Shawn Berry, my friend and fellow rites of passage guide, committed at the first of this year to 'spin a coal' every day for the next 365 days.
At first, I didn't know what he meant by 'spinning a coal' but upon checking out his Facebook page, I figured out that 'spinning a coal' refers to making an ember with a bow drill — a skill I have been greatly enamored with ever since I first saw fire made using this method by one of the guides on my first vision fast. Human making fire is human making magic!
I once made smoke and a small ember with a bow drill I fashioned, but have not made one since (probably because I've practiced, like, never).
Shawn's daily ritual and written reflection on his experience has captivated my soul's imagination.
Last night, I picked up my old copy of Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections and started reading at the "Travel" chapter (which is as far as I got when I acquired the book in my early 30's.)
Jung speaks of visiting the Pueblo Indians in America. He befriends the chief, Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake). Jung found that the Puebloans were highly secretive about their "religion" — the rituals and sacred life of the community, which of course was Jung's primary interest. Though they would not speak much about it, Jung noticed a deep passion well up in them when he broached the subject.
One day, Jung was chatting with Ochwiay Biano (Mountain Lake), the chief, who at some point carefully alluded to the importance of his people's primary rituals — which were in relationship to the sun. "What we do, we do not only for ourselves, but for the Americans also [who persecute the Pueblo]. Yes, we do it for the whole world."
Jung replied, “You think, then, that what you do in your religion benefits the whole world?”
“Of course!" exclaimed the old chief. "After all, we are a people who live on the roof of the world; we are the sons of Father Sun, and with our religion we daily help our father to go across the sky. We do this not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. If we were to cease practicing our religion, in ten years the sun would no longer rise.”
Jung mused upon this position: “The idea, absurd to us, that a ritual act can magically affect the sun is, upon closer examination, no less irrational but far more familiar to us than might at first be assumed. Our Christian religion . . . is permeated by the idea that special acts or a special kind of action can influence God . . . this equation no doubt underlies that enviable serenity of the Pueblo Indian. Such a man is in the fullest sense of the word in his proper place [my emphasis].”
Human beings knew from our earliest beginning, that we participate in the unfolding of Creation's process through conscious, metaphorical action. That action is ritual. Ritual is active metaphor, a poem that moves. Authentic ritual comes from inside, almost as if IT is moving ME. And when I perform authentic ritual, fire is made. Magic happens.
I see Shawn's undertaking of a daily coal spin is a crucial part of this shift in consciousness. Shawn is a man in his proper place — he's using this personal ritual to examine himself, but he's also sharing it. His commitment has influenced me, and will influence others, in whatever way his ritual mirrors back to them. Like the Pueblo Indians who helped the sun across the sky, Shawn's coal spinning has deep metaphysical significance. The meaning I choose to make is that Shawn is spinning the collective consciousness into its next evolutionary phase.
I think I'll go "spin a coal" . . .