Dancing the AlchemiFire Circle
by Robin Sol Lieberman, Deborah Nerving and Shakti Rowan
We are deeply passionate dance enthusiasts who began this article inspired by a desire to express the many ways in which people intentionally use movement around the Fire to engage in transformation, magick and healing. We have composed ideas intended to support dance as a self-guided portal to Wellness, and which offer approaches to integrate movement work within the 7 stage alchemical model. This article is an adjunct to The Seven Stages of “Bringing it On”, a separate document filled with suggestions on how to engage through all the portals of the Alchemical Fire Circle.
The AlchemiFire Ritual Circle is a place for re-invention, collaborative creativity, and spontaneity. The movement integrated 7 stage alchemical framework outlined below is offered as a pathway to help bring you deeper into the process we will be working with. May it inspire you, and know that you are invited and encouraged to simply show up at the Circle and let your body move! Your personal experience may, or may not mirror the 7 alchemical stages, so please consider this article to be a set of options which are part of a very broad menu. Let your inspired movement around the Circle be the hot meal that provides you with tangible nurturance. Remember through all of this word play; you will forever be on your own unique alchemical medicine journey!
At the same time, there is value in connecting to the collective consciousness of the Circle. If it is your will to amplify your personal explorations by tuning into the shared alchemical journey (which will be framed by a series of themed rituals) then please take note of this suggestion: You can find connection with the Whole through listening to the collective expression of the Circle in any given moment. By listening we mean opening your many senses to perceive the mood, feel, and flavor of the Circle.
Specifically, as a dancer/mover, practice listening to the music that is being made. What qualities does it have? Approaches to doing this include thinking of adjectives that describe the music, or noticing the emotions the sounds evoke. How can you translate the music’s essential qualities into movement? Throughout the 3 nights of Fire, the musicians will be working very closely with the 7 stage process. By aligning with the musician’s soundscapes, you will be connecting your individual dance to the Circles’ shared alchemical progression. You may think of the musicians as being the heartbeat. You are the blood being pumped by the beating heart. Notice the feeling of how your blood moves in relationship to the pulse of the Circle. Is it fast? Slow? Anxious? Angry? Graceful? Solemn? Joyful? Poignant? Reverent? Celebratory? Through this practice you will embody the various moods of the night, attuning your body, heart, and soul to the collective energetic flow of the Circle.
Know that your movements have power and DO make a difference in the collaborative flavor and moment-to-moment reality of the Circle. You may find it fulfilling to practice being aware of where the music is entering and leaving your body in order to shift the energetic signature you exude through your movements into the Circle. For example, if you feel a piece of music moving you in ways that have you shaking your arms and chest around, experiment with how you can consciously use your movements to output heart energy. In another example, you might find yourself dancing quickly, precisely, and with strength around the Mercury track. Become fully present with the qualities your dance is invoking. Perhaps you feel the music predominantly moving your legs. How are your legs moving? Feel the focus of each grounded, fleet-footed step as you dance in Mercury, realizing that you are bringing the archetypal energy of strength, power, and mellifluous quicksilver to the Circle and to yourself as you embody this archetype. In short, the magic of movement is uncovered as you bring your awareness to what you are doing and then fuel what you are doing with intention.
Through the course of each night, an entire rainbow of moods will be expressed in the Circle. Each one of us has a body that we can use to give these moods a physical form. Dance is manifestation magic. It takes the subtle and makes it visible. It takes prayer and injects it with physical life. What is the unique prayer offering that you bring to the Circle?
Movement Approaches to the 7 Stage Alchemical Process:
Arriving (Pre-Calcination): Comet track
- Movement qualities: slow, thoughtful, inward
- The Process: As we begin our journey together around the Fire Circle Shrine, we take a moment to orbit along the Comet track, directly outside the prayer flags. This is a place of meditation where you can walk slowly, contemplating and feeling the noble journey and ordeal of creativity that you are about to embark upon. What intention do you have for the night?
