The Goma ritual of consecrated fire (Mount Koya, Japan)
As the priest sits in front of the fire, he has an array of bowls, tongs, and other ritual instruments in front of him. He uses tongs to stack small but carefully cut pieces of kindling. He uses long sticks with small cups at the end to place spices, seeds and other items on the fire, all of which are very symbolic. All the while, a monk is chanting in the corner while the priest mumbles words and whispers what one assumes are prayers and incantations.
The ritual, which lasts about a half-hour, builds in intensity. At one point, the monk in the corner begins striking a taiko drum in the corner. The monk is making all kinds of hand signs, I notice, as he goes through the ritual, each of which having an esoteric meaning.
He eventually gets to one part of the ceremony where he picks up many small pieces of kindling, each of which are carefully cut to approximately the same length and size. I later come to find out that there are 108 of these pieces of wood that are thrown on the fire, representing the Buddhist belief that there are 108 "attachments" in this world from which we need to free ourselves.
Meanwhile, the drumming continues, along with the chanting. The fire grows larger and larger, burning away both the wood and - symbolically - our impurities.