Introduction to Shamanic Drumming:
Before there was recorded history, before humankind built monuments to themselves and permanently altered the earth, the belief systems that arose separately all over the planet were remarkably similar. Virtually all indigenous peoples today, descendants from those original times, believe in those same paradigms. These beliefs include a spiritual world that is parallel to this one but invisible to the casual observer. Further, in this spiritual world there exists spirits of many kinds – spirits of the land, of our ancestors, of trees, rocks, fire and water to name a few.
These indigenous peoples also believe that these spirits can be communicated with, that these spirits are willing and able to help us through the journey of our life in this world. They also believe that it is possible for us to journey to the spirit world or the world of non-ordinary reality, and ask for advice on how to live in this world called ordinary reality.
Historically, there are many methodologies for gaining access to non-ordinary reality. Some cultures use plant medicine to gain access. This method is becoming quite popular in the US, but is not without some risks. A medicine journey can be quite challenging, the information returned quite daunting. Additionally, there is no escape from the process once it starts.
Historically, the most common method for gaining access to these unseen worlds is through listening to a consistent and steady drumbeat. From before recorded history, peoples from all over the world have been journeying to non-ordinary reality using this method. The drumbeat is always the same number of beats per minute all over the planet, no matter which culture or tradition.
Some might be concerned that using this technique could be cultural appropriation. After all, this paradigm is not present in most of today’s cultures and is certainly not present in any of the large contemporary religions of the world. My response is to invite you to look back to the time to your ancestors. If you go back far enough, there will be a time in your lineage that is before Christianity, Buddhism or however you were raised. What did your ancestors believe in then? The answer is invariably a shamanic culture. Even today, there are vestiges of these old beliefs in today’s world– the Celts with their gods including Ana or Dagda or even leprechauns; the Norse with their gods including Thor and Loki are but a few European examples of the old ways surviving despite a thousand of years of Christian hegemony.
What happens at a Shamanic Drumming Workshop:
Firstly, we will discuss the history of shamanism, how it has been used for healing, and how it can be applied in a modern day first world cultures. Then we create a safe space through ritual and ceremony that will be conducive for our journeys. Then with the lights dimmed and with everyone relaxed, the group is guided through a visualization starting with going into the earth and into a new and beautiful place. Eventually the group will be asked to visualize a barrier to be crossed. This could be a chasm with a bridge to the other side, or perhaps a huge wall with a door that needs to be opened. After you have a clear picture in your mind’s eye of this barrier, you are encouraged to cross at your own speed and then just listen to the drum as you are taken on a magical journey through the spirit world of non-ordinary reality and your own mind.
After a certain period of time, the participants are asked to retrace their steps back into this ordinary reality. When everyone is safely back in the room, there will be notepads available to write or draw what you have seen, felt, touched, heard or tasted. After everyone is finished, those who would like to participate and share their experiences are invited to talk about what has happened to them.
Spirit will not tell you to marry this person, or quit that job. Spirit always speaks in metaphor. There will be stories, events, or perhaps conversations that will be remembered. Sometimes a huge percentage of people journey about the same topic, although the actual details of the journey can be strikingly different. It can be fun trying to figure out the meanings of what has been experienced, and the group is invited to participate in this discussion. I would estimate that between 85 – 90% of the people who experience shamanic drumming for the first time are successful in bringing back useful information about themselves and/or others. For some, it is epiphanal.
Then armed with the meaning of the journey and with more knowledge about how to interact with this unseen world, we go there a second time. Again, the group journals about their experiences and are invited to discuss the meanings of the revelations.
Typically, this process takes at least 3 – 4 hours.