Flaming Hearts And Spirits

What will rise from the Phoenix's ashes?

The distance from the Phoenix should be about 30 meters — long enough to appreciate the arc of flaming arrows, and short enough to increase the likelihood of the archers hitting it. At that distance, a 30-pound bow is the borderline of what is useful, with 35-pound to 45-pound bows useful in the bow-draw weight range. Higher draw weights can be used, but the arrow’s flight time is more rapid, and the effect of watching the flight is diminished. Also, disparities of 15-pound bows will be noted in the flight of arrows not being in unison.

Building Flaming Arrows

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth nearly a million here. Find out how to make a flaming arrow at www.greatcampprograms.com/crp_fire.html.

In essence, it involves trick birthday candles, cheese cloth, twist ties and some kerosene. Other methods are too heavy for lighter bow-draw weights, or they don’t produce a visible flame. The trick candles re-light the arrows when they go out in flight, and maintain a small flame throughout the arrows’ arc. Aluminum arrows that are 32 inches long work well–an archer with a 28-inch draw will have some arrow left to be on fire without burning an archer’s hand, and aluminum arrows hold the flame well.

The Procession

The archers start out of sight with bows and arrows in hand (dressing in black is a nice touch). On a cue, the music sounds, and the archers walk around the campers, then among them, and then encircle the burning campfire, facing out towards the campers. At this point, ushers move the campers to a safe and advantageous viewing location.

Once the campers are settled, the archers turn and simultaneously dip their arrows into the fire, which erupts in flames. The arrows resume the 45-degree angle held high, and the archers walk to their firing positions, preferably walking closely in front of the campers along the way so everyone can have a good look at the burning arrows and archers.

120 Seconds

The time the arrows are lit and then released is about two minutes — maximum. They will stay lit in flight after about a minute, but prolonging the flame heightens the experience. After about two minutes, the arrows lose their ability to stay lit in flight, and compromise the arrow’s integrity.

The effect of having all of the archers in their positions for a few moments so everyone can appreciate the sight also is a lovely touch.

If the Phoenix is difficult to see (very dark), then a laser pointer can do wonders for an archer’s initial aim.

The Firing

The lead archer calls out commands. After “Extend,” the cadence is quick — about a half-second per step. It is helpful to have the archers practice the movements and timing before the actual event. Having them all practice the cadence and clapping on “Shoot” works well, too.

Take sight — The last time you’ll see the target; hold the arrow UP!

Extend — Take what aim you can; don’t extend before this!

Draw — Pull back to your anchor.

Hold.

1

2

3 If you shoot here, you’ll mess up the effect.

Shoot (Not on 3! On “Shoot” only!)

Other Important Details

Music options: Last of the Mohicans movie soundtrack. I also had great success with real drums, as well as other musical instruments.

Prelude: Transitioning into the experience is helpful, rather than moving from, for example, a soccer match to watching a Phoenix burn. A campfire with stories — especially centered on themes of transformation, service, creation, change and/or adventure — can help set the mood.

As the pyre burns down, the entire audience encircles the structure to watch the undulating colors of yellow, orange and black. The campers will be excited, but staff can help establish the tone, from celebratory to meditative, depending on the effect/experience desired. If the camp has a goodnight ritual or song, that can be an enjoyable transition.

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