The Fire Quest

The women light a fire in the centre of the dance area and sit beside it. The men begin to dance around it. The theme of the dance is about the first bushmen soul setting out, before mind or matter was formed, in search of fire. They look for its spoor in the sand as if fire were some kind of animal. Hour after hour they go around searching for it. They call on the sun, moon and stars to give them fire. Then there are dancers who mimic those who have gone too near the sun in an earlier period and went blind. Some of the dancers have found the power of healing in the dance of the fire quest and break off the dance to tend a woman moaning in pain, the spirit of the animal afflicting the woman then leaves and he cries out in the voice of the afflicting animal. This done he would return to the circle of dancers and continue the quest.

The circle becomes a groove, and eventually, an almost knee deep trench as the dance continues hour after hour. Suddenly some men would break from the dance and run across the embers of the fire. So anxious are they to get the fire that two women prevent the men from throwing themselves into the flames. One man scoops up a handful of embers and tries to swallow them.

This dance occurred as thunder and lighting heralded the imminent arrival of the rains that would reinvigorate the desert. In the desert round about, the howls of jackals, hyaenas, shriek owls and the roar of male ostiriches and lions added to the general cacophany. Finally here and there men, utterly exhausted, began to fall in their tracks, two women would pick them up and place them in their trance state to the side. Eventually an appointed hero suddenly finds the fire. He kneels down reverentially and after the singing dies in one last cry of exhaustion, he lifts the embers and scatters them all about for the world to share.The quest completed the hero stands swaying from fatigue and utters some unintelligible formula and then in this particular instance, it starts to rain.