Odyssey of the 8th Fire is the true tale
of an epic pilgrimage for the Earth
across North America

by people of all colors and faiths.

  - A creative non-fiction book in online evolution - ◊
© - 2007 by Steven McFadden

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire,
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"I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move."

      - Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

Day 225 - Friday, February 2, 1996 – Arrows of rose-hued sunlight slashed through the swirling clouds of morning, touching upon the land as our camp roused to the booming of Joe’s voice and drum. The call was to get up and take the final Sunbow 5 camp apart. Get packed and get ready to roll. No breakfast, no coffee. We drank the final pot last night.

We let our fire burn down to a few embers for the beach, got ourselves and our gear stuffed into vehicles, and started rolling down the road to Santa Barbara just before 9 AM.

Setting up on the beach - Joe (L) and Ned (R) kneel on the blanket as they prepare to set an altar. Grandfather Commanda (R) bends over to untie his bag. (Author photo)

We came through the city of Santa Barbara to East Beach, swiftly reconnoitered, then settled on blankets about 60 feet from the sea. We set the center of the circle for the three pipe carriers—William, Joe, and Ned—with a drum and an impressive array of medicines and totems. Grandfather invited Phil and Dennis Gonsalves to join him, and to sit in the center.

Out across the water we could see four or five big rigs pumping oil up from beneath the ocean floor, and also two of the Channel Islands.


As our ceremony got underway, we saw Jim and Norma Duncan and their five daughters come across the beach toward us. With them were Lauren and Mark Keahbone, Ralph Jones, and a couple of new people who had walked with them the last part of their journey.

Jim and Norma Duncan - on East Beach in Santa Barbara. (Author photo)

With surprise and excitement, everyone hugged and welcomed and adjusted so there were places for all.

Jim told me later that his Trail of Joy group finished walking in Santa Barbara a few days ago. They had received a phone call this morning letting them know about this ceremony, and came right over to join us.

Thus, the Sunbow 5 walk and the Trail of Joy walk were united on the beach. Our circle was made nearly whole, missing only Tom and his supporters.

A man of many devices, Tom chose not to join us. We know Tom is one of us, and that he belongs with us on the beach. We know our walk would not have started without him, and we have memories of his intelligence, cunning, and resourcefulness throughout. We remember how charismatic and eloquent he was as he stood before group after group during the first part of our journey, educating and inspiring. We remember also the problems and difficulties. Nothing is forgotten, all is forgiven—not just for Tom, but for all of us. Our simple circle on the beach is open to everyone, no exceptions. We walked to forgive, we walked to be forgiven. We wanted to find the good things left by the side of the trail.

According to Deirdre Dostou, her father, Tom, was in Santa Barbara at the hour of our ceremonial circle. She called him and encouraged him to come to the ceremony. He would not come. He went to the library instead. 


By the time we’d fully assembled—walkers and supporters—we were a circle of nearly 80 people representing all the colors of humanity, and many of its spiritual traditions.

We began to express ourselves, to pray. One of the things we gave thanks for on the beach was the tremendous support we enjoyed as we walked. So many wonderful people stopped, or went out of their way somehow to ensure that we succeeded as best we could. So many people responded, and helped us along.

Some people became very interested in the depth and specificity of the prophecies we carried, while others didn't care very much about that kind of information at all. They just felt we were doing something worthwhile by walking, and that's all they needed to know. They acted out of basic human goodness. Now in our final ceremony, we sent our gratitude and good feelings to Creator and all the helpers with our song and prayer for all.


Wearing wampum - Brothers Dennis (L) and Phil (R) Gonsalves together on the beach in Santa Barbara at the end of the Sunbow walk. Phil holds a spotted eagle feather Grandfather honored him with during the closing ceremony. (Author photo)

Wearing wampum jewelry from Aquinnah, their home island of Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard), Phil and Dennis Gonsalves settled on the blanket in the center of the circle. During the ceremony Grandfather asked Phil to stand and then, with full honors, he gifted Phil with a beautiful long feather from a spotted eagle.

Grandfather had remembered the remark that Phil made when we visited his house earlier this week (Day 222). Phil had said the one thing he really wanted before the cancers brought his life to an end, the thing that would help him feel complete in life, would be the honor of an eagle feather.

Grandfather, Ned, and Joe conducted a simple pipe ceremony, but did not pass the pipes around the circle, as was done at the start of the walk. Instead, a bowl of water which sat on the blanket through the ceremony, was later passed around so every one might drink the blessings into body and soul.


Jeanny Veronneau - Stands by the sea, holding our Earth flag at the end of the trail, oil derricks in the distance. (Author photo)

Along about noon after the pipes were all smoked out, Grandfather asked his daughter Evelyn, and Liz Dominguez, to walk the Seven Fires Wampum Belt out into the water, and to complete our pilgrimage by immersing the belt in the Pacific Ocean—just as it had been immersed in the Atlantic Ocean eight months ago at the start of our journey.

Every year the date February 2 marks a day and an hour of noted metaphysical power—it's a prime opportunity for ceremony. February 2 represents one of the four cross-quarters in the rhythm of the Earth's ongoing odyssey around the Sun. It is the date when the Sun is halfway between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox. The power inherent in this cross-quarter day is marked with a wealth of traditions: the Celtic Imbolc, the Christian Candlemas and St. Brigit’s Day, and Groundhog Day, a day of oracles. We were marking the rhythmic power window with our circle. It was in this moment that our pilgrim feet finally came to rest.

Evelyn, representing the Algonquin Nation, held one end of the belt, and Liz, representing the Chumash Nation, held the other end. Together, slowly and solemnly, they walked the belt out into the Pacific Ocean, where in a sacred manner they dipped and washed it with the waves.

To me it seemed significant that it was two sisters who accomplished this spiritual deed. Our long walk had in so many outward ways been dominated by men and male energy.

Grandfather Commanda later told me he beheld a vision when the belt was dipped. He told no one of the vision at the time, but mentioned later that he saw a Whirling Rainbow (Sunbow) in the western sky. In the moment of that vision he understood that it would take a year before we would know whether our walk had struck sparks to help light the Eighth Fire.

"For one year, no more walking,” Grandfather said. “Let nature talk to us, observe it. See if the people will listen.”

“In a year,” Grandfather said, “I may wake up some morning and find—when I unfold the belt—that the double diamond in the center will have become a single diamond representing the 8th Fire. These things happen,” he said. “It could come to pass.”

We Sunbow pilgrims are finished. Now we are the "People of the 8th Fire." This is how Grandfather spoke of us.

Yet we still have many unanswered questions. What now? What is the 8th Fire all about? What will it take to fan the sparks of the 8th Fire into a flame that offers both warmth and illumination, and to keep the fire burning? Who are the other People of the 8th Fire? Where might our odyssey lead in the years ahead?

When, if ever, will we walk the miles between Malibu and the Western Gate? What are the consequences of leaving that gap unwalked, unblessed?


Sunbow ceremony complete, we disperse. We are unable to ride off into the sunset. We have journeyed as far west as we might go. Now, at the end, we turn east and journey off in the direction of the morning light.


Sunbow 5 Walkers - Near the end of the trail about 40 of the Sunbow 5 pilgrims pose on and around the horse trailer that served as our mobile pantry and kitchen. (Author photo)


Copyright 2007 by Steven McFadden

Read the Epilogue-- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire Copyright © 2006-2008 by Steven McFadden