Firewalking ceremony - umu tiFirewalking ceremony - umu ti
©Firewalking ceremony - umu ti|Steve Kuo
A sacred passage


Feel the heat

In the heat of the night

Things are about to get hot! Umu ti, Polynesian firewalking, is an experience that’s spiritual, cultural…and physical. After a series of incantations, the master of ceremonies invites volunteers from the audience to walk across a path of white-hot stones. Obviously, it gets a little hot underfoot, but rest assured, you won’t get burned!

tahua Raymond Teriierooiterai Graffe

" Fire is a destructive and transformative element which can be beneficial to man. "

Ambiance caliente pour la marche sur le feu polynésienne

Once a year, the public thrills to the umu ti firewalking ceremony. This tradition has its roots in the far distant past when famines were a common occurrence and to prepare for them, Polynesians would preserve root vegetables by cooking them in very hot ovens. A grand priest would then walk on the heated stones from the ovens and if his feet weren’t burned it was a sign that the gods were happy and that the vegetables would keep until needed.

Organized at the end of June and beginning of July each year, the firewalking ceremony signals the start of the traditional Heiva festival. The tahua, the Tahitian priest, prepares a long trench filled with a fire of wood and dried coconut palms covered with volcanic stones. The fire burns for between 24 and 48 hours, until the stones are white hot. Then the ceremony can begin. After a series of incantations, volunteers are invited to walk across the hot stones. Apparently, this serves to purify the body and the spirit. It probably also helps to warm up those volunteers who had cold feet!.