Shamanic Drumming Blog

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Battling for the Earth: the Huicholes

In the fight for the land against mining multinationals, the Huicholes represent us all. They are the last Peyote Guardians.

In his two-hour indie documentary, Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians, HernĂ¡n Vilchez captures one of the last Mesoamerican civilizations to preserve their distinctive way of life in an ever-globalizing world – still able, until now. The Huicholes tribe has been a largely resilient culture that lives in parallel to contemporary Mexico. Carbon dating proves their people’s existence long before Christ and their beliefs predate those of mainstream religions, practicing an early form of animistic and pantheistic mysticism.

Every year they perform an 800-kilometre pilgrimage to the top of the Cerro Quemado, a sacred mountain in the fertile semi-desert area of Catorce, where the hallucinogenic Peyote cactus grows. Eating the fleshy gourd is at the heart of the tribe’s spiritual knowledge and core to their existence, connecting them to their ancestors and guardian spirits through psychedelic visions.

The earth where the cacti cultivate has evaded drought – which is widespread in surrounding regions – but is now falling foul to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). N.A.F.T.A. grants mining concessions to Canadian multinationals out to quarry natural riches in the Huicholes’ holy land. Read more.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Power of Harmonic Reiki Drumming

Indigenous cultures have come together in community percussion circles for thousands of years. Although most of us did not grow up in an indigenous rhythmic musical tradition, we can still tap into the healing power of the circle. By creating a circle, the participants are structuring a pattern that will contain, focus, and amplify the energy and intention of the gathering. In a Reiki drumming circle, a group of Reiki practitioners gather together to create a rhythmic container that channels the outpouring of energy toward the circle's intended outcome. The objective is for everyone to play in unison, which facilitates entrainment, synchronizing each participant's heart and metabolic rhythm with the drum beat. The energy created when the group finds harmonic unison is greater than the individual components. There is power in drumming alone, but that power recombines and multiplies on many simultaneous levels in a group of drummers. The drums draw individual energies together, unifying them into a consolidated force that can be channeled toward the circle's intended goal. Read more.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Music and its Role in Ritual

Shamanism and music combined thousands of years ago. By observing nature, shamans perceived that the power of sound could be used to help and heal others. The first drums and musical instruments were put to shamanic use, as were many of the early singing traditions. According to folklorist Kira Van Deusen, "In a shaman's world music operates in several ways. It helps the shaman and other participants in a ceremony to locate and enter the inner world, opening the inner, spiritual ear and eye. Musical sound calls helping spirits and transports the shaman on the journey. Both the rhythm and the timbre of musical sound help heal the patient through the effects of specific frequencies and musical styles on the human body."

Music is an essential tool in shamanic ritual and healing work. Music is the carrier of the specific intention or desired outcome of the ritual. Music is used to contain the energetic or spiritual aspect of the sacred space, which is defined physically by the assembled people who participate. Dance and song propel the ritual process forward by providing a vehicle for self-expression within the sacred space. Together the musicians create the necessary container that channels the energy generated by the performance in ways that the shaman can guide toward the ritual's intended outcome.

Three elements are constantly interacting in communal healing rites: the shaman who guides the flow and pattern of the ritual, the musicians who contain the sacred space, and the gathered people who participate. Interaction between all three elements is necessary to maintain the energy, flow and intention of the ritual.

Music is also used to crack open the part of the self that holds emotions in check. For example, in funeral rites among the Dagara people of West Africa, drumming and singing are used to open the mourners to grief. Grief is then channeled in such a way that it will convey the newly deceased soul to the afterlife. Without the help of the drummers, musicians and singers, the powerful emotional energy cannot be unleashed. If not channeled properly, grief is useless to the dead and dangerous to the living. According to Christina Pratt, author of An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, "This musical container of the ritual space must be maintained continuously. The musicians do not rest as long as the ritual continues, though the ritual may last one to four full days."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bolivia's Law of Mother Earth


Imagine a lake having the same rights as a landowner. Or a condor with the same rights as a child. Under Bolivia's historic Law of Mother Earth ("Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra"), signed into law in 2010, all entities in nature have equal rights to humans. The law holds the land as sacred and holds it as a living system with rights to be protected from exploitation. Based on Andean spiritual principles, the law was enacted in an effort to curb climate change and the exploitation of Bolivia's natural resources. It spells out seven specific rights that nature and all its constituents have. Read nature's rights and find out more about this groundbreaking, comprehensive plan to protect the environment.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Power of Communitas

Edith Turner offers an excerpt from the preface of her book, Communitas: The Anthropology of Collective Joy. In the excerpt, she recounts an incident while doing fieldwork among whale hunters in Alaska when a moment of "collective effervescence" was generated by the community in an effort to influence environmental conditions to better support their whale hunting activities. When anthropological research enters a culture for the purposes of fieldwork, it may exist as a strange seed inside the womb of that culture. It grows and strains against its flesh, producing something entirely new—a combination of that culture’s own truth, and the gift of a vision of what that society is really like. This book describes scenes where light dawns for all kinds of groups, times, and places, where people stumble on “the best time they’ve ever had” – the time of communitas, unexpected and extraordinary. Read more.