A quick administrative note–Wordpress isn’t always showing me the comments on posts, so I sometimes have to refresh the page to actually get them to show up. You may have to do the same if you clicked on a post with comments, just FYI. This seems to be a recent thing.
Now, getting to the main topic of this post, I’m betting at least some of you recognize the source of the subject line. <a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Fingers-Thumb-Bright-Early-Books/dp/0394810767″>Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb may not be great, academic reading–but it was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I always remembered the “Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum” bit. Great fun.
Of course, it wasn’t just the monkeys that were so entertaining–it was the drums. (And violins going “Zum zum zum, but I don’t play violin.) And, sure enough, last night I finally got to play my drum. I’ve been a bit delayed in doing so, even though it’s been dry for well over a week. Time restrictions and being worn out from said time restrictions have prevented me from really being in the mood to go up and work any sort of magic, let alone getting to know my drum. But last night I managed to set aside a bit of time before I got too worn out (many props to my mate, Taylor, for doing the dishes even though it was my turn!) and went upstairs to get better acquainted with the drum and beater.
I sat down and asked them both permission to pick them up; they were only happy to oblige. So I did, and after greeting the skin spirits in them, I began to tap out an irregular rhythm, more to get acquainted with the sounds of the different areas of the drum head than to hit any sort of trance. I’m thinking I may not have gotten the drum head quite as tight as I could have; the voice is a bit deeper than on drums of the same size that were made by the drum shop owner. This isn’t a big deal, except that the spot at the very center of the drum is a bit flat, voice-wise. I’ve experienced this with other single-headed drums, including bodhrans, but the tone might have been improved by a little tighter skin. No worries, though–the surrounding areas had a beautiful variety of sounds.
I found a sweet spot to the side with a really nice tone, and then began to experiment with tempos. I’ve heard that 180-220 beats per minute (BPM) is considered to be particularly conducive to trance work, though I’ve also heard claims of speeds up to 330 BPM! I think 3-4 beats per second is about what I can handle right now, so that’s what I experimented with.
I only drummed for a few minutes, though I was happy to note that my arm didn’t get tired. I should hopefully have the stamina to last an entire journey, though I’ll want to practice before then. If I can get to the point where I can drum continuously for 30-40 minutes, I should be good. I’ve talked to a friend who is a shaman who said that when she journeyed and her arm began to feel tired, her arm, foreleg or wing (depending on her shape in the journey) would feel a bit sore, but not to the point of distracting her out of trance. I may be a bit concerned with my wrists and hands still being a bit weak, though I don’t think the spirits will be offended if I end up having to wear wrist braces. Maybe I can start a shamanic trend 😉
I found a good pace, somewhere probably around 200-220 BPM, where I began to feel the tugging of trance at the edges of my consciousness. I’m going to experiment a bit with different speeds, but this one seems pretty likely. The aforementioned shaman had talked about how her drumming pace varied throughout the journey, so I may see if the same thing happens to me.
Once I was done for the evening, I thanked the drum and beater and placed them back on the floor in front of the altar. It was a good experience, if a little short. I’ll probably do more over the weekend once I don’t have work to contend with.