Read these stories about Sacred Fire events Fire Speaks and Ignite Your Heart, which focus around audiences with Grandfather Fire.

Digesting the Sacred Lessons of Corn

I recently attended a Sacred Fire Community event in New Freedom, Pennsylvania (USA) where Grandfather Fire shared an ancient sacred story of Corn that applies directly to our times and our lives today.

I learned many things from that story. Because the story has just been planted in me, it’s like a kernel in the soil, germinating and growing. Most of my learning is not quite ready to emerge, but one thing that affected me strongly then and still brings emotions of grief and awe rising up in me right now is this:

What does it mean to sacrifice my short-term motivations so that I can build a good life for the people?

To plant something now that will only come to fruition in the future takes not only vision, but also patience and self-sacrifice. I can catch a fish or collect some cress that appeared this week by the creekside and have food for today, but if I join with my now-settled community, work out our differences as people who live together must do, and cultivate the fields, not only I, but also my family and my community will be nourished for this season and future seasons. The renewing nature of Corn, and its dependency on human communities in order to grow, is striking.

It is a fact that Corn needs human beings to grow. There is no way for it to come to fruition without our concern and care. Could it also be true that, without Corn and its teachings of self-sacrifice for the good of all, human beings will cease our own ability to grow?

As I continue to engage with the Sacred Fire Community as a fire-goer and volunteer, I feel myself, sometimes kicking and screaming, becoming humbler. I can feel the medicine of Corn and settled community working my soil. I stand out less. I work more, doing things that aren’t all about me…in fact, often they don’t seem to be about me at all.

Somehow I’m changing, becoming the opposite of a super-star in my own life. Somehow I’m being cultivated by something larger than I am. And I’m grateful, nourished and in love with this way of living. Now that I’ve been introduced to Her in a new way through the sacred story, I thank the Corn Mother for Her help and lessons, which are changing my life. I start each day in hope that She will render me and my efforts beneficial, perhaps even nourishing, to those around me, giving me the satisfaction of a life lived very well.



—Erin Everett
Asheville, North Carolina (USA)

On Being Yourself in Community

An attendee of the 2017 Ignite Your Heart event in County Mayo, Ireland, had this to say:

I think the thing that impresses me most is people being themselves. To me the root of the breakups of community and the breakups of society is mainly due to people trying to be something that they are not and forgetting to behave in simple, honest, open relationships with each other. In so many respects we need community everywhere and all attempts to creating it are valid.

This is one of those places where it is good to be you.

Ignite Your Heart, Ireland

The Gift of Sacred Space

Spending time around the fire for the first time with Grandfather Fire at a Sacred Fire Community Fire Speaks event was a reminder of the timeless wisdom that lies beneath any fear I may be experiencing in my life. Sharing wholesome, alive food in the company of ensouled friends who gathered to support Grandfather’s presence was an added blessing to a heart-felt day. I am constantly reminded when I gather around the fire: there is beauty, kindness and abundance in the world, and we all need a safe, sacred space to offer our laughter and tears to Grandfather. His grounded, wise presence helps us remember that peace, joy and balance are cultivated from within.

Gratitude abounds to everyone who contributed in their own unique way to create a loving presence for Grandfather Fire’s wisdom to emerge and be heard. I walked away with a deepened sense of connection and love with ALL of my relations!

—E. McKeever
California & New Mexico, USA

Fire as First Teacher and First Medicine

We began the three-day ritual by making offerings to the fire. For us, fire is not merely a physical presence consisting of light, heat, and chemical reactions. For us as for many traditional peoples, fire is an important spiritual presence. It is the energy of heart. Fire is what connects us to each other and the world. It is the first teacher and the first medicine. Our ancestors sat around the fire for thousands of years. There they shared the big stories that gave them meaning and helped them live in a good way. There they found wisdom.

—Lawrence Messerman

Community, Respect and Compassion

The sense of community, of respect, of compassion for what people go through in their daily lives was so entirely comforting that it stayed with me for a whole week. I’m ready for another fix!

—Gene Malowany
Boulder, Colorado

Raíces profundas, pueblo pa’lante

Un encuentro con Abuelo Fuego en Tepoztlán

No suelo viajar de mi amado Borikén.  Pero en septiembre del 2017, justo luego del huracán María, mientras contemplaba mi escuela sin techo y mis siembras de yerbas medicinales enterradas bajo árboles caídos, sonó mi teléfono móvil por primera vez desde la tormenta.  Era mi gran amiga Erin y su esposo Adam. Me llamaban desde los EE.UU. a ver cómo yo estaba y a invitarme a viajar a Tepoztlán, México para participar de sus ceremonias anuales de primavera. Como graniceros de la tradición nahual, orarían por las lluvias benevolentes y les darían la bienvenida. 

Gracias al huracán, el 2018 se veía impredecible; todos mis proyectos planificados para los próximos meses ya se habían desvanecído. Así que cerré los ojos, pregunté a mi corazón . . . y les dije que sí.

