Showing posts with label shamanic drums. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shamanic drums. Show all posts

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Soul Flight: A Spiritual Prescription for Coronavirus

I am not a medical professional or an expert on epidemics. I leave the critical information in those important fields for the experts who have the appropriate training to help us get through the coronavirus pandemic. Even though I do not possess medical knowledge, as a shamanic practitioner, I believe I can try to humbly prescribe a vaccine that can heal the spirit -- the soul flight or shamanic journey. In the shamanic world, all healing begins with the spirit.

Shamanism is based on the principle that innate wisdom and guidance can be accessed through the inner senses in ecstatic trance. Basically, shamanic journeying is a way of communicating with your inner or true self and retrieving information. Your inner self is in constant communication with all aspects of your environment, seen and unseen. You need only journey within to find answers to your questions. You should have a question or objective in mind from the start. Shamanic journeying may be undertaken for purposes of divination, for personal healing, or for any number of other reasons. After the journey, you must then interpret the meaning of your trance experience.

Drumming (or listening to a shamanic drumming recording) is a simple and effective way to induce this ecstatic trance state. When a drum is played at an even tempo of three to four beats per second for at least fifteen minutes, most novices report that they can journey successfully even on their first attempt. Transported by the driving beat of the drum; the shamanic traveler journeys to the inner planes of consciousness: the Upper, Middle, and Lower Worlds. You should always journey with a purpose, question or intention. Some good reasons to take a shamanic journey at this challenging time are….

1. To reconnect with your inner or spirit self: Shamanic journeying heightens the ability of perception and enables you to see into the deeper realms of the self. The moment you bond with your spirit is the moment your heart opens. The first time you glimpse your spirit self, you gasp and cry. You know who you are. That is the moment you begin to heal. Journey work reconnects us to our core, enhancing our sense of empowerment and stimulating our creative expression.

2. To clarify life purpose: When we are unaware of our soul's true purpose or simply not aligned in our actions, we often experience a malaise of the spirit. We can engage the blueprint of our soul path through the vehicle of journeying. Shamanic journeying is a time-tested medium for individual self-realization. We can journey within to access wisdom and energies that can help awaken our soul calling and restore us to wholeness. Journey work reconnects us with our deepest core values and our highest vision of who we are and why we are here. It heightens our sense of mission and purpose, empowering our personal evolution.

3. To access a higher power: Shamanism provides a secular approach to accessing a higher power. Shamanic methodology directly supports the introduction of spiritual factors found significant in the healing process. According to the American Journal of Public Health, "Shamanic activities bring people efficiently and directly into immediate encounters with spiritual forces, focusing the client on the whole body and integrating healing at physical and spiritual levels. This process allows them to connect with the power of the universe, to externalize their own knowledge, and to internalize their answers; it also enhances their sense of empowerment and responsibility. These experiences are healing, bringing the restorative powers of nature to clinical settings."

4. To divine information: You can journey within to obtain information about personal and community issues. Your helping spirits are a good resource when it comes to answering questions pertaining to relationships, health issues, or any issue. To divine information in a journey, begin with a clear question that you would like to ask of your helping spirits. Decide which of your helping spirits you would like to answer your question, and then journey to the place where you normally meet them in non-ordinary reality. Of course you can ask your question to as many of your helping spirits as you wish. When divining or healing on behalf of others, it is vital that you have their permission.

5. To develop relationships with the helping spirits who dwell in the three inner planes of consciousness -- the Upper, Middle, and Lower Worlds: Shamanism is a sacred call to build relationship with the caretakers in the unseen world who want to support the earth and her inhabitants at this time. These helping spirits might be the spirits of nature, animals, plants, the elements, or ancestors. The reason for developing personal relationships with spirit helpers is to gain wisdom, healing techniques, and other vital information that can benefit the community. Similar to the way friendships develop gradually, our relationships with spirits grow and deepen based on repeated interaction and building trust over time.

6. To reconnect with benevolent ancestors: Your ancestors and the collective spiritual power of all those who went before you reside in the spirit world. When your own time comes to pass on, you will become part of this vast collective unconscious. If you embark on a journey with the intention of connecting with those who have passed, they may come to meet you. Keep in mind that spirits choose to come into relationship with the person seeking. You can seek ancestral spirits, but the spirits must choose.

7. To prepare for death: Shamans believe that learning to leave the physical body is important, for without this experience, the soul may become confused after death and remain stuck in the Middle World. When a person dies, there is usually a smooth transition into the afterlife, but when a person suffers a traumatic death, they may not have an awareness of who and where they are. This makes it difficult for them to make their journey to the afterlife. Other souls linger in the space between life and the afterlife for fear of going to hell. Sadly, most of the psychopomp rites of passage that once helped prepare a person for death have disappeared. Hence, journeying is one of the most important shamanic skills that we can develop. By journeying to the Lower World, the place to which human souls travel upon physical death, we can prepare for our own death. That said, perhaps the most compelling reason to journey is...

