Updated: Apr 5
Shamanism is a practice that focuses on the reality of deep spiritual substance that is within the natural world and all creation. Shamanism has actually been classified as a religion. Within shamanism, it is a shaman who is a powerful healer and medium that connects with and navigates between this world and the spirit realms. The shaman often mediates this connection using altered states of consciousness or trance states. Shamanism is found in many places around the world including America, Asia, Africa and Europe and countries such as the Amazon, Siberia, Tibet, Mongolia, Scandinavia and South Africa. There is also the phenomenon known as neo-shamanism which is a new form of shamanism that is a modern or urban form that is inspired by indigenous shamanism.
In all the places that shamanism is found music or sound is usually an integral element of shamanic practices. It is used as a form of energetic technology; sound is vibration and energy which interacts with our human energy field and can align our vibration to intentional harmonic frequencies. Shamans use this to navigate the spiritual realms and states of consciousness. They use the voice and other instruments along with the key instrument which is known as the shamanic drum. Within this article, we will explore some of the details of shamanic medicine drumming including the construction of the drum and the various uses of it.
Materials And Making of The Shamanic Drum
The construction of shamanic drums is in itself a sacred process this process can actually be considered the birthing of a drum. The making of a drum is usually a personal journey whereby the shaman infuses the drum with sacred intentions, it is a journey of self-discovery and expression and the drum that is born of this journey often becomes a lifelong companion to it player. The materials used in the making of the drum are sacred elements that are intentionally chosen, such as the skin of a specific animal and the wood of a specific tree, the spirit of the material elements chosen are honoured during the making of the drum. The elements that are utilized add nuanced energy and symbolism to each shamanic drum. In some shamanic traditions after a drum is constructed, it is initiated by a more powerful shaman. There are various patterns used in the construction of shamanic drums that usually vary by region.
The Uses of Drumming in Shamanism
A shamanic drum is played in intentional or channelled steady harmonic rhythms which are usually constant and a fast pace (4-7 beats per second). The beat of a drum can be likened to the sound of a heartbeat which is an intrinsically comforting sound of life. We shall now explore some of the known uses of shamanic drumming:
The music created by shamans is often referred to as medicine music as these rhythms contain deeply healthy harmonic patterns. The vibration of sound impacts the human body on the physical, emotional and energetic levels of being. Shamanic drumming uses intentional rhythms that can synchronize with our brainwaves and carry out deep sound healing (the drumbeat can be used to heal mental imbalances), the rhythms also harmonize our energy field (the drumbeat can be used to heal spiritual imbalances) which in turn has a harmonizing effect on our physical body (the drumbeat can be used to heal physical imbalances). The sound produced by a shamanic drum can be used to clear energetic blocks on a deep level as it has the ability to directly impact the subconscious mind. This drumming can actually stimulate the connection and communication between various sections in the human brain.
Shamanic drumming is a potent form of self-expression, from the creation of the drum itself to the creation of sound from the drum. The drum offers an opportunity of non-verbal expression which can allow for the communication of concepts that are beyond words. The rhythms created by the drum can be intentional and specific known patterns or channelled in the moment rhythmic expressions.
Trance States & Meditation
The rhythms of shamanic drumming can be used to induce a trance state. As mentioned in a previous point shamanic drumming can have the effect of altering brain wave patterns, entraining brainwaves from the beta state (conscious, waking state) to alpha state (subconscious, deep relaxation) and theta (deep meditation, creativity). Alpha and theta brainwaves are linked to light and medium level trance states. Shamanic drumming is often used together with dance or psychoactive plant medicines to enter a full trance state and deeply journey into the inner and spiritual dimensions. Shamanic drumming is also used by shamans to enter into a meditative state; the act of drumming itself is a form of meditation.
Calling & Sending Spirits
Shamanic drumming is used by the shaman to navigate between realms to call in specific spirits; these can be helping spirits, ancestors, nature spirits etc. The drum is also used to send spirits back to where they came from or to a specific space. The materials that the drum is made of may also be linked to specific nature spirits (the tree of the wood used and the animal of the skin used). The sounds of the drum can invoke the energetic qualities of these beings.
Creation & Preparation of a Ritual Space
The shamanic drum plays a huge role within sacred ceremonies; it is used to prepare a space for ritual by clearing and tuning the space to an intentional harmonic that is appropriate for the ceremony at hand. The drum is also used within ceremonies to guide the journey of participants; an example of this is the Ayahuasca ceremony where the sound of the drum is used to enhance the state of trance of people engaging in this psychoactive plant medicine. It is also used by the shaman to curate the experience of the people he is guiding. The steady rhythm of the drum allows the shaman to be the conductor of the ceremony with non-verbal vibrational communication with the people he is guiding through the spirit realms.
Shamanic drumming can be a powerful experience that is deeply healing, allowing you to explore your subconscious and enter fascinating and insightful states that open access to usually unseen dimensions. It can be experienced in full sensation by partaking in a shamanic ceremony or if you personally choose to delve into the study and practice of shamanism. Possibly as a result of an increase in popularity of neo-shamanism shamanic drumming sounds can be found online, this is of course not the holistic sensory experience, but it can still be experienced and utilized with intention as meditation or journeying and healing sound technology. __Written by Music Of Wisdom team