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Impluvium – A Temple for the Earth

Each year at Firefly, a temple is constructed to provide a contemplative, introspective space for the community. The temple creates a space for engaging with both civic and spiritual needs. Participants leave writing & offerings, and are invited to spend time in the structure processing and contemplating their past year’s experiences, and those of the year to come. It is important that the temple be a structure onto which over 1000 people can project their own needs and emotions. The temple is burned the last night of Firefly, and this ceremony carries the weight of all of these things.

This year’s temple was designed by Nova Reilly, and built by Nova Reilly & Seth Avecilla, along with a team of regular core volunteers & a vast number of others to whom we are incredibly grateful. We’re honored that we had the responsibility of designing and constructing a space that means so much to so many of you.

Entitled “Impluvium,” the 2017 Temple was envisioned as a “Temple for the Earth.” An impluvium is an architectural feature in the ceiling of a building allowing for rain to flow into a basin below where it is collected. This year’s temple is a hexagon with six segments for participants to enjoy, and an inner central column of space resting beneath an open skylight, allowing for the sun and rain to flow smoothly into the temple’s central “inner sanctum.” The open skylight also frames the sky as its own work of natural beauty to be admired.

Below the skylight is a symbolic collection of vessels resting on an altar. When it rains, they fill and spill over with the generous gift of life-giving water that our environment affords us. Slowly, this rainwater evaporates back into the air, indicative of our give and take relationship with nature.

The alternating vertical and diagonal exterior beams were charred & blackened in the Japanese shou sugi ban tradition. Shou sugi ban- this act of charring wood- is meant to protect against certain types of destructive elements, and symbolizes a barrier of sanctuary and protection inside the temple while also invoking a reminder of the ephemerality of all things and the means by which the structure will soon return to ash and dirt to aid in the growth of new life. The spacing between the beams allows for the temple to appear to merge with the landscape when viewed from certain angles, and then appear to return to its solid form as it is encircled.

In keeping with the shou sugi ban technique used on the temple’s exterior, temple visitors will find small satchels of homemade vine charcoal hanging at each of the six entrances, to be used for writing on the structure’s raw, uncharred interior. Participants may also leave offerings to be burned in between the alternating wall beams, under the raised flooring, and as needed, under the central altar. The roofing and flooring are waxed to aid in preventing mold and water damage during the event, and to facilitate efficient rainflow into the central column. Participants are reminded to be respectful of the integrity of the structure itself, one another’s experiences, and any writing and offerings that others have left inside of the structure.

 

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