Shamanic drumming uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. Gayle joins a workshop at the Ecology Centre in Kinghorn, Fife…
I walk along a path in the gloaming, passing a shimmering pink loch inhabited by a friendly, talking swan.
In the distance, I spy a cave, brightly lit like a beacon with all the colours of the rainbow.
I head towards this cave, and once inside, I’m greeted by an ancient crone with a kind face.
Known as the Cailleach, she’s the epitome of wisdom – the matriarch of being.
She invites me to ask her a question, and promises the answer will come to me at some stage, perhaps later today, or possibly in a few weeks.
I thank the wizened old lady and head back along the path.
I’m in the “middle realm”, a place where time stands still – thought by some to be the parallel universe to our everyday reality – having entered this magical place during a shamanic journey.
Sadly, I can’t stay here forever: I must return to the real world. I do so, opening the door to the room in Fife where my physical body sits, my eyes slowly adjusting to the light.
Okay folks, I haven’t completely lost my mind.
I’ve simply enjoyed the sensation of being lost in my own world for a short while, allowing Celtic Shaman Liz Harris to transport me away.
Liz leads shamanic drumming and spiritual healing workshops at the Ecology Centre in Kinghorn and I’m lucky enough to be taking part.
No experience of drumming is required; it’s more about feeling than playing in time. “It comes from the heart. When you connect with the drum, all else will follow,” says Liz.
Arriving at the centre, I find a group chatting away, each armed with a drum and beater.
Liz invites me to choose a drum that “resonates” with me and we then begin the process of creating a “sacred space”.
This involves her welcoming in “spirit guides” and taking us through a “grounding meditation”, in which she ensures everyone has “arrived” and is “connected”.
“It’s time to let go of the outside world and stress, and focus on the present. It’s your time to fully be yourself,” says Liz, before asking us to imagine our bodies as trees with roots reaching deep down into the earth.
She then passes round her “warrior medicine talking stick”. As we each hold it, we introduce ourselves and say what our intentions are for the session.
Some folk say they want to be more confident, or that they want to help heal others, but slightly stumped for words, I mumble something about spreading good vibes.
Then we start drumming! There’s no “format” as such, but if you can keep in time with Liz, you’re doing okay.
Another two rounds of drumming follow, with different rhythms and beats popping up, and Liz chanting.
While we drum, we’re to focus on things like intention, gratitude and healing, and you can feel the vibrations in the room changing.
It’s pretty intense stuff, but energising and uplifting, too.
“Allow yourself to focus on you,” says Liz, reassuringly. “When we focus on our own healing, we can then help others. We deserve time to heal and remove ourselves from the madness of the materialistic world, and return to ancient tribal community ways.”
After a quick coffee break, we move into the second part of the session – the guided shamanic journey.
This is where the colourful loch, the talking swan and the wise old hag show up.
During the journey, group members relax while Liz plays a drum at a specific beat to induce deep relaxation, bringing in rattles and a “tongue drum”, too.
“Shamanic journeying as a community group involves guiding people through the different shamanic realms to meet their spirit guides, totem animals or teachers to seek answers to questions they may have,” she explains. “What you experience is unique to the individual.”
Finally, we go into two rounds of chanting and drumming, but this time it’s more freeflow and we’re encouraged to sing and dance – “it’s about expression from the heart and soul” – if we feel like doing so.
As we pound away, getting louder and louder, it all feels very tribal, but maybe that’s what we need in this mad, whirlwind, digitally-obsessed world.
Liz believes shamanic drumming is about connection, and says it alters brainwave patterns, induces relaxation and heightens awareness.
“It allows people to be guided into an altered state of consciousness, where there’s freedom to release negativity, connect with your true self, find healing and direction to your life,” she says.
“It’s also about making a deeper connection to Mother Earth and nature and realising that living in a materialistic world only brings disconnection from our selves.
“Shamanic practices, including drumming, let us honour our ancestral lineage and nature, but most importantly, ourselves.
“The aim is to bring harmony, wellbeing, balance, divination, community support, healing and not forgetting, fun.”
The session certainly makes me feel energised and “alive” and Liz says some participants have told her they feel “complete”, as if they’ve received healing, or that they want to sing and dance with joy.
It’s nice to allow time to focus on yourself without feeling guilty – to zone out and float off into another world, transported by drumming, chanting and feelings of goodwill.
However, did I ever receive an answer to the question I asked the Cailleach? That’s my little secret!
Shamanic drumming circles allow people to experience an ecstatic state of being when they connect to the vibrational energy of the spirit drum, and allow for a short time, a connection to the spirit realms and their guides. Most importantly, they regain an important connection to self.
Liz Harris, a practising druid and Celtic Shaman, runs Spirit Tree Visions and The Spirit Tree Drumming Circle Community. She also works with Lynda Dargue of Matrix Storytelling and together have shared storytelling and drumming evenings.
Drumming circles are hosted at the Ecology Centre in Kinghorn. The next one is on January 12 and February 9.
For more details, see Facebook or email Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org