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Other Levels of Drumming

by Monte Kreps

This article appeared in the January 1995 issue of M.E.N. Magazine

In the spring of 94 I naively took a Native American friend to what I considered to be one of the better structured monthly gatherings of men. As the drumming circle began he refused to join the white man’s circle and stayed outside the ring to observe and listen to our ceremonies, stories, drumming and sharing. Periodically my friend Mike would leave to go outside and smoke where he would stay for lengthy spells. When we left, Mike was guarded about sharing pieces and clues of his native tradition but as I probed I heard between his lines his reason for caution of the white man’s drumming.

Indians are afraid of that kind of energy. Too individualistic! Too wild! Too much chaos! Too much drama! Too much show! Too much scattered! I would never allow my spirit to enter that circle. Indians drum with different purpose, we drum with a singular rhythm, with a regular beat to link our hearts. The drum works its trance, its meditative charm if you please, to take us into a place of joining . Sometimes it takes hours to establish our drumming of unity. If I am in an unbalanced discordant place and I can’t go to meet with hearts, I don’t drum to add my disruptive notes. Frequently when Indians drum our circles end with only Elders drumming their softer yet powerful sounds, sounds that pierce deep into our bodies. There is no talking, no sharing until unity is known. When there is unity hearts can speak.

In these few words my view of the white Man’s drumming was forever changed. I suddenly understood more of the teaching that I had experienced a year earlier when I approached Jade Wah’oo, an Indian Shaman from Arizona, for a healing.

Jade Wah’oo taught that a drum is a sacred instrument. An instrument for change, an instrument that needs to be regularly experienced and used. The drum has three different sounds that penetrate the body differently; one is a higher pitched sound that opens up the alpha state, another is a middle range sound that opens up the deeper beta level and the third is a deep base sound that opens up the theta level. When properly used, the drum aids a man into a trance state for learning. Jade Wah’oo claims that 10 minutes of drumming is far more effective and productive than 20 or 30 minutes of meditation because the drum is a percussion instrument that quickly expresses a man’s restlessness to zoom him down inside himself to address the soul. He teaches that every man has his own inner rhythm, a beat and a tempo. It is extremely important for each man to find and know his proper alpha, beta, and theta beat and comfortable rhythm that will aid the healing of the three levels of his soul.

I took time to learn that I center best when I drum a moderately fast pace with an alpha and a beta sound. But as yet the undeveloped spiritual part of me is not able to pull up the deep base of the theta as an integral part of my comfortable drumming. When I drum, I drum alone because the combination of different beats and different rhythms of other men’s drumming with a discordant purpose I find disturbing. I long some day to be able to participate in a gathering of men that drum to achieve a quiet, singular unity before they begin their sharing. I find so few men know how to go into a collective drumming trance. I image that unity drumming would require my adjusting to a different pace and sound than the sound and hype I prefer. In the mean time I continue to allow myself a ritual of drumming without words and without sharing. I hope some day I can allow the birth of my spiritual theta.

I need to share one more level of drumming, a level I never dreamed possible. I witnessed this kind of drumming when Jade Wah’oo began his ritual for my healing. This healing was one of the most profound growth changes of my life, but that is another story for another time. I want to share my experience of Jade’s power ritual as I experienced it in early 93:

Jade set up the altar with a ceremonial copper plate and placed on it many items including cedar, sage and my gift of tobacco. He put on his ceremonial decorative suede leather jacket with a white fur otter collar and many eagle trinkets, buttons and pins. By gesture I was directed to sit in front of him so that I was facing west as he faced east. He took ashes and coals from the cold father fire pit and ignited those coals quickly by using what appeared to be a small incense cube. Very quickly father fire was in flames as this charcoal cube flickered and spit out sparks from what I later learned had gun powder imbedded in it. To father fire he added the sage, cedar and my tobacco for the purification ceremony. Then Jade prayed to Brother Eagle as he asked a blessing for his many individual relatives, a few specific friends, all earth friends, for my healing, and my family.

Jade Wah’oo continued with a ceremony of calling in the assistance of his four ancient ancestors. To do this he began the rhythmical pounding of his warped and well used crooked double skinned 23" drum. Soon he began singing a Chant with his clear resonate baritone voice. I listened in fascination as he changed pitch, intensity and inserted loud howls or yowls and whoops as only the Native American can do. But I was not prepared to experience what I saw next. At first I thought something was wrong with my eyes or my imagination was playing tricks. But as I looked I saw the actual visit of his ancients. I saw Jade Wah’oo subtly change form, become in voice, in mannerisms, in body posture and even personality each different ancestor that he called in by name. Before me I experienced the energy of each ancient. I heard each unique’s voice, I heard his or her very individual chant and drum sound and to each Jade was by shape changing. I could not stop what I knew from my core that to each ancient I was responding individually. I felt tears well up in my eyes. I sat in awe watching and listening. A mixture of profound happiness, deep sadness and fear/respect consumed me. I felt a power fill that (teepee) Lodge as a tingling vibration slowly penetrated every fiber and cell of my being. I became aware of a heart connection to a universal presence. This was a universal presence that was new to my form but had always been a part of my knowing!

Now I am leery and on edge when white Men Drum!

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