Books are magical......
They have the ability to change your life. That happened to me when I got my hands on the book 'When the Drummers Were Women' by Layne Redmond in 1998. The history of women in relation to their music really intrigued me. I started looking for a frame drum and got soon inspired.
Remembering ancient wisdom
In 2003 I took part in a Priestess training, in rhythm with the year wheel. My knowledge crystallized into experience. Delving into the sacred feminine: the goddess in different shapes and archetypes, brought to life what I had read. Visiting places of power, creating sacred spaces, guiding rituals and ceremonies is what I have mastered and still like to do. After some years I have led Priestess trainings together with another priestess.
Drumming is a source of pleasure, healing and brings people together
Over the years I translated Layne's book: 'And the Drummers Were Women'. The book was published by 'A3 Boeken' in 2012. With framedrumming I facilitated: courses, workshops, retreats and performances with a group of drummers. In collaboration I organized Temple and Desert Tours with Music to Egypt and a Music Tour to the area of the Etruscans in Italy.
Gradually a style developed in which frame drumming transformed from an old ritual into a ceremonial form that fits the needs of today's society. Research into the sacred and cultural elements of the frame drum and the effect of rhythm on our mind, soul and body, interests me.
Being in rhythm with yourself, your surroundings and all what is
My intention is to implement frame drumming as a dignified and spiritual part of everyday life, in rhythm with nature, for fun, healing, introspection and ritual. I like to connect women with the music and heritage of the frame drum. I believe that the drum, in all its diversity can contribute beauty and harmony to ourselves and the world around us.
I am a mother of two daughters and two sons, mother-in-law and grandmother of twelve grandchildren.
In the Heart of Framedrumming
I am giving Her story space because I feel that in this day and age the long-hidden yet unbroken presence of the Feminine is so eager to pour forth. She put me on the path of the Priestess and her Drum.
The drum leads us back to the ancient female rhythm traditions of the Goddess cultures of the Mediterranean world. We see her first depicted in 8000 BC on a cave wall in Çatal Hüyük in Turkey. The drum is round and shaped like a grain sieve. They share the same origin and are symbolic of fertility, grain, the moon and water. The frame drum therefore appears at the time when people started growing grain and settlements arose. You might imagine women sitting on the ground sifting the grain in a rhythmic cadence and maybe in the samewhile singing.
During one of the performances with a drum group, we mimicked this situation and played a rhythm with grain in our drums. The conversion from grain to flour, from flour to dough and from dough to bread is a metaphor for a transformation process. Each house had a bread oven as an altar. Eating the bread was eating the Mother Goddess. The Mother Goddess should not be seen as an equivalent of the Father God. It is liquid and has many forms.
The rhythm playing on the drum
The frame drum hasn't changed much over the centuries and is made from the same living materials. The drum has a wooden frame and is covered with a real skin, often from a goat. It is lightweight and can be played with both hands. The various finger techniques create the different sounds.
There are four basic strokes that embody the four faces of Mother Earth: fire, earth, air and water. The first stroke is the Dum , the element of water. Almost every rhythm pattern begins with this stroke. She makes the skin vibrating and sounds like the humming of our blood in our veins. The second stroke is the Kah , the element of earth. This stroke stops any vibration. She is the sound of the whole hand on the drum and embodies the gravity of the earth and the bones in our body. The third stroke of Tak is the element of fire. This stroke on the wooden edge is high and has an invigorating effect. She represents the heat and energy in our body. The fourth stroke Brush covers the element air and our life breath. It is the sound of the soft sweeping sound of the fingertips on the skin. With the drum with jingles, this stroke sounds like Chah in the clear sounds of the jingles. Jingles and jingles have a cleansing effect and purify the atmosphere.
When we hold the drum in both hands, its sounds flow into space. The back of the drum is your domain as a drummer. I think the music sounds the best here. In the inner rim you can paint secret symbols, prayers or even name the drum. The front is the face of the drum. This is where your play comes to life.
Between 4000 and 3000 BC, three great civilizations arose on the banks of mighty rivers that meandered through dry desert soils. On the Indus there was the Harappa culture, between the Euphrates and the Tigris the Sumerians lived and along the Nile there was the Kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt. The place where history begins, the place of the early known language, is the Sumerian city of Uruk. This was dedicated to the goddess Inanna. Inanna's temple was known as the 'House of Knowledge'. Temples, which were the universities of the ancient world, were acoustically designed to amplify the sound of the sacred music. Here we meet the first drummer in history with a name: Lipushiau. The name Lipushiau continued to resound in me, a priestess came to life. We know that she played the balag-di, a small frame drum, in the temple of the Moon God. A large drum, the balag, was called the Nin-an-da-gal ki , or the "Mistress of Heaven and Earth." In addition to frame drums, they played lyres, harps, cymbals, sistrums, and reed or metal flutes.
