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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in drums

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Drumming

A drum appeared in front of me out of the darkness. Someone stood behind me as I sat singing along with the jamming fiddlers, guitarists, and autoharpist by the snapping campfire. I took the drum. Someone's hands showed me how to hold the drum, and how to play the three notes of the dumbek: dum, tek, ee. I put my hands on the hairy hide. I started to play, and magic welled up inside me. When I drum, I feel the vibration of the universe, I hear the music of the spheres, and my hands thump out the rhythm of the heartbeat of mother earth.

That was how I acquired Mr. Hairy Goat, the gourd drum. That was how a long-dormant connection to the Native spirituality I had grown up with. Although the drum was a Middle Eastern style, and I had been an Asatruar for decades, and the festival I was attending was not even a pagan festival but a folk dance and folk music festival I went to because my mom wanted to go, somehow drumming connected me to a note of Native American spirituality; the rhythms that came to me naturally sounded Native. I had largely stopped trying to pursue Native spirituality (except for relating to the land spirits as my father had taught me) after events of the year after I left college. Now it came to me. Mom and I were camping in my truck at a folk music, dance, and storytelling festival in California. Mom was doing the dance program. I sometimes dance with her and her folk dance group, but at this event I had signed up for the singing program. It turned out, the someone in the dark was a drum vendor at the festival.

As a child, I had tried to learn the violin, even though the teacher said I was too old to start (I was about 10 I think.) Maybe she was right, because I never got very good at it. I had played my grandfather's violin, and had given it up when braces gave me jaw pain so bad i just couldn't hold it properly. I had hung onto the violin itself for years. I had planned to pass it on to my future child, and had even pre-planned an entire ceremony for calling my grandfather's musical talent into my future progeny, which I intended to do as part of the naming ceremony. I gave up the dream of ever having children in order to receive medical treatment that solved a decades-long on-again-off-again disability. One of the things I did to let go of that dream was to sell grandpa's violin. Shortly after that, the drum came into my life. I think that by letting go of the violin, I then had my interior music-place open and ready to connect with a new instrument, and that is why the drum came to me.

I got so into drumming that I was asked to become the conductor of a drum circle I participated in, SageWomen. I felt the need to have a Native American style drum as well as Mr. Hairy Goat, and I made my own frame drum from white oak and elk rawhide, and named her Grandmother Elk. I sang and played the drum in a short-lived Celtic folk-rock band named North Wind, which once played at Las Vegas Pagan Pride Day. I led the drum circle at Unity Center, a local interfaith-friendly church.

I drummed for a Native American flute maker who was performing in a Las Vegas art gallery to promote his double flutes, which they carried. The next time I went to a powwow, he was there, and from then on I felt welcomed and connected with the Native community in the local and greater Southwest area. I dug out my old powwow regalia, which was now too small, untied the seams and put in extra panels to expand it to my new size, and wore it to powwows to dance the intertribal dances. I danced at the Las Vegas Honoring Veterans' powwow. I danced at Snow Mountain.

One day at a drum circle, some of the other women were doing reiki healings on each other. I was apparently the only person there who was not a reiki healer. They asked me to try doing a blessing with my drum, so I did. Magic flowed. I had never had any powers or talents for healing before, though I had attempted various systems. This was utterly natural. I just directed the open end of Mr. Hairy Goat at my target person and drummed. They all said they could feel their own energy lifted up into the drum, changed, healed, and then put back inside them at a higher level of energy. The next time the drum circle met, some of them said I had improved their conditions. People started asking me to perform drum healings every time. I learned that I couldn't do it too often, and I also eventually learned that I had to turn the drum on myself when I was done performing healings for the day or I would have a low-energy hangover with achy sleepiness the next few days. I learned through trial and error that to do a healing with the greatest chance of success and least personal energy expended, I had to wait until the drum circle had already done a few drum songs and raised energy and entrained with each other and then have them do a simple rhythm that I could follow along with doing a simple one-beat heartbeat rhythm, just a plain dum dum dum dum dum, and that while I was doing the healing it would work best if I did a slow beat regardless of how fast the rest of the circle was going. I learned to pull energy from the rest of the circle and direct it. All this, I learned entirely by doing it, sometimes doing it wrong, and doing better next time. I also learned that although he didn't mind if someone else played him, I couldn't have someone else drum for me with Mr. Hairy Goat and try to get any of the healing effects for myself; it just didn't work right, even though I felt like I wasn't really the one doing the healings, I was just the legs that carried the drum around, I was apparently necessary in some way to make the energy flow right.

