Sacred Fire: the manifestation of Spirit

sacred fire“The Sacred Fire used to heat the rocks represents the eternal fire that burns at the center of the universe.” Dr. A.C. Ross, Lakota

I don’t believe I have ever been to a Native American ceremony that did not incorporate Sacred Fire.

Fire is a gift from the Creator. It is spirit made manifest.

It is untouchable yet touches us with it’s warmth and light.

When we learn how to communicate with it, our lives are enriched.

Just as the sun provides warmth and light, and allows growing things to flourish, fire warms our homes and cooks our food, and lights our way in the dark.

Even without looking for deep, spiritual meaning, fire is certainly mesmerizing. What is more relaxing than sitting and watching a fire?

Does fire have a consciousness?

I think the answer is, “yes.”

In 2002, a friend put up a community purification lodge on his property in Malibu, California. It was built in the traditional way, with prayer and respect and offerings of tobacco.

The following January, a devastating fire moved through the Malibu mountains. That fire moved up the hillside toward my friend’s house very rapidly, and it appeared the house would be consumed along with so many others on the hillside.

Then an amazing thing happened. The fire split in two, and went around the lodge, horse arena and house, before coming back together on the far side.

A fluke of nature?

An erratic wind?

Or were the spirits of the land and the fire protecting that lodge and home because this little house of prayer had been built in a respectful manner and held many ceremonies?

Elders speak about Sacred Fire

In The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux (The Civilization of the American Indian Series), fn. 30, the following is shared about the sacredness of fire:

“For the Sioux, the fire at the center [of the tipi] represent Wakan-Tanka [Creator] within the world. To emphasize the sacredness of this central fire, it should be recalled that, when the Sioux were still nomadic, a man was appointed to be the keeper of the fire, and he would usually have his tipi at the center of the camping circle. When camp was moved, this keeper would carry the fire in a small log, and when camp was set up again, each lodge would start its fire from this central source.”

 This is what Bear Heart says about Sacred Fire in The Wind Is My Mother:

“Then there is the spirit of the fire. In our Indian way, we say the fire is the sun here with us. The sun shines on the trees for days, weeks, months and years and the wood absorbs that sunlight. Then the tree is taken down and when we put a flame to it that sun is now here with us in the form of fire.

“We also say fire came to us a long time ago so it’s our Grandfather. When that wood burns up it turns gray, like an old man, a Grandfather, and we give it the same respect we give our elders. To be a fireman in our ceremonies is a position of great honor. Non-Indians have a fireman who puts the fire out. Ours starts the fire.

“When a fireman handles the fire he handles it very gently because he’s handling an old person. He doesn’t shove the wood around because dishonoring the fire has its penalties — it can warm us, give us energy and cook for us, but it can also burn us, our loved ones or our homes. So we always respect that fire. We’re very gentle with it, like an old person.

“And then, when our firemen put the flames out, they do it very gently. They don’t just take water and douse it all at once. They do it very gently, because they’re not putting the fire out, they’re putting Grandfather to sleep. They’re thanking Grandfather for helping us and saying, “Now, you’ve earned your rest. We thank you for helping us. There may be a time when we’re going to have to wake you up again and ask you to help us. But right now, we want you to sleep.”

The fire that burns in our fireplaces is the eternal fire, it is the sun here with us, lighting our way. Among the different Indian tribes, we respect the fire that way.”

 Spiritual communication through Sacred Fire

Druids and shamen use sacred fires for divination. Druids would read the shape of the smoke.

Bear Heart and other Native American’s I know would read the coals for information and messages. And they would send their prayers out on the smoke, to be carried up to the Creator.

The ancient Celts would keep the hearth fire lit year round. It was only allowed to die on the Beltane festival on the First of May, when it was ritually rekindled.

The hearth fire was the center of Native American and Celtic family life. It provided warmth and light and food to be cooked. Evening storytelling would take place around the warmth of the fire, as its light played with shadows and created a mystical environment.

 Using Sacred Fire for Burning Bowl ceremonies

The burning bowl ceremony is a very powerful way to release those mental and emotional issues you no longer want to hold on to, and to pray for new things to come into our lives.

  1. Designate a special bowl for this purpose.
  2. Light a candle.
  3. Cut tissue paper into small 3” x 3” squares.
  4.  Write on the paper square what it is you want to let go of.
  5. Fold it twice; light one corner and drop it into the bowl, where it will burn safely.

The power of intention is what helps this release take place for you.

I also use the burning bowl for the purpose of calling in new things: just write on the paper what you want, and follow the same steps.

 How to care for Sacred Fire

Lakota elder Wallace Black Elk taught me that, when tending a fire, it’s important to occasionally offer it cedar as an honoring.

Bear Heart taught me that 3-4 times each winter I should offer raw meat to the fire in my home; that by making these offerings the fire would be satisfied and not take anything else. So I offer a nice cut of steak several times each winter.

Keep your fire neat and your hearth clean. It represents how you take care of your life and loved ones.

If it is a fire you will use for ceremony or prayer, don’t throw trash in it.

During the winter months, I have the fire going 24/7 and it adds a lovely warmth to my home. I rekindle the fire every morning, offering it cedar and singing a fire honoring song, then I sit in prayer and meditation. I can’t imagine a lovelier way to start the day.

So the next time you sit by, or start, a fire, I hope you can see it in a new light. As a gift that can take away our sorrows, and take our prayers and intentions for a new life and send them out into the universe to become manifest.

And there is no greater gift than that.

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Molly Larkin is the co-author of the international best-seller “The Wind Is My Mother; The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman.” She is passionate about helping people live life to their fullest potential through her classes and blog at

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  1. Joan

    Very interesting! I cringe when I think of all the campfires we doused in the woods when canoe camping in former years!! But we certainly appreciated the warmth and hypnotism of the beautiful flames the night before.

    • Molly Larkin

      Don’t cringe! 🙂 The fact that you appreciated the fire’s warmth and beauty made up for it, I’m sure!

  2. Lin

    Fire changed our lives and in the end was for the good. It should be respected. Thanks for this post.

    • Molly Larkin

      You’re welcome. And I commend you for saying your Michigan home burning to the ground “in the end was for the good.” Finding the silver lining is one of the keys to a good life!

  3. elizabeth

    Thank you, Molly

    • Molly Larkin

      You’re most welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting

  4. Glenn

    I offer deer jerky, corn meal, water, and cedar to the fire every week. I also on windy nights especially put it out with a hose – not very gently, I’m afraid, but necessary. I do let it burn down as much as possible.

    I know you were referring to that Malibu geodesic dome house that was saved. Brother Duncan was there and actually was trapped inside that fire ring that went around. The same thing happened at the Wright Ranch in the last Malibu fire – It burned right up to their property line and stopped. Up north in Yuba Gap where we built a lodge at a cross country ski area, a horrific fire burned everything: the ski lodge, the houses, ski shelters, all; trees and shrubs – everything except the sweat lodge.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you for sharing that. More evidence that Sacred Fire does, indeed, have a consciousness!

  5. Doug Alderson

    Very well spoken as usual, Molly. Having just returned from a ceremony that involved sacred fire, this was perfect. Thank you!

    • Molly Larkin

      You’re most welcome. Thank you for commenting.

  6. Carolina

    This is very interesting.

  7. Dianna mcgaffey

    I never knew about making offerings to the fire. I go into a trans
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom

    • Molly Larkin

      You are most welcome!

  8. Cat Cat

    I have on two occasions, been at a campfire, have taken random pictures, and captured animals shapes. One is a dragon reaching out of the fire (created by the flames) which was located in front of my son. Another… was a campfire that had been lit the evening my cousin passed away (while sitting with his mother), and there is CLEARLY a griffin in the smoke embedded with the flames.

    • Molly Larkin

      Most interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  9. BearCatt

    I would be curious to know and understand a little more about a fire’s role to those who sleep? I was told once that it acted as the anchor for the sleeping mind to return to the physical world.

    That may just be a poetic way of saying “keep the fire going, or else we’ll freeze”.

    Thank you ^^

    • Molly Larkin

      Very good question, to which I don’t have much of an answer. I like what you wrote. I would just add that it keeps us warm, brings us light, keeps away the spirits who avoid the light.

  10. H

    I have been smelling fire consistently for the past three weeks or so and it is getting more intense.

    It’s at work, at home… and it’s not my clothes or my hair…

    I’ve had a spiritual awakening over the past few years and I am wondering if this is part of it??

    Any idea? Please let me know.

    • Molly Larkin

      It certainly could be part of a spiritual awakening. Why don’t you ask your spirit guides to give you insight in a dream?

  11. Mark "Two Blades"

    Thank you so much for the info here. I have been studying the fire over five years now for my tribe. It is VERY important that we keep the fire for the tribes because it keeps us connected to Mother Earth and Grandfather Sky. I think that without them we would be lost at best. Molly, there is a peace in your comments that speaks of you. Thank you again. I am adding your page to my favorites.

    • Molly Larkin

      Thank you so much, Two Blades! I’m very happy my post resonated with you. Yes, the fire is at the center of everything!

  12. Greg Chester

    Molly was wondering if you have a fire lighting song?

    • Molly Larkin

      I do, but I don’t know how I could share it with you. Try a search on YouTube for fire lighting songs. Good luck

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