I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a strange and wonderful healing going on there!” (M)
“You know, I feel completely invigorated and excited yet very grounded, it’s strange!” (C)
“This is the best part of the week for me, it’s great fun, I really look forward to these sessions” (S)
These are some of many comments made following the fortnightly drumming sessions at Atlantis Castlebar, Sacred Mountain Healing Drum Circle. Quite simply, a drumming circle is where a group of like-minded people gather to beat drums, have fun, with no musical ability required. However, something more transformative is taking place.
Since the dawn of civilisation, the drumming circle has been the staple of the Shamanic Practitioner in the various shamanic communities throughout the world. In ancient times, the clan or tribe would gather around the fire and drum, to connect with spirit, to meditate and to promote good health and community relations. But, what is really going on when people get together and simply drum?
Our First Music
Fundamentally, the drumming rhythm was our first music and creative expression, mimicking the heart beat in the womb. The ancients were aware that without this basic creative expression and connection, negative beliefs and patterns will take hold in our lives. Julia Cameron, in the Artists Way, (1995) suggests that these creative aspects of our life are essential to allow us to transform our lives and dispel limiting beliefs. In this way, the drumming circle also gives voice to express our feeling, allowing us to speak individually and as a group, without saying a word.
Emotional and Physiological Benefits of Drumming
The ancient shamanic communities were also aware that there was a further purpose, a healing purpose, to their rhythms. In the modern day, there is emphasis placed on the physiological and psychological effects of drumming. For instance, much research has been done on how drumming can clear emotional blockages, allowing release to take place, without medication. This has been found to be successful when addressing addictions. Drumming has also been found to have a therapeutic effect in dealing with trauma Lawrence Friedman, in ‘The Healing Power of the Drum’, (2000) states that drumming can diminish stress and anxiety, high blood pressure and fight depression.
Tuning Our Biology
Modern medicine is also beginning to find that this natural rhythmic approach can have a therapeutic effect on the immune system, increasing the flow of natural pain killers and even have a beneficial effect upon cancer patients. Cancer specialist, Dr. Barry Bittman states that, “Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin.” (Bittman et al, 2001) Also, in cases of Alzheimer’s, MS, Autism and Stroke patients, it has been found that drumming promotes their cognitive ability and interactive capacity. (Friedman, 1994)
The Spirit Horse
All these benefits are essential aspects to the drumming circle. For the Shamanic Practitioner, however, first and foremost, drumming promotes and increases the connection with Spirit, for divination, healing and insight. In most Shamanic communities around the world, the drum is at the centre of all shamanic work. In the Native American Shamanic tradition, the drum was seen as the ‘Spirit Horse’ or the vehicle that takes the Shaman on their ‘Shamanic Journey’. Historically, this has also been the case in the ancient Irish Shamanic tradition, where drums and drumming circles were at the centre of community activity.
The significant advantages of the drumming circle cannot be under-emphasised. From community involvement, individual and group healing, meditation, creative expression to Spirit connection, the drumming circle is an essential means by which to promote happiness and health. When participants comment on; feeling free, up-lifted, their cares and worries melted away, as if they’ve had a spiritual detox, you know something fundamentally important and transformative is taking place.
Declan Quigley of Anam Nasca hosts the Sacred Mountain Healing Drum Circle, every fortnight at Atlantis Castlebar, Co. Mayo and The New Moon Shamanic Drum Circle at New Moon Holistics NI, Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim. Declan is a Shamanic Practitioner and Tutor for the Irish School of Shamanic Studies.