The Bonfire: Man's Ritual

Groups of us stand or sit in a circle around it, staring intensely, becoming enveloped in its heat. This may sound like an odd cult ritual, but in fact it is simply a common past time for summer: having a bonfire. Often in my life, going out to someone's house to sit by a bonfire was and still continues to be a simple summertime enjoyment. This holds true for not only me, but also for our general population. Though bonfires offer time spent with friends, and the opportunity to make some delicious S'mores there is something more to it than that. So, what is it about fire that draws man to it, finding entertainment in watching it blaze?

This question can be answered by looking back in time. Perhaps it is inherent within human nature to be drawn to fire. Think back to prehistoric men and women; the discovery of fire offered protection, warmth, and safe food consumption. Is this memory so ingrained in human nature that to this day, when it is not a necessity to use an open fire to heat ourselves or cook food we still use it? We still ritualistically are drawn to sitting around it. In fact, just yesterday when given the choice between spending time indoors or sitting around a fire at night, my friends and I chose the fire.

Still, there is something even more to a bonfire, growing up this was the time when I absorbed the stories of my parents and their friends. I often sat quietly hearing tales of my parents' childhoods, and family legends that I have not and will not soon forget. By listening to discussions of the past I immersed myself into a life I was not yet a part of.

Long before our time, Native Americans used Talking Circles, a sacred ritual in which community members sat around a fire, using spiritual methods to express aspects of their lives and emotions. Traditional stories would be passed on from elders to younger people so they would not forget their ancestors. The discussion around the bonfire today can be reminiscent to past traditions being taken and changed. By merely allowing for the time and space to sit and talk around the comforting glow of a bonfire, new ideas and stories can be passed on and remembered by generations.

The bonfire setting, usually occurring at night offers us a glimpse of light in the darkness, it still brings brightness, and warmth, drawing people together to sit or stand beside it. In today's fast paced society not many things can cause us to slow down long enough to enjoy simply staring into its glow, and immersing ourselves in the talk of those around us.

So, as the summer begins and I sit around an ever growing number of bonfires, I imagine that hundreds of years before us and hundreds of years after us a similar picture will be present across history and time. There is one thing for certain: man will always be drawn to the unpredictable nature of fire.

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