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Observing the Great Work

The Laboratory Process

Observe the heat, do not worry about the process or the interactions; there is no need to shake or stir the vessel. Be aware of, and be responsible for, your own vessel/body. Check in on what's happening inside of you. Don't be attached to the process, release all expectations, and be fully present to whatever is actually happening.

Stages of the Alchemical Work in the Fire Circle

Nigredo - Burning away impurities, releasing ego and agendas.
Peacock's tail - Colors, stories, songs, offerings
Albedo - Deep gnostic trance, ecstasis
Rubedo - Dawn, Sunrise and beyond...Solar adorations, Holy silence, Grounding

During the course of an all-night fire, we find four distinct time periods. The first phase is called the Nigredo, or the blackening. In the alchemist's laboratory, this is the part where the "prima materia," or first matter, is placed into a container and heated until there are only ashes and then dissolved with liquid until there is a suspension. These first steps are called Calcination and Dissolution. At the fire circle, this time period is also called "first shift." This is the time when we see a lot of activity -- from people arriving and settling in, to the fire being lit, to highly energized dancing. On a personal or transformational level, this is time when we "burn away and dissolve" whatever stands between us and the Divine (whatever we conceive That to be). Consider, if it is your will, what are you ready to burn away and dissolve in this time of transformation? What is the elixir you seek? The final stage of the nigredo corresponds with the alchemical stage called separation. In the lab, the solution is broken up into its separate components. At the fire circle, people begin to let go of whatever lead they've been carrying into the fire to be transformed. They separate themselves from that which separates them from others. There is a stage in the alchemical process called the "peacock's tail." In the laboratory, this is seen as rainbow colored streaks that appear on the inside of the vessel. At the fire circle, this is seen when people "show their colors," or step out and share a spontaneous moment of creative inspiration with the group. This stage can go on for hours.

The next part of the evening's fire circle is the "albedo." This corresponds with the alchemist's whitening process, where the matter in the flask is softening and beginning to purify. At the fire circle, this is the time when there is a palpable shift in the energy; the drumming may grow quieter, there may be songs or chants. Somehow, there is a shifting, and the atmosphere begins to feel lighter. Coincidentally, this is often the time when the sky begins to grow light. The stages of alchemy that correspond with this period are Conjunction, Fermentation, and Distillation. The above and the below are united in the heart; the energy becomes stronger and purer.

The final stage of the fire circle alchemy is called the "rubedo," the reddening, the sunrise itself. The sunrise can be interpreted on many different individual levels. We imagine the sun's rays entering our bodies, and filling each cell with pure gold. Often at sunrise, a long sustained period of silence is encouraged.

We often close with this prayer,
written by Katlyn Breene:

the sun rises
we lift our hands unto it
to be re-born
like the day

golden rays pierce our hearts
like arrows of light
dispelling illusion
releasing night

solar alchemy
filling each cell of our body
transforming, transmuting
lead into purest gold

as above, so below
the sun sees itself in the fire
in each other
we see god