Drumming as a
Form of Prayer
By Jim Ewing (Blueskywaters)



Native Americans and most of the indigenenous peoples of the Earth have known for thousands of years that drumming is a powerful spiritual tool.

Only in recent years, though, has the scientific basis come to light. Michael Harner, an anthropologist and founder of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, did pioneering work in studying the effects of drumming in the 1960s and ’70s, outlined in his book, “The Way of The Shaman” (Harper; San Francisco; 1990).

According to Harner, the beat of the drum, as used to transport native peoples into shamanic states of consciousness, closely approximates the base resonant frequency of the Earth, which can be measured scientifically.

In recent years, Gregg Braden, a geophysicist and author of such works as “Walking Between the Worlds: The Science of Compassion” (Radio Bookstore Press; Bellevue, Wash.; 1997), has continuously measured this frequency, which has led to his hypothesis that the Earth is going through great changes, with profound implications for its inhabitants.

This measurement, he concludes, coincides with the ancient prophecies of the Eqyptians, the Hopis, the Aztecs, the Mayan, and others around the world, including the Christian Bible, saying that the Earth will go through a time of awakening, transformation and renewal during these “end times” — beginning to occur now — as a result of these changes.

The physiological effects of sound, particularly regarding altered states, have also been well documented, shown to produce alpha, beta, and theta (psychic) states in the brain. (See: Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D., “Sounds of Healing: A Physician Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice and Music,” Broadway Books; New York; 1999).

Of course, the ability of sound to induce meditative states was well known thousands of years ago to ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures, which used rhythmic chanting, singing bowls, finger chimes and other methods to transcend ordinary consciousness, as well.

Drumming, by combining the vibrational tones of meditation and the 180-cycles-per-second beat approximating the base resonant frequency of the Earth itself, thus, becomes not only a powerful meditation tool, but a way to tap into our psychic inner ability to travel over vast distances, effect cures, and know — and affect — the future.

Drunvalo Melchizedek in this books, “The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life,” Vols. 1 & 2 (Light Technology; Flagstaff, Arizona; 2000), explains the effects of being in contact with “all-time-no-time” in time and space through defining the human energy field as a “permanent merkaba” in the shape of a star tetrahedron.

That energy field or the human aura, he says, extends 27 feet in each direction in its most dense form, but it also extends through space and time and other dimensions.

Using the drum, we can travel along our energy field lines through those dimensions and effect reality. We can do this consciously, through shamanic drumming, or with will or intent through using the drum in prayer.

Native American style drumming is most powerful as a prayerful device, as a way to touch your sacred circles of loved ones, family and friends in a unique and powerful way.

An example of drumming for healing, or praying through the drum, was recently demonstrated by the 600-Mile Medicine Wheel ceremony coordinated by Bennie LeBeau, a Shoshone member of the Spiritual Elders of Mother Earth. Groups located at 20 sites in a great circle centering on the Grand Tetons coordinated their drumming, singing and prayers to bring healing to the Earth. Others in various parts of the globe, joined in drumming and song, as well.

Although well outside the 600-mile wheel, I was honored to conduct the ceremonies at Ocean Springs, Miss., as the designated “ambassador.”

Our experience is a good example of the power of drumming as prayer.

We followed the protocol suggested by LeBeau as modified for the circumstances — on the beach next to the Gulf of Mexico. The intent was to bring the water element to the Great Wheel far to the West, to help extinguish the fires of human destruction, giving balance to our world. The official hours of our public use permit were 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., but we began much earlier, at 3:30 a.m. The ceremony protocol called for ambassadors to arise early and prepare the site by 4 a.m., to be in synch with the Morning Star, and bring its energies into the circle. This we did.

We created the gathering circle next to the waters in sacred manner, with a fire pit and Earth altar. The altar was anchored by my staff and medicine bundle with the canupa (sacred pipe). The circle was consecrated with tobacco and sage and linked energetically to the Grand Wheel, anchored where the land met the water, for the air, earth, fire, water elements to hold its center, with Skan, wind, to carry its prayer messages.

It is noteworthy that part of the intent incorporated The Alphabet of Star Beings (Dolphins & Whales), so that our activities could be translated to all beings in welcome. (For those who are unfamiliar with this, see the website www.blueskywaters.com.)

Thus set up, the circle was an operating principle whether anyone was within the circle or not, and it worked energetically all day at a high vibration rate.

When people arrived they were smudged before entering the circle and told they could enter at will, to pray, meditate, sing, drum or do other ceremony, but all social interactions, visiting, etc., was to be done outside the circle. The circle was honored in this way throughout the day.

Although the official public ceremonies were not to begin til 8 a.m. (as per the city’s public use permit), some came early, before work. We drummed up the sun, greeting the first rays and sending its power to West.

As people arrived, they presented objects to the altar to be blessed, and many brought prayer sticks they had been instructed to make beforehand to be offered at the concluding Water Ceremony.