Ya en Tepoztlán, alrededor de una gran fogata, nuestro grupo recibió el regalo de una noche de sabiduría ofrecida por el espíritu del Fuego, Abuelo Fuego. (Para saber más sobre esto, tocar aquí.)  Me atreví a pedirle consejo: “Necesito perspectiva sobre la crisis que vivimos en Puerto Rico. Desde del huracán, ha habido un éxodo de docenas de miles de familias . . . y un saqueo económico. Nuestros gobernantes están aprovechando la crisis para cortar las pensiones, cerrar las escuelas, desmantelar las corporaciones públicas, las instituciones culturales y hasta nuestro sistema universitario.  Recurren a la represión, la violencia y otros métodos del capitalismo extremo . . . .” Comencé a llorar. ¡Uff! ¿Había yo dicho demasiado? ¿Era un lugar seguro para hacer preguntas socioculturales?

El Abuelo no tardó en responder.  Describió cómo es que los huracanes limpian el ambiente . . . eliminando los árboles débiles, dejando sólo a los más fuertes y creando las condiciones, el espacio para la sangre nueva.  Se refería a la gente que se queda en el país como “los arboles fuertes.” Explicó compasivamente que el papel de los gobernantes es mantener el orden y la estabilidad, y que se desesperan porque el sistema que ellos representan se va desintegrando.  Terminó sugiriendo que para los árboles fuertes, éste podría ser el mejor momento para crear -desde nuestras raíces subterráneas más profundas- el nuevo Puerto Rico que visualizamos para todos, y que entonces, los boricuas que se fueron, regresarán.

Recibí estas palabras con agradecimiento ya que el futuro de mi país adoptivo pinta desesperanzador. Las palabras del Abuelo me aclararon que he de nutrir mi fé de que sí, otro Puerto Rico es posible. Y que ahora, como educadora y líder, me toca seguir co-creando – sin permitir que me distraigan las malas noticias – el Borikén transformado que anhelamos habitar.

María Benedetti es una autora y educadora etnobotánica que vive desde 1989 en la tierra de la familia de su madre, Puerto Rico. Ella puede ser contactada a través de su sitio web,

—María Benedetti
Puerto Rico

Corn as Teacher: Moving beyond Obstacles

Jaime Velez is a Sacred Fire Firekeeper and a mara’akame (traditional healer in the Huichol tradition.) This quote is taken from an article, The Divine Mystery of Corn, published in Around the Fire.

“Corn is a teacher because the plant itself teaches us how to move beyond obstacles. Corn can fall down because of wind and animals, but it can recover its vertical ascent towards the sky. One night, the whole stand of corn may be on the floor, and the next day it can be up again. Moreover, corn has amazing adaptability to different types of terrain and can grow in very harsh landscapes and climates.”

—Jaime Velez
Tepoztlán, Morelos, México

Deep Roots, Strong People to Renew Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican resident María Benedetti shared with us her recent experience with Grandfather Fire at our Fire Speaks event in Mexico.

I don’t usually stray from my beloved Borikén, Puerto Rico’s main island. But just after Hurricane María, in September 2017, while contemplating my school with no roof and my medicinal herbs buried under fallen trees, my cell phone rang for the first time since the storm. It was my good friend Erin and her husband Adam calling from the United States, checking on me. They also invited me to join them in Tepoztlán, Mexico to participate in their Nahua Weather Work spring ceremonies to pray for and welcome beneficial rains. Thanks to the hurricane, 2018 looked entirely unpredictable; my plans for the next few months had already gone up in smoke. So I closed my eyes, asked my heart, and . . . said yes!

Once gathered in Mexico, our group was gifted an evening of wisdom teachings by Grandfather Fire. I dared to ask for advice: “I need perspective about a crisis we are living in Puerto Rico. Since the hurricane, we are seeing an exodus of thousands of families, as well as an economic siege. Our political leaders are taking advantage of the crisis to cut pensions, close schools and dismantle our unions, cultural organizations and even our public university. They are using repression, violence and other methods of extreme capitalism.” I started to cry. OMG. Had I gone too far with my words? Was this an appropriate place to ask a sociological question?

Grandfather Fire didn’t wait long to respond. He described how hurricanes clean the environment . . . eliminating the weak trees, leaving only the strongest, while creating conditions ripe for new life. He compared the people who have decided to stay on our island to the “strong trees.” He compassionately reminded us that the role of our governors is to implant order and stability, and that they are desperate because the system they represent is disintegrating. He closed by suggesting that for us strong trees, this could be the best moment for creating – from our deep, underground roots – the new Puerto Rico that we visualize for all, and then those who have left will come home.

I was thankful to receive that answer because the future of my adopted country looks painfully hopeless. Grandfather’s words helped me to see I must nourish my vision that another Puerto Rico is possible, and that now, as an educator and as a leader, it’s clearly my job to keep on co-creating – without being distracted by the bad news – the transformed Borikén we will thrive in.