8. To find ways to restore balance in the world: As anthropologist and author Felicitas Goodman points out, "One of the most pervasive traditions of shamanic cultures is the insight that there exists a patterned cosmological order, which can be disturbed by human activity." When harmony between the human realm and the original intended pattern is disturbed, the shaman makes a spirit journey to the Upper World to bring back the balance. Shamans also go there to acquire archetypal knowledge, to bring a vision into being, or to influence events in the material world. By interacting with the archetypes, the shaman interacts with their counterparts in the outer world.

Try a Shamanic Journey

To enter a trance state and support your journey, click here to listen to a track from my CD "Shamanic Journey Drumming." Reflect for a moment on the purpose of your journey, and then close your eyes. Focus your attention on the sound of the drum and feel yourself being carried away by the sound. If for any reason you want to return, just retrace your steps back. You will hear a call back signal near the end of the video, followed by a short period of slow heartbeat drumming to assist you in refocusing your awareness back to your physical body. Sit quietly for a few moments, and then open your eyes.

After the journey, you must then interpret the meaning of your trance experience.  In some cases, your journey experiences will be clear and easy to understand. At other times, your journey may be dreamlike and full of symbolism. Interpret such journeys as you would any dream. Look for possible associations related to each symbol or image. The key is to observe whatever happens without trying to analyze the experience. Like developing any skill, journeying takes practice. Nothing may happen on your first journeys. You may only experience darkness. When this happens, simply try again at a different time. To learn more, read my article Shamanic Journeying.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Journey To Meet Your Power Animal

The practice of shamanism is one of direct revelation and therefore anyone can find and meet their spirit animal. To meet your power animal, I recommend traveling to the Lower World using the technique taught by the late Michael Harner. Founder of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, Harner was widely acknowledged as the world's foremost authority on experiential and practical shamanism. In his book, "The Way of the Shaman," Harner suggests that you visualize an  opening into the earth that you remember from sometime in your life. The entrance could be an animal burrow, hollow tree stump, cave, and so on. When the journey begins, you will go down the hole and a tunnel will appear. The tunnel often appears ribbed and may bend or spiral around. Enter the tunnel and you will emerge into the Lower World, the realm of power animals and spirit guides. It is an earth-like dimension where we can connect with helping spirits.

To enter a trance state and support your journey, you will need a drum or a shamanic drumming recording. Shamanic drumming is drumming for the purpose of shamanic journeying. A good shamanic drumming recording should be pulsed at around three to four beats per second. Read through the exercise first to familiarize yourself with the process. The basic steps for a journey to the Lower World are as follows:

1. The first step is to select a private and quiet space. Make whatever arrangements are necessary to assure that you will not be disturbed. No phones, no interruptions.

2. Next, you should smudge the space, yourself, and your drum with the smoke of an herb. Smudging is a method of using smoke from burning herbs to purify a space in preparation for spiritual or inner work. The sacred smoke dispels any stagnant or unwanted energy. Sage, cedar, and sweetgrass are traditionally used for smudging, but any dried herb is acceptable. Light the herbs in a fire-resistant receptacle and then blow out the flames. Then use a feather or your hands to draw the smoke over your heart, throat, and face to purify the body, mind, and spirit. Next, smudge your drum by passing it through the smoke. Conclude the smudging by thanking the plant or tree spirit whose body made the cleansing possible.

3. After smudging, dim the lights and sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor. Close your eyes and focus on the breath as it enters the nose and fills your lungs, then gently exhale any tension you might feel. Continue this breathing exercise until you are calm and relaxed.

4. Once you are fully relaxed, it is important to frame a simple and clear statement of your intent. You should always journey with a purpose, question, or intention. You might phrase your intention something like, "I choose to meet my power animal."

5. The next step is to enter a trance state. Either listen to a shamanic journey drumming recording, or begin drumming a steady, metronome-like pattern at a tempo of about three to four beats per second. This rapid beat creates the sensation of inner movement, which, if you allow it, will carry you along. Close your eyes, focus your attention on the sound of the drum, and vividly imagine with every sense the entrance to a cave or an opening in the earth that you have seen or visited. Clear your mind of everything but this image.

6. Approach the entrance or opening and enter it. Typically, someone or something will be waiting there to guide you. It may appear to you as an animal, a person, a light, a voice, or have no discernable form at all. If you are uncomfortable or put off by whatever appears, ask it to take another form. It is important that you see, feel, hear, or in some way sense the presence of a spirit guide that you trust and feel at ease with before proceeding with your journey. If you do not, then come back through the entrance and journey another time.

