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October 2011

FireKeeping, by John Yona Usti

Firekeeping is a traditional custom of working with fire and all it represents. I have come along in the Cherokee tradition and have also had the blessings of teachers from other directions, including the homa path that accompanies Hinduistic worship and the oak/ash/thorn/yew process of pre-Roman Celtic philosophy.

Second, it is all about intention. What do we intend as a part of our custom? Anyone can strike a match, in one way or another, but to keep fire you must hold fire in your heart.

Third, a little goes a long way. The hottest fire is still just a blaze without a heart to hold it.

Our fires remind us of the great fire of our sun, the heartfire of our Earth Mother, the shining eyes of our Sky Father, and the warm pulse of life in all its forms, burning a lovesong past time and space.

That being said, on to practical needs.

You can use a little vessel if you can't build a fire in or on the Earth where you are. You can even do this inside, carefully, with good ventilation.

I like to work with clay pots, sometimes the little terracotta's at the hardware store, with a little earth inside them.

And I like to collect little bits of wood and other offerings when I travel, specifically to add their medicine to my fire, their nuance to my smoke, their sweetness to my prayers.

I am a bit old-fashioned about some of this, but I usually like to work with

* cedar, sweetgrass, sage, pine, oak, dogwood, and pecan, for their remembrance and their harmonies.

* cornmeal for abundance

* tobacco for clarity

* cinnamon for love

* red oak for strength

* homa herbs for east meets west

Our ancestors worked with what they had, so I'd encourage you to do the same. Offer what speaks to your heart. Same goes with sparkin' the flame. If you want to work with matches, use 'em. They're more neutral (energetically) than lighters, and you can toss 'em in the fire.

Remember that a little goes a long way, and enjoy the touch of the smoke in your hair, and its texture in your skin.

Our prayers go up in the smoke of our fires.

So has it always been, and so shall it always be.

John Yona Usti (Little Bear)

Cherokee Firekeeper and Teacher


Note: I never met John in the flesh in this life. We met in a long gone online community, Zaadz. One day I asked him to share his fire wisdom with me. He sent me this email, which I saved for nearly five years.

John Little Bear left the planet in the body this spring. His wife requested I share his fire wisdom on his facebook page. I share it through Hope Peace Chamber. I am working with fire a lot these days, and John Little Bear remains a friend in the fire.

I see you there in the North Sky, Little Bear.

Thank you.