Effective Core Shamanic Drumming Circles
By Susan Mokelke
© Shamanism, Spring/Summer 2007, Vol. 20, No. 1

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Participants in the Drumming Circle

Drumming circles can be completely open, allowing anyone who is interested to attend. Others are closed, meaning either participants have a certain level of experience or once the circle begins, it is closed to new members for a time to be determined by the members. Some closed circles require both a certain level of experience and allow new members only at certain times. Consider the options and decide which is right for you.

İMike Norton

The advantages of open circles are:

  • Accessible to new members at anytime;
  • Flexible and changeable (less likely to become rigid in format and content);
  • More members;
  • Inexperienced participants have access to more experienced participants.

The disadvantages to open circles are:

  • Differing levels of experience make it harder to create content that works for everyone;
  • More experienced members may find it difficult to deepen in the practices out of consideration for the inexperienced participants;
  • The less practiced members may feel insecure sharing their experiences in relationship to others with greater understanding;
  • It is harder to build a sense of trust and community when membership is constantly changing.

The advantages to closed circles are:

  • Content that works for all members is much easier to determine;
  • Consistent level of experience allows the group to go deeper each session;
  • Participants can get to know each other well, building trust and community.
  • Members can practice more advanced methods without concern that the practices will be out of context, inappropriate, or confidential.

The disadvantages to closed circles are:

  • Fewer members;
  • Not accessible to new participants and the variety and interests they may bring;
  • It is easier to become rigid in terms of circle format and content.

An issue related to membership is the importance of each member’s commitment to attending the drumming circle, except in rare circumstances. Especially in closed circles, if members miss too many sessions it can make it harder to have an effective circle. It is best to make explicit from the beginning what commitment is required regarding attendance – and have each participant’s agreement.

Facilitation of the Circle

Many circles, particularly beginning circles where members have had the FSS Basic Workshop, find it very advantageous to have their group facilitated, at least for a time, by an experienced shamanic practitioner. An experienced leader can clarify the methods for journeying, helping individuals to learn to access the Upper and Lower Worlds and make contact with their helping spirits successfully and with confidence. Once this consistent contact can be made, you will obtain direct knowledge and the helping spirits will teach you.

Often, even experienced groups prefer having a consistent facilitator so they can focus attention on deepening their own knowledge and experience. The group leader can also create content that builds, that takes the circle participants step-by-step deeper into the practices.

Other drumming circles find it most satisfying to rotate the leadership of the group. There can be a different facilitator each session, or a rotation schedule can be determined by the members. Rotating leadership has many advantages. There is a greater variety of experience available; responsibility for the group is shared; members gain practice teaching and facilitating; participants can test methods they have received from their helping spirits in a group setting.

Focus and Purpose of the Circle

For a shamanic drumming circle to be effective, it is important to establish a focus and purpose for the circle from the beginning. When inviting members, they should have a clear understanding about what is being offered, and they should explicitly agree to it. To gain the most shamanic knowledge through a shamanic drumming circle, it is important to discipline yourself and to focus upon and use shamanic methods. Many members will have extensive skills in other disciplines: psychology, astrology, psychic work, body work, healing, energy and light work, etc. The presence of skilled people within your circle is a wonderful asset. But, it is important to agree that this drumming circle is focused upon practicing and gaining shamanic knowledge and that shamanic methods will be used during your time together.

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