Thursday, October 10, 2013

What is Shamanic Drumming?

Shamanic drumming is drumming for the purpose of inducing a range of ecstatic trance states in order to connect with the spiritual dimension of reality. Ecstasy is defined as a mystic, prophetic, or poetic trance. It is a trance-like state of exaltation in which the mind is fixed on what it contemplates or conceives. The drum serves as a concentration device, enhancing one's capacity to focus attention inward. It stills the incessant chatter of the mind, enabling one to enter a subtle or light-trance state. Shamanic drumming carries awareness into the transcendent realm of the collective unconscious, the infinite creative matrix of all that we are and have ever been. It is an inward spiritual journey of rapture in which one interacts with the inner world, thereby influencing the outer world.

Practiced in diverse cultures around the planet, this drum method is strikingly similar the world over. Shamanic drumming uses a repetitive rhythm that begins slowly and then gradually builds in intensity to a tempo of three to seven beats per second. The ascending tempo will induce light to deep trance states, and facilitate the shamanic techniques of journeying, shapeshifting, and soul retrieval. Transported by the driving beat of the drum, the shaman or shamanic practitioner, will journey to the inner planes of consciousness. When ready to exit the trance state, the practitioner simply slows the tempo of drumming, drawing consciousness back to normal.

The drum, sometimes called the shaman's horse, provides a relatively easy means of controlled transcendence. Researchers have found that if a drum beat frequency of around three to four beats per second is sustained for at least fifteen minutes, it will induce significant trance states in most people, even on their first attempt. During shamanic flight, the sound of the drum serves as a guidance system, indicating where the shamanic traveler is at any moment or where they might need to go. The drumbeat also serves as an anchor, or lifeline, that the practitioner will follow to return to his or her body and/or exit the trance state when the trance work is complete.
The shaman's trance is an intentionally induced state of ecstasy. Shamanic trance is characterized by its flexibility, ranging from a light diagnostic state, to spirit flight, and to full embodiment by spirit. Shamanic practitioners use intention and discipline to control the nature, depth, and qualities of their trance states. Practitioners may progress through a range of trance states until they reach the level that is necessary for healing to occur.

The capacity to enter a range of trance states is a natural manifestation of human consciousness. The ability to enter trance states doesn't make you a shaman; it makes you human. What makes shamans unique is their mastery over an otherwise normal human trait. It requires training, practice, and devotion to master any expressive art. Shamans master the art of ecstasy to see the true nature of the universe. Shamanic drumming continues to offer today what it has offered for thousands of years: namely, a simple and effective technique of ecstasy. To learn more, look inside my book The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming.


  1. Excellent and concise post! I am familiar with trance inducing methods, but I am relatively new to drumming and rattling as a method. Just the small bit of experience I've had so far, however, has proven to me beyond doubt how effective it is, and how safe, simple and efficient it is compared to other methods I've used in the past.

    The Gekkering fox

    1. Christopher,

      Thank you for your feedback. This ease of induction of altered states and related experiences contrasts dramatically with the months or years of practice usually required by most meditative disciplines to induce significant effects.

      Michael Drake

  2. I will like to use drum beats to induce deep trance for subconscious reprogramming. Is that possible to achieve?

    1. Yes, rapid drumming induces a theta brainwave cycle. The theta brainwave state is our most receptive state and responds well to reprogramming your subconscious mind.