Return of the Sacred Fire
A Prophecy from the Top of the World is Fulfilled
For a very long time, Greenland was white. Only few strips of land along the coasts were green. Until one winter’s day in 1963 when two young hunters discovered something very disturbing: The huge ice walls were melting. They thought this was impossible since the temperature was well below minus 30 degrees. It was much too cold. And yet, drops of water fell upon them from up above. They ran back to the village to tell the Elders what they had experienced. “The ice is melting!” they reported. “Impossible!” The Elders also thought. “The ice cannot melt when it is so cold!” Yet, as the years passed, the drops became trickles, and later streams. Today, water shoots from the ice; ice that is only half as thick as it was forty years ago. Greenland is becoming green.
Mother Earth’s face is changing. It is apparent that the time in which we now live is the actual story referred to in an ancient prophecy. The Kalaallit-Eskimos have been handing this prophecy down from generation to generation. Angaangaq, a shaman, communicates it in this way: “The Ancient Ones say, that one day, when the world needs it the most, the Sacred Fire will come home to the people at the Top of the World. It is the time when the trees will stand up again. We will, once again, be able to ignite a fire with wood from Mother Earth and relieve animals, like the seal, of their duties. The Ancient Ones say that the way in which we know the calendar will come to an end. What does this mean? Today we know spring, summer, fall and winter. These seasons will be no more. And when you ask what will be, they say, ‘No one knows’. The Ancient Ones say many will die, many more will hardly survive, only few will have a life. Only by melting the ice in the heart of man, will man have the chance to change and use his knowledge wisely.”
The Fire Returns
On July 17, 2009 the Sacred Fire returned to the Top of the World. Twenty-five kilometers east of Kangerlussuaq, on the west coast of Greenland, a three-day ceremony took place. It embodied the spiritual meaning of climate change and expressed the return of the Sacred Fire and the melting of the Big Ice as one and the same. For me it was incomprehensible, and I was there, along with people from all over the world, film teams and reporters. Generations and generations before us had been telling stories of this ceremony. They concentrated their energies on a dream level. We stretched our hands out into this dream and in the immense Greenlandic landscape made it come true.
Aasivik is the old gathering place. Families assembled here during the summer months. Grandmother Mountain gently rolls at the southern end of the valley. Tundra. Soft and untouched lies the earth before us. To the north lies Blackface Mountain, where Angaangaq begins the three-day ceremony. He sings with his wind drum, welcoming the forces of energy, the ancestors, and asks for their support. His entire life, as the runner and shaman of his people, he has worked for this moment. He prayed for the strength to bring the Sacred Fire home. From Blackface Mountain we gaze out towards the ice; an ocean of ice, frozen wave upon frozen wave, inlets, alternating light and dark. At times I think the ice is moving. That’s how alive it appears to be. And the fragrance; fresh, free, an even sort of spicy smelling snow. The ice has its own kind of magic. It has called tribal elders and shamans from all the four directions to this ceremony; people from remote places, like Uniwu and Haru from the Amazon. They took a long and arduous journey upon themselves to be here for the fulfillment of the prophecy. In their tradition, they have also been witness to the fact that the earth and all life upon it is changing. Now. We will be challenged by events occurring in nature and we will only be able to walk wisely and have a hand in this change with an open heart.
My tent is far away in the distance. Every morning I walk a narrow caribou path to the gathering place. The ice glistens in the distance leaving me to walk in meditation without actually meditating. To the west, the lake sparkles, calm and comforting.
Behind my tent, the saplings begin to grow. They look more like bushes to my forest-accustomed eyes. For the first time in thousands of years, the women cut down the ceremonial wood.
Down below, the men prepare the fire pit. They welcome the ashes; ashes which have been sent to Greenland from people all over the world. They lay them in the pit as a foundation and offering of strength. Then it seems as if time stands still. The Grandmothers and Elders carry seal fat in an ancient oil lamp. For thousands of years these animals brought warmth and light to the people of the north. It ends today. Now wood from Mother Earth will warm the people. The burning oil glides over the chopped wood. Silence. It is as if the world was holding its’ breath. Then crackling. Exhaling. The Fire has returned.
We tend the fire day and night; singing, praying, listening to or dreaming with it. The fire has opened the door to a new age. Greenland will become green. Other countries will sink. How can we use our knowledge wisely during this new time?
Near to the lake another kind of fire is burning. Huge and powerful. It is cooking the ‘Grandfathers’, the stones for the sweat lodge. Grandmothers from all corners of the world have gathered here in the lodge to receive together the visions for the new time. In darkness and warmth they pray together and listen to what each one has to say. Outside a lukewarm breeze blows. The ancestors are here. “The time has come that calls for us to keep our oil pure. This will only happen when we live with a pure spirit and an open heart.” This is the message that Hansiina, a Kalaallit-Eskimo Elder, received. “Hm, good, but actually I already know that,” I think to myself. Now the men go into the sweat lodge. They ask for the knowledge of how to implement the Vision that came to the women. I am the Gate Keeper. I stand quietly at the door to the sweat lodge. I’m the guardian. Then the men from Africa, Asia, America and Europe begin to sing. They put their hearts into each and every tone. The space all around me expands; everything is a melody, it all becomes ‘heart’. And a wild hope flares up within me: If all of us, just like the men in the sweat lodge, are one with one another in heart, then will it be possible, really possible that we all become a nation of one people.
Agitation and tension are in the air. Ice and fire are to be united today: Angaangaq will light the Sacred Fire on the ice. It’s bubbling all around us. The lack of clarity meandering through the day becomes stronger. No one really knows when what is supposed to happen. The film teams are becoming nervous. Today they are filming with the wide angle panning cameras on a huge crane. Their calculations are meticulous. They have set themselves up down at the glacier and are waiting, waiting for quite a while for Angaangaq, the shaman, to come from around the corner with his huge bundle and light the fire. Suddenly, he is standing at the top of the mountain, singing. He follows his own ceremony. Now. In the moment. Always new. The cameras have to wait.
I myself am standing for hours composed and calm before the glacier. So much knowledge frozen within the ice, preserved here. And now it is rapidly dissolving; distributing itself once again all around the world. The ice cracks and cracks again. Pieces break away regularly, leaving behind blue wounds in the ice wall. Angaangaq blows into the small fire and sings. Wai Turoa-Morgan answers him with her song from New Zealand. At this moment, the entire glacier seems to move. A gigantic piece breaks off. A wave flows through all of us. It feels like the earth has rearranged itself.
On my way back to camp, I collect wool. When the Musk Oxen travel, lie down or graze, pieces of their thick under-fur get stuck in the tundra. “When you have this wool, you will never freeze again,” says Angaangaq. I eat a bit of Greenlandic nut, a grass that tastes like Pina Colada and I also find raspberries along the way. Greenland is rich with vegetation. The rich soil gives forth herbs of intense flavor. The ice is disappearing and the winter nights are becoming even darker. The plants however, are returning.
After a week, we let the Sacred Fire burn out; slowly, gently. We separate the still warm ashes into jars. They are to travel once again to all the corners of the earth—to become the foundation for future fires.
The melting of the ice in Greenland is an urgent call for us to melt the ice within our hearts, so that wild, succulent and nourishing herbs may once again grow, so that we will be able to use our knowledge wisely, now and “in times and times to come,” as Angaangaq says.
Text by Adarsha Sulzer | Translation: Donna Weidner