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The Cherokee Medicine Wheel  at Starfeather's Lodge.

Trance drumming

Starfeather, January 2020

It started by accident.  A dear friend of mine became increasingly enthusiastic about her extracurricular study of film making and screen play writing.  She was so inspired she wrote her own story about a young girl’s curiosity and her search for spiritual truths outside her family’s traditional Christianity.  My friend, a seeker herself, had made many connections along her path and had a rich tapestry of tantalizing people and ideas to work with.  I was one.


THE HERSTORY


Annette knows me from our Spiritual Book Group and has heard me talk about my joy of drumming and drum making over our years together in Circle. I have facilitated drumming circles and drum making since the early 1990’s and she knows it’s a deep passion of mine, as well as part of my spiritual practice.  She asked if she could include me in her movie and bring the star, a young woman seeker, and all of the lights and cameras to the Lodge for an interview and perhaps some drumming.  


The Lodge is a special gathering place in my home where I facilitate sacred circles and spiritual ceremonies.  My art, Medicine Shields, adorns the walls and there is a shamanic atmosphere to the space.  It had never been recorded, so I hesitated.  However, Annette’s enthusiasm was contagious and arrangements were made.


So, how did this lead to trance drumming?  Well, Annette and crew came to the Lodge mid-October.  Lines memorized, crew ready – we began.  Seven women friends came to help with the drumming scene and we sat around my Grandmother Drum, a large floor drum made in Taos, New Mexico.  The eight of us began drumming the heart beat, and then moved into other rhythms.  It was just to be the drum, as Annette had requested that we not sing during this scene.  In previous drumming circles, we’d always drummed for a while, shared some of our personal stories/events in our lives, sung some songs, prayed together and drummed with some chanting.


It  turned out the scene needed to be re-filmed a number of times, and we were asked to just keep drumming.  We all really got into it and forgot the lights, the camera, the recording and became mesmerized by the continuous vibrations from the drum.  On and on we went for what seemed like an hour! Some of us started chanting. I noticed it was even hard to stop. But once we ended, we sat in stunned silence, just feeling . . . happy! Annette and crew said it was a great scene, and that was our beginning.  The seed was planted, and the idea took root. 


TRANCE DRUMMING ON PURPOSE

At my next women’s drum circle a few weeks later, the Grandmother Drum was in the center of the room with chairs around her so 8 or 9 could play at once.  Other chairs were placed in a concentric circle for those with hand-drums.  I have been the caretaker of this big drum for 20 years, but now, at last, she had found her place and her voice sang like never before. Purpose revealed, she’s finally singing her song . . . and what a voice this Grandmother has – deep, rich and multi-layered.  Her body is formed from a cottonwood tree about 3 feet wide and 18” high, with steer rawhide covering the top and bottom held in place by crisscross lacing around her considerable circumference.  She has found her calling, at last.


THE CEREMONY


We come together for ceremony. Using sage, we smudge with smoke and enter the Lodge. The Seven Directions are opened as we begin our time of prayer. With our Talking Stick, we introduce ourselves one at a time around the Circle, and voice our primary intention, our reason for being present. Tobacco is passed around the Circle.  Whispering our heartfelt words into the tobacco, we invite it to carry the energy of our intentions to Spirit.  As we each complete this inner focus, we sprinkle our tobacco on the Grandmother Drum and pick up our drum beaters.


We begin slowly, with the heartbeat, connecting with the heartbeat of Mother Earth.  One at a time, we join in; Grandmother Drummers are first, then the hand-drummers.  Each drum has its unique voice and so our space is soon filled with a multi-leveled drum vibration – and the room seems to unite all these tones to become the One Drum, and we are all inside it!  As we play, the tobacco on the big drum dances around the top of the hide until finally the vibration causes it to jump to the floor onto the waiting cloth.  This tobacco  will later be placed in my Medicine Wheel, outside in my backyard.


Our agreement is to keep the Grandmother Drum singing for at least one hour without stopping.  We do not talk or sing songs.  Eventually however, some of us begin to vocalize.  The chanting seems to reach across to the unseen world of the Ancestors, and their voices are heard in the sounds.  Also, sometimes bird or animal sounds of wolf, crow or raven join in.  Sounds played on the Native American flute and rattles are woven in as well.  The beat changes on its own.  We laugh, we stand and sway.  Closing our eyes, we feel the energy.  We have then fully embraced the moment and without noticing, our seemingly ever-chatty mind has ceased to think, to do anything but be in the moment, drumming.  

We have slipped into trance.


After our hour or so is up, when it feels right, the signal is given to quiet the drums.  We are stunned.  Like a runner, in the beginning of a race, you wonder how on earth you’ll make the last mile and then you arrive at the finish line, blinking.  Time vanished.  Effort vanished.


And the mind,  which is not quite sure it wants to start chattering again, is slow to come back on line.  We sit in silence, just being there – feeling the moment, listening to our own heart beat and the presence of our breath.  Someone coughs, someone goes outside, but most are simply there, sitting in stillness.


I feel called to lead a guided meditation for closure and to help us slowly come back, to integrate.  It gives us a time to receive any guidance or messages and to incorporate them. To remember why we came; our purpose, our intention.  We feel our body again, reach for a drink of water, and smile at the others who are becoming present again, like awakening from a dream.  There are smiles and a feeling of having done something good, together – something new emerges within the group experience – JOY!


The Talking Stick is passed around the room, which gives each person the opportunity to say a few words about the experience.  “I feel great!”  “I’m so happy!”  “When’s the next one of these!”  Laughter. “I came in depressed and that’s totally gone!”

“No pain!”  “Uplifted!”  “I can’t talk yet!”  Etc.


We close our evening with deep appreciation to Life and All That Is, closing the Directions.  There are hugs and expressions of gratitude . . . and on we go, re-fueled with joy for whatever lies ahead.


And that’s Trance Drumming; my new great love!  To add one final note, Trance Drumming is not “new” or my invention.  It’s been done for probably thousands of years!  All around the World.  What I share here is my own personal revelation and my winding path to a new (for me) way to drum in community that supports our drive to connect Earth, heart and soul, for the purpose of bringing forth positive energy, healing and  inspiration to assist us, individually and collectively along the Path.  


Once again, I am so grateful.


Grandmother Drum

Grandmother Drum

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Gathering like minded people together to uplift, support and expand our unique spiritual development.  Serving as a facilitator and spiritual teacher for over thirty years, Starfeather offers a variety of avenues for enriching life as a sacred path. shamanic healing circles and retreats for women's spiritual empowerment

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