Campfire Ash Ceremony: Campfire Communities


When I was a Boy Scout and went to Camp Wakpominee I witnessed a Campfire Ash Ceremony. The moment has never truly left my memory and whenever i’ve been at a campfire since then I’ve wished that I’ve had a container to start my own campfire compilation. After taking some time to research the idea behind the campfire ash ceremony I have found that the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts originate the ceremony to when Baden Powell was on his own journey and would take the ashes from each campfire to bring and incorporate into his next campfire. The tradition has been kept alive through scouting and others. The idea behind the ceremony is that you are incorporating the experiences, friendship, and memories of each campfire into the next.

The history of the Camp Fire Ash ceremony is a legend in the Scouting Community:

Lord Robert Baden-Powell was the father of the Scouting movement. In 1907, on Brownsea Island in England, he conducted the first Scout Camp for boys.  At the end of that camp, he gave some the ashes from the camp fire to each of the boys and kept some for himself. Legend says he did this at all ceremonial camp fires. The ashes have been passed from one to another now for 100 years. Imagine. 100 Years of campfires, friends and fellowship.”

The actual steps of the ceremony are as follows:

“Ashes taken from a past campfire are sprinkled into the flames of the next. The next morning when the ashes are cold, they are stirred, and each Scout is given some ashes to maintain the lineage for those yet to join us.  If more than one Scout brings ashes to the same campfire, the lists with the location of all campfires are combined and passed on with the ashes.  According to tradition, only those present at the campfire may carry away ashes”

For a full description of the Campfire Ash Ceremony check out this public google document.

What makes this ceremony special? The community that is created through the record of fires that is associated with the ashes. Community is created through camp fires and have been since the prehistoric era. Research shows that the very first campfire may have been created 1.5 million years ago (Levin, 2005)! Think about the times you have been at a campfire? When you have been there with others what did you experience? Did you experience calmness, joy, or understanding? Campfires create a unique and special atmosphere that helps facilitate the development of community.

Worship band Rend Collective member Gareth explains his idea of campfires in their biography as part of their release of an album called “Campfire”:

“Is there anything quite like a campfire?” Gareth asks, “The community that’s built there by people sharingtheir stories and songs? There’s the smell of burnt marshmallows in the air and it’s like being 10 years of age again and telling all your secrets to your best friend. That’s why we wanted to record an album around the campfire – that kind of openness and vulnerability is exactly what we should see in the greatest community on earth: the church” (Rend Collective, 2015).

Where Rend Collective takes on the question of how can the openness and vulnerability be possible in the community of the church i’m interested in how that community can be formed in our daily interactions and relationships. The start of such a community is much like being around a camp fire; sharing yourself authentically and enjoying others for who they are. The Camp Fire Ash Ceremony is a tradition of spreading friendship and community throughout the world through camp fire meetings – the challenge is taking the lessons learned from the camp fire communities into the rest of the world.

In order to continue exploring this and other topics feel free to check out the references below and come back to explore with me in future posts.

References:

Levin, E. (2005). “44: First Campfire Discovered in South Africa.” Retrieved February 7th, 2015 from http://discovermagazine.com/2005/jan/first-campfire

Rend Collective (2015). “Bio”. Retrieved February 8th, 2015 from http://rendcollective.com/bio/

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