A fire eater is an entertainer, often a street artist or part of a sideshow. The performer places flaming objects into their mouth and extinguishes them by cutting off oxygen. They also practice controlling and transferring the flame.
Fire eating was a common part of Hindu, Sadhu, and Fakir performances to show spiritual attainment. It became a part of the standard sideshow acts in the late 1880s and is often seen as one of the entry-level skills for sideshow performers, although skilled fire performers, such as those who can utilise the difficult and dangerous vapour transfers and produce large breaths of fire are regarded as equals in the circus community for their skill and devotion to their art. Such performers include record holder Preacher Muad’dib, Lucifre, Heavy Metal Pete, Murrigan Mystic Tom Black and Chris Riley all of whom are known as exceptionally skilled performers within the circus and sideshow industry.
Other than sound fire safety precautions and some practical advice regarding the laws of physics (i.e. “hot air rises”), there are few secrets to eating fire. Torches do not burn with “cold flames” nor is there any special substance in the performer’s mouth other than saliva. According to Daniel Mannix’s 1951 sideshow memoir Step right up!, the real “secret” to fire eating is enduring pain; he mentions that tolerating constant blisters on your tongue, lips and throat is also necessary. Many other fire eaters dismiss this, claiming that a skilled fire eater should not burn themselves, but since the art of fire eating is kept quite secret it is hard to ascertain exactly how it is done. Fire eating and fire breathing (and all variants) is a skill usually passed on for a skilled master to an appropriate student and almost all teachings include instructions on first aid, fire safety, chemistry and other appropriate skills.
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