Dancing is used all over the world to induce pleasure. Pleasure for the spectators and pleasure for the dancers. Dance is a social act but also a religious act. Dance in a religious context is often employed to induce ecstasy. The physical exertion releases pleasure chemicals in the brain which often makes the dancer feel jubilant and closer to Divinity. To heighten these feelings and to stimulate the brain to release even more pleasure chemicals, some groups, like the Fakirs, add an element of pain to the dance ritual. Most famous and most often portrayed in popular culture is the fire walk or dance. However, equally employed is glass walking and dancing. Glass walking and dancing is moving out of the realm of exotic religious practices and side shows to find its way to Fetish events and even main stream belly dancing shows.
Glass is a unique medium to use in ritual dance because it encompasses all of the elements: sand to make it with, fire to transform it, air to give it shape, and water to cool it. The website "Life Events" makes all kinds of health claims about glass walking/dancing and about napping on a bed of glass (which I imagine would be similar to sleeping on a bed of nails). According the the website's author, walking on glass acts as reflexology and improves your internal health (I would surmise that walking on anything bumpy would have the same effect). The glass from wine bottles is what is recommended for the healing bed.
"The juice of grapes are like tears form Earth....Preparing the Bottles: 40 to 50 wine (or champagne) bottles should be soaked in water to remove any paper labels. Use fairly large bottles so that the pieces are not so breakable once they are in small pieces. Heat the bottles in an oven (at 400 degrees) for 15 to 20 minutes. Place them in a canvas sack and use a hammer (iron skillet) to break them into small pieces. Wear gloves and eye protection. Remove the bottle necks.
Making and Using the Bed: Use a wood frame or place the glass on a tarp with an old blanket to give a little cushion. Spread the glass to about a 8 cm (3 inch) depth. Use a folded hand towel for a pillow and a sheet for a bed cover. Use a separate towel to brush off glass that sticks to the skin. Be careful not to step on the splinters that appear at the edge of the glass.
We ask our spiritual teacher(s) to bless the glass, use a smudge stick and recite healing mantras to energize it before first use."
The author suggests this chant as an appropriate healing mantra or opening blessing: "I have a key. I may do anything I want. My body is elastic and flexible. I give all of my pain, illness and discomfort to the glass."
Martina, who graciously shared her story in a previous post, uses glass dancing in Wiccan purification rituals.
"Coven members bring bottles and break them before the dance (wine and beer bottles) and spread them out on a tarp. I lay down with bare back on the broken glass, and each of the coven girls puts one of their feet somewhere on my body, so that the glass can pull anything impure from their bodies into mine. I then stand on the glass and each of them adorns me with something that will assist in pushing or driving all impurities out of me and into the glass through bare feet as I dance. (nipple clamps, added weighs or brass bells, or a thorny wrap around waist, hips, ankles, something that adds an element of pain to the dance) Then I dance on the glass while they drum and chant until they tell me to stop."
While glass dancing isn't for everyone, nor is it necessarily safe, but other materials can be substituted for glass if you wanted to give it a try. Obsidian or volcanic glass is a good substitute, as is lightening glass, pumice, gravel, and wood chips. Depending on why the dance is being performed, different gemstones with the appropriate correspondences can be used as well.