My best friend asked, "So explain this Wiccan Mystery to me about drums".
Now I have never equated the term Wiccan Mystery and drums together before. I have been working on some Mysteries this week, coincidentally. Actually, some of the God Mysteries, as well as the Mystery of Fermentation, The Mystery of the Hunt, and The Mystery of the Making.
Pausing and thinking about traditional Wiccan Mysteries and drums, I Immediately thought of the Eight-Fold Path. This version I am going to present here I found in The Wiccan Mysteries by Raven Grimassi. You will not find anything relating to or correlating Mystery and drumming in that book for sure! I knew I was on my own here.
The Eight Fold Path
- Mental discipline through fasting and physical disciplines.
- Development of the Will through mental imagery, visualization and meditation.
- Proper controlled use of drugs (hemp, peyote, mescaline, and alcohol).
- Personal power, thought projection, raising and drawing power.
- The keys: ritual knowledge and practice. Use of enchantments, spell, symbols, and charms.
- Psychic development and dream control.
- Rising upon the planes. Astral projection and mental projection.
- Sex magick, sensuality and eroticism.
Believing however, that the use of the drum in ritual, guided meditation, trance, etc. is on par with what we normally think of as a Wiccan Mystery, I decided to wade in anyway. Our conversation went pretty much as follows
I started off with, "Well first of all drums correlate with trance, and with guided meditations the Priestess can begin on a higher drum beat and lower the count to assist the participants to achieve the proper mental state for visualization. (I mentioned aural hypnotization, and the fact that drums really assist in mental imagery.)
"In terms of Personal Power, in raising the cone of power, a drummer can start off slow and then raise the frequency of the beats to assist also", I went on to explain.
"The Drum Beat takes us back to the Mother, the Heartbeat, and the sound of deep contentment in the womb. It meets us on the deepest physical plane possible."
My friend (who is a professional musician) then asked, "Well, what makes percussion better than strings or woodwinds"?
I replied, "A person connects with drumming on an elemental level. You don't have to be tone perfect or musical at all to feel or produce the effects off the drum. People with no musical knowledge or ability at all can grab a drum at ritual and participate fully with no instruction, just instinct. And look and sound great!"
"Primitive tribes utilized the drum", I then confided.
"Ah hah", he replied. "But primitive tribes have also evolved other musical instruments."
"Yes and that is my point", I triumphantly jumped in. "They still utilize the drum even so."
"But Primitive tribes have evolved from it, he stated emphatically. "When I was a child I walked as a child, spoke as a child and played with childish things, when I became an adult I put those childish things away"."
My comeback was, (being entirely non musical and tone deaf) "But what about simple vibration. Doesn't the drum have a specific "note" or vibration?"
"A drum is usually set to a single note and is a two dimensional instrument and that is why it is considered to be rather limited". (This is about the time I realized I was far in over my head musically, and in a no win situation with a genius.)
"Well maybe it is far simpler than that. Maybe people like drums so much because they take no talent to play." (Back to the sandbox, for me! You have never heard Ubaka Hill, or Elvendrums if you would buy it takes no talent to play a drum!!!!!)
"A mystery that is a crutch. I don't understand that," he asked.
Then I realized why I was having so much trouble explaining this simple concept and replied, "No, No, No. The Mystery is how you can use something so basic, so primitive and in your words so juvenile as a simple drum to achieve so much in ritual!"
And, sheepishly I realize in this long conversation I completely had not explained what a Mystery is by definition.
Mystery teachings are not something I, or anyone else, priest, priestess, elder, or anyone can sit down and explain. By the very nature of the definition, a Mystery is something that a person must experience for himself or herself.
As Priestess I can set the stage. I MUST set the stage. I plan the ritual with the direction of the God and Goddess, light the incense, plan the chants or music, provide tasty mead and homemade cakes, and lead and monitor the energies. But what goes on in circle is felt and evaluated by each participant individually, even though we are a group.
Mysteries, again, are by definition, something one experience. No experience, no Mystery. A book is a good introduction to anything, but cannot take the place of the actual experiences.
One example of the futility of trying to verbally explain a Mystery might be comparable to trying to talk to a blind person about a rainbow. You can use the most profound words imaginable, but it still is an impossible task. The same correlation goes with trying to verbally explain Mystery. One can explain for days, but this will not take the place of the experience.
So, how do I teach or provide the means for you to experience or learn a Mystery? As a Teacher I do Full Moons, Dark Moons, Sabbats, and in planning meetings, or other times several days after ritual we, as a group evaluate what went on. What worked, what did not? That keeps me on my toes, and makes me more effective. But you must be honest, and not afraid to speak your mind.
In meditation, I seek Inner Knowing and attempt to pass it on. I must not dismiss any technique concerning ritual, or trance, or Sacred Drama, or Dance, or really any idea out of hand, or out of my prejudices. For what works for me, may not work for someone else, and reverse.
As a Student, what must you do to learn these Mysteries? As a Teacher, I encourage you to do ritual. By yourself, with your coven, your group, an open circle, with a friend, with your familiar By the way one of my most questioned mysteries is why are 3 of my cats just cats, and ChiChi is my familiar? Do spell work, charms, chants, candle magick, guided meditations, energy workshops…get in there and experience.
And, if you can, go to different groups. Here, in the Springfield Missouri area, we have Wolvenwold, Diana's Grove, Ozark Avalon, Greenleaf Coven, the Unitarian Universalist Church, and other places. Meet people, talk, visit, chat, and experience.
But honestly, most of all, when it comes time to build the Sabbat bonfire, get in there and do it. Help dig to build the compost toilets, (talk about a grounding experience). Do. Forget about trying to impress anyone with who you are and where you are from. Get your hands dirty. Get up and dance, and yes look silly if you must. Drum, for the first time. Sing, even if you are tone deaf. Ask questions if you have them. This of course goes along with your usual practices of meditation/fasting or whatever prior to ritual, asking for assistance of Deity, etc. Have fun. Experience.
If you do even part of this, I won't get a headache trying to explain what a Mystery is. You will be attempting to explain to me what happened to you instead.
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