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The shaman, the drum and the goddess

The drum is as old as antiquity. Depictions of frame drums have been found on ancient shrine walls dating as far back as early Neolithic times. The worldview then was of a collective understanding and deep reverence for the inter-connectedness of the realms of existence. This interpretation dates back even further into pre-history, to the paleolithic era where the shaman's animistic practices were familiar across all cultures. If we were to pierce the veil of time to visit these cultures we would find people who lived in a symbiotic relationship with all of nature and were nurtured within matriarchal societies. This was the era of the Great Goddess, where caves represented the Womb of Mother Earth and where women were revered as spiritual leaders as it was understood they were the life force able to birth new souls into the world - the power of creation itself. It is even suggested by some anthropologists and linguists that the earliest shamans may indeed have been women, and today some male shamans still dress in women's clothing. While the debate around this may continue for some while, what we can say is that women's role as spiritual leaders has been suppressed for many thousands of years. Now, however, we are witnessing the resurgence of the Divine Feminine principle and, parallel to this, the resurgence of drumming.

In her seminal work 'When the Drummers were Women' the renowned drummer Layne Redmond takes the reader on a journey through the great cultures and dynasties of human history. Through her discoveries, from ancient artefacts, paintings, pottery, temples, architecture and archeological finds, she pieces together a remarkable spiritual legacy - that women have always been the drummers. Such finds include a terracotta figure of a woman holding a frame drum from the second millenium B.C., and an image of the Egyptian Goddess Hathor playing a frame drum at her temple in Dendera. Such goddess cultures were spread throughout the ancient world and they all indicate that it was women who played the drum.

Arguably, the most primordial sound and the ancient rhythms that result in self-induced trance states has always harnessed the ability to traverse the boundary of perceived ordinary reality. These repetitive vibrations that alter brainwave patterns and give access to the multi-dimensional universal web are a powerful and direct form of communication with the Divine Universe.

To create your own frame drum - often referred to as birthing - is to transform elements of nature into a conduit for direct spiritual connection and experience - which sits at the very core of shamanism. It becomes a sacred journey of discovery. The parallel here is that women are the powerful force that gives birth to new life and the shaman's drum is to birth new life into a sacred tool for personal spiritual communication and consciousness.

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