- Movement Practice: Body Scan. As you prepare yourself to enter the portal gate of the Fire Circle, scan your body from head to toe, tuning into any stuck, stagnant places–your “lead”. Concurrently, feel for your open, flowing places—your “gold”, and feel for everything in between your heavy “lead” and your weightless “gold”. This practice will bring you into your body, providing you with a foundation of knowing where you are at as you enter the circle and begin the Great Work. Can you feel everything inside yourself, without judging it? Become the Witness. Show up as you are.
Calcination: Saturn; Lead; Root Chakra (perineum)
- Movement Qualities: Fast, hard, big, chaotic, shaking, heating, “ugly” movements of contraction and release, transparency
- The Process: During Calcination, we heat up our bodies. We use the burning energy of the fire and the wild, high energy drumming, to inspire us to shake. Shake everything! Typically, the more heat/fire you bring into your body, the more intense the subsequent stages of your transformation will be. Burning with the fire of your passion and your dance, you are reduced to your most basic components, to your essence.
- Intention: During this stage of the alchemical process, you are shaking off the mundane day-to-day world. You are shaking your “lead” to the surface. You are opening to the magic and the mystery that awaits you, How real can you be as you orbit the Fire? How can you show up as all of yourself, fully ready to dive deep, fully ready to transform? Allow your movements to be personally therapeutic, aligning you with your authenticity. If you are feeling slimy and dull, dance your slimy dullness! If you are feeling sad and dramatic, dance it! If you are feeling excited and agitated or angry and irate, let it be seen! Find the places of contraction and turmoil in your body and amplify those sensations.Then, engage with this “lead” in a way that feels most right for you. Would you like to breathe into your places of discomfort, quietly acknowledging them and opening them to transformation with your breath? Or does it feel more natural for you to use hand gestures and exhalations as you give your “lead” to the Fire? Maybe you feel inspired to fully erupt through your dance, burning and breaking up the old structured hardness limiting your free expression. Whatever your chosen practice, focus on how you can bring your “lead” to the surface so that it is more accessible for transformation.
- Movement Practice: Caduceus Dance. Come into the Fire Circle, aware of any leaden, still or stagnant areas in your body. Feel these dark and cold places while simultaneously inviting the opposite substance – the hot, passionate fire of your spirit – to dance forth. The dance of the Caduceus is a challenging and regal act, one that asks you to be in your “lead” while gathering the momentum to simultaneously dance its opposite, the dance of fire – quick, lively, and hot with intensity!
Dissolution: Jupiter; Tin; 2nd chakra (lower belly)
- Movement Qualities: soft, gentle, wave-like, sensual, swaying, hip focused, melting, freeing.
- The Process: We have successfully heated up our bodies to the point where our “lead” has risen to the surface. Your internal heat combined with the powers of engagement and intention, is dissolving physical, mental and emotional blockages, resulting in their release through the fluids of your sweat and tears.
- The Intention: Feel the delicious release as what was once your stuck and complacently deadened “lead” pours out of your body as a life affirming fountain. Revel in the melting. Let your movements express this freeing and often sweet stage of the journey. You have acknowledged and engaged with your shadow; softening the rigidity you were carrying. New parts of you are rising to be purified and cleansed. It can be comforting to imagine that the arms of the Goddess are holding you in an ocean of rhythmic wetness, encouraging your softness, holding safe your vulnerability as you drip into the ecstasy of release.
- Movement practices: The Uncloaking: As you heat up your container (body) and begin to sweat, you may want to experiment with “uncloaking” yourself. Your body will more than likely ask you to remove your coat, pareo, poncho, cape or whatever other heavy skin covering you might be wearing. As you remove the outer layer, you reveal your soft underbelly, where your sweat can come out freely. And yes, without your overcoat, you are more vulnerable. Try dancing with a veil or a long scarf, revealing yourself at your own pace.
