In the sky, a big, fat Moon looms; her light dripping down upon a clearing in the forest. In the center of the clearing a fire blazes in a stone pit, and around this pit, dancing wildly to the rhythm of drums, are people wearing masks.


The room fills with the fragrant smoke of incense and the flickering light of many candles. On the floor a group of people sit in a circle holding hands. Quietly, the sound of a drum begins to resound throughout the room; the sound of a heartbeat.


A group of drummers gather off to the side of the festival space and begin beating out a dancing rhythm. Into the center of the space moves a woman wearing veils and tinkling bells. She begins moving to the beating rhythm, her body undulating, her hands beckoning, her eyes peeking over a shimmering veil that covers the rest of her face.
The above, and variations on theme, were the scenes described by almost everyone to whom I asked, "What is ritual drumming, and how can it be used?"

My first experience with ritual drumming was in a Native American continual heartbeat rhythm, which was explained as being a connecting vibration to the Great Spirit of all life. The "medicine" drum, or "medicine" rattle, is used in many Native American ceremonies as a telephone line between human beings and god. The different rhythms are believed to communicate the essence of what we are trying to say.

Ritual drumming is not exclusively used by Native Americans, but in almost every endogenous tradition worldwide. More often then not, drumming is used to bring on an altered state of awareness in much the same way a hallucinogenic drug is used. A constant drumming can force the mind to cross through an inner threshold into another realm of examining, or experiencing, life for that moment in time. Thus, using drums as a transcendental aid in such ceremonies as the shamanic journey, became a reliable and common way of altering consciousness by native tribal shamans.

Vibration is said to be the foundation upon which the physical manifests. When the drum is used as a visionary tool to alter one's reality, a new avenue for personal expression is opened.

Visions can teach us how to relate to an aspect of our personality that is very similar to, let's say, those characteristics associated to a deer. When the drum is used for visioning, it can help the individual free the trapped deer that dwells within, and bring its energy, or "medicine", to the surface of their consciousness. When this freeing occurs, many people experience the desire to become the full energy of their inner animal. This experience is demonstrated when the person, in their visioning, actually feels that they are this animal and stands up to physically move with, or dance, the energy of this new-found part of their personality.

In an ancient shamanic ceremony called Guedra that was performed by the women's society in Morocco, drums were used to hold the energy around the participants in the ceremony; creating a circle of vibration around the group in much the same way as the sacred circles which are cast in Wiccan and High Magick circles. As long as the drum rhythm was played, the circle was cast. When the ceremony ended, the drums would stop and the energy released; the circle would therefore, be open and the ritual ended.

I use drums quite extensively in my circles for grounding and centering, and quiet meditation times by playing a simple heartbeat rhythm. I equate this drumbeat to the Mother's heartbeat, to Gaia's heartbeat, to our own heartbeat, to the one heartbeat of all life. A heart that continually beats in all living things; the living heartbeat vibration of life. For Full Moon celebrations, the added rhythms of drumming helps me move deeper into my celebration of life, freeing my inhibitions and allowing me to dance under the full light and become the essence of that light in the darkness.

Whether in quiet times or wild jubilation, the vibrations that are created by a beating drum can greatly enhance the energy, alter the mental facilities of the participants, and produce vision. Just recently, I experimented with ritual drumming during a personal past-life regression. The need for this past-life regression came during the time I was writing my fourth book, THE ORAL FAERY TRADITION OF CELTIC -- my working titled, but published as Faery Wicca, Book 1 -- always felt connected to Ireland because of my Irish heritage on my mother's side of the family, and the realm of Faery has always attracted me, but during the course of writing the book, I began to experience a deep knowing that I truly had lived in Ireland at one time. Because I am not completely sure what reincarnation is and whether or not we do have past-lives, I decided to keep an open mind and try doing a regression using a drum. The following story is taken from the recording produced during my attempt to delve into a possible past-life.

The morning is gray, shrouded from the solar rays, allowing me to journey within the lunar realm; inner realm. Jack and I share breakfast, coffee and oatmeal. I read a book on the lunar aspects of astrology while he reads the Sports page of the LA Times. I am anxious to begin, but patiently await the passage of the morning time which we always share before rushing off into our respective daily activities.

The Moon has moved into Pisces during the night and this will be part of the energy surrounding my ceremony. I like the way the energy feels because it is "psychic" energy, going with-in energy, and I know I will be able to reach my desired destination.

As Jack takes his morning shower, I start setting up the altar; it is to be a Faery altar with only Faery tools of power. I take the St. John's Wort flower essence. As Jack prepares to leave, I walk with him to the front door and decide to take a stroll in the garden.

"Ah, going for your morning walk?" he teases and closes the gate behind him. He sticks his tongue through a knothole in the fence, then makes a sound. We laugh. I begin my rounds at the flowerbed dedicated to Ishtar.

In the distance I can hear Jack's car start and know he has departed. Here and there I stop to admire the beauty of the garden; the dahlia, deep red; the pink frilly rose blossoms; Faery Rath; white sweet¬pea-like blossoms of the Chinese pea pods; bergamot growth; stop to toss the petals air-drying in baskets on the outside Temple altar; the coyote hind-leg bone catches my attention; rock-rose; notice that the California poppy petals have dropped to the ground; wonder if I should thin-out the green bean seedlings now that they've grown to a substantial size and notice the purple blossoms on them; the chamomile will be ready to harvest soon - mustn't forget to send a batch off to Starhawk as she requested; lavender looking a little yellow - maybe getting too much water; ah, the glads are starting to bloom; stoop and pluck a gardenia flower, hold it up to my nose and take a deep in-breath; all is well in the garden; things grow good in the garden; head towards the door; must water the marigold and basil pots on picnic table today - check; exit garden; enter house.

Before the altar I sit. The pink candle is lit and the charcoal. I arrange the other items around the altar, and as the charcoal begins to turn gray, I place a drop of the Faery Oil onto it. As the smoke curls gray and white, I run my arms through it and draw it over my head and into my heart to smudge self and body. With wand crystal in hand I travel to each quarter and cast circle.

"The air that is her breath; the fire that is her spirit; the water that center. The circle is cast. I am between the worlds."

In my left hand I pick up the two pence Eire coin and anoint both sides with a drop of the holy water from Bridget's Well. Next, a drop of Faery Oil is applied to my left wrist, against which I rub my right wrist. As I do this I am thinking of my spirit energy; consecrating it to be receptive and giving. Applying another drop to the first fingertip of my right hand, I trace the Celtic cross on my forehead.

"For awakening," I whisper and wonder is this Sinend anointing me?

Onto the gray charcoal, I dump the Faery Incense. Picking up the bell, I intone it every four beats as I sing the invocation to the Faery Queen. After the invocation I pick up my dumbec drum and say to the spirit realm,

"I go on my Journey now Queen Fay, to remember Sinend, the Cunning Woman. To awaken the Sinend and Cunning Woman of Kisma. I ask your assistance as I go on this Journey."

Dum ca tek ca-tek-ca, dum ca tek ca-tek-ca, dum ca tek ca-tek-tek, dum ca tek ca-tek-tek.

I close my eyes and began breathