The Ritual of the Caamora

One of the most intense, obscure of the ancient somaferan rites involved trial by fire. The Wolf Warriors of the Dacians walked on hot coals. The maenads and berserkers sometimes practiced handling fire. The spirit horses of vodoun, some of whom are somaferan, also handle fire. Modern somaferans do as well. Because the ancient names for most of these rituals are lost to time, modern practitioners have adopted a name from modern fiction to refer to it, the caamora. From The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, I believe, where a similar, fictional ritual is given that name.

I am not going to go into an explanation of how firewalking works in a scientific sense. I have already done that here. Instead I am going to describe what it is like, and why we somaferans practice it.

First of all, only an initiate has any chance of successfully performing this rite, as a rule. The supreme control and experience that the initiation ritual grants are needed to enter the state of fire resistance deliberately and reliably. I have only known one person who could do this ritual without having first had his initiation, and he had a rare, strong natural talent for the berserkergang.

The modern form of the ritual usually uses a fire the size of a campfire. Water or a fire extinguisher should be kept on hand. After a good hot fire is built up, the practitioners keep it well fed until it develops a good bed of coals. Once the coals have developed, the fire is only fed at a maintenance level. Music is started at this point, something spiritual and powerful. Heavy metal usually works best. While the somaferans elevate, a ritual horn might be passed around. The key here is for the practitioners to consume enough to get loosened up without consuming enough to dull the wits.

No words are spoken. This rite is far too personal for words to have meaning. Each somaferan elevates according to his or her own techniques. Group rites often work best, as elevation tends to be contagious. Once one somaferan starts growling, or howling, or banging his fists against his head, the divine madness starts to spread pretty quickly.

As each somaferan hits the breakthrough point, the ritual really begins in earnest. Practitioners hold their hands and arms in the fire, sometimes keeping them there for half a minute or more. Some pick up coals and hold them in their hands. Some pick up burning sticks and extinguish the flames by grabbing the burning log and smothering it with the hands. The further this goes, the wilder things get. Howling that could wake the dead. Leaping, dancing, performing physical feats. Some jump through the flames or walk through the coals. I saw one berserker somersault while holding two glasses of ale, spilling not a drop from either glass.

The ritual continues until each participant is burned out, energy-wise, and drops out of the fire resistant state. Some never manage to enter it in the first place. The practitioners inspect themselves and each other for burns that might have happened without being felt.

So, why do we do this? There are a number of reasons, but the most important is that in the fire resistant somaferan state, there is no falsehood. The mind is in a deep unitary state of consciousness, and by definition is not divided. As falsehoods are by definition mentally divided states, where the truth is walled off behind words that do match, they cannot exist in such a powerful unitary state. When you are in such a state that you can resist fire, then you are truly and perfectly yourself. No lies, no illusions, no comfortable truths. You apprehend yourself as you truly are. This is a truly unparalleled opportunity to learn about yourself. It is also one of the best feelings in all of life. Not some kind of rush or high, it is a much deeper source of joy than that. Being wholly and truly yourself so SO DEEPLY SATISFYING. It makes you feel whole in a way that nothing else can, because you ARE whole. A good caamora can shake you out of even a deep depression, cure even intense anxiety. This why we practice the caamora. It is better than therapy, better than drugs, better than any but the best sex. It is revelation, challenge, and comfort all rolled into one. It is wild, ecstatic, cathartic. It is one of my very favorite things.