The Spiritual Rhythm of Drumming

Chris Sinclair Staff Photographer

An old man in his sixties chants a mantra in a metaphysical center in Anaheim, California. The smell of rose incense and sage permeates across a room with high ceilings and old carpeting.

A group of spiritual drummers unload 30 tribal drums in a dim room surrounded by broken, mustard stained-glass windows, and portable heaters. One of the facilitators in cowboy boots and blonde hair exhales deeply while cracking her back from left to right.

For many drum circle participants, rhythmic drumming is a great way to go into an altered state or dimension in order to feel the power and energy of Mother Earth. For many individuals, it’s a way for them to be in alignment with the spiritual world.

Before the ceremony begins, drummers can choose instruments like the tambourine to accompany their drumming journey for the night. For this night in particular, one of the facilitators lights a few candles, lays out a deck of animal medicine cards and pats a white rug in the middle of the drum circle while welcoming the spirits of the north, south, east and west.

“We call upon the spirits of the sky and the power of the earth. We call upon the bird of the power of the north … we honor you,” she invokes.

“We ground your power and energy. Sacred powers, we call upon you and welcome you into our circle. Breathe, because we are now in the sacred circle. All of the stress – just let it flow through the bottoms of your feet out into the earth as a giveaway to the great mother. Breathe in and exhale.”

The facilitator then proudly takes her drumsticks and beats the imported tribal drum made out of goatskin while the others follow the rhythm. An old man opens up his flute case and begins to play while shutting both eyes.

His flute seems to be overpowered by the drums, which causes a unique vibration throughout the room. The facilitator lights some sage, a dried medicine plant and herb that is said to help purify and cleanse the soul. As she walks around the circle, the individuals take in the powerful smoke coming from the sage.

A first-time drummer interrupts to tell the facilitator that she just saw an image of a tiger calling out to her in the distance.
The facilitator holds the woman’s hands and asks her to sit in the middle of the drum circle to set out her intention and let go of any tension or problems in the past that may hinder her from progressing in the future.

The woman, who has frizzy caramel hair and dark kohl eyeliner, slowly walks to the center of the circle and kneels while clenching her hands together and closing her eyes. The facilitator  increases the sound of the drum while the other drummers follow. The woman in the center of the circle brings her eyebrows closer together and puts her hand against her chest. The facilitator begins chanting in hopes of feeling a connection from the animal guides and spirits, as she shakes a tambourine across the woman’s entire body.

The woman, who claimed to have felt her heart burning like fire, later said, “I felt like I saw a tiger in the past life and I felt the energy of the animals. Also, I felt a lot of pain in my heart. My heart was hurting because of the things in the past. I saw visions of my father and mother. I felt like I released everything while sitting in the center of the circle. I feel at peace.” Many individuals participate in drum circles to forget reality and be in a safe haven where they can feel a deeper connection with other spiritual sisters and brothers. The night has not yet ended. The rhythmic drumming continues for another hour while the energy and spontaneous howls from drummers keep the beat going. A 66-year-old retired psychic shakes her body and stands while beating a small drum. The others follow the woman while the candle in the middle of the circle burns brightly. The facilitator then slows the pace of her drumming and brings the energy level down. She gives thanks to the power of Mother Earth and the animals for giving the drummers an opportunity to reach another dimension. She thanks the powers of the north, south, east and west, then brings everyone back to reality.