- Mirror Dance: When you are ready to peek out from under your veil and trust yourself to be seen by another in your soft state, you may want to engage in a mirror dance. In this dance, you travel around the Circle, “mirroring” or mimicking each other’s movements. You may discover that being seen in your soft and vulnerable state is exactly the healing balm you needed to empower the new, more open way of being that you have melted into.
Separation: Mars; Iron; 3rd chakra (solar plexus)
- Movement Qualities: genuine, powerful, grounded, confident, strong, sharp, linear, loud, clear
- The Process: You have danced your stuck or hidden material. You have witnessed where hurting, numb places lived in your body. As you moved within your “lead” by choosing to feel it, you simultaneously revealed the gold that was trapped in those places. Now, during Separation, you get to decide which parts of yourself you will choose to embody and which parts of yourself you are ready to cut away.
- The Intention: This stage is about choice. How can you use your movements to explore the parts of yourself that you are ready to let go of and the parts that you wish to embrace? This is an important time to refuse to let negative body images define you, it is a time to see the essential nature of your beauty and discard old belief systems that weigh you down and separate you from being full in the celebration of your body, mind and spirit.
- Movement Practices: Dance of Decision: To help solidify what you want to clearly cut away and what you want to entirely embrace, practice theatrically embodying that which you intend to release and then dance its polar opposite. For example, you may discover that your lack of self-love is impeding you from standing in your power in the world. You can use your movements to acknowledge this pattern and belief system by dancing your lack of self-love, as if your movements are a costume of your most meek and timid self (head down, posture curled in on itself, no eye contact.) Next, allow this version of self to transform into your most powerful self by dancing in your strength and confidence (head up, tall with shoulders wide, fully present and in your body, meeting eyes with others, taking up space, intentionally stating your movements as if their “voice” could be heard resonating throughout the entire circle!)
- Empowering through Entrainment: Emulate another person in their power to find your own, unique dance of potency and force. We are each other’s archetypes. Find someone that inspires you and practice moving as they do, embodying them, trying on their unique expressions, and discovering new ways of dancing in your own power.
Conjunction: Venus; Copper; 4th chakra (heart)
- Movement Qualities: merging of “masculine” and “feminine”, heart centered, connective, light-and-grounded.
- The Process: We have entered a stage in the alchemical process that is no longer about breaking up and separating the parts. Instead, we take our dance of empowerment and let it fill us with the joy of wholeness. In Conjunction, we are primed to give and receive love. From the abundant fruits of our wholeness, we share our wealth of love by connecting with other.
- The Intention: How can you connect? Practice feeling your wholeness, from this place, what are you inspired to connect with? Is it a dancer whose movements you wish to mirror, or with whom you wish to engage in a conversational duet? Is it the hands you reach out to as you create a circle of converging, transforming beings, orbiting the fire together, honoring each other along this noble journey? Perhaps you are feeling most connected to the musicians and therefore feel pulled to bring your dance to them in the “Gratitude Zone”. The Gratitude Zone is a place where you can go right up to a musician who is inspiring you, listening closely to their sound expression. Use your body to animate their musical magick, making their sound visible. By simply listening, you are connecting. Are you aware of, and feeling, the Moon and the Stars, the Fire, the Wind and the Earth? How can you use your movements, your gestures, and your intent to connect even more deeply to these expressions of life energy? The plethora of ways to connect, and the number of things to connect with are limitless. How can you focus on dancing all parts of yourself whole and then expressing this holiness through your connection intending movements?
- Movement Practices: Dance of the Above and the Below In Eastern philosophy, the heart chakra connects the above (wisdom, high expression, Heaven) and the below (primal needs, vital force, Earth). With this understanding, we discover that there is an internal, vertical alignment of our merging of opposites into wholeness. While you are dancing the Circle, focus your awareness on feeling first what it would be like to be Earth, to be an animal, alive and vibrant in your groundedness. Explore the use of hand motions to draw energy up from the Earth, experiencing the way you dance as an Earth Creature. Next, focus your awareness on what it would be like to be the open, expansive, infinite, Cosmos. Use your gestures to draw down the essence of the Heavens, experiencing what it is like to dance as a Cosmic Child. Finally, let these expressions of the Above and the Below mingle in your body simultaneously. What is the result? Pay extra attention to how your heart center responds.