7. When you are ready to proceed, state your intention to the spirit guide and begin the journey. Follow your guide's lead and instructions in every respect. If asked to leave, do so at once. If the spirit waiting to guide you is an animal, ask it, "Are you my power animal?" It might answer you telepathically, or it might lead you somewhere and show you something. If it indicates that it is not your helping spirit, ask it to take you to your power animal. Your spirit guide may ask you to accompany it in some fashion. Typically, you will proceed rapidly down a passage or tunnel. If you encounter an obstacle, just go around it or look for an opening through it.

8. When you emerge from the tunnel, you will find yourself in the Lower World. It is here that you will find your power animal. Allow a landscape to materialize before you. It can be a desert, a forest, a beach, or a wilderness area that you have seen or visited. To make it more real, infuse your vision with all the sensations you can muster.

9. Then allow an image of an animal to appear in that landscape. Should a spirit animal present itself, ask it, "Are you my power animal?" Listen carefully to its response, and don't worry if you feel like you are just making up the answers. It often feels this way in the beginning. Be open to the sensations and feelings of being that animal. It is not uncommon to be and see the animal simultaneously. Moreover, it is best to avoid menacing animals with bared fangs. Such animals represent obstacles and challenges to be confronted at a time when you have the assistance of a power animal.

10. Next, thank the animal for its assistance, and then allow the image of that animal to fade and another image to open up before you. Repeat this imagery with as many different animals as you wish. The key to recognizing your power animal is that it will repeatedly appear to you at least four times. It may appear to you at different angles, in different aspects, or as different animals of the same species.

11. After an animal has presented itself to you four times, ask the spirit animal to be your ally, to merge with your being. Imagine yourself embracing the animal, and then return rapidly to ordinary reality. Envision bringing the animal spirit back with you. Your power animal will readily return with you, otherwise it would not have revealed itself. Bring nothing else back with you on this journey. The spirit acting as your guide, however, may or may not accompany you. If not, try to return via the same route that you took to arrive. Upon your return to the entrance, thank your spirit guide, emerge from the opening, and return to your body.

12. Once you have returned to ordinary reality, end your drum journey with four strong beats to signal that the sacred time of focus is ended. If listening to a shamanic drumming recording, you will hear a similar call back signal near the end of the track, followed by a short period of drumming to assist you in refocusing your awareness back to your physical body. If for any reason you want to come back before the call back, just retrace your steps back. Sit quietly for a few moments, and then open your eyes. To learn more, look inside The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Five Quality Drum Makers You Should Know

Selecting a good drum for shamanic practice can sometimes be an overwhelming decision. There is a myriad of styles and drum types to choose from. One of the most useful drums for shamanic work is the hand or frame drum. The frame drum originated in Siberia, together with shamanism itself. It has been associated worldwide with the practice of shamanism. The frame drum's resonance and versatility make it my drum of preference. Such drums are portable, affordable, and easy to play. They can easily be held in one hand, leaving the other hand free to stroke the drum. They are made by stretching a wet rawhide over a wooden frame, then allowing it to dry slowly. The frame or hoop is typically three inches or less in width and may vary from eight to twenty-four inches in diameter. They may be single-headed or double-headed. Like all rawhide drums, they do not have a fixed pitch. Heating and cooling the drumhead raises and lowers the tone. If you are shopping for a drum, here are five quality drum makers you should know:

 1. Cedar Mountain Drums: Patrick Pinson started Cedar Mountain Drums in Portland, Oregon in 1988. Patrick makes quality shamanic and Native American style hoop drums, rattles, talking sticks, smudge fans and other tools for ceremony and healing. He also has drum making kits and supplies and can guide you in crafting a drum of your own. I have done business with Patrick for 25 years and his customer service is outstanding.

2. Gaia's Workshop Drums: Run by partners Michelle Meister and Luke Martinez out of Portland, Oregon. Together, they make instruments that have balance, harmonics and tone, that are more comfortable to hold and to play, and that are in integrity with the animals and plants who have given their lives so that these drums may live. Michelle has been a drum maker for many years, working with Patrick Pinson at Cedar Mountain Drums off and on for almost 20 years.

3. Tachini Drums: Located in Arlee, Montana, Tachini Drums offers a large selection of authentic handcrafted Native American drums for sale. All of their Native American drums are handcrafted by Tachini Pete, a master Salish/Navajo drum maker using centuries old traditional methods passed down from the ancestors. They also offer drum accessories and drum making supplies. Tachini is also program director of the Potlatch Fund, a Native-led nonprofit that provides grants and leadership development in Tribal communities throughout Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.

