Sunday, January 1, 2012

A different drum


New Year's Day, 2012

The little synthetic drum that has been my all but inseparable companion for 12 years is alive. It has been ensouled by use. It has powered journeys into other realms of reality for groups from the Baltic to Brazil, from Sydney to San Francisco. It has called in the spirits and the animal guardians. It has helped to guide souls in their transitions on the Other Side, and to bring vital energy back into the bodies of hundreds of people who have suffered soul loss. And through all of this, its voice has grown. At its last major outing, in southern Brazil, two professional musicians approached me during the first break, astonished that one small instrument could lay down so many complex waves of sound. They said they felt they were listening to a whole orchestra, of voices as well as primal instruments. Was there something unusual in the fabrication of the drum, and some secret to my playing?
      “The drum is alive,” I told them. “And because it has so much spirit, the spirits come to play when I am playing it.”
      But then there was a problem, that became serious only after the long journey home from Florianopolis in October. My little drum was getting tired. The drumhead had developed permanent wrinkles, as any face might age, and dull spots where the sound no longer sang. So, with a deep sigh, I purchased a new drum. The catalog description was identical to that of the original drum, but everything else was different. When I played the new drum in a local circle, it did not sing. It merely spoke, in a rather high register without the thrilling resonance and deep mysterious undertones of its senior. So I reverted to my old drum. She gave her best, while telling me, I’m so tired.
     The first day of the New Year seemed like the right day to set things right. I invited a dear friend, a sister of my soul who has shared adventures in two worlds with me for many years, to come down into the Cave where I write and dream, and asked for her help to energize the new drum, to open its “mouth” and charge it with the spirit of my shamanic work. That’s my friend (or at any rate her energy double) on the couch with the drums in the photo.
     I gave her the new drum, to start our improvised ceremony, and took up the elder of my many drums, the deerskin drum on which I painted the sea eagle that was my ally in my boyhood and carried me on its wings to deep places of discovery and initiation in my native Australia and in the Scotland of my paternal ancestors. Ah, the elder drum was in wonderful voice. We both enjoyed the waves of sound passing from its deeper throat to the young drum. I sensed something more: a direct transfer of energy. This inspired me to repeat the operation with other primal instruments in the Cave, with a goatskin bodhron out of Ireland, with a kangaroo-skin drum from my native Oz, with an Afro-Brazilian agogo, with an Iroquois turtle rattle. Each time, we felt something join the young drum, and heard its voice shift until it began to sing.

Time, now, for me to take up the drum that has accompanied me on the roads of the soul for the past twelve years. In wave upon wave of sound, we released all we have shared and let it wash over the junior drum. Now it was time to fulfill the transfer. I took the young one from my friend. I drummed in the Goddess pattern of twin spirals, cycling between the worlds of body and spirit, creation and dissolution, life and death and rebirth. I shifted into a soft and coaxing beat, the kind that might call home a lost child or a lover who has gone Away. I made thunder in the Earth. I called in the animal powers and the bird tribes. I tested whether this young one could sustain a beat strong enough to carry a traveling soul to and from the Lower World and the Upper World. And my heart smiled as the young one sang, and our spirits soared with her singing.
    The older companion she has replaced will have an honored place in my cave, as an elder among my speaking drums. I'll take her out from time to time, to sing in the woods and by the water, and to drink the light of sun and moon.


~
I have recorded my own CD of shamanic drumming for dream travelers; "Wings for the Journey". It was recorded in the woods among a circle of shamanic dreamers and is available from Psyche Productions.
    
The synthentic drums mentioned above are REMO "Buffalo" drums. I use a small 16" model because I like to pack my drums in my suitcase and avoid excessive questioning at airport security. The beater that comes with REMO drums is too short for my taste, however. I use hand-made long-handled beaters made to my specifications and the heads are encased in deerskin.


I painted a very simple image on my new drum; simple can be good. My personal name for the double spiral is the Eyes of the Goddess. It was through this portal, quarter of a century ago, on my return from a visit to Newgrange in Ireland, that I found myself traveling to an ancient Iroquois woman shaman who insisted on instructing me in her own language - the first of a series of encounters that led me to change my life. I published part of that story in Dreamways of the Iroquois. It continues to unfold.

