Fire-walking has seen a resurgence in recent years, both as a team-building exercise and as a sponsorship opportunity for charities. Did you know that the lower the water content of embers, the easier it is to walk on them, which means our kiln-dried logs would feel like a walk in the park?
Fire-walking dates back to around 1200BC and has a strong association with religious and spiritual ceremonies as a means to demonstrate faith, courage and strength. It was believed to exemplify how man could literally put mind over matter.
The first recorded fire walk was 4000 years ago when two Brahmin priests challenged each other to see who could walk the furthest. However, there are examples of ancient fire-walking rituals from all over the globe.
In the 17th century, a priest witnessed a Native American healing ceremony where a sick woman walked, unscathed, across hot coals. The Kalahari Desert’s Kung Bushmen have also used fire walking as an integral part of their healing rituals. Indeed, there are records of fire-walking being practiced in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, China, Egypt, Fiji, Greece, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, Trinidad and South Africa long before self-help guru, Tony Robbins, brought the practice to corporate America. In fact, it’s even mentioned in the Bible, both in Proverbs 6:28: “Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be burned?” and Isaiah 43:2: “When though walkest through fire, thou shalt not be burned”.
It was the seventies that saw fire walking being embraced by the Western world. A man called Tolly Burkan was taught how to fire-walk by a friend and experienced a ‘road to Damascus moment’. He wanted to share his enlightenment with the world at large and began to teach others, write books about the practice and bring it to the attention of the world.
Tony Robbins attended one of Burkan’s classes and immediately seized upon the idea himself. He included fire-walking in his self-help offering and, by 1984, hundreds of people were attending his sessions including Hollywood celebrities. Many people who have tried it out say it’s been life-changing although last year more than 30 people were injured during one of Tony Robbin’s fire walking events.
Scientists believe that because wood is not a great conductor of heat and neither are people’s feet, if they walk at a certain speed, they won’t get burnt. However, if people run, they will hurt themselves, as they increase the intensity of contact between the soles of their feet and the hot embers.
We don’t advise you try fire-walking at home, but if you’re interested in giving it a go there are lots of UK-based companies who organise the experience.