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Burning Bowl

Burning Bowl Ritual

Every year on New Year's Day, we host a small gathering of 15-20 friends for a vegan potluck brunch at our house. It began several years ago when we realized we had connected with quite a few local vegans on Facebook that we had never met face-to-face, and we were looking for an opportunity to get together. It turned out to be a wonderful move – new year, new friends. Most of the people who showed up that day are still in our lives and are now among our closest friends.

One of the little things we did that day was set up a simple ritual that we'd been doing for years – the Burning Bowl. We set an old cast-iron cauldron we had bought in a shop years before onto a small table in a corner and encouraged our guests to recall things they would like to cast from their lives – habits, emotions, situations, whatever – write them down on a slip of paper and toss the paper into the Burning Bowl.

This is a pretty wide open ritual and you can take it wherever you want it to go. Any large ceramic, glass or metal bowl will do (we don't recommend setting a fire inside a plastic or paper bowl, of course), and it can be done at any time. New Year's Day seems like a good time to leave behind whatever baggage you'd like to remove from your life, but you could also do this at Winter Solstice or whenever you're making a big life change like starting a new school or job or a relationship, or moving to a new home.

Large metal, glass or ceramic bowl
5 or so scraps of paper for each participant
(could vary widely depending on how many things you're trying to leave behind)
Pens or markers
Source of flame
(we prefer a long-nosed lighter)
Ideas for emotions, habits or other things you'd like to rid from your life
(optional) Dried spices, such as sage or basil
(optional) several cups of sand or salt to line the bottom of the bowl and perhaps a candle to stand upright in the senter of it.
Set up the bowl with scraps of paper nearby.

Write down something you no longer wish to carry with you, fold or crumple the scrap of paper and toss it into the bowl. Invite your guests to do the same.

At the end of the ritual (or at the end of the party or gathering where you have left it out for people to try), you can say a prayer or blessing (or not) and set the papers in the bowl alight. If a lot of people are participating or if you have sensitive smoke detectors it might be a good idea to move the bowl outside or next to an open window before burning it. It will likely only burn for 20-40 seconds.

You could also add some crushed incense or dried sage or other spices.

We don't usually have any kind of ceremony around it, but a lot of people do. There are examples of burning bowl ceremonies here, here and here and a video here.

Happy cleansing.

Note: this ritual involves fire, so be careful. If you're hosting a large New Year's Eve party with a lot of people over-imbibing on alcohol or other mind altering substances, a burning bowl ritual may not be a good idea. We at Vegan Street would be devastated if you did this ritual on our advice and accidentally burned someone's house down.

2014 Vegan Street

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