Friday, February 15th, 2019

On Friday, February 15th, 2019, at sunset, we will light our first Sacred Fire of this school year, and our 7th fire as a school. A sacred fire is a four-day (96-hour) fire that usually accompanies the loss and grieving associated with a loved one’s passing into death. The tradition has a long lineage in many cultures. Our version of the sacred fire has been passed to us by naturalist Jon Young from Santa Cruz, and Odawa Elder Paul Rafael from Michigan. It was introduced in our second year (2015-16), when we lost many members of our community, including the father of two of our students, as well as Dr. Paul and Mr. Ryan’s mothers. We understand that grief is a tremendous part of being human, and also believe that new attention to grieving rituals is needed by our culture at this time.

We light this ritual fire to honor all loved ones who have passed in our lives. Although a sacred fire may be lit for a particular person, it is also a place of grieving for anyone who has experienced loss or wishes to honor one who has passed. A sacred fire is a recognition of the ancestors, their presence and memory in our lives, and it is also a celebration of life.

The sacred fire will take place on the flat knoll below Big Rock, where our stone fire pit is located. We will have an MNZ staff person present on site at all times, and responsible for the fire, day and night. It is generally a small fire, one-to-two feet in diameter. We have very specific rules about the fire which families should know about. The area is a ritual space, and respectful behavior is important. Students may not be at, nor dropped off at Sacred Fire outside of school hours without one of their parents present. The exception to this is high school students who have tending shifts. Students and parents must remain in the Sacred Fire area, unless they are going to and from their car.

The sacred fire may be visited by members of our extended community at any time during the 96-hours, even during the night. There will always be someone present tending the fire. Specific protocols are honored at the fire, and these protocols will be shared with anyone visiting who is not familiar with sacred fires.

There are songs and salutations to greet the dawn and also the sundown each day, and explanations about what each day signifies for those who have passed. The fire will go out at sunset on Tuesday, February 19th.

We respect everyone’s personal views and beliefs, and appreciate that some people may not be comfortable with rituals of this kind. We also value the healthy expression of grief, and feel confident that the sacred fire will continue to be a valuable and meaningful practice within our Manzanita community.