Shortly after 10 a.m., we began the full drum circle, which honored each of the directions, beginning in the East, and going clockwise to end in the North. Drumming for each direction is called a “round” and is usually preceded by a few remarks appropriate for that direction.

For example, in the round for the South, we passed a “truth stick” — a beaded stick which also holds prayers that whoever holds it will speak from the heart, truly. The truth stick was passed to each person in the circle, clockwise, so that each could ask for the South’s healing power, for family, friends, those in need, all beings and, of course, the Earth Mother. Many of the gathering’s prayer sticks were wrapped in yarn appropriate for a direction. The directions and their colors are:

East, red — Newness, beginnings, new awareness, dawn;
South, yellow — Healing, growing, vigor, youth; West, black — Inner vision, reflection, soul-searching, endings; North, white — Wisdom of ancestors, Higher Power, guidance.

The whole ceremony took about two hours. Later, it was noted that during the day, the sustaining wind shifted from the North to from the South, as recorded at the Ocean Springs weather station; as we drummed each of the directions, the wind shifted from that direction, which the official weather service site recorded. That was a nice synchronicity.

The drum ceremony elicited much emotion. Some openly wept. As one person said: “I just don’t know why I keep crying.” I told her that in this ceremony we were one with the Earth, and we are releasing our tears, our fears, our obstacles, barriers, and toxins, just as we are ushering and nurturing the energies of the Earthly Mother to cleanse Herself, and bring Herself into balance, with healing energies rushing in. Thus, we are co-creators with the Creator, and as we are cleansed and healed, so are we all. It is a circle. The world in microcosm to affect the whole. It is a blessing and a release; let it flow.

As we finished the last round of drumming, someone shouted: “Look at the dolphins!” And, sure enough, about 200 yards offshore, dolphins came. They were rolling in the water, and jumping, and splashing. It was a joyous affirmation, and we gratefully received their energy in our circle.

At noon, we observed silent prayer, joining hearts and prayers with all the people of the wheel wherever they might be, and all the peoples and beings of the Earth, all in our Sacred Circles.

In this silence, we gave thanks to the Earthly Mother for all that she gives us: food, shelter, life — knowing that our bodies are made of her elements and we share our bodies with her and all beings that depend on her for subsistence and sustenance. It was our intent to feel the heart of the Earthly Mother and join our hearts with hers. In our silent prayers, we invited all the spirits of the land, the water, the air, the spirits of all beings (all our relations) to join our circle.

And we welcomed all good spirits, including our guides and guardians, our ancestors and descendents, our soul brothers and sisters in all time, who, like us, are stakeholders in the well-being of the Earthly Mother. And we invited them all, each in turn, to speak to our hearts so that we could voice their prayers, as one with ours. And we thanked them for having joined us, and prayed they would continue to give us counsel in our paths when we left this circle.

We used this time to explain the purpose of this observance, as related by Steven McFadden of Santa Fe, N.M. (www.chironcommunications.com). LeBeau had visited the Turquoise Mountain peoples of the Navajo in March, 2004, and met Grandfather Martin Martinez. Grandfather related that he had a vision come to him in the spring of 2003 when he and other medicine people visited the sacred spring to offer gifts to the mountain and its holy ones as they have always done. In this vision, warriors on horses of long ago appeared.

They were carrying a staff with eagle feathers from many nations. In the vision, the ancestors also came to tell him it is time to journey to this mountain for the sacred purpose of reconnecting the Mother Earth with her children. He saw rainbow houses and many people camping in the clearing with their drums in a circle to reset the sky roads of the holy ones. When Grandfather came down from the mountain, he called the people together to tell them of this vision and that a spiritual gathering was required to fulfill it.

Among indigenous peoples of the Earth, the highest honor that can be afforded Spirit is to being such visions into the 3-D world by making them reality. When people join to do this, all the guides and angels smile, and there is much rejoicing.

So, in Ocean Springs, to honor Grandfather’s vision, and the vision of the Great Medicine Wheel, we joined our hearts, minds, bodies and prayers in our Sacred Circle with all our relations thus called in to aid in the fruition of this dream. We asked that the Sky Path of the Holy Ones be made clear, so that their divine energies could bring balance to the world, to give spiritual guidance, and nurture our Earthly Mother and all relations.

During this process, in which I gently rattled to bring the spirits in, and then drummed the slow, steady heartbeat of the Earthly Mother to attune our thoughts and prayers as one, I had a powerful vision.

I saw the Sky Paths. They looked like crooked, blinding lightning frozen in the sky. I saw they are like neural pathways in the Earth Mind. And stretching out to the tips far away, they connect with the Great Mind. They are pathways to new thinking, new being, transformation of our Earthly Logos — the Being of Gaia. And we are connected, when we base our root chakras to the Earth, our crown chakras open to this white energy, each of us opening Sky Paths To The Holy Ones by our thoughts and actions in the world.

