Carrying the Fire

Carrying the Fire

Scotland 2011 – present day

Gathering around the fire, Rannoch Moor, Scotland 2016 (photo: Jonny Randall)

I seen he was carryin’ fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it ... he was fixin’ to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold.
— from ‘No Country for Old Men’ by Cormac McCarthy

Carrying the Fire began life as a smaller, northern cousin to the Uncivilisation festival. Initially held at Wiston Lodge in the Scottish Borders, each year’s gathering featured talks, workshops and performance, with many of the core Dark Mountain crew involved, as well as speakers like Sara Maitland, Margaret Elphinstone, Alan Watson Featherstone, Jay Griffiths, Mike Small and Alastair McIntosh.

These gatherings provided a rare opportunity to sit round the hearth in a clearing in the woods, to share stories in good company and engage in the conversations at the heart of Dark Mountain: conversations about how we best live in an era of ecocide and economic collapse; about the stories that might guide us through a time of change and creative responses that dig deeper than those offered by our mainstream culture. It was also an opportunity to take time out and to explore the beautiful woods and permaculture gardens at Wiston, as well as to climb Tinto Hill, which rises over 2000ft to the back of the Lodge.

Read Dougie Strang’s original posts introducing the programme for Carrying the Fire 2012 and the background to Carrying the Fire 2014.

Climbing Tinto Hill en route to build a Cairn for Lost Species, Carrying the Fire 3 (photo: Bridget McKenzie)

Carrying the Fire: Samhain

After three years at Wiston, Dougie Strang decided to change tack, scale down and create a more immersive experience. So in 2015, Carrying the Fire: Samhain took place on Rannoch Moor. Participants were instructed to board the 18.21 train from Glasgow to Fort William and alight at the remote Corrour Station.

On arrival, participants walked the mile across the moor in the dark to their base, the Loch Ossian Hostel, in silence and without torches. Thus began a weekend of explorations into the cultural and physical ecology of the moor. Central to the weekend were the mythic figures of the Cailleach and the bard, Ossian. Stories were told around the fire and on departure and woven around the weekend and its encounters:

Caroline Ross, a participant, wrote of her experience:

It was not a psychological or therapeutic setting, but a deeply connected almost mythic space … if you showed me a far-off society where Samhain was celebrated as we did at Carrying the Fire, I would go into exile from this country to live there with those good people and become part of that culture. Ceremony, gathering together and marking the passage of the year and of our lives … my heart was at home.

Read Dougie Strang’s Fàd a’ Chaorain, an introduction to the Rannoch Moor gathering – and Dancing the Cailleach by Charlotte Du Cann, a reflection on the experience.

Fire in the Glens

The instructions were simple. You go out and stand in the land, you come back and relate what happened. What you say, what you do with what you know, is the thing that the Earth waits for. Your gift.

What is that story? You forgot it. Ah. Here is a hint.

Photo: Gavin MacGregor

Arrive in the dark.

Follow the stag.

Wait for the people to come round the hill.

Other Carrying the Fire events are planned for the future. For more information see the Carrying the Fire website or contact [email protected].

Dark Mountain: Issue 25

Our Spring 2024 issue is an anthology of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, interviews and artwork inspired by the struggle for land rights, and by the living land itself.