It was impressive to arrive in a boat at the island of Philae and to visit the temple complex of Isis with nine drummers during the unforgettable music journeys to Egypt. Standing in the very innermost part of her temple around the altar gave us a timeless experience. On the temple walls we saw scenes with sistrums. Sistrums are rattles with metal bells. The word sistrum means to shine and to give out light. For its beauty and grandeur, this temple complex is called ' The Pearl of Egypt '. Those who let themselves be carried away by the magic of this beautiful island can still hear the joyful cries of the crowds during the Isis processions.
So completely different is the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. The proud, petrified solitude of her temple has a melancholic air about it, and it is known for its library of papyrus, one of the most important sources of the ancient world. Hathor, the oldest Egyptian deity depicted, is often referred to as the mother of every god and goddess. Sometimes she appears in a human form, but often with the horns of a cow. Her temple complex has a mammisi, a birth chapel, where thirty-two priestesses with frame drums are depicted on a wall in a procession. Hathor is the goddess of music, joy and sexuality. In her temple, sistrums carved from papyrus stems were rhythmically rustled to open one's heart to Hathor. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to play drums in both temples, but we sang their songs outside on the temple complex.
The Priestess and her framedrum
History shows that the cyclical processes of the seasons and the year were honored and empowered in the temple rituals. These rituals were performed by priestesses. In Sumer it was Inanna, in Egypt it was Hathor and in Greece it was the ninefold goddess called the Muses. It was they who transmitted to the people the gift of making music. Musical, artistic and poetic inspiration has always been considered to spring from the Divine Feminine. The drum was the means of invoking the goddess and also the magical instrument through which she spoke. The drumming priestess was the intermediary and channel for the divine.
I was curious about that old spirituality in which the frame drum played an important role. When I was told one day in 2003 that the first Priestess training would start in the Netherlands, I didn't hesitate for a moment. I have experienced this two-year process in which I participated with eight women as particularly enjoyable. We always went to the different accommodations in our country. These were often located near a place of power. At weekends, tuned to the rhythm of the year, we became familiar with the goddess in her many manifestations.
Goddesses provide me with a vivid, image-rich language for the landscape of the inner world and the subconscious. Also as archetypes they provide models for a certain way of being and behaviour. Perhaps you recognize something in the independence of Artemis, the domesticity of Hestia, in the quality of compassion of Kuan Yin or the transformative power of Cerridwen.
They also give a colorful dimension to the passages in a woman's life. Although we women go through the different phases in life of the girl, the young woman, the lover, the mother, the queen and the crone, on a deeper level they slide timelessly over each other. For example, a young woman can be very wise and as an older woman we can still feel and radiate openness and playfulness. When you get to know the world of the goddess archetypes, you have a range of possibilities available to express your sometimes complex feelings. This world is full of humor and wisdom.
In the light of the training you are a priestess if you act from a connection with the eternal feminine, the earth, the cosmos and the other world. Performing rituals, leading ceremonies, building a temple or creating a sacred space both inside and outside in nature, is one of the skills you acquire. Gradually, the knowledge crystallized into experiences during the training and I experienced the power of rhythmic music. With the drum you have a unique musical instrument in your hands, you create a harmonic atmosphere through rhythm and sound and the attendees reach a joint attunement after just a few minutes.
Magical drum experience
I like to drum on special occasions like the very first Goddesses Conference in the Netherlands in 2005. I can still see how eight English priestesses, beautifully dressed, after the handover of the conference in the stone circle, slowly walked away in rhythm to the beat of our drums through the landscape of Center Athanor in Lochem.
The frame drum also led me to the Goddess Conferences in Glastonbury. A fond memory is that first time in 2007, when I drummed with my girlfriend at the end of the opening ceremony.
Drumming and walking one after the other in cadence, weaving our way between those present, who had meanwhile sat down on the floor. A beautiful silence and that's how drumming was meant to be, it crossed my mind. Playing here in a room that has been transformed into an atmospheric temple, decorated with banners of goddesses from all kinds of cultures, was a magical experience.
