by Andrew Watermountain


I’m a classicist by training, so for me water service is about 2/3s praxis or “practice,” and about 1/3 doxos or “praise.” Both of these are Greek words, and they come out of the classical Greek experience (for praxis) and Orthodox Christianity (for doxos). I think of these two elements as being the practical issues, on the one hand, and some theoretical issues on the other.

There are right ways to carry water and wrong ways, and I’ve done both at different times. It may be I’ve ruined your trance experience at the fire. If so, my humble apologies. It may be that I’ve boosted your experience. If so, it was your doing, or the water, and not mine.


Offer Water.  — Someone once gave me ‘magic powder’ to put in the water.  I had no idea what it was. I didn’t add it, and didn’t let him add it, either. At a different time, I saw someone drink what he thought was water… but he spit out vodka.  Remember, you are trusted to provide clean water, nothing more and nothing less; live up to that trust.

Water ruins drum heads. — When passing water to drummers, pass the water to the side of a drum, not directly over the middle.  Do it even if the drum has an artificial head: it’s good practice.

Use local water when possible. — Bottled water is environmentally unfriendly, because of transport costs and bottling. It is also economically unfriendly, because it makes a luxury of a necessity.  An all-night fire circle (in the Northeast) consumes roughly 17 gallons per night, plus private water bottles.  Most of it gets drunk, but perhaps a quarter to a third of it will simply put out sparks or wet the ground.

Don’t try to prettify the bottles. — Glitter gets unstuck and winds up in the water, and ribbons get in the way of drinking mouths.  Water eventually wears away even Sharpie marker over the course of the night.

Remember to drink some water yourself. — Keep in mind that passing kidney stones is NOT fun.  Set a good example: keep hydrated and stay healthy.

Offer the drinking vessel with as much support as needed. — Some drummers drink without handling the container itself; they want you to pour (CAREFULLY!).  Some want to take the whole bottle, drink, and hand it back.  Some want to tilt the bottle/container, but want you to keep hold.  Simply follow their lead.

Communicate with Fire Tenders. — They see as many around the fire circle as you do, so you can share responsibility with them for people’s safety.  When 2/3-3/4 of your container is empty, scatter remaining water immediately around the fire; this cools the ground around the fire, dampens sparks and helps contain the fire, and gets rid of the worst backwash in the container.  The larger the fire, and drier the weather, the more urgently this is usually needed.

Fire and water don’t always mix. — Cold water should not be applied to severe burns: it compromises the burn and the victim’s body temperature.  Know where there’s a sterile blanket to roll a burned person in, instead.  IDEALLY, leave burns to professionals, particularly serious burns.

Learn to recognize the signs of dehydration. — If you haven’t passed water in more than 3 hours or your water isn’t clear, you might be dehydrated.  Talk to the health care professionals on duty about it. It may be nothing … but then, I had kidney stones.

That’s the basic praxis of water service, as near as I can tell.  Then there’s Doxos.



Water is elemental.

Its presence in the circle is just as important as singing or dancing or drumming. It’s fluid, not stable nor static, and it can be as roaring and as powerful as a fire. If water can circulate, rather than being confined to a specific location, it should be allowed to circulate. At the same time, it is advisable for many to do water service, rather than just one.  (As someone once reminded me, it’s easy for one person to get wrapped up in “This is MY service” and get a little obsessive about the task. Water does that to me, anyway.)  Water is multi-faceted, and many faces bearing the water jug allow water to be myriad and manifold.

As we know from that movie, What The Bleep Do We Know?, it’s possible to shift the qualitative energy of water. Dr. Emotu’s work suggests that you can project ideas like “love” or “truth” or “beauty” or “generosity” at water and cause it to take on a crystalline character. Drinking water charged in this way seems to have positive effects. Patrick Pigeonhawk had a fountain/water-turbulence device specifically for introducing air and good vibrations into water and filtering both pollution and bad vibes out of it.

Unless you have 15 or more jugs to use to serve water, refilling containers is unavoidable. Make a virtue out of the inconvenience, and use the walk from the fill-up point to charge and prepare the water for the circle. You can do this by saying words of blessing over the container as you fill it, by carrying the containers through the circle’s gate with reverence or ceremony (I usually rang the bell on the SpiritFire gate, for example), and by saluting the circle’s Water Altar during your first passage around the circle. It’s worth mentioning that these activities may not change the water itself, so much as change your consciousness in how you serve it to others.

After encountering Magnus McBride’s description of the work done at a fire circle as alchemy, I thought, “maybe water functions in the circle as a rotating lens or parabolic mirror in an alchemical operation.” By this, I mean that it acts as a focus for the energy of the participants, and as it rotates around the fire it collects good will, good vibes, good energy, and reflects that energy back to the participants. People are drinking all that yumminess in. It also acts like the “small dots” in the yin-yang symbol: a tiny piece of the complementary force intermingled with the principal force. It also acts as a cooling presence, helping to lend endurance both to the fire and the participants, so that the circle’s energy can sustain itself against the fire at the center. I haven’t yet learned if water is available in at drumming events in Africa, so I don’t know of any other explanations yet.

There is enormous gratitude from those to whom you bring water. The water-bearer receives tremendous words of blessing, gratitude, bows, hugs, and waves of kindness, healing, and good feeling. It can be really addictive to be on the receiving end of all that delicious good will, so remember to let others carry water too, and experience those feelings.  I didn’t get that until I I got the chance to receive water, instead of always offering it — it’s not right for one person to hijack all that energy, and I’m sorry I didn’t let go earlier.

I hope that you will find ways to bring each other water. In my opinion, water service belongs in the circle, and should not be consigned to a place on the edge.

I hope that these thoughts will be of use to those of you who choose to do some water service this year.


May your wells be full

and your cellar dry,

Andrew Watermountain

May, 2006