4. Tribal Spirit Music: Tribal Spirit is Joywind and Robert Todd, native artists of Secwepemc, Simpcw First Nations, British Columbia and Mohawk/Scottish descent. They live in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. For more than a decade, they have applied their skills and dedication to building native spiritual tools, and sharing on the powwow trail. They create traditional Native American powwow drums, hand drums, powwow drumsticks, drum bags and leather handbags. Their powwow drums are used by award-winning native groups and by leaders at major native ceremonies throughout North America.

5. Shaman Drums: From their home in Denmark, Susanne and Erik Humaidan craft handmade shaman drums, rattles, feather fans, and power jewelry. Both have practiced shamanism for several years and shamanism is the foundation of every frame drum or rattle they create. The shamanic tools they make are used for different spiritual practices such as shamanic journeys, calling power animals and spirit helpers and for healing. Both learned and adapted the art of drum making from elder drum maker Day Feye in Norway.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

5 Good Reasons to Harness the Power of Drumming

1. To ground you in the present moment: Drumming helps alleviate stress that is created from holding on to the past or worrying about the future. When one plays a drum, one is placed squarely in the here and now. The drumbeat somehow manages to anchor you while simultaneously creating a sensation of movement. Another paradox of rhythm is that it has both the capacity to move your awareness out of your body into realms beyond time and space and to ground you firmly in the present moment. It allows you to maintain a portion of ordinary awareness while experiencing non-ordinary awareness. This permits full recall later of the visionary experience.

2. To become a vessel of healing: When you drum, close your eyes and focus your attention on the sound of the drum. Become one with the beat of the drum. Allow the drum to empty your mind of all but the rhythm you are playing. You must empty yourself to be filled up by the healing power of the divine. Emptiness is the true nature of reality and the goal of all meditative practice. When you get out of your own way to allow spirit to work through you, you become a vessel of healing for others.

3. To build community through drum circles: In a society in which traditional family and community-based systems of support have become increasingly fragmented, drum circles provide a sense of connectedness with others and interpersonal support. A drum circle provides an opportunity to connect with your own spirit at a deeper level, and also to connect with a group of other like-minded people. Shamanic circles provide an authentic experience of unity and interconnectedness. Group drumming alleviates self-centeredness, isolation and alienation.

4. To access a higher power: Recent studies demonstrate that the drumming provides a secular approach to accessing a higher power and applying spiritual perspectives. According to research published in the American Journal of Public Health, "shamanic drumming directly supports the introduction of spiritual factors found significant in the healing process. Shamanic activities bring people efficiently and directly into immediate encounters with spiritual forces, focusing the client on the whole body and integrating healing at physical and spiritual levels. This process allows them to connect with the power of the universe, to externalize their own knowledge, and to internalize their answers; it also enhances their sense of empowerment and responsibility. These experiences are healing, bringing the restorative powers of nature to clinical settings."

5. To achieve self-realization: Drumming facilitates the realization or fulfillment of one's own potential. As Ute-Tiwa holy man Joseph Rael points out in his book, Being and Vibration, "Drumming opens up three basic vibrations. Drumming awakens the self. Drumming heightens the ability of perception, and drumming enables the person to see into the deeper realms of the self." Drumming connects us to our true self -- to our soul. Once connected to our soul, we can discover and actualize our true potential.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"The Shamanic Drum" Book Sale

Amazon is now offering a 16% discount on the paperback edition of my book "The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming." The paperback sale price is $11.69. Shamanic drumming is an ancient approach that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. Based on my studies and personal shamanic experience, I present the first practical guide to applying this ancient healing art to our modern lives. Through a series of simple exercises and lessons, I teach the basic shamanic methods of drumming. The focus is on creating sacred space, journeying, power practice, power animals, drum therapy, drum circles and the therapeutic effects of drumming. Whether you are an accomplished percussionist or a total beginner, this user-friendly book will help you harness the power of drumming. Recent studies demonstrate that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, chronic pain, cancer, stroke, trauma, addictions, mental illness, emotional disorders and a wide range of physical disabilities. The benefits include relaxation, healing, more energy, greater mental clarity, enhanced creativity and deeper self-awareness. Look inside "The Shamanic Drum."

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Mother Drums

Mother drums are large drums that can be played by many people at the same time. Also called community or council drums, these powerful drums symbolize the heartbeat of a community drum circle. Some drum circles like to open each gathering with a round of drumming on a mother drum. One way to do this is to ask a community drum keeper to set up the beat, and then the rest of the circle will stand up and join in one at a time. When no more room is left to drum, the first drummer leaves to make room for another, and so on until everyone has drummed.

In drum circle culture, mother drums are usually open to any participant who wishes to join in, however it is a "sign of respect" to ask permission before you sit on a drum. Each drum is different, but there is some basic protocol when you play on a mother drum: Have respect for the drum and the drum keeper. Anything being passed at a community drum should be passed clockwise around the drum, never over, across or counterclockwise. Do not rest anything on top of the drum except for a drumstick or blanket when instructed by the drum keeper. Mother drums are usually covered with a blanket when not in use.

Mother drums foster and sustain a culture of engagement and collaboration. Playing together on a community drum bonds the individual members of the circle. Mother drums are often used to support group shamanic journeys. A group shamanic journey basically involves one person drumming a repetitive rhythm while the others relax and journey within. Transported by the resonant beat of the drum; the shamanic travelers journey to the inner planes of consciousness. If you have never had the opportunity to take such a deep shamanic journey, I invite you to try a "Mother Drum Journey." Available at iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Bridge to the Spirit World

In oral/aural cultures, sound is regarded as one of the most effective ways of establishing connections with the spirit realm since it travels through space, permeates visual and physical barriers, and conveys information from the unseen world that underlies our physical reality. Tuvan shamans of Siberia believe that the spirits of nature create their own sound world, and it is possible for humans to communicate with them through the sound of the drum. A ritual performance often begins with heating the drumhead over a fire to bring it up to the desired pitch. Shamans may strike certain parts of the drum to summon particular benevolent helping spirits who give them knowledge and assistance. It is the subtle variations in timbre and ever-changing overtones of the drum that allow the shaman to communicate with the spiritual realm. The shaman uses the drum to create a bridge to the spirit world while simultaneously opening the awareness of all the participants to that bridge.

All elements of drum music such as timbre, rhythm, volume and tempo play an important role in shamanic ritual. By using different parts of the drumstick to play on different parts of the drum, different timbres can be produced for transmitting different meanings. Different rhythms transmit different meanings and enable the shaman to contact different beings in different realms of the cosmos. Volume and tempo arouse feelings in the listener and communicate symbolic meanings directly as aural sense experience.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Harnessing the Power of the Drum Circle

Indigenous cultures have been practicing community percussion 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 drum circle. The shamanic drum circle is the most powerful way I know to connect with the spirit and oneness of everything. Drum circles provide the opportunity for people of like mind to unite for the attainment of a shared objective. 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 objective.

Drum circle participants should play in unison so that the drumming creates a mesmerizing effect to induce trance. Avoid free form drumming, which produces a cacophony of competing beats. The goal is to produce a sound that is unifying and consciousness-shifting, so individuals should alternate the responsibility of setting the tempo and leading the drum circle. Like the indigenous shaman who conducts community healing rites, the drum circle leader or facilitator must hold sacred space and guide the pattern, flow, and energy of the drumming toward the ritual’s intended goal. Even in trance states, a skilled facilitator maintains a portion of conscious awareness in order to stay in tune with the pulse of the circle.

Shamanic drum circles are an effective way to restore the web of life. The drums shape available energy into a powerful vortex that spirals out into the resonating circle of life. The true power of a shamanic circle comes from the capacity of its members to work together for a common goal. When they are of one heart, of one mind and of one accord, a circle of shamanic practitioners can effectively heal individuals, communities and beyond. To learn more, read my Shamanic Drumming Circles Guide.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ritual Drumming

Ritual is a tool used by shamanic practitioners to engage the powers of the unseen world to effect specific changes in the physical world. A shamanic ritual often begins with heating the drumhead over a fire to bring it up to the desired pitch. The sound of the drum is very important. Practitioners may strike certain parts of the drum to summon particular helping spirits. It is the subtle variations in timbre and ever-changing overtones of the drum that allow the practitioner to communicate with the spiritual realm. The practitioner uses the drum to create a bridge to the spirit world, while simultaneously opening the awareness of all the participants to that bridge. A master drummer can draw powerful rhythms from the drum that can transport others into specific dimensions of the spirit world.

All elements of drum music such as timbre, rhythm, volume and tempo play an important role in shamanic ritual. By using different parts of the drumstick to play on different parts of the drum, different timbres can be produced for transmitting different meanings. Different rhythms transmit different meanings and enable the practitioner to contact different beings in different realms of the cosmos. Volume and tempo arouse feelings in the listener and communicate symbolic meanings directly as aural sense experience.

A practitioner may have a repertory of established rhythms or improvise a new rhythm, uniquely indicated for the situation. The drumming is not restricted to a regular tempo, but may pause, speed up or slow down with irregular accents. The practitioner may stop playing altogether, or suddenly hoist the drum skyward and bang it violently, throwing the disease into the heavens; returning it to the spirit world.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Selecting a Shamanic Drum

One of the most useful drums for shamanic work is the frame drum. The single-headed frame drum originated in Siberia along with shamanism itself thousands of years ago. It has been associated worldwide with the practice of shamanism. The frame drum's resonance and versatility make it my drum of preference. Such drums are portable, affordable, and easy to play. They can easily be held in one hand, leaving the other hand free to stroke the drum. They are made by stretching a wet rawhide over a wooden frame, then allowing it to dry slowly. The frame or hoop is typically three inches or less in width and may vary from eight to twenty-four inches in diameter. They may be single-headed or double-headed. Like all rawhide drums, they do not have a fixed pitch. Heating and cooling the drumhead raises and lowers the tone.

