Sunday, December 07, 2014

A Lesson in Resilience

Every winter, the town of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania holds a festival based on -- big "duh" here -- the Phoenix. The Heir and I make a pilgrimage to Phoenixville to participate in this event because it has a sacred application to life.

The festival occurred yesterday, in a deluge of rain. I told Heir we would go anyway, so long as the precipitation was water and not something frozen. Phoenixville is a pretty long way from where I live.

What happens in Phoenixville is this: After drumming and dancing by people clad in Firebird costumes, a giant bird sculpture made of wood gets set on fire. How does this happen in a pelting rain storm? Well, the thing is chock a block with accelerant.

Artists and builders work on the phoenix sculpture for months before the event. This year's bird was over 30 feet tall.

Until someone courting a maximum smite of Bored God karma burned it down at 3:00 a.m., the morning before the festival.

Phoenixville held the festival anyway. In a day's work, in pelting rain, its residents built a smaller but still inspiring substitute bird. With the dark ashes of the prematurely immolated bird still on the field, the new bird smoked, caught, and sent bright flames into the night sky.

How inspiring! What a lesson in resilience ... one I needed after a soul-sucking week at my workplace.

One of the traditions of the Firebird festival is that you can pay a small fee to have an Intention for the new year put into a box and sent Heavenward as the sculpture burns. This ritual had to be scrapped when the vandals struck.

But Heir and I are ourselves resilient. Heir made two origami birds while we ate dinner (the iconic Speck's Chicken in Collegeville, PA). We wrote our intentions on our paper birds and committed them, with prayers, to one of the smaller bonfires on the festival site. I brought a stick from that fire home to burn at Yuletide.

There we stood, Heir and I, dripping but unbent while the flames crested a sea of umbrellas. We knew the original bird had burned down before we left for Phoenixville. Like the other people there, we stubbornly proved that all which falls will rise again.

Blessed be the mighty Phoenix, the Sacred Firebird! All hail!


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Your resilient "on the fly" (so to speak) substitute ritual was inspired!

Anti Kate said...

Now I want to go to Phoenixville next year.

All Hail!

Anne Johnson said...

I'm sure that the townfolk will devise a way to keep their giant bird from burning prematurely. Me, I would build a big platform that could be used every year, then construct a bird that could be put together on site the day of the event. If you google the festival, you'll see that the birds have been getting more and more elaborate. Wow, some years the bonfire is epic. But it doesn't need to be THAT dramatic.

Lucretia said...

How awesome, both their story and yours! I wish we had a festival like that around here, but the only one is Burning Man, which is no longer really a pagan festival anymore, just a crazy gathering. :-(

Davoh said...

"How does this happen in a pelting rain storm? Well, the thing is chock a block with accelerant."

Typical good ole U S of A .. 'if it don't burn; MAKE it burn'.

O, hi again from me 'downunder'.

Season Change Greetings. May you and family enjoy many more Season Changes ...

Stacy said...

I can't believe people burned down the phoenix before the festival. How incredibly rude. That word doesn't even describe how wrong I feel this is...but I am filled with such love and light knowing the festival went on and that the community came together to make a new phoenix. Glad you had a good time! It sounds like an awesome event :)

Mary said...

My favorite line: "chock a block with accelerant."
And of course it's rude to burn down somebody else's bonfire bird. It's such an American thing to do that it didn't enter my mind that it was even unusual. Sad that we almost expect that kind of crappy behavior from people. But hey, it didn't stop you all and that's what really counts. :)745