- Lemniscate movements: “Hail to the Holy Lemniscate! The figure 8”! The lemniscate, which is represented by the figure 8 laid horizontally, and can be danced using your arms as a gesture of connecting yourself (as one loop of the 8) to something or someone else (as the other loop of the eight.) You may practice using the lemniscate to circumambulate the fire with a friend or lover. Visualize the line of energy you are generating, connecting with each other as you give and receive your love through the figure 8 gesture originating at each of your hearts. You are using the dance of the 8, to bring the concept of connection into the physical through the use of a visual and kinesthetic mudra. You can use this movement to connect to anything, .the moon, a drummer, the Fire. Lemniscate movements bring union, be it the union of opposites or the union of Self with Self.
Fermentation: Mercury; Quicksilver; 5th chakra (throat)
- Movement Qualities: slow, thoughtful, meditative, sensitive, highly focused, rich with intention and prayer, colorful
- The Process: In Fermentation, we take the fruits of Conjunction and ripen them. This is often a period in the night when a stillness sets into the Fire Circle. We are integrating our experiences and taking them to the next level of refinement.
- The Intention: Practice movements that will bring you even deeper into the subtleties of your body, awakening your divine imagination, and your communication with Spirit. You may discover that your own body movements slow down as you become ever more aware of their power. You may want to explore Tai Chi or Chi Gong while slowly orbiting the fire. You might feel called to spend time in the Jupiter track, getting into yoga postures or undulating your body. Perhaps you settle into receptivity, and simply stare into the miracle of the Fire; opening to guidance for your life. The idea is to bring as much meditative focus and awareness into each of your movements as you can.
- Movement Practices: Trance Dance: To accelerate your entrance into what one might call trance (when you’re letting your rational mind take a break and allowing spirit knowing and body knowing to drive you), you might experiment with shaking your head from side to side (shoulder to shoulder). This seems to confuse the hemispheres of the brain, allowing them to merge together. Another level of this head-shaking movement is to shake your head at a speed that is quicker than your feet (musically, this would mean, shaking your head in circular triplet, while your feet are holding the square 4 count beat). Shamanic cultures around the world have used specific polyrhythmic movement like this to rewire the body, making a person more susceptible to trance states.Another way of expanding your consciousness into uncharted territories is by finding a rhythmic pattern in the music and letting your body express that particular paattern with a repetitive movement. The idea is to join a particular movement to a specific percussive groove. Let your mind focus on the subtleties of your chosen movement as you let go into the rhythm and “fall” into the overall soundscape. A mental quieting will occur, instigating a parting of the veils which separate one reality from another.You may also experiment with the meditation practice of the Mevlevi (Whirling Dervishes.) These Sufi Ecstatics spin round and round in circles (in a sense, we are already accessing the dervish trance state by dancing in circles around the Fire.) You may want to explore moving in small, personal orbits in a place outside of the circle perimeter where you will not be disturbing anyone and are a safe distance away from the fire. (The Jupiter track is a good place for stationary movement like this).
- Sharing: As you gather spiritual insight, be aware that your movements speak. If you feel inclined, you can “speak” your insights using your body as an instrument for collective understanding. If you were going to share with the Circle, your discoveries, realizations, and new understandings, what would they look like?
Distillation: Moon; Silver; 6th chakra (third eye)
- Movement Qualities: expansive, centered and grounded, embodied, expressive
- The Process: In Distillation, we continue to purify our “prima materia”, deepening our mindful movements to allow for prophesy and self knowledge. We literally infuse every cell of our bodies with the imprint of self-knowledge and One-Mind epiphanies.
