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Alchemical rhythms: Fire circle culture and the pagan festival

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Chapter Summary

Pagan festivals are vast canvases of competing discourses and sensorial juxtaposition. Mostly festivals create an elaborate, synaesthetic composition of images, voices, and emotions that bring to life all the convergences, conflicts and diversities of practiced Paganisms, their communities and individuals. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the pervasive festival bonfires that often rage from dusk until dawn while participants dance and drum in a swirl of writhing bodies and intense, sometimes chaotic, rhythms. Fire circles like Cohens Sacred Dynamic Fire seem to reinscribe ritual space, where individuals may have more specific goals, while maintaining the improvisatory nature of the festival bonfire. Conflicts around the fire, particularly among the drummers, are reflective of controversy in the Pagan community about leadership, community, and political consensus. The fire circle is an alchemical container for the issues and conflicts of the festival movement, which itself is experiencing a struggle for identity.

Keywords: Alchemical Rhythms; Fire Circle; Pagan festival; Sacred Dynamic Fire



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