Shamans are defined by anthropologists by people who entered altered states of consciousness, usually induced by drumming, in order to ‘journeys’ into alternative realities, seeking the knowledge and power indigenous to those worlds (The Shamanic Drum, Michael Drake). Shamanic drumming has been used since we were in primitive tribes in ceremonies. In When the Women Were Drummers by Layne Redmond, there is an extensive amount of information about drumming in ancient societies and how it was use for healing and ceremonial purposes. In modern society, shamanic drumming circles are conducted in order to help with a variety of shamanic purposes, including healings.
Shamanic drumming is a form of therapy used in medicine fields in various countries. Andrew Ecker, the founder of Drumming Sounds uses a drum circle for working with cancer patients in Goodyear, Arizona. Around up to 30 participants are gathered together each week to create a sacred space filled with community and empowerment. Andrew Ecker describes it as a place where participants have an opportunity to connect with their spiritual side in an intentional way with the drums. Music therapy with the use of Shamanic Drums forms a very important part of the emotional and spiritual healing of people during cancer treatment. Ecker says that the drums remind us of being connected in the womb to our mother’s heartbeat, so the resulting of the drum beat is a union of the heart, mind and spirit.
In an alcohol and drug unit in St Louis, Missouri, a social worker, Daniel Smith introduced the shamanic techniques of soul retrieval, journeying, divination, power animal retrieval, extraction and shapeshifting as a complementary therapy for drug and alcohol addiction. Spirit world journeys are conducted by entering altered states of consciousness with the drum, using various chants such as the horse song that represents the shaman going into the underworld in order to retrieve the damaged and wandering parts of the soul of the person with addictions. According to Smith, these experiences are incredibly healing for the participant, and help bring about the resolution and healing of trauma, and resolve addictions.
Michael Harner, founder of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, is widely acknowledged as the world’s foremost authority on experiential and practical shamanism, and he teaches core shamanism; the universal and common methods of the shaman to enter “non ordinary reality” for problem solving and healing (Michael Drake, Shamanic Drumming Circles Guide). Drumming is used to practice these techniques and enter the altered states of consciousness necessary as part of the Shamanic process, and Michael Harner has done much to promote this work to western society.
In a drum healing ceremony conducted by a shaman, it is expected that the client will lie down on a massage table, and the shaman will use the drum going all over the body from the toes to the head, and then back down to where the energy is sensed that healing needs to occur, and the shaman will use an appropriate rhythm and beat to tune into the energy of where the problem is and transmute the energy using shamanic healing. This is also a form of metaphysical healing where any bodily problems or issues can be treated.
In a drumming circle, participants meet together to share their concerns, and it is conducted by a group facilitator (the Shaman usually) where people bring their own drums, and learn various beats. In a circle ceremony, offerings can be made to the spirits of various types including incense and flowers, and the room saged in order to cleanse it before the ceremony. Each person is invited to share their concerns, by passing around a speaking stone and then once finished, the ceremony can begin. The shaman will invite the beginning of the drumming, where the eagle spirit is invited using the eagle chant, and this encourages the group to enter into an altered and meditative state where they are asking the eagle to help them rise out of their problems and then to be healed. The shaman then invites the participants to do the horse beat, symbolising the shaman riding the spirit horse into the underworld, so that any particular issues that were discussed during the group can be resolved by various techniques used by the shaman such as soul retrieval. The shaman then again invites the eagle beat, so that he can rise up out from the underworld, and return to the group, having restored each person, and resolved their concerns by addressing these with the help of the spirit guides.
A Shamanic Drumming Circle when facilitated correctly is a safe and confidential space for participants to bring their drums, learn how to do various beats, and to share their concerns on a regular basis and undergo healing from the shaman. It is a way to connect deeply to the participant’s emotional and spiritual side, and to release trauma. Shamanic Drumming is a complementary therapy to normal western medicine that has been demonstrated to be safe and effective in various medical facilities, and with excellent results.