María Benedetti is an ethnobotanical author and educator living since 1989 in her mother’s family’s homeland, Puerto Rico. She can be contacted through her website,

—María Benedetti
Puerto Rico

The Gifts my Parents left me: Following my Heart’s Longing

During a recent Fire Speaks event, Grandfather Fire spoke of the ancestors as those who came before, and how we today benefit from their work, effort, sacrifice, sweat and blood. When they see us sitting around fire, as they once did (whether around a hearth or a candle on a kitchen table), sharing our love and laughter, and also our common human concerns, they see that we are not dismissing the learning they have left us, that their work was not in vain or forgotten. Firekeeper Mai Duong offers this honouring of the gifts her parents left her through their living example.

Fire has been around since the beginning of time. Fire is the great connective energy, connecting us to others, to the living world, to spirit and to our path. I started my path toward becoming a Firekeeper in 2012, but only recently realized that this vocation has been in my blood for a long time and that I had finally listened and followed my heart’s longing.

For the first nine years of my life, my grandparents in Vietnam raised me. My uncle and his wife also lived with us. In Vietnam, most homes had two or three generations under one roof. We always had various people living with us, some for a week and others for years. My father’s first cousin moved in for a while. He tutored me, picked me up from school and was my mentor. My grandparents were retailers and were very entrepreneurial. They raised quails and sold their eggs. Grandpa also made and sold fireworks.

In 1971, I came to Canada to join my parents and siblings and extended family (my mother’s two first cousins and a teenaged second cousin were also living with us). My parents owned a fish-and-chips restaurant and the cousins also worked there. My father was a professor of nuclear physics by day and entrepreneur by night. My parents made Vietnamese shish kabob and sold them in the summer at Exhibition Park. They had an arcade and video stores, just to mention a few of their many enterprises. Dad would have the vision and creativity for new businesses and Mom would be the doer: organizing, setting up and executing his ideas. I’m thankful I inherited all of these traits from my parents.

My father passed in 2014, and my mom passed July 2017. They were married for 55 years. They definitely had their differences. However, there are a few important values that they instilled in their children. Both were extremely generous and giving. We always had many people living in our house, including grandparents and cousins. Our home was like “Welcome House” for many Vietnamese newcomers and immigrants to Toronto. My parents would house them, help them find jobs and homes and get them settled. This taught me a lot about creating community, being inclusive, and helping and serving others. I feel blessed to carry on their teachings.

When Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, we decided to move in together and purchased a home suitable for both of our families. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to be closer to my parents in the last ten years, caring for them and paying it forward. What was most precious was that it gave me the chance to heal my relationship with my mother, making amends for what I felt I didn’t have the first nine years of my childhood. I had the opportunity to work things out for myself, to show my appreciation and love to my mother, to learn to accept her unconditionally, to surrender, to forgive and let go of my childhood stories. I realized that she did the best she could. It is a blessing that our children got to live with their grandparents who shared their dreams, stories and wisdom with them.

My parents were ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. They taught me the value of community, how to extend a helping hand to others and to listen to my heart’s wisdom. They are now like ancestors who have been guiding me on my path, leading me to my heart’s longing.

—Mai Duong
Toronto, ON, Canada

The Joy of Connection

You are warmly invited to experience connection and fun at any of our upcoming Fire Speaks or Ignite Your Heart events (listed at right). An attendee of the 2017 Ignite Your Heart event in County Mayo, Ireland, had this to say about the event:

This community, it’s vibrant… it’s magical. There’s a lot of people here that are really deeply interested in connecting and that’s my sort of hunger and my delight…to connect with other people, with the land, with trees, with nature, with the Fire. That’s what it is all about for me. It’s connection, and I find it here. And it’s fun, it’s a lot of fun.



—Pip Waller
Ignite Your Heart, Ireland

An Opening of Heart

A first-time Sacred Fire attendee had this to say about the 2017 Ignite Your Heart event in County Mayo, Ireland:

Community is lacking in the world and there is an illness too (about) that in society…Today was quite amazing, It started off with the Fire ritual. When I gave to the Fire, the Fire returned what I would call a change of consciousness, an opening of heart, and it was felt in the group. And it’s been around all day ever since. Beautiful.

Ignite Your Heart, Ireland

I am Corn

Jaime Velez is a Sacred Fire Firekeeper and a mara’akame (traditional healer in the Huichol tradition.) This quote is taken from an article, The Divine Mystery of Corn, published in Around the Fire.

I am Corn. What I mean is, I feel very deeply that Corn is my connection with the Earth. I relate corn’s sweet smell to mother’s milk, to home, to nutrition, to an unconditional generosity that feeds everybody—the rich, the poor, anybody. For me, corn tastes like wind and rain, and it has a special connection to fire also. When you put corn on the fire, it softens and awakens, bringing forth a particular aroma, like perfume.


—Jaime Velez
Tepoztlán, Morelos, México