What do drumming and archetypes have to do with everyday life?


We live in an interconnected web of internal and external rhythms that both motivate and punctuate existence. The ancients knew that life moved within them and around them, driven by the engine of archetypal force. That is why they connected the inner and outer states of advancement through ritual; harnessing and making conscious the massive power of unconscious forces—marking the evolution of the human, animal, planetary and cosmic occurrences with meaningful rites as an expression of soul. 

Life is a rhythm. The world lives and breathes in rhythms. From birth to death, we live in and through these patterns, reverberating through self, culture, and the world. Rites of passage were and still are utilized in indigenous cultures to mark and celebrate the deliberate, progressive movement of a soul through its time on earth.

The drum has always been an important accompaniment to the journey, and its sound echoes back to the modern psyche from time immemorial. To hear and heed its resonance is to find one’s thread of individuation. It shakes and awakens the Ancient One in the bones and DNA. Drumming serves as a means of engaging our soul and encouraging the deep energy of the Self to come forth.

Scientifically, from quantum physics to human physiology to the laws of thermodynamics and planetary physics, rhythm is a basis of the existence and function of the cosmos. A regular series of bioelectrical impulses, which are binary rhythmic modulations, keep both human brain cells firing and heart chambers pumping at crucial cadences in order to sustain life.

Blood percussively spirals and swishes through the veins, creating the pulse, which is one of the medically termed vital signs of human life. Earth’s spin creates the division of days. The revolution of the earth in relation to the sun creates seasons and perpetuates life on the planet. All life and matter exists in a rhythmic milieu. 

There is one instrument in particular that embodies and exemplifies the idea of rhythm itself—the drum. The drum has accompanied religious and spiritual activity since before written history began. Drums are depicted on cave walls along with other of the most vital objects of primitive human life.

In indigenous cultures of ancient and modern times, drumming has been used in communal and private ritual and as a meditation tool. Ritual and meditation traditions continue in the present-day and have crossed into Western society. For example, the use of drums for praise and worship in contemporary gospel music mirrors the kind of energy one might experience in an Australian aboriginal corroboree or a West African Djogbe; all three are ways of connecting with a concept of Spirit through music and dance.

Drumming is part of shamanic spiritual traditions all over the world. Medicine men and women use percussive pulsation in sacred rites and for purposes of attaining altered states of consciousness for themselves and their patients. Shamans use drums to communicate with gods, spirits, and nature, and to travel to realms beyond the ordinary. 

Music and drumming are familiar to the human ear, for they represent ancient inner and outer rhythms which help one find one’s place in life. Both drumming and initiation rituals are ways of bringing the myth alive. Myths, as the world’s archetypal dreams, teach us how to surmount limitations as we move through the hero’s journey of life. Myths open the door to mystery and our collective unconscious, revealing powerful pathways to personal transformation. 

It’s important to live life with the experience, and therefore the knowledge, of its mystery and of your own mystery. This gives life a new radiance, a new harmony, a new splendor. Thinking in mythological terms helps to put you in accord with the inevitables of this vale of tears. You learn to recognize the positive values in what appear to be the negative moments and aspects of your life. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure. 

~Joseph Campbell

Follow the Journey


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