When the Drummers Were Women : A Spiritual History of Rhythm
by Layne Redmond

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Gilded Serpent presents...
Recreating Ritual
Enhancing our daily lives with drumming and dancing

By Tahya
Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

A devotee of Danse Orientale for over 25 years, I consistently find this ancient and enduring art a great source of inspiration. The rhythmic patterns and dance movements of this tradition, steeped in antiquity, steeped in women's ancestry, rekindle a natural and sacred state of well being. With renewed self-esteem and self-confidence, daily affairs become less stressful and more manageable.

Connecting movement with rhythmic drumming expands our imagination, creativity, individual growth and fulfillment, which are important components to recovering a personal spiritual connection to health.

Feeny Lipscomb, a drummer, writer, and entrepreneur who lives in Taos, New Mexico, is the founder of the "All One Tribe Foundation" that disseminates research on the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of drumming. In her article "As We Drum, We Are One" (For full article, see 'Musings' page http://www.Tahya.com), she writes:

"Modern society's loss of its rituals has caused psychic fragmentation--literally, the state of being disconnected from our deeper selves. The result is a sort of soul starvation--a deep, non-specific hunger which we've tried desperately (and unsuccessfully) to feed with food, drugs, sex, alcohol, shopping, gambling, work. We now know that stress is a cause of 98% of all disease. Not only heart attacks, strokes, immune system break-downs, but every disease known--with the exception of two viruses--has been shown to be caused by or exacerbated by stress."

As we rediscover the communal and healing powers of rhythm and movement, we're establishing a bridge between these ancient traditions and our modern lifestyle. Incorporating drumming and dance in our daily lives heightens our awareness of passionate soulful existence. A positive "esprit" is generated that we can, in turn, bring to our families and also into the communities in which we live. Drumming and dance provide accessible tools for healing and additionally, these are invigorating and fun activities that vitalize the senses, promoting improved health and well-being.

Most recently, I had the privilege of working with a mastectomy patient, and was able to witness the great transformation in this woman's range of movement and flexibility as well as heightened sense of body image. Over the years, I have witnessed this transformation in nearly all the participants in my classes. This is, indeed, a healing ritual!

In her book, "Why People Don't Heal and How they Can," Carolyn Myss, Ph.D. also emphasizes this concept of a "healing fire that lies in wait deep within the human spirit which will guide you to the right healing steps." Reading this book, I am encouraged to continue creating rituals and invocations to boost personal energy and connect with the inner Source of creativity and healing.

I find practicing my frame drum and in particular connecting it to movement affords me the privilege of remembering, recovering, refreshing, and realizing the Source residing within. In fact, I have been inspired to invite other women to gather at my home to form a percussion ensemble. The work of Layne Redmond, a frame drum virtuoso and author of the book, "When the Drummers Were Women," has also been most influential. Bringing together the sounds of riqq, finger cymbals, dumbek and bell, we have created a percussion processional, in tribute to ancient rituals when women were drummers.

Women in antiquity were the sacred time keepers and the rituals of dancing and drumming were offered in community ceremony for all occasions -- seasons changing, rain, harvests, birth, and moon cycles -- not the least of which was for healing physical and/or mental disease. The Zaar, for example, is a dance and drum ritual practiced in the Middle East. A recent National Geographic documentary, entitled "Cairo Unveiled" shows footage of the Zaar; the narrator alludes this ritual is practiced, for example, when someone is depressed.

In addition, women's spirituality, wisdom and sexuality were affirmed through rituals involving dancing and drumming. Some of the oldest depictions "representing the human figure in a specific activity," illustrate a goddess with upraised arms, a gesture interpreted as conveying prayer or invocation.

  • Invoke blessings of good health.
  • Return ritual to your daily life.
  • Recreate the oldest known dance: the ritual act of walking a circular path.
    Our current high-speed lifestyle dismembers our body/mind/spirit connection; remember the connection via these centuries-old movements as we dance in reverence of the sacred garment we are provided for this lifetime's journey.

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