Burning rituals have been a part of society since civilizations first took shape. It seems that the act of allowing flames to consume things has healing properties. While the ceremonies of burning rituals do not all contain the same supply list or formal procedures, they all do have two things in common: fire and something to burn.
On a recent getaway with some of my gal pals, we lamented emotions and worries that were weighing heavily on us. As we sought respite in food, drinks, and re-runs of Friends, we were inspired (in part by Phoebe’s idea in “The One with the Candy Hearts”) to have our own burning ritual.
We would each write down the things that were weighing on us and then toss them in the fire. (Our rental cabin had the MOST amazing fireplace.) It took no time at all for each of us to jot down the issues we would like to see go up in flames. Before we decided to just willy-nilly toss our troubles into the fire, we thought it would be best to research burning rituals to see if there was anything that would increase the effectiveness of our sacrifice.
In our research we found lots to laugh about, but we also discovered some patterns in sources on cleansing or sacrifices meant to alleviate worry. Each source suggested that the person making the offering should ground themselves before placing their item on the fire. They were to stand or sit squarely, fully connected with the ground. Next, they were to take a deep inhale and release with a slow, cleansing exhale until calm took the place of anxiety. Third, they were to approach the offering with a willingness to let go. If not grounded, calm, and and willing, the ritual would be less likely to feel beneficial or a true release.
The entire process reminded me of when I was in 2nd grade making my First Holy Reconciliation. At the time I was a naïve, 7 year-old who believed I had to be the worst sinner there was with my confessions of being mean to my sister and not always listening to my parents. In preparation for our Reconciliation, we were invited to write our sins on paper and one-by-one we got to throw our slip of paper in the fire. The smoke rising from our sins was a symbol of how God lifts them from our souls when we ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of the best releases there are (especially when they can grant you eternal life in heaven). The act of burning our sins was enlightening for me, but the burning ceremony with my friends was much more than that. It was freeing.
As I approached that beautiful fireplace with my list of worries, I was a bit afraid that those concerns would fly back in my face and haunt me for trying to think I could let them go so easily. As I stood firmly before the fire, breathing deeply, and reaching willingly forward to place my problems on those logs, an instant wash of relief came over me as the flames lapped up my list.
As my friend Andrea offered up her worries, the fire raged briefly, as if to say, “You have to let these go. You are NOT getting them back.” We each fed the fire hoping to free ourselves from the words on those papers. There was a stillness in the room after the last list was gone. It felt magical. I felt 50 pounds lighter, and the looks on my friends’ faces told me they felt the same.
While the burning ritual was only a few moments of our weekend, I felt like it was a defining moment of our time together. I am grateful for friends who are willing to accept me for my flaws and support me as I try to make myself a better person. I hope that you, too, have a support system in place to help you make moves in your life that motivate.
If you are suffering from guilt, embarrassment, loss, insecurity, or any other sense of being less than you want to be, I encourage to burn for happiness. You don’t necessarily have to carry out a burning ceremony as we did, but find a way to ground yourself, allow calm to take over, and willingly let go of whatever it is that is holding you down. Many of the ties that bind us are all in our heads, and once we send them up in flames, we have no where to turn but to forgiveness and freedom. There is nothing happier than being forgiven and free.
By: Melanie A. Peters
P.S. I encourage you to research burning rituals. There is some really weird and cool stuff out there.