Firewalking involves walking across hot coals barefoot, often as part of religious or motivational practices. Skeptics argue that it is not magical, but rather due to poor heat conductivity, uneven surfaces, and ash insulation. Firewalking events are held worldwide for various purposes, including fundraising.
Despite what the name suggests, fire walking does not involve walking through flames. Instead, the word firewalking refers to the act of walking across a bed of hot coals. Firewalking is performed barefoot, with no special protection of any kind, and always on coals that are still lit but no longer lit.
To prepare an area for firewalking, a large bonfire is lit in the early afternoon and left to burn until only coals remain. After the flames are extinguished, the coals are spread out in a long thin line. Fire walking is always done at night so that the glow of the coals can be seen clearly by all.
Fire walking is practiced by fakirs, some branches of Buddhism, Native Americans, and Eastern Orthodox Christians in some countries. Firewalking is sometimes part of motivational workshops, where the “power of the mind over the body” is emphasized. The idea is that by preparing the mind and entering a special state of concentration, it becomes possible to avoid burns, even if logic indicates that it should happen.
Skeptics argue that there is nothing magical about fire walking and offer a number of practical explanations:
1. Carbon is a poor conductor of heat, which means you’d have to be in the same place for several seconds before you could actually feel anything.
2. The surface of the coal bed is uneven, which means that the soles of the feet only occasionally come into contact with the coals when the person walks through the coal bed.
3. The coals are covered in ash, which is an extremely effective insulator.
Even with these explanations, believers claim that firewalking requires serious concentration on the part of the walker and that it clearly shows what can be achieved through willpower.
Firewalking events are held around the world as part of religious ceremonies or to encourage people to try to gain self-confidence. There’s even an organization called Blazed that helps people organize firewalking events for fundraising causes and who claim their events help people raise thousands of dollars in just one night.