Mr. Hairy Goat is a sacred healing drum, but Grandmother Elk is a sacred drum, too. She is a drum for leading a drum circle and getting everyone to entrain on each other and find a common rhythm, and to do conductor things like making everyone louder or softer and getting everyone to stop at the same time. She has a loud voice. Last year, I led the drum circle at my local Pagan Pride Day. I invited attendees to drum, provided instruments, collected their energy, and channeled it to the healers performing the ceremony. The leader of the healers said she could feel me throwing major energy. All this, because I went alone for the ride when I had the opportunity, and took what was literally put right in front of me.

Photo caption: me with my drum Grandmother Elk, at the labyrinth at St. Rose. The activities organizer of the local Catholic hospital asked me to drum for their Labyrinth Walk.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you! That's really cool.
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    Loved this! It was giant powwow drum at the Gaea Goddess Gathering in KS that called my heart several years ago. I want to work mo

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Drumbeats on Memorial Day

Many of us have the opportunity to honor lost loved ones on this holiday. I myself lost my beloved grandmother on Memorial Day weekend in 2010. It was always striking to me that she chose then to go, considering that she was a proud DAR sister who would always enjoy the parade. One year she helped scatter flowers from the bridge to float down the Fox River,  in remembrance of veterans lost. I recall attending some of the parades when I was very small and we would go to visit. We would line up in folding lawn chairs along the sidewalk in from of her house, as that was where the parade would march past. I remember getting very riled up when I would hear the first booming of the bass drums and the rat-a-tat-tat of the crisp snares as they approached. I would be hopping from foot to anxious foot, waiting for them to get right up in front of us so that I could be enveloped in the wall of sound and lost in the rhythm of percussive thunder.

If you are one of the fortunate ones who do not have to work on this particular weekend and can get away with friends or family, a tribal drum circle can be a fun and empowering way to bond and raise some major energy. I have employed this at some Memorial Day family gatherings in the past and it proved quite effective. First, make sure that you let everyone attending know in advance to bring noisemakers, hand drums, shakers, maracas, what have you. Bring extras of your own if you sense that guests are in short supply. You can fashion a homemade shaker out of an empty plastic bottle filled with popcorn seeds in a pinch. Ideally, this is an activity best performed after a good feast and everyone's tummies are well-sated. Make sure that everyone has beverages to stay hydrated. Sometimes drum circles can take awhile before they are ready to settle down! If you are able to drum near a lake or other body of water, it can prove very inspiring. My favorite time to start is right at dusk, when the sun is turning the sky to magic time and the moon is on her rise. One year because of various planetary phenomena, the moon was a brilliant shade of pink that I don't believe that I have seen since. 

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Walking Between the Worlds--Pagan Conference and Pagan Festival

This has been a busy time for your Village Witch...mostly because she keeps leaving the village and hitting the road.

I've only just returned from the Pagan Unity Festival in Burns, TN and am pondering the differences between festivals and conferences, since I was fortunate enough to be included in the Cherry Hill Conference several weeks ago.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Getting to California is such a pain from the East Coast--and not to mention expensive. But if I can ever manage that, I'd love to
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    I love the conferences, too. In some ways some of the newer hotel-based Pagan gatherings combine some of the aspects of festival
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    I love them both (well, mostly) but they are very different critters. Since my field is Appalachian folk magic, I have had some n
  • Freeman Presson
    Freeman Presson says #
    I used to go to festivals regularly, and may again; but I have frequent dreams of being at conferences, THAT is what would be "in

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