Every month (or almost) for the past 15 or so years, I have had the privilege of doing a fire vigil.
As the day of the vigil approaches, I can feel the anticipation. It rarely feels like “oh good, I get to fast tomorrow.” More often, I have a little anxiety that it will be hard or that I will get a headache. The day of the vigil, it seems that every other person in the street is drinking a coffee or eating a sandwich. I long for my morning tea. I spend the day working to slow down and go inside. Sometimes I see clients. Sometimes, if the season’s right, I work in the garden. I try to nap to get myself ready for the long night ahead. Hunger is not so much an issue as a reminder. When my stomach growls I think, “this is my sacrifice to you my gods.” It’s little to give in asking for their wisdom and guidance.
This morning, I was reflecting on what this ritual has given me. It’s hard to put my finger on specifics, as the fire vigil has been only one piece of my practice as a shaman. I have grown in so many ways I can hardly remember who I was 15 years ago. But the day after the vigil life is always more vibrant. I have unpredictable energy. The meals (which we plan as we sit at the fire) are exquisite. So is the first glass of water. The gratitude for my cozy bed is immeasurable. The day after the vigil, my gratitude for everything in my life is expanded. I feel infused with light and peace. And I wonder how I could ever be anxious about a fire vigil again. But then, like a human, I start to forget. And then I get grateful for the opportunity to remember again next month.
Karen Aberle is a shaman in the Huichol tradition. Each month, she performs a fire vigil, a ritual of connection to the spirit of the fire that includes a day of fasting and a night of keeping a consecrated fire until sunrise.