Synthetic frame drums can also be used in shamanic work. Each has a unique sound, energy and spirit. Like rawhide drums, synthetic drums can be a vessel for spirit. The drum shell and polyester drumhead are composed of organic compounds that come from the living Earth. You can also infuse spirit into the drum by painting and decorating it. The Remo Company manufactures a Native American inspired "Buffalo" frame drum that comes with a rope handle, mallet, and a plain synthetic head that can be decorated. One great advantage to playing a synthetic drum is that it will hold a consistent tone, even in the pouring rain.

Though I highly recommend frame drums, any type of drum may be used in shamanic drumming. There is a myriad of styles and drum types to choose from. Congas, doumbeks, djembes, ashikos, tablas, and timbales are but a few of the drum types readily available in music stores. In selecting a suitable drum, play several and listen for the drum that calls to you. You will know it by its voice. It will strike a deep chord within you.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Call of the Drum

All over America, people of all ages are taking up drumming in great numbers. In communities all across the country, small drumming circles are springing up, oriented not toward performance and musical virtuosity, but toward personal transformation, consciousness expansion, and community building. Since there are no prerequisites to drumming, anyone can join in and explore rhythms with hands and drumsticks as an exhilarating way of communing.

Folklore around the world reflects the age-old use of drumming for creating communal and sacred space. Realizing that healthy living things are not only internally rhythmic, but also synchronized with their environment, the earliest communities of humans based their survival on keeping track of these rhythms. Living in harmony with the rhythms of nature was of vital importance. Perceiving life as a rhythmic existence, primal peoples used drumming rites to arouse and shape group emotion and behavior, developing a continuous, shared consciousness.

Drumming also served to influence modes of awareness that both underlie and transcend the normal patterns of consciousness. Cultures throughout the world continue to use drumming to initiate changes in group consciousness and to attune to the rhythms of life. The rites may differ significantly from culture to culture, yet virtually all utilize the drum to induce holistic states of consciousness.

Our own western culture is deeply rooted in drum images: the Little Drummer Boy of the Christmas tale, rudimental drumming of the military tradition, and the driving beat of rock and roll. Missing, however, is the spirit or trance side of the drum, a side recognized by virtually every culture on the planet. There are two voices to a drum. One is physical, having to do with the drum's construction, cultural context, and method of playing. To commune with the drum's second or spiritual voice, we must be carried away by the rhythm. We must soar on flights of rapture. It is this ecstatic element that today's drummers are rediscovering.

People are again hearing the call of the drum. As we hear and respect the compelling voice of the drum, we connect with our own inner guidance, which inspires us to heal our own place on the planet. The heartbeat of the drum is breaking through our soulless scientific misconceptions of nature to a new communion with our planet. The drum is calling us to a path of environmental sanity, to rejoining the miraculous cycle of nature. Indeed, it is the voice of our Earth Mother who is speaking through the drum, for the drum echoes the pulse of her heart. Her heart is crying out to the circle of humanity to attune our hearts again to hers. May we all heed the call of the drum.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Auditory Illusion

An auditory illusion is an illusion of hearing, the aural equivalent of an optical illusion: the listener hears either sounds which are not present in the stimulus, or "impossible" sounds. Shamans are known for their ability to create unusual auditory phenomena. According to Scottish percussionist Ken Hyder, who has studied with Siberian shamans, "Shamans tend to move around a lot when they are playing, so a listener will hear a lot of changes in the sound ... including a mini-Doppler effect. And if the shaman is singing at the same time, the voice will also change as its vibration plays on the drumhead."1 The Doppler effect can be described as the effect produced by a moving source of sound waves in which there is an apparent upward shift in frequency for observers towards whom the source is approaching and an apparent downward shift in frequency for observers from whom the source is receding.

