Editor’s note: This short meditation on the magic of the campfire comes from The Manual of Woodcraft Indians (1915) by Ernest Thompson Seton — the handbook for an organization that served as a forerunner to the Boy Scouts. When’s the last time you gathered with friends around a campfire?
What is a camp without a campfire? — no camp at all, but a chilly place in a landscape, where some people happen to have some things.
When first the brutal anthropoid stood up and walked erect — was man, the great event was symbolized and marked by the lighting of the first campfire.
For millions of years our race has seen in this blessed fire, the means and emblem of light, warmth, protection, friendly gathering, council. All the hallow of the ancient thoughts, hearth, fireside, home is centered in its glow, and the home-tie itself is weakened with the waning of the home-fire. Not in the steam radiator can we find the spell; not in the water coil; not even in the gas log; they do not reach the heart. Only the ancient sacred fire of wood has power to touch and thrill the chords of primitive remembrance. When men sit together at the campfire they seem to shed all modern form and poise, and hark back to the primitive — to meet as man and man — to show the naked soul. Your campfire partner wins your love, or hate, mostly your love; and having camped in peace together, is a lasting bond of union — however wide your worlds may be apart.
The campfire, then, is the focal center of all primitive brotherhood. We shall not fail to use its magic powers.