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New Europe

Day Eighty-four: Tallinn

Fire-walking near Tallinn 
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Mind over matter. Watching the fire some of us will be walking on.
Michael Palin - New EuropeAs the walking hour approaches, the twenty or so people here, nice, well-behaved middle-class folk of all ages and sexes, begin to move closer to the fire. Some are silent and still, some make strained attempts at chanting; most are looking to Margus for a lead. The evening is turning quite sharply colder.

A pail of water is fetched and a cloth dipped in it and laid at the end of the strip of embers. The music becomes more insistent. Everyone seems mightily relieved when, at last, Margus moves to one end of the glowing embers, and begins softly issuing instructions.

Breathe deeply in and out. Swing the arms loosely from the waist, palms flat and open to release the spiritual energy.

'Think of yourself only in the present. Clear your mind of past and future.'

I can see faces struggling to come to terms with the reality of mind over matter. Like how does it work and will it be enough to get me across a five-metre-long bed of fire. In the background the children romp around with unquenchable energy, wearing bits and pieces of plastic armour, matter firmly uppermost in their minds.

With a last deep breath and holding his palms outwards, Margus walks. I count ten paces to get through the fire. That's ten times the feet are pressed against red-hot ashes. Then he turns and calmly and unhurriedly walks back again. That's twenty times. He's followed almost immediately, and with admirable sang-froid, by a very large man whose body-weight must press his soles onto the fire like steaks on a grill. He's followed by Margus' striking blonde wife Evelin, carrying their new baby across the fire, like a Nordic madonna.

A middle-aged woman in a yellow coat who has been psyching herself up all evening comes to the fireside and waits, looking down. Then she goes and at the far end I see for the first time a reaction. Joy and relief almost verging on ecstasy. A younger woman can't make the decision. She stands rooted to the spot looking down at the fire with intense concentration, then turns away.

We pack up our equipment. I haven't been at all stirred to participate. All I'm thinking of is my hotel bed, warm but not blazing.

Margus remains friendly but un-pushy. He hugs me again and I know he thinks I could have done it.

Just then, as we are walking to the van, I hear a shout from the fire behind me.
'Ow! That is hot!'

And as we head back to Tallinn I don't feel quite so bad.
Fire-walking near Tallinn 
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Margus feels the heat.
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  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Eighty-four: Tallinn
  • Country/sea: Estonia
  • Place: Tallinn
  • Book page no: 201

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  • Miscellaneous
  • Day 3 
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day 34 
  • Full Circle
  • Day 22 
  • Pole to Pole