Furthermore, in a recent ethnographic study of Chukchi shamans in northeastern Siberia, it was found that in a confined space, shamans are capable of directing the sound of their voice and drum to different parts of the room. The sounds appear to shift around the room, seemingly on their own. Shamans accomplish this through the use of standing waves, an acoustic phenomenon produced by the interference between sound waves as they reflect between walls. Sound waves either combine or cancel, causing certain resonant frequencies to either intensify or completely disappear. Sound becomes distorted and seems to expand and move about the room as the shaman performs. Moreover, sound can appear to emanate from both outside and inside the body of the listener, a sensation which anthropologists claimed, "could be distinctly uncomfortable and unnerving."2


1. Ken Hyder, Shamanism and Music in Siberia: Drum and Space. Tech. 11 Aug. 2008. Web. 28 Feb. 2012.

2 .Aaron Watson, 2001, “The Sounds of Transformation: Acoustics, Monuments and Ritual in the British Neolithic,” In N. Price (ed.) The Archaeology of Shamanism. London: Routledge. 178-192.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Northwest Coast Indians Box Drums

Shaman's Cedar Box Drum
Wooden box drums are a customary element to the music of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Box drums accompany singing during funerals and at the memorial potlatch ceremonies that come later. The box drum is either played upright or tilted back and is used to begin and to mark certain points within a song. Like many of the musical instruments used on the Northwest Coast, box drums can be associated with shamanic practice. Some indigenous people of the Northwest Coast utilize the drum to indicate the presence of spirits. For example, a tremolo created by rapidly striking the drum can be perceived as an audible manifestation of a spirit being's presence.

The carved cedar drum in the photo is a very old box drum belonging to the Mount Fairweather (Snail) house of the T'akdeintaan clan in Hoonah, Alaska. It commemorates the time that a T'akdeintaan shaman proved his spiritual power as a shaman. A physical representation of the shaman's spirit guide is carved into the drum as an effigy used to invoke the spirit's power. The top figure carved on the front of the drum is a bear. It's most likely the same drum depicted in geographer Aurel Krause's 1882 book, called "The Tlingit Indians" in English, and could have been carved decades before that.

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.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Raise Your Vibration Today

It isn't hard to see that even though we live on a planet that surrounds us with beauty, that there is a lot of darkness manifesting within humanity. Cruelty, violence and instability are on the rise. To raise the heavy vibration of fear that's enveloping the world, lift your own vibration. Do this with drumming, chanting and prayer. Drumming raises your vibration, opens the heart and connects you with a power greater than yourself. When we pray and drum with intent, the drum amplifies and carries our intentions to the Loom of Creation, thereby reweaving the pattern of existence in accordance with those prayers. Chanting has no limitations of time and space and can be done anytime or anywhere. Chants move us to a level of awareness beyond form, a place where we discover our own divinity. Regular prayer is a cornerstone of spiritual practice. Praying brings us Divine help, reduces our ego, grants us forgiveness of mistakes, and more. Repetitive drumming, chanting, and prayer will dissipate the veil of darkness that is enveloping our planet.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Shaman's Horse

Lakota Painted Drum, ca. 1860s
My drum can connect me to the earth or carry me like a flying horse. Sometimes I send my spirits out, but other times I must go myself, alone or with the spirits.
--Tania Kobezhikova, Khakass shaman


The shaman's horse, namely the single-headed frame drum, originated in Siberia, together with shamanism itself thousands of years ago. Shamanic drumming is considered one of the oldest methods for healing and accessing inner wisdom. Practiced cross-culturally, this technique is strikingly similar the world over. Shamanic drumming uses a single, repetitive rhythm played at a tempo of three to four beats per second. Although sounding quite simple and redundant, the unique connection between the drum and the shaman gives this drumming great power, richness, and depth.

According to Tuvan musicologist Valentina Suzukei, "shamanic drumming is not monotonous at all. Constant changes in timbre and volume keep them interesting. The healing quality lies in this variation, which tracks and directs the patient's energies. If you don't listen for timbre, but only for pitch and rhythm the music is boring, monotonous. But the player's every smallest change of mood is reflected in timbre."

Through the many frequencies and overtones of the drum, the shaman communes with the normally unseen energies of the spirit world. By changing and listening to the tones, pitches, and harmonics of the drum, the shaman is able to send messages to--and receive them from--both the spirit world and the patient.

The shamanic drum is a time-tested vehicle for healing and self-expression. A shaman may use the drum to address any number of health issues including trauma, addiction, depression, and chronic pain. Additionally, the shamanic techniques of extraction, soul retrieval, and journeying, can all be performed with the drum. According to Mariko Namba Walter and Eva Jane Neumann Fridman, authors of Shamanism: An Encyclopedia of World Beliefs, Practices, and Culture, "The drum is used in a variety of ways in shamanist rituals; it may serve as (1) a rhythm instrument, (2) a divination table, (3) a "speaker" for communicating with the spirits, (4) a spirit-catcher, (5) a spirit boat, (6) a purifying device, (7) the shaman's mount."

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Drumbeat of the Rainbow Fire

The drum has been the guiding force in my life for many years. My journey into rhythm began under the tutelage of Mongolian shaman Jade Wah'oo Grigori. Jade's ancient knowledge of drumming and healing rhythms was most influential in putting together my first book, The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming. I had a deep respect for the power of the ceremonial rhythms and drum ways of Jade's tradition, but I had to follow my own path of rhythm.

