When I was a little girl my parents wanted us kids to play a musical instrument. Preferably piano, as we had one. I went along and unhappily played “march of the terrible trolls” (which I can still remember!!) until they let me stop. What I really wanted to play was the drums. No doubt influenced by Animal of the Muppets (wasn’t he everyones favourite?) I begged my parents for a drum kit and drum lessons. This was met with a big no, which at the time felt grossly unfair and awful, but in hindsight, I’m sure they were trying to preserve some semblance of peace in the house and not intending to squash a childhood dream. But what it felt like was a NO against my desires and my needs.
In the 7th grade and we could choose orchestra instruments I wanted to play percussion, but our music teacher thought girls were more suited to playing flutes and clarinets then snare drums and cymbals. and so I played that clarinet, learning notes and wondering at the total unfairness of denying girls the choice to play the instrument of their hearts.
It wasn’t until I was 19, living on the west coast at university that I finally picked up a drum, a djembe belonging to a friend, and tapped out a halting, unsure rhythm. I loved it. I loved the feel of the skin under my hands, the weight of it between my knees and the music! I wasn’t a very good drummer, often trading drumming for dancing, but the rhythms spoke directly to my heart. I saved my waitressing tips and bought myself a djembe, determined to learn how to play it properly.
It lit something inside me, playing that drum. Like I was suddenly connected to a giant heartbeat across the world. I found Layne Redmond’s book “when the drummers were women” and dove in to reading it feeling such a huge YES and discovered a big piece of what my heart and soul were desiring when I asked for that first drum kit. Connection. Connection to the whole web of life by connecting in with the heart of the great mother.
I carted my drums from Canada to Australia, unwilling to let them go. Then one day I enrolled in the School of Shamanic Womancraft and the opening gathering of the four seasons journey was to make a drum! a frame drum, a medicine drum. I was 38 weeks pregnant when I sat down on the earth to make my drum.
Candles lit, our circle connected. we chose our skins, deer, all from the same herd, soaked them and in the morning we sat on the earth and began weaving together our drums.
To birth a drum is a powerful act. It is a deep unravelling and reweaving process of your birth. The story of how you were born. The story shows you how you “do process” in your life. How do you birth things? How do you make things? How do you bring things into this world? Telling the story of our births and unravelling the themes through sharing is then shown to us and experienced by us through the process of birthing our medicine drums.
Once birthed, our new babies needed tender care until they were dry and ready to play. I played mine for the first time with my bare feet planted on the earth, my baby belly swelling and my smile wide. I had finally found the drum I was looking for.
I played her that night with my deer tribe sisters, uniting our drums in the cosmos. She was played a lot in those first few weeks, and then played for me as I birthed my baby girl on our bed.
Over the years I have birthed more drums and played hundreds of rhythms. The call of the drum is so strong for women. Maybe looking for the answer to their souls calling, maybe drawn to journey, to dance, to sing, to connect in with the earths heartbeat.
The drum is also known as the Shaman’s horse, the guide to the other realms, the drum takes us into an altered state of consciousness where we can tap into our inner wisdom, where we can connect with other aspects of ourselves. Journeying with my medicine drum has been an ever evolving process. When I first started journeying I would experience the journey as if a movie were passing in front of my eyes. A technicolour visual experience. Lately I am feeling it so deeply in my body. If my owl flies, I feel like my own body is suspended in space. We need to listen so closely to the subtle messages we are receiving.
But my favourite part of drumming? That part that shows me time and time again that we are all connected? When you gather a group of drummers and start drumming. It starts as chaos, everyone on a different beat, maybe not hearing the drum across the circle. It rolls around, in it’s own strange rhythm, looking for the moment, that magickal moment when everyone suddenly synchs up and the drumming takes on an otherworldly beat. Like the great mother is playing it, like we are just a channel for what she wants to say. Are you listening?