When I first learned shamanic journeying on a retreat in the late 1980s, I returned to Denver and… used a cassette player and headphones. I didn’t feel isolated – my power animal was there! – but although I was pretty sure there must be other people in town journeying and pursuing shamanism, I had no idea how to find them. Through the years I’ve come to appreciate – and gradually help co-create – shamanic community.
Drum circles play a large role in this. I’m active in two monthly circles, one that’s fairly open (as a Meetup group) and the other small, private. Neither is called a “drum circle.” As a citizen of the large Denver wiccan/pagan community, I found that calling the shamanic Meetup group a “drum circle” sent an unclear message. People were arriving with doumbeks and jingle-scarves, anticipating a night of ecstatic rhythms and dance, which would have been grand if that was our aim. Instead: “Lay down and close your eyes…” Huh? So that drum circle became a “shamanic journey circle.”
The other, smaller group is called “the travel club.” Just because.
There, we often share drumming duties: Two people drum, and the other two or three journey. As each journeyer completes their inner-work, they stand, take up their drum and merge into the beat, then one of the initial drummers drops out and begins their own journey. Seamless! When the final journeyer crosses her/his hands across their chest, we shift to a return drumbeat.
And that cassette tape? It’s still around somewhere, but nowadays
- I drum for myself, either with hand or beater on my drum, or I rattle, or
- I tap a fingertip lightly against the tragus of my outer ear (very private!), or
- tap the cover of a hard-bound book (in a pinch), or
- tap the stiff bill of a baseball cap (in a different pinch), or
- if I need to have my hands free, I use a 30-minute drumming track on an iPod Shuffle, with headphones.
All of these work, since shamanic journeying – like any successful magic – is based on intention. But drums…
Being within a group of drummers – whether frame drums or doumbeks, shamanic or ecstatic, whether drumming, dancing or journeying – is powerful. The air vibrates, our bodies feel it, we entrain and are immersed. We vibrate. And we are altered.
To get an eyeful and earful, visit http://shamantube.com/ or go to YouTube (this search was “frame drum”). However, no recording duplicates the vibrational impact of live drumming. Good reason to attend the Denver March PowWow.