I recently participated in a traditional goma, a Japanese fire ceremony, in Connecticut. It was led by my friend, Don Siclari, who has agreed to join our advisory board. Dr. Nick Karapasas, a chiropractor and practitioner from the Tendai tradition, also participated.
The fire ceremony is an ancient rite, going back at least to the ancient Vedic ceremonies in India. I recorded a ceremony that I attended at the home of JC Kapur near Delhi, India on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyV0jhOJiq0
While the ceremony is quite elaborate, I see the ultimate purpose as being the attainment of a state of clear, unaffected, pristine awareness. To reach this state, a number of symbolic actions are performed to allow the practitioners to let go of defenses and feel safe to drop their limited and fixed ideas of self.
This reminds me of a similar process in psychotherapy. Before a client can feel free enough to drop the defenses of the ego, therapist and client engage in rituals designed to build rapport, trust, and safety.
For more information about the ceremony, visit http://www.fireceremony.org/.