Why the Frame Drum Was at the Core of Ancient Mediterranean Spiritual Rites by Layne Redmond
The first sound we hear is the pulse of our mother’s blood. We vibrate to this primordial
pulse even before we have ears to hear. All the eggs a woman will ever have form in her
ovaries when she is a four-month-old fetus. This means that the sacred egg that developed
into the person you are now, formed in your mother’s ovary when she was growing in the womb
of her mother. Each of us, male and female, spent five months in the womb of our
grandmother, rocking to the beat of her blood. And our mother spent five months rocking to
the pulse of her grandmother’s blood, and her mother pulsed to the beat of her
grandmother’s blood. Back through the pulse of all the mothers and all the grandmothers,
through the beat of the blood that we all share, this sound returns us to the preconscious
state, to the inner structure of the mind, to the power and the source of who and what we
actually are: the pulsing unified field of all consciousness existing everywhere, within
everything, beyond past, present, or future.
The sound of the drum has represented this
primordial pulse of creation since the beginning of human ritual.
It is an ancient thought that rhythmic sound is at the root of all creation, that the world
is structured by sound, and that life is rhythm. In India the influence of rhythm and
tuning on consciousness has been explored for thousands of years and is considered a form
of yoga – Nada Yoga. The primary concept of nada yoga is that ultimate reality emanates
from a primordial first sound, the pulse, which echoes the 20th century scientists’ concept
of the Big Bang that creates the universe. The frequencies of this root vibration create
our physical world. As human beings, we are also emanations of this vibration and subject
to the laws of sound.
This archetypal pulse of consciousness vibrates within us as the
sound of our own heart beating.
Every human being on the planet took form to the primal pulse and this sound has the power
to draw us back to our earliest stirrings of awareness.
This is why drumming has been at
the core of shamanistic, religious, and transformative rites since Paleolithic times. The
power of rhythmic sound returns us to the pre-socialized, unconditioned, and balanced state
of awareness we experienced in the womb.
Rhythmic sound generated by a master drummer can captivate and move the conscious mind out
of the way. This enables the facilitator, the shaman, priest/priestess or healer to deliver
healing, integrating messages directly to deeper, less conscious realms of the mind that
influence behavior. When participants in the process are also moving, chanting, breathing,
and/or drumming the therapeutic aspects of the experience are greatly magnified.
These kinds of spiritual and therapeutic rhythmic practices synchronize not only our minds
and bodies, but also the two hemispheres of the brain. In a state of hemispheric
synchronization, the capacities of both the left and the right brains function
simultaneously. The mind becomes more concentrated, synthesizing information much more
rapidly than normal. The conscious and unconscious levels of the mind communicate and
integrate more easily. Emotions are easier to understand and transform. Insight quickens
and creative intuition flourishes giving us the ability to visualize and manifest ideas
quickly. Rhythmic breathing and movement encourages alpha waves to become dominant in the
brain, allowing muscle tension to be reduced. This predominance of alpha brain waves also
creates the release of endorphins, potent brain chemicals that help us cope with pain and
are part of the mechanism for dealing with and eliminating fear and anxiety. As stress
fades, a more beneficial state of peaceful awareness can manifest. Scientists believe that
hemispheric synchronization may be the neurological basis of transcendent states of
consciousness and emotional feelings of spirituality.
These are some of the reasons that the frame drum was at the core of the ancient religious
traditions and that women were so identified with this drum. Symbols, like the lotus, that
represent creation, birth, or the womb, were often painted on the frame drum or the drums
were painted red = the color of blood, the color of life. The frame drum, represented in
the hands of the goddess or her priestess, illustrated her power to create the universe
with one stoke on her drum, with one big beat of her primordial heart every thing
vibrated into existence.