The impressive fire dance in Sokode, Togo

5th December 2017 

During the ceremony of the fire dance in Togo, the participants come in contact with fire and burning embers, apparently without experiencing any pain and without getting burned. But what are the reasons behind such ritual? Let's see some photos, trying to understand more about this unique tradition.

Sokode Sokode, Togo
The fire dance ceremony begins by preparing a bonfire, under the pressing sound of the drums. The fire dance ritual is a traditional festival belonging to the Tem people of northern Togo, not far from the city of Sokode.
Dance of fire festival
A participant, apparently in a state of trance, begins by passing a burning ember on his arm with the utmost naturalness and, incredibly, without suffering damage to the skin.
Fire dance ceremony Ritual of fire dance
Fire dance ritual

The burning ember is passed on many parts of the body, rubbing it as if it were a sponge or a piece of soap. But what are the reasons for this people to have such confidence with the fire?

The Tem ethnic group of Togo is located in the savannah along the northern part of the country, where fires are frequent, where water is not easily available and where houses are built with highly flammable materials (wood, straw). These people had therefore to develop a strong resistance to the heat, useful either to escape, either to help other people in case of a fire.

A fire dance video that shows a participant playing with a burning ember.
Fire dance Dance of fire
Fire festival in Togo Fire on the body
A burning ember passed on various parts of the body, during the dance of fire in Togo.
Playing with hot coal
Fire resistance: handling some burning embers with bare hands.
How to eat a burning ember Man swallowing burning ember
Swallowing fire

During the fire dance ritual in Sokode, Togo, some participants try also to put a burning ember full down in the mouth. Is something magic, is it skill, or is it just raw resistance to the heat? Regardless of the answer, visitors viewing the fire dance ceremony will be left totally amazed and the only words you can hear are "oh my God, that's incredible!"

This dance of fire video shows a participant putting a burning ember in his mouth.
Man eating fire Fire eater
More photos of a "fire-eater", scenes that seen live, leave literally without words.
Eating hot coal Fire eater man
Burning ember in the mouth Licking a burning ember
How to swallow burning coal? Probably there are few people asking this question to Siri, to Cortana or to Mr. Google, however, another "normal" activity during the fire dance festival, is to take a burning ember and gnaw it. In this sequence of photos you can see a fire-eater man who bites the ember before holding a piece of fire in his mouth. Subsequently, he swallows the burning coal before licking the hottest part of the ember.

On this video you can see the same fire-eater man doing the same thing again.
Burning coal in the mouth Hot coal in the mouth
Another participant to the dance of fire, holding some burning coal in the mouth. People initiated to the fire begin training as children and retain their skills by practicing constantly during the festivals, which are are held several times a year.
Walking on fire
At the end of the fire dance ceremony... what is the quickest and most effective way to turn off the bonfire? Obviously by feet, walking and jumping over it...
Sokode market Local cheese in Africa
Woman buying dried fish Natural soap
The following day we visit the Sokode market, with its stalls selling everything. The large red things that a woman is choosing, is a particular cheese produced locally, while the woman with the child is buying dried fish. The small white shapes are instead pieces of artisan soap.

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