Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Juggling Fire

Click on any photo to enlarge
The occasion was in celebration of our daughter's wedding. She and her husband are both veterans of Burning Man festivals (look it up), and so have acquaintances who are fire performers. After the wedding reception there was a next-night 'Burner' reception for family and friends. There were fiery hula-hoops, fans, staffs and poi. That last prop name refers to a pair of devices with a handle at one end attached by a length of chain to a fiery ball. These are swung about the body with great dexterity, to great effect. (Look it up on YouTube.)

There were no examples of fiery jump rope or kerosene-soaked balls that are juggled bare-handed. (Yes, those are real props.)  

Not for the reception, but after, in the wedded couple's honor I decided to resurrect my fire juggling skills from way, way back when I was a Boston-area street performer in the 1970s.

This involved several weeks of practice unlit, followed by an afternoon when I broke out the kerosene and matches. I was immediately reminded that juggling is a wee bit harder when the whooshing sound and the flashes of heat as the lit end spins in toward ones face are added to the act. However, other than a few scorch marks in the grass from dropped torches, no harm.

Photos were sent to be added to the wedding album. Now I have to decide whether to re-retire this skill or continue practicing. A few tips I was reminded of: Practice with one lit before lighting up all three. Wear cotton - it's a lot less flammable than synthetic fibers. Use only approved fuels. Shake excess liquid off the wicks before lighting up. Have a damp towel handy. If you grab the hot end by mistake, let go fast.

For jugglers who prefer the idea of sharp objects over fire there are companies that manufacture props that appear to be sharp but actually have blunted edges. Pricier props have a 'sharp' side of the blade with a visible bevel, but the actual edge is blunt. For show, a performer could use a real knife or ax to cut an apple in half, then switch to the props for the juggling part of the act.

One company, Three Fingers Juggling, LLC, sells a double-bladed axe with a fire wick. To me, that feels a bit over the top - if it is dark enough for the fire to be impressive then the axe blades won't be that visible. And at 22 ounces each, a LOT heavier than the standard 10 oz torch. One problem with these heavy props is that even a blunt edge can cause quite a bruise if a hit taken on head, shoulder or arm.

Oh, and Ian Stewart, California, juggles chain saws, and for an encore, he has a wick on the end of one and sets it on fire. FLAMING CHAINSAWS!  


  1. Quite impressive but you seem to enjoy it so much : I love the smile on your face !

  2. You have a great garden, as well!