A number of years ago I was leading monthly drum circles. Then, after moving to our new home, the City of Saskatoon decided that I was no longer allowed to do that out of my home. The bylaws had changed and drum circles, even in a “sound proof” space, would be considered to be a violation because of the “vibration” that they would cause. Apparently the old neighbor, who was a bit of a whack job at best, had complained to the City about the drum circles, even though you could not hear them from the sound proof garage in which they had been held. So now I do what is called “floating drum circles.” These can take place in any industrial rented space, and they can take place in the home of whomever wishes to hire me to bring the drum circle to them. There are always ways around things that are set up to block your progress, should you put your mind to it.
So, what is the purpose of a drum circle anyway? Well, this depends upon the style of drum circle. Some of them are simply about orchestrating some cool sounds, with a conductor of the drum circle involved. The conductor lets each section of the circle know what to do and when, creating a dynamic blend of sounds of drums. Some drum circles have no leader whatsoever, and those end up sounding like a chaotic cacophony of irritating noise. I have had the pleasure of attending some of these. It ends up, inevitably, with people competing for who can make the most noise. Attending this type of drum circle is something that I will only do ONCE, as it is something from which I leave with a total migraine.
The drum circles that I lead are more ceremonial/ritualistic in nature. There is always a theme that is being attended to. Sometimes it is a Moon Ceremony, sometimes it is an Equinox Ritual, sometimes it is a Seasonal Celebration, and sometimes it is for the purpose of manifesting something as a community. Attending to the spiritual wellness of the community is something that I hold as highly important. Leading ceremonial and ritual drum circles is a part of how I do this. Yes, there is a fee involved. And yes, most of that fee goes back into the community by way of non-profit organizations and such. I already have a full time job as a Shaman, so making a bunch of money at a drum circle has never been my goal, other than to then feed those funds back into the community. There are, after all, plenty of people in need, whether or not they have even heard of a drum circle.
Typically, my drum circles involve a gathering of people who are attending for the purpose of whatever the theme of the evening may be. I like to use a talking stick, which is passed around initially so that people can introduce themselves to the rest of the group and then everyone has opportunity to get to know each individual at least on a “I know your name” basis. Sometimes I ask people to also share something about themselves that they don’t mind having known out on the street. It is impressive the variety of things that will come forth with this. One time I learned that a woman attending was completely into astrology, which led to a number of us getting an astrology chart done by her. Onc time I learned that a man attending was someone who sits with elderly and dying people and just holds space with them. This touched my heart so deeply. The list can go on and on, but the point is that you never know who you are sitting beside until something such as this is shared.
Once introductions are complete, I like to brief everyone on what the ceremony/ritual is about and why it is important, and give a quick lay out of the plan of how we are going to honor this theme for the evening. I also brief people on how to use a drum because some folks attending have never before done this. There are certain things that they need to know such as:
1. The difference in how to play a hoop drum vs. a djembe drum.
2. The fact that any drum being played with your hand as opposed to a mallet needs to be respected and thus you need to remove all rings, because those can tear a hide apart faster than anything.
3. The fact that if you are the only one that you can hear while drumming it is an indication that you need to drum softer, so that others can be heard (an important lesson for those chaotic and competitive drummers, should there ever be an actual leader to teach them this) and that if you cannot hear your own drum playing along with the others, then you might want to drum a bit louder.
4. The fact that there is always a LEAD drummer and that this is not about ego, but about creating a lead beat that others can then follow, thus keeping tempo and time properly.
5. The way in which the lead drummer will indicate a change in tempo, going faster or slower and how to find what that new tempo is supposed to be.
6. The fact that it is completely acceptable to sing or chant along with the drumming, as long as it is something that actually goes with the drumming.
7. How a particular round of drumming comes to an end. (There are often a few rounds of drumming in a drum circle).
Now, sometimes you will encounter a person’s dogma or fears that come up in a drum circle. For instance, there was a drum circle that I attended YEARS ago that was being led by a friend of mine at that time. Just before we were about to start the first round of a drum circle, someone piped up with, “And remember to not drum too loudly as loud drumming causes chaos and destruction.” I don’t know where this person got that idea, but it is nonsense. If a round becomes chaotic in sound, it can cause chaotic energy to emit from the circle, thus the reason for a strong leader. But a drum being beaten loudly in and of itself does not cause destruction or chaos. At that moment it was important to clarify this.
After each round of drumming, I like to pass around the talking stick again so that people can share whatever they might want to share regarding their experience of that round. Often people will share fascinating images and visions that they experienced, and even more fascinating is the fact that these images and visions are often something that someone else in the circle has also experienced. Sometimes it is a matter of a number of people having experienced the same thing. Another fun phenomenon is when multiple people will hear etheric chanting that no one in the group is performing. The reason for this type of phenomenon is that, in a ceremonial/ritual drum circle, Spirit is always invited to attend and contribute. It doesn’t matter if they are Angelic Spirits, Ancestral Spirits, Spirit Guides or Spirit Animals, they are welcome because they are, by nature, healing. Often how that is done is that they will sing and chant with the drumming. I always find this to be extremely comforting. Some folks initially will get startled by the fact that this has actually happened and they have witnessed it. But once they have experienced the awesome comfort that this can bring to them, they become completely cool with it and look forward to it happening again. This is something that they don’t experience in other forms of spiritual or religious gatherings, so they often find that it fills a space within them that they had not realized was, up until that moment, empty.
Needless to say, the experience of a drum circle of this kind can be profound and uplifting. Thus, it serves the community in deeply spiritual ways. This is why, despite the obstacles that have often been placed in my path, I still find ways of incorporating this type of thing in my service to the community. It is, after all, desperately needed.
*If you are interested in hosting a floating drum circle, please feel free to contact me at (306) 978-5300 or at my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. (those are zeros, not the letter O)