly to the environments they once lived in, or still do. For thousands of years, people have known this wisdom, and practiced fire-tending as a necessary part of life.
I hope to learn much more over time. As odd as it might sound to some, I have a feeling that humanity will be unlikely to ever properly develop its politics, religions, sciences, businesses, cultures, and environmental conservation responsibilities without fully recreating our sacred relationship with fire – locally, and worldwide.
“The fire must have its way.” – Adi Da