26 comments:

Collie said...

I could feel the energy in your words and feel how wonderful it is for you to share this experience with us; knowing your companion of so many years was honored in such a way reminds me of the connections we all have to that world around us. Thank you.

Margaret said...

Robert, I love the respect and sensuality that live in this description and medicine you've shared... I immediately think of the beautiful metaphor that this is for how we can learn from our beloved elders no matter in what form they come. I'm so happy for your new drum that it has taken up the work.

Niels said...

Wow, a beautifull story that is dear Robert, thank you for sharing your experiences this way :D !
When I had bought my first shamandrum in the Netherlands I noticed that the spots in the hide (a young cow/calf's hide) changed overtime in images of spiritual guides, they are indeed alive our drums, and probably all material possesions we have, from our houses to our cars, our computers to our garden equipement, it also excist in the realms of spirit and is influenceable by our personal energy...
I wish you a happy and blessed new year for you and all those among you, including the drums ;-)!

susan said...

wonderful, inspiring post. thank you so much, Robert. perhaps every home dwelling needs such a drum. namaste!

nina said...
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Yiskah said...

that sounds like a powerful transfer of energy, and I look forward to journeying w/ this new drum! I feel similarly when I switch from an old dream journal, replete w/ many dreams for some months, to a new one w/ blank pages, and have done ritual to energize the new dream journal w/ magic and mystery that the old one contained.

Layne Redmond said...

Hi Robert, Layne Redmond here. Lovely blog. I will tell you how you can recapture the sound of your old drum. I've done it many times. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Put your drum in head up on the rack so that the synthetic skin is not touching any hot metal. and leave it there for 12 seconds. Take outside of the house immedidately, holding your breath! You do not want to breath in the toxic fumes released while re-heating. I have reheated drums since the mid nineties. I like to do 10 - 12 second intervals to be safe, but test each time and if it has not been restored to the pitch you like you can do it again. Each time it will get higher. I don't pass this info on normally but since you have already replaced this drum, even if there is a mishap in the heating you will be fine. I have one of the first Remo prototypes from the early eighties that has been reheated countless times and is my stradivarius. I see in the photo you have one of the older tars and those are great drums also. All of them go down over time, but this little secret can bring them back to life. But I will add this caution to anyone reading this, it is only for Remo synthetic drum heads, no other company and not real animal skin heads and please do know that it is not a recommended practice by Remo. you may damage your drum.

Robert Moss said...

Layne - Grand to hear from you and thank you so much for this practical and most helpful advice on how to restore a REMO synthetic drum. I love your comment that your "old" REMO drum is your Stradivarius. I have the same feeling about mine. However, after yesterday's energy transfer and retirement party, I'll have to see how she feels about being warmed up again...

Robert Moss said...

Happy New Year to all, and thanks for all the heart in these wonderful comments. One of my Facebook friends - also a teacher of Active Dreaming who has made many journeys with my "old" drum - observed, "This is a story about love, if ever I have read one." Yes.

momshomecooking said...

yes, a wonderful love story! i enjoyed nina's account of her epiphany that cooking with love is the secret to good food. my heart is expanding in my chest!

Patricia said...

My heart seems to just want to say Mmmmmm. I am a young mother to a goatskin bodhron and the journey of sounds and energy from it are just beginning for me. I will one day have a drum just for Bear. Beautiful choice of design Robert. I have a stuffed Bear I am sleeping with that looks just like yours. It was given to me by a man I am in relationship with in Seattle. I am exploring coincidence and dreaming ribbons with him. As I write this last sentence Loreena Mckennitt's Stolen Child (Yeats) is singing in the background. I love her voice!

Robert Moss said...

Patricia - Fine synchronicity that you are listening to Yeats' lines via Loreena's lovely voice. I am deep in new Yeats studies, preparatory to writing a new book in which he will be a central character; in my DREAMER'S BOOK OF THE DEAD you can read about where my lifelong relationship with Yeats has led me before. I often teach in the Seattle area, mostly advanced trainings but a few programs ("Tarot for Dreamers" in March and "Dreaming the Soul Back Home" in September, for example) that are open to all. Perhaps your dreams, and your drum, and Bear will lead you to join us. You may want to check out the events calendar at my website, www.mossdreams.com

Bob W said...

