Question: “I’ve heard that some people do live drumming for themselves while they journey instead of using a drumming recording. How does this work? Isn’t it hard to do both? And is one method better or more powerful than the other?”

Whether you listen to a drumming recording (digital audio such as an MP3 or a CD) or drum/rattle for yourself while journeying is largely a matter of personal choice and experimentation. We all have to find the way that works best for us, given our personal situation and needs. Many people, after learning the basic journey method, find it both highly effective and convenient to journey with a recording. For one thing it’s quiet, so you’re not in danger of disturbing others. Effective drumming recordings keep a consistent 3-7 beats per second and you can adjust the play time to make short or long journeys as desired, which can be particularly helpful for new journeyers. For some, using a recording can also facilitate a deeper release to the spirits in journeys. And, since most contemporary practitioners rarely have the luxury of an assistant who can drum for them, many practitioners find it works well to use drumming recordings during healing sessions. They report that this helps them to make deeper connections with the spirits, frees their hands for the healing methods, and permits them to focus more intensely on the client.

Most practitioners form strong relationships with their drum and its spirit. For some, doing their own live drumming becomes an integral part of their journey and healing experiences. You might feel a draw toward this, or receive a message from the spirits to drum for yourself while you journey or work with a client. Experiment with your drum and see how it works for you. You can ask your helping spirits for advice about how to proceed. Some people find drumming for themselves forges a very powerful connection with their compassionate spirits, and love the sensations of sound and vibration when interacting with the live drum. As you beat the drum, it sings to you, opening your heart to a beautiful collaborative dance with the spirits.

Remember, the measure of effectiveness in shamanism is “did you get the help and answers you were seeking for yourself or your client?” You’ve been given a set of workable tools and methods for your practice. You are encouraged to find your own way, in consultation with your helping spirits, to bring forth the spirits’ power and knowledge.

Note: When calling in the spirits before and during a healing session or for a ceremony — except in surroundings where sound might be prohibited or disturbing to others — nearly all practitioners will drum, sing, and rattle powerfully for themselves.

Polestar logo design by Carolyn Fee ©2010 Foundation for Shamanic Studies
FSS Polestar highlights some of the questions we are frequently asked about contemporary shamanic practice. “Polestar” is defined as “something that serves as a guiding principle.” It reflects our commitment to helping practitioners stay oriented to authentic shamanic methods and ethics, while maintaining their own independent spirituality, which comes from learning directly from the compassionate spirits. Send us your practice-related questions for consideration for Polestar. Use our CONTACT FORM, and put “Polestar” in the subject line.