For a few years we played the rhythms on various frame drums with the drum group Tympanistriae. Hearing the sound of the rhythm on tars and riqs swell softly, while the drummers slowly enter the room playing on the walkbeat, brings people into attunement. During a performance we prefer to place ourselves in the middle. There is a red thread through the succession of the rhythms. The characteristic of the various rhythms are also connected here with the rhythm of the seasons. So you have the carried rhythm of turning inward in winter time and the fast and fiery rhythm that belongs to the abundance power of summer time.
Many women experience a recognition and a deep desire to play themselves. The oldest drummer started around her 70th year. I myself experience playing solo as very pleasant. However, many drummers prefer to play together. In a drum circle, the vibrations go back and forth. It means that your own drum picks up vibration from the other and the sounds mix. Making music together often creates friendship and connection. In one of my drum groups that I had under my wing for seven years, I strongly experienced that connecting quality.
Layne (1952-2013) has set the wheel in motion again with her great life's work. After centuries of absence, frame drumming has come to life again thanks to her. Countless women now drum in their own circle or in public. For the next generation, the presence of the frame drum in the home is becoming a matter of course and grandmothers, mothers and aunts may pass on their skills playfully. Meanwhile, there is a worldwide web that connects drumming women.
It was a great honor when we received a request from Layne's friend to scatter part of her ashes on Dutch soil. With a fitting ceremony, created by a circle of drumming women, this took place in 2015.
While the history of frame drum is linear, the drum symbolizes cyclical life and its music knows no time. Music is created over and over again. Music is vibration, we are vibration and we are subject to vibration. With frame drumming you can clearly experience how vibrations affect your body, your thinking and your immediate environment. If we assume that everything is vibration, we use the strokes on the drum to make the vibrations of the head and wood audible and, as it were, take the sound outside. This inner attitude gives a refined character to the frame drumming style. Soon you can feel the vibrations in your fingertips. The hands warm up after a few minutes, making the sounds even more beautiful and making the skin sing. The larger the drum, the longer its sound lasts.
After drumming for a while you will feel the effect on your body. Drumming promotes the functions of your heart, lungs and blood flow. Soon you will experience its vitalizing effect. Drumming is also nerve-food because it takes coordination and time to get the beat right. These functions, in turn, are connected to the central nervous system and beneficial to the kidneys, bladder, and our ability to cleanse and release. In short, drumming is beneficial. The sustained beat also affects thinking.
Playing one and the same rhythm synchronizes both hemispheres and takes you into deeper layers. The human brain has four measurable rhythmic vibrations of its own:
- beta - talking, walking and other daily activities
- alpha - relaxation and meditative
- theta - inspiration and creativity
- delta - deep sleep
After just seven minutes you can experience that you relax and go from beta to alpha . You automatically turn inside and your eyes close. Drumming brings harmony within yourself and influences the listener. Sessions in which drums are played especially for someone have a healing effect.
One dancing move
The frame drum is a versatile instrument. In your hands she can be your other heart and expresses the deepest voice in you. She can be an oracle and provide a doorway to another reality. With her rhythms she puts you in a trance and lets you make inner journeys. She reminds you to harmonize with the cyclical processes of life. She symbolizes the light of the moon and the secrets of darkness. She brings healing and creates space for introspection.
Before drumming we tune in. We turn inward and do an inner prayer. When we play for someone, for a certain ceremony or with a certain purpose, attention is paid to the intention. Thoughts take us to our ancestors and their music and we realize that we are part of a long line of female musicians. Everything comes together in the heart of the drum. The drum becomes like a vessel in which the drumming experiences gather and the drum slowly becomes animated. That is why your own drum cannot be played by someone else. Drumming is unmistakably linked to your own mind. Everything there is translates into your hands, your fingers and your intention. If we listen while playing we will play even better. Then giving and receiving sound is one dancing movement.
In the silence after the very last beat, the vibrations can be felt in your body and the rhythm continues to sing in your head for a while. It's slowly getting quieter. This silence is pleasant and loved. When I think of frame drumming, my mind often goes to this moment when the atmosphere has changed so much. Subtly you can sense how your body and the field around you continue to resonate gently. The finest vibrations touch you and touch your deepest being.
With in het Hart van Framedrumming I have given you an insight into the world of the framedrum with my experiences. The road I've traveled in this was accompanied by many enthusiastic drummers. My deep thanks to all these women!