Thanks for sharing this, Robert. It feels to me like a family story, maybe a birth story, as I have known the older drums from journeys guided by you for almost 14 years. Welcome, new drum, "Eyes of the Goddess!"

Adelita Chirino said...

As always, Ache to you, your work and your new drum.

Don said...

Drumming fascinates me, Robert. Over time you have posted quite a bit about drums and drumming. You have gotten me very interested. I have and use your drumming CD. I own several drums including two Remo Buffalo drums, one 12"and one 16."

Some time ago, in 2009, I had a powerful dream of drum power. That dream encouraged me to look at elk hide drums at the next Siletz Powwow later that year, but not to buy one. I looked, and encountered second hand drum there that the vendor had unintentionally brought with him. (Synchronicity?) I had a feeling of power when I handled it. The vendor told me that it had been owned by a man who had done healings with it. I bought it.

In the more than two years since that time the feeling of power is fading away. I do not know how to recover it. None of my drums sing, though I do try use them for ritual. It seems to be my nature to use pipes or a flute, such as a recorder. With them, I feel like I can leave my ego behind, put my full heart and soul into my message, and really project it. I never took lessons. It came naturally. I would like to learn how to do that with drums.

When I read your post here I felt encouraged to get more involved with drums. Your cave sounds wonderful. I have no such cave. Not yet. Perhaps the first step should be to get one. I can see that I need more instruction, too. What you have posted here is a profound inspiration to get going on that. Possibly I can get instruction from dreams. There is instruction in what you posted here.

I loved the description of your cave. Your companion looks just right, too. Your story was entertaining as well as encouraging. Thank you.

Robert Moss said...

Bob - Wonderful to remember all the excellent journeys we have made together with our frequent flyers, powered by the drums. I look forward to fresh adventures in 2012.

Robert Moss said...

Don - In my experience, the drum comes alive, and gains power, through being used in ways that make spirit sing. If I had acquired a skin drum that had been used for someone else, I might make it my intention, while playing it, to get a clear sense of what it has done and what it wishes me to do with it now. In short, put your question to the drum/s.

Robert Moss said...

Niels - Indeed, we live in an animate and conscious universe, and may do better when we treat everything as being alive and at least potentially capable of conscious engagement. I don't go as far as the friend who says she keeps her elderly car on the road by doing Reiki on it, but on the other hand, if that works, I won't knock it :-)

Carol Davis said...

oh what a joy to read this story and all of the comments! As I played the young drum and you, Robert, played the elder, in the wonder-filled cave, the sound waves began to move around us. As you played the other drums and rattles I remember calling out, "She's starting to sing!" as I continued to play. "ah yes, come on, come forth and sing", I smiled and spoke to the young drum. Then you took the younger drum and I took the elder and the sound waves danced and our joy grew. The young one opened more. Our hearts did smile. This drum will support journeys, will support dreamers as they travel through doors. Ah, Happy New Year!

Unknown said...
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Celeste said...

After reading this a second time, I went for a drive, and 2 lines of a song to the goddess came to me:
"With the shaman's drum, she needs no disguise,
With the shaman's drum, there is light in her eyes."

Thank-you for the touching blog, Robert.

Robert Moss said...

Ah, dear Carol, thank you so much for the wonderful role you played in this union of energies, and for bringing your bear to play with mine.

Robert Moss said...

Adelita - ACHE right back at you, con abrazos.

Celeste - Thanks for putting light in the eyes of the Goddess.

Nina (and cooking mom) - Yes, like all else, cooking is better with love. And practice. Bakers know that everything goes better when there is plenty of yeast in the air, which works - as a metaphor - in many situations beyond the kitchen.

nina said...
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Robert Moss said...

I just posted a little note on the dream kitchen at my other blog: http://blog.beliefnet.com/dreamgates/2012/01/in-the-dream-kitchen.html

nina said...
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