This was a great gift, and a continuing one. When we envision this, we become The Holy Ones. We connect to this balance between Earth and Sky with our beings, as avatars of bringing a new energy to the world. And thus, their visions become our visions. We bring Spirit into this plane when we align with the Flow of Creation in this way.

To conclude this silent prayer, we danced, praying with our feet. Our bodies singing our songs. We did the Eye of the Raven dance, which was given to me in a vision a year ago, as part of the World Soul Retrieval ceremonies. We formed two circles, women on the outside, men on the inside. Women danced clockwise, men counterclockwise, singing our prayers, asking that each voice be heard by the Creator. Giving our songs to the Universe.

After four rounds, we then formed one circle, dancing clockwise to bring the energy with all gifts of the Universe back into the Earthly Mother, giving thanks to the Creator for this moment between Earth and Sky with all our relations, as one voice. And we all embraced, no one left out, to conclude. All brothers, all sisters, one in Spirit, all inclusive, all one in the unbounded love of the Creator we share.

So it was after this, after a short break, we had our Water Ceremony, the conclusion of the ceremonies of the day.

First, we drummed our thanks, our gratitude for life, for love, for sharing all that the Creator, the Earthly Mother and Spirit give us, to make us whole.

Then, we went around the circle with the truth stick, so each person could express gratitude, prayers, and say what he or she had brought to gift to the Earthly Mother — explaining the significance of the gifts, the prayer sticks, the hope and love that is gifted.

Then, we participated in a pipe ceremony. Every person in the circle participated in smoking the canupa — including one little boy, Ashton, 7, who shared a beautiful song he sang about the Creator’s love for the Earth — his youthful, pure and innocent energy was a most beautiful contribution. For most, this was their first pipe ceremony.

The significance of the pipe was explained, that when the stem (male energy) and bowl (female energy) are joined, all power of Creation is possible; and the pipe has such power that any prayer uttered in its sacred smoke is realized (be careful what you wish for!). When carrying the pipe, one is holding the universe in one’s hands.

We asked that the power of the pipe, which had held the sacred circle together in Spirit for our ceremonies, carry our prayers to the Earthly Mother and all Creation when we made our gifts and offerings in the waters of the Gulf; and so we went to the water, and made offering.

The Creator smiled on us again, then. For as we were making our offerings in prayer and gratitude, again the dolphins came, and they swam in a circle just offshore. Someone said: “They are making their own Medicine Wheel.”

And thus the day’s ceremonies were ended, with the dolphins carrying our prayers out into the waters of the World.

After everyone had left, I was honored to deconstruct the circle, and we cleaned the site, leaving no visible mark.

The day had begun with the stars as beacons overhead in the inky darkness of as-yet unmani-fested hope and dream. It had opened like a flower with the rising of the sun to drums beating the heart sounds of the Earthly Mother, as Grandmother Moon, nearly full, set in the West.

It had continued as the day bore long in the vigorous growth and healing of the South’s hot Sun, to add energy to the heartfelt prayers of the gathering. And it finally ended with water gently lapping at the shore, washing all trace away, to begin the cycle of life anew on the morrow. Thus, the circle was complete.

I should say that when I finally picked up my blanket, as the last act before leaving, beneath it was a large, beautifully proportioned seagull feather. I laughed. There was no feather when I had laid my blanket down upon the sand that morning for the ceremonies. But, when all was ended, there was this gift of Spirit — a prayer feather to carry into the world from this event.

I thanked the Creator again. The feather is now on my staff as a reminder of the love and gratitude we owe our Earthly Mother, and the blessings and gifts that the Creator constantly bestows upon us.
- Mitakuye Oyasin.

For more information on the Medicine Wheel Ceremonies, see: www.Tetonrainbows.com/; www.chironcommunications.com; Spiritual Elders of Mother Earth www.spiritualelders.org; Healing The Earth/Ourselves or www.blueskywaters.com

Shaman and Reiki Master, Jim Ewing (Blueskywaters), lives in Lena, Miss., where he holds a monthly drum circle, performs local and long-distance energy work, and teaches Reiki and shamanism. His free, monthly online newsletter, “Keeping In Touch …,” has subscribers in most states and several foreign countries. See Healing The Earth/Ourselves www.blueskywaters.com


They do not need to be “fancy.” They can be just a stick or piece of wood carved or woven with fabric or yarn, each turning of the material being a prayer for the Earthly Mother from your heart. Note that the colors of the directions of the Medicine Wheel have power. And by giving your energy in prayer, while fashioning the prayer stick, and offering it in the Medicine Wheel, you are receiving energy, too. It is a sharing. If you choose to fashion a prayer stick, there is no need to feel self-conscious; there is no “better than.” Your prayer stick is your own and has its own power and it is welcome, as part of the rainbow of colors and peoples who make the “all” of these spiritual beings in human bodies who are us, the equally and inexhaustibly beloved two-leggeds of our Earthly Mother.

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