From Anxiety to Action: Researchers Share the Healing Power of Cultural Fire

Sept. 7, 2023
Cultural burning of wood and materials in forest environment

Photo credit: Anissa McKenna

In a new article published in Ecopsychology titled, “Solastalgia to Soliphilia: Cultural Fire, Climate Change, and Indigenous Healing,” researchers explore the constructive way in which cultural fire can nourish Indigenous healing and transform solastalgia into soliphilia. 

The authors, which include SW CASC-funded researchers Melinda Adams (UC Davis, University of Kansas) and Chairman Ron Goode (North Fork Mono Tribe), each share their own experiences and knowledge to highlight the spirituality of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Author Erica Tom (Santa Rosa Junior College) details how she healed her relationship with fire through practicing cultural fire and recognizing the role of good fire on the land. In her introduction to the article she shares the concept of solastalgia as a word to describe, “distress due to the destruction or loss of one’s home environment,” and soliphilia as a word to describe, “the political affiliation or solidarity needed between us all to be responsible for a place, bioregion, planet and the unity of interrelated interests within it.’’ Erica writes that she has found solace through soliphilia by cultivating interconnectedness and a sense of community. 

Melinda Adams discusses interdisciplinary and multigenerational cultural fire. She describes how ceremonial fire grounds intentions and allows for deeper connections and healing, especially as the prevalence of climate change-fueled wildfires in California increases. She points to the continuance and renewal of ceremonial fire as a way to heal solastalgia and move towards soliphilia. 

Honorable Ron Goode, Chairman of the North Fork Mono Tribe, stresses the importance of recognizing the spirituality of culture and cultivating one’s life ways in order to sustain Indigenous cultures. He explains the relationship between generational TEK and traditional cultural practices (TCPs), describing that TEK cannot exist without TCP. Through reconnecting with the land and implementing TCP, like cultural burning, feelings of interconnectedness and solastalgia grow. 

Through this publication readers may find inspiration and hope in an uncertain world.The authors conclude, “we come together in writing to share our collective witnessing: the power of cultural fire to heal solastalgia, and awaken soliphilia.”