Shamanic Drumming Blog

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Drumming the Tree of Life

My Rolling Thunder Drum
In the shaman's world, the drum is a most sacred instrument. The double-headed drum is believed to embody the sacred forces of the cosmos through its sounds, structural features, contents, and connection to shamanic trance. The various parts of the drum also symbolize the structures of the world. Cosmologically, the drum depicts a microcosm of the universe with its three zones -- the Upper (sky), Middle (human or social realm), and Lower Worlds (earth). The two drumheads symbolize the Upper and Lower Worlds.

The rim of the drum symbolizes the Middle World and is connected to the Tree of Life (World Tree) through the wood of the frame and its association through all trees back to the First Tree. Like the Tree of Life, which links the earth and sky, the rim links the two sides of the drum -- the yin and the yang. A double-headed drum unites the sacred feminine and masculine aspects of the universe within itself. It restores the balance of these polar, yet co-creative elements.

The two drumheads also symbolize the two states of existence -- unmanifest and manifest. When a double-headed drum is vibrated, it produces dissimilar sounds which are fused together by resonance to create one sound. The drumbeat is the tuner sound, the sound that fuses the unmanifest and manifest aspects of vibration into one resonance. The sound thus produced symbolizes Nada, the cosmic sound of AUM, which can be heard during deep meditation. 

From a shamanic perspective, caretaking the drum and playing it properly during ritual fulfills the destiny of the human spirit -- to sustain the order of existence. In the rapture of ritual drumming, the shaman brings the Tree of Life into existence, opening a path of communication with the world above and the world below. Materialized in the drum, the trunk of the tree goes through the Middle World; its roots plunge to the nadir in the Lower World, and its branches soar to the zenith in the highest layer of the Upper World. The drum becomes the axis mundi or central axis through which the shaman maintains the world's equilibrium. To learn more look inside my book The Shamanic Drum.

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