- The Intention: Use dance to embody your highest vision; your highest self. Stand in the Mystery of spaciousness. Feel the pain before Birth. Feel the joy before Birth! Allow the expression of any remaining emotion that might be in the way of you having a palpable knowing of your divinity.
- Movement Practice: Embodying your Higher Self: Feel inside of you the qualities of your higher self and let them be externalized. Use your dance, your clothing, your gestures, your facial expressions, your vocalizations, .or any other action that brings the essence of who you are choosing to embody into a more corporeal form. Dance brings unphysical, intangible dreams into the physical, tangible, workable world. “Dance your dreams awake.” To discover the essence of your own highest self, it sometimes helps to intentionally embody a deity or spiritual master that you have an affinity with. As you dance their dance and exude their emotion, you feel what it feels like to embody something VERY EXPANSIVE. As you continue this practice of embodying deities and spiritual masters, you will make some very interesting discoveries.
Coagulation: Sun; Gold; 7th chakra (crown)
- Movement Qualities: ecstatic, unified, high energy, glorified, golden, celebratory
- The Process: In Coagulation, we are the Stone. In this final stage of the alchemical process, we exist with purified flesh, mind, and emotion, thriving in exalted consciousness. We have ridden the alchemical process through a complete cycle. The sun is beginning to rise and we see that our darkness does indeed give way to the light. We dance in gratitude for having survived the dark seas, awakening to new flexibility and stability in our legs as we walk upon lit up land.
- The Intention: You have made it through the black shedding of the night. Allow yourself to be swept up in the ecstasy of a complete cycle of transformation. Move in a celebration of life awakening again and again. Dance with the new day. Let your new skin dry in the morning sun. The focus is to celebrate your birth. From this full place, offer a prayer.
- Movement Practices: Making your every movement a prayer: How much intention can you infuse into your every step, your every hand gesture, your every hip swing? The more meaning you give to your movements, the more you are honoring your movements as an advanced language structure whose every “word” has something profound to say. Additionally, the more you acknowledge the power of your movements, the more your movements have literal power. We have mantras and spoken prayers, we have mandalas and visual prayers, we have silent, etheric prayers, and in the realm of the dancing body, we have movement prayers.As Coagulation occurs, you will be so full of life and vitality that the Sun within you will want to express itself through you. Let it! And as you do, you may discover that your every action, your every thought, your every intention is fueled with a radiance that has the power to manifest instantaneously. Use these golden moments well, as synchronicity and magic are afoot. Dance your highest vision for yourself, the Circle, the Universe and know that as you do, your movement prayers are coagulating into real substance.
- Dance of Ecstasy: How much ecstatic life can you let in? As a dancer, one way to engage in the gold of sunrise is to allow the heightened energy and speed of the drums to move your body in ways you never thought possible, . or even desirable. If a part of your body starts to hurt, breathe into it, or use a non-hurting part of your body as you allow your inner fiery sun to express itself. Let yourself be seen in your chosen ecstatic path for living alive!
Through the process of all night engagement in the Circle, you may discover a never-experienced-before flooding of energy in your body, possibly accompanied with shaking or other unaccustomed body conditions. Often times, this is simply a massive influx of life energy and is part of the process of transformation and expansion into golden sunlight. This sensation can potentially be frightening for someone who is not expecting it. You can use dance as your ally in this situation, by paying attention to your feet. Practice grounding your energy by solidly stepping to the drum pulse. Also, you can assist the movement of this energy by riding it through your spine (or any other part of your body, depending on where the energy wants to flow). The idea is to keep it moving, not to contract in on it, let all excess energy exude out of you through movements that feel like they will help the process of release. Breathe. Watch your breath…it will calm you, and invite you into a more connected place with your experience. Also, you may try laying down on the earth, with intention, send all of your excess energy to Mother Gaia, asking that she transform it into something useful for her, while invoking a more grounded state for yourself.
We hope that you find our discoveries about the magic of movement useful, and that you will actively explore the real magick they point towards, your own inspiration! May you be in-spirit as you travel around the Sun-Fire again and again and again and again.