Though Jade was my mentor, the drum became my teacher and creative addiction. I developed an insatiable thirst for its rhythms. I became a rhythm seeker, learning new rhythms from other drummers, from nature, and from dreams and visions. I explored the rhythms of many of the world’s shamanic and spiritual traditions. It was only natural, at least from my perspective, that rhythm, as a path, would lead me to the rhythmic roots of all cultures.   

As I learned the drum ways of various world cultures, I found the same rhythmic qualities underlying all of them. Like the colors of the rainbow, each culture has its own hue or identity, yet each is a part of the whole. Although the focus or intent differs from culture to culture, rhythmic drumming invariably has the same power and effects in all traditions. The resonant qualities and attributes of these rhythmic phenomena are universal and come into play whenever we drum.          

The sound waves produced by the drum impart their energy to the resonating systems of the body, mind, and spirit, making them vibrate in sympathy. When we drum, our living flesh, brainwaves, and spiritual energy centers begin to vibrate in response. This sympathetic resonance leaves reverberating effects up to 72 hours after a drum session. These powerful effects can best be described in terms of their influence on the subtle energy centers known as chakras. Read more.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Zuni Shalako Drum

Shalako Kachina
I purchased this beautiful Zuni log drum depicting the Shalako ceremony from the artist in December of 1991. Elisia and I were traveling through New Mexico on a cross-country tour, promoting my newly released book, The Shamanic Drum. By chance we happened upon the annual Shalako festival, which is a series of dances and ceremonies conducted by the Zuni people near the winter solstice in which they celebrate the return of the sun and pray for rain, growth, and fertility. Shalako is named for its masked dancers who embody kachinas or ancestral spirits. Kachinas mediate between humanity and the gods of rain and prosperity in a sacred ritual performance that ensures the transformation of winter's death into spring's rebirth. Standing ten-feet tall and resembling birds, the colorful Shalako kachinas dance rhythmically, clacking their long beaks together. They come to the human realm to collect the people's prayers and take them back to the spirit realm.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Shake the World with the Tiger Drum"

Nicholas Breeze Wood, editor of Sacred Hoop Magazine, is calling for a 'Tiger Drum' on the Thursday January 19, 2017. According to Nicholas, "Tiger Drumming is where people drum as a Tiger, to hold the line, to hold the sense of who they are, to hold their authenticity, their beauty, their integrity, their grace, their peace, their worth. A tiger knows who it is in the forest - be like a tiger." Tiger's medicine includes power, strength, self-assurance, and willpower in the face of adversity. Tiger is an ancient Chinese symbol of protection, dignity, ferocity, sternness, and Yin energy. Yin is the passive feminine principle of the universe, characterized as receptive, yielding, nurturing, grounding, and associated with the Earth or matter. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things. Call upon Tiger for courage, resolve, and stability to help you hold steady during these unsteady times. Remain calm and centered in your power. See things as they are, in process of change, without fixation on imbalance; see the potential and call it forth. Shake the Earth with the Tiger Drum and the Earth will stop to listen.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Awaken the Shaman Within

Shamanism has achieved a dramatic modern resurgence. Recent studies by some of the world's foremost scholars on shamanism reveal that the contemporary world still hungers for transcendent experiences because the shamanic narrative is hard-wired in us all. Study results demonstrate that the cross-cultural manifestations of shamanism and its contemporary appeal are rooted in innate functions of the brain, mind, and consciousness. Furthermore, recent studies demonstrate that the innate modules of rhythm, like percussion, provide a secular approach to accessing a higher power and applying spiritual perspectives. Each person has the ability to connect directly with shamanic states of consciousness through the power of the drum.

When pulsed at some three beats per second, rhythmic drumming induces an alpha wave cycle in the brain. Alpha activity is associated with meditation, light trance states, and holistic modes of consciousness. The alpha rhythm is the resonant frequency produced by our planet's electromagnetic field. All life on this planet is plugged into this primary frequency. When the brain oscillates in this common frequency, attunement to planetary collective consciousness is achieved. One's sense of being a separate individual gives way to an experience of union, not just with other individuals, but with the entire planet. Drumming is a quick and easy way to induce this state of unity consciousness.

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. Today's drummers are rediscovering the trance or ecstatic aspects of drumming. This new rhythm consciousness is oriented not toward performance and musical virtuosity, but toward personal transformation, consciousness expansion, and community building. Shamanic drum ways do not require faith or changes in your definition of reality. No change in your subconscious mind is required either, for the drum only awakens what is already there. It will awaken the shaman that lies dormant within you. Read more.