Friday, September 23, 2011

Fire Festival of Remembrance

Bolas de Fuego 
Rituals and festivals take many forms.  The Bolas de Fuego Festival of Remembrance in Nejapa, El Salvador commemorates the eruption of a volcano.  Young men act out this horrifying calamity through a ritual firefight waged with gasoline soaked rags.  How does this make anyone in the town sleep easier?

Ritual can act as a form of vaccination.  We deal with a small piece of what terrifies us.  This small dose can be beaten by our defenses.  Throwing the balls ourselves gives us a sense of control over the unpredictable.  Getting hit by a flaming ball, we survive and relish the excitement.   
Does the festival prevent us from being decimated by another volcanic eruption?  Do I want this festival to take place in my neighborhood?  No and No.  However, it does provide the residents of Nejapa with a way to approach and deal with the overwhelming, and that is the powerful quality that ritual brings to our approach to the difficult and insurmountable issues that confront us in life and death.

1 comment:

Sister Shirley said...

Wow, this is amazing and I seems like a completely appropriate ceremony (as long as my neighbors don't engage in it during fire season!)

It seems to me that as a culture we really don't embrace the concept of the Sublime when it comes to death - instead of volcanoes, violent storms and towering cliffs, we instead employ meek, passive natural imagery - flowers, sunsets, birds, etc. These sweet images from nature feel inadequate and false to me. When the time comes, I'd much rather have something sublime - terrifying and beautiful - to represent my experience of death.

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