Walking on the Back of the Dragon

Apart from the music I create, me and Cerri also facilitate the Anderida Gorsedd here in Sussex, and this past weekend we held our Autumn camp. We like to keep these camps intimate, so we never go over 60 people, and each camp also has a theme, this one being Dragons.

We managed to put up the two marquees and the toilets on Thursday so we could take things a little easier while people arrived on the Friday. By 8pm on Friday night most of the people coming had arrived and set up their tents, so we held the opening ritual. It’s a tradition at the Anderida camps to ‘beat the bounds‘ of the camp field. This is an old Sussex tradition, and it blesses the land, and wakes the Spirits of Place to let them know that we are here to share their space for a couple of days. After, some people went to do a sweat lodge based on the Dragon theme, whilst the rest of us were entertained by storyteller Andy Harrop-Smith around the central fire, which was followed by acoustic music well into the morning.

Dawn arrived and a few brave souls woke early to do the Dance of Life around the central fire, and slowly the camp awoke ready for the talk Dragons and Serpents in Myth, Reality and Magic given by Sue Rance. Fascinating stuff it was too, particularly as a part of our evening ritual was a firewalk, and in some traditions the firewalk is seen as walking on the back of the Dragon – nice. Lunch followed and led us into the afternoon’s activities.

The Anderida camps grow in intensity throughout, leading to the evening ritual. After lunch we were all entertained by the Mythago Morris side who did a performance of the Knucker Hole Monster (the Knucker being a Sussex Dragon), and fabulous it was too. They then taught people some Morris dances. Now these aren’t the hanky and bells Morris, they are masked and dress in tattered black outfits, very spooky and awe inspiring. Whilst most were learning the dance, others began to dig the pit for the firewalk. After all of that activity we were invited back to the marquee to be led through the safety aspects of the evening’s ritual.

6pm arrived and found us all gathered by the central fire to share a meal together, and has now become a tradition, Vickie entertained us with some beautiful Arabic dancing.

Dusk fell, and with it the anticipation rose, as the lanterns were lit, the bag pipes sounded to call people to the firepit. There we communed with the Air Dragon, and placed our wishes into the unlit fire, dedicating the fire to Brigit and asking for her protection.

The fire was lit.

It would take about 2 hours to burn down enough to walk on. So we walked in serpent form to the snake river that borders the field. There we intoned the Charm of Making, calling to the Water Dragon to allow us to truly feel our emotions and connect with what we were about to do. Under the stars, as the mist formed, we then made our way into the marquee, people laid on the blankets, and drifted into the Otherworld as didgeridoo and drum played a dreamtime rhythm. Gently people traveled and were then invited to dance the Dragon as the intensity grew, and the drums sounded louder, and louder. We danced the Earth Dragon awake. The energy was raised.

And the fire was waiting.

We walked from the marquee and across to the firepit, still a-flame. the drumming continued, and people danced while it slowly burned into red coals. Then Andy stood before it, raised his arms to quieten the drums, and silence fell.

“Great Goddess Brigit, we ask for your protection as we walk across the back of the Dragon! Be with us, watch over us, and bless us as we walk this fiery path!” And with that he stepped onto the coals and walked across. A cheer filled the night, as each person walked the Dragon path. Some stopped, and turned back, not quite ready. But every person was supported, and held by the Tribe. Some walked more than once, others were happy to feel the triumph of those who walked without walking themselves, and nobody was pressured. I walked across too. It was my second firewalk, and it is the weirdest feeling!

After all who were walking had crossed, we thanked Brigit and the Spirit of the Dragon, and returned to the central fire for the most fiery Eisteddfod I had ever been a part of! It was wonderful!

A wonderful camp. Me and Ceri got home on Sunday completely exhausted, but fully alive!

3 responses to “Walking on the Back of the Dragon”

  1. I am a Deaf Pagan in the United States who also happens to be a F.I.R.E. certified firewalking instructor who has led a number of firewalks myself, including ones for Pagan and spiritual groups. I do agree that “walking on the back of the dragon” can be a powerful spiritual experience indeed.

    I am a little curious, however, about the mention of digging a firepit. In my own experience, we have never done such, preferring to build the fire directly on the earth, letting it burn down, and then raking the coals into a proper bed for firewalking. My concern about digging a pit is that it would allow your feet to sink down into the coals, thus increasing your chances of burns and injuries.

    I don’t mean to sound critical here, I’m just curious about the difference in procedures. But the most important thing is that everyone gained something from the experience, which does appear to have happened, so that’s a good thing!

    Thanks for the post, I did enjoy reading it!

    By the way, I have a video of my teaching a firewalking workshop on my blog, just click in the menu where it says “Yes, Deaf People CAN Walk On Fire!”

    ~ Ocean

  2. Thanks for leaving your comment. The pit is dug for a couple of reasons – it contains the coals so they don’t spread (people treading on them accidentally), once the fire has burned down there is a slight step down onto the coals (lessening the risk of tripping), and finally once the fire has been walked and the coals have cooled, we can replace the turfs and you’d never know we had been there 🙂

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