Updated: Monday, February 18, 2008
The practice of fire-walking is believed to have originated on the island of Beqa, a few kilometres away from Suva and off the main island of Viti Levu. This ancient religious ceremony often requires great strength and discipline of the mind, body and spirit.
Villagers that participate must observe strict traditional protocols before walking on the red-hot stones. According to Fijian folklore, Tui Qalita was granted the ability to walk barefoot on white-hot stones by a god to whom he had rendered some service. The legend suggests that Tui Qalita was first offered the ability to survive burial in a lovo pit for three days, but did not have the courage to test the gift. The gift of firewalking was then bestowed upon the chief and his descendants instead. Traditionally, participants have always been of notable chiefly heritage.
Traditional Fijian firewalker from the island of Beqa - Three Loose Coconuts
Firewalking is also practised by Hindus in Fiji as part of religious ceremonies. Here too there is much preparation involved in mentally building up to the event. Hindus also have strict regulations and protocols to adhere to prior to such ceremonies, which are usually conducted close to temples. Unlike Fijian firewalking -- which is conducted on hot stones -- Hindu firewalking involves crossing a pit filled with hot embers.