Effective Core Shamanic Drumming Circles
By Susan Mokelke
© Shamanism, Spring/Summer 2007, Vol. 20, No. 1

Page 3 (continued)

Format of the Circle

There are many ways to format a shamanic drumming circle. There are two basic aspects to the format:

  1. Considerations of place, start time and length, frequency, and fee;
  2. General flow or ingredients of each meeting: Will format be consistent each meeting or will it change each meeting?

The great majority of drumming circles find it most effective to have, at minimum, a consistent time and frequency for the drumming circle to meet. Most of us already lead very full lives. Most people find it possible to plan and adjust their schedules for a regular session, but very difficult to do so otherwise. Having a consistent central location for your circle is also helpful. Many groups, however, also like to rotate the meeting place, especially when the members may have some distance to travel. An issue for the first meeting of your drumming circle might be to journey on these important details. What kind of schedule and place would be most helpful to gain to gain shamanic knowledge from your drumming circle? Do you want to rent a facility? Will there be a fee for your sessions? What will the fee cover?

Another consideration and subject for a journey at your first meetings together might be the general flow for each meeting of your drumming circle. For example, how will you open the circle? How will you invite the spirits? Will you use candles? Scent? Drumming or rattling?

Will you have a time for introducing new practices? Will you have a time for practicing methods already learned? Will there be a time for personal sharing? Will time be set aside for healing (with express permission of the person to be healed)? How will you close your circle?

Most circles find it most effective to have, at minimum, a general flow for each session, consisting of, for example, opening the circle, checking in, practicing the methods, healing requests, closing the circle. This kind of general format usually provides a greater sense of security for members and makes it to possible to get to the practices more efficiently to gain the most knowledge and depth.

Content for the Drumming Circle Sessions

If your drumming circle is led by a consistent facilitator, then that person will probably determine the content of each meeting. If leadership is rotated, then the leader of a particular session will most likely propose the content.

There are many other ways to determine the content. You can journey before each session. The group can journey when the drumming circle first starts (or annually, monthly, or as often as desired) to determine what content you will include in each meeting.

Considerations about content should include the level of experience of the members (it is most helpful to include content which is at or just beyond the level of experience of the participants). Too much too soon can overwhelm a person; material presented without the proper context can be counter-productive and interfere with a participant’s own timing and process. Keep in mind that something new does not have to be introduced with each session. Many very experienced shamanic practitioners take the FSS Basic Workshop many times – each time taking it to a deeper level and giving themselves a solid foundation. Don’t be concerned about repeating an exercise until people really feel they have gained the most from it. Be aware of the needs of the members of your circle and respect their process.

The Ethics of Shamanic Work

Before doing any healing work in your circle for anyone, you must have their express and informed consent to do shamanic (spiritual) healing. In shamanic work, we are privileged to deal with matters of the soul. It is every person’s right to determine what can and should be done for his or her own soul. Before doing any healing, get consent from the person. If the person is a child, get the consent of the parents or primary caregivers. If the person is in a coma, you must have the permission of their family or guardian. And, you should still journey to that person to ask their permission and what it is they want. When dealing with the spirit of a deceased person, permission from his or her family or guardian is still desirable. And, again, you should also ask the spirit of the person what they want. If in doubt, don’t do the work.

In cases of natural and national disasters, it is still important to ask permission from the spirits of the land and the spirits or people involved before trying to help. Remember, we don’t know the ways of different cultures or peoples or the needs of another’s soul.

A circle of shamanic practitioners can offer powerful healing for individuals and for communities. Use it wisely, humbly, respectfully, and compassionately.

Within your circle, keep in mind that it is important for people to have their own direct experience. Try to resist the impulse to analyze or fix each other. Keep in mind that a person’s experience is perfect for him or her; the experiences in the journey were given to the person making the journey. You do not need to try to interpret it. When someone has a powerful emotional experience, there is no need to rush to comfort or congratulate them. Accept each other and let each other be. Do not compare your experience with anyone else’s experience. One great gift you can give to your circle is the power of your listening and acceptance.

Remember that what happens in your circle is confidential. This is essential to building a sense of trust and safety, without which you cannot have an effective drumming circle.

Within your circle, keep in mind that the helping spirits are attracted to harmony. Remember that you are a circle and a circle is one, whole. To be healed is to be made whole. When you are of one heart as a drumming circle, the spirits will support you with all of their power, wisdom, and love.

1 2 3


Please consider joining the Circle and receive the Foundation's journal, the Shamanism Annual as part of your benefits.