This was written to better inform the unaware of the true value and nature of the DRUM ...
Drums have been in the human experience for about as long as humans ourselves. They have been used for several purposes including warnings, messages, rhythm accompaniment to musical instruments and dancing, chanting, sacred ceremonies and more recently, meditation and relaxation just to name a few. The snare drum, conveyed instructions to soldiers and accompanied their marching in European infantry regiments. But beyond these, the meaning and symbolism of the drum has a much deeper significance to the traditional American Indian in the search for meaning to life.
There are many teachings of the drum not included here nor even known by me. I am still learning myself. One can study the drum for a lifetime and never be aware of all the lessons that wait to be revealed as one grows spiritually. As my sage Mother once put it, "What you know, you do not own. And what you do not own, you must share." So, let's share . . .
The first thing to be observed is the close association of mankind with the drum. The drum, usually held in oneís hand, becomes physically bonded to the person holding it. This attachment with the drum is comforting, and one in which unites the powers of the drum with its holder. As will be discussed later, oneís hand is in touch with the powers of the universe, of all Creation, and making connection with the Creator.
These days, the drum is formed in many non-traditional geometrical shapes, all of which have little spiritual power compared to the roundness of a traditional drum. In the Indian world, things round are considered sacred. Hence, the drum is sacred not only in its sound, but in its deep wisdom silently conveying it for those who become aware.
As most know, the drum is usually fashioned by a stretched skin or rawhide over a circular frame. To hold the skin to the drum, several strips are brought to the center of one side of the drum where they are joined together sometimes directly to each other, sometimes to a smaller ring in the middle of the drum. The back of the drum where the ties meet are just as important as the front side that produces the sound.
When played, the backside of the drum is hidden from view and grasped by the hand of the drummer. This is important as the secrets of the drum are hidden from view, and from the minds and understanding of others. But its powers are directly in view by its holder.
The drum produces a vibrating sound sometimes reverberating into the existence of its surroundings. The sound is produced usually by a stick with a soft head of buckskin on one end. The face of the drum is traditionally left natural without decoration to preserve its own character rather than marked with the trappings and decoration of manís ego.
The best drumsticks, too, are unadorned and left natural and simple. It is mankindís ego and nature to decorate the stick with beads, paint, carvings, or other abuses to the wood. But the wood kingdom represented by the stick is a vital part of our living relatives (the trees, plants, flowers, etc.) and deserve recognition and respect to be seen fully, and not be covered up so as to hide its identity.
At times, feathers from the bird people are seen to suspend from the opposite end of the drumstick head that add to the powers of the drumstick. Trees and birds are very connected. The straightness of the drumstick symbolizes the straight and narrow path of truths we are to follow as commanded by the Great Spirit. Thus, the stick and the drum represent all living things and are joined with mankind when used in a proper manner.
When played and contrary to belief, the drumstick is not meant to strike the drum with any aggression. The purpose is to make contact with the drum so that its powers may be released and made audible in the world, along with reverence and respect for all things.
The drumís silent voice is waiting to be released into the presence of not only the ears of humans, but also the rocks, grasses, trees, animals, birds and all life. All of life becomes aware of its sacred powers.
When heard, all things become silent and listen carefully to the presence of its sacred voice that at times, imitates the thunder beings in the sky. Letís examine further the construction of the drum and the meanings it carries.
A circle, by definition, is the locus of all points equidistant to its center. Several things can be learned from this meaning. First, this shape has one and only one center. If it has two centers, it is an ellipse, and its shape not round. Everything in life tries to be a circle. A circle has neither beginning nor end, thus the infinite Creation and Creator.
Next, all points on the outside perimeter or rim of the drum are equidistant to the center. Not only that, but each has and maintains a direct connection to the center. In geometry, this is known as radii. A pointís connection to the center of the circle is direct and does not depend upon something else to connect with the center. Now, the wise person applies this to life in this way.
Life is a Sacred Circle. All of life and everything around us is formed by the Creator who resides at the center of all Creation; the center of the circle; the circle represented by the drum. On the rim are the rocks, flowers, trees, birds, animals, humans and all things. All the living things revolve around the center, which means all living things and their lives revolve around the Creator, and cannot escape the Creatorís powerful influence because they are bound equidistant to the center as long as they abound in the sacred gift of life.
One point on the rim of the drum represents mankind. Yes, human beings, who in reality, are no greater or lesser than the things around them. Mankind is not closer to the Creator or center of the circle, and neither is mankind farther away from other things on the circle. Mankindís place on the Sacred Circle is therefore joined in unity and harmony in the same proportion of being joined as the other creatures and other things.
Yet, mankind is restless and wants to feel dominant over all life and all things. Mankindís ego wishes to be ruler of all, and envisions its place in the world of human experience in the center of the circle. In this position, all life is seen by mankind to revolve around it and report directly to it. The center is seen as a place of human importance, power and dominion over lesser forms of life and creation.
But again, a circle can have only one center lest mankind forget that the Creator is all mighty and reserves the center for Itself. When mankindís ego is humbled, then and only then can mankindís rightful place in the universe be known and understand in relation to all of Creation.
Then mankind perceives the real truth of its place as no greater or lesser than the things around it. Also, at this point of deeper understand, mankind grasps its relationship and truly harmony with all of existence. Mankind realizes that it is only a mere different form of creation, no more or lesser in importance than other forms, but is somehow related to all things who are seen as brothers and sisters--all relatives of mankind.
To produce sounds from the drum is a sacred experience. The drum is not to be overpowered with mankindís force or dominance, but rather be contacted gently and with purpose to awaken its Sacred Voice that speaks to all whose ears and hearts are open and will listen. Once produced, the sounds of the drum are a calling to align all hearts that hear its voice in one unity. Once does not beat the drum, but merely to allow the drumís voice to be the metronome or reference in which our hearts are joined in harmony and balance.
The significance of the drum is several, but it represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. The drum beats and the beats of human hearts, when once aligned, are in the flow and rhythm of all life; the universe and in meter to the Creator. To align the pace of oneís heart to the pace of the drum brings soothing and relaxation when in the flow and rhythm of the universe.
When the hand holding the drum, and the other strikes with the drumstick, both act to release the voice of the Sacred Drum. Mankind, then, is truly joined with all Creation and the Great Spirit and hearts rejoice in the gaiety of grace.
There is so much more to know and understand about the secrets of the drum. Many are left for other eyes and ears to comprehend. I can only pass on what I have learned as I strive to drink from the well of wisdom from only an humble ladle that holds little.
These are some of the Teachings of the DRUM uncovered in my journey path.
So live, too, your life in a way that you may discover the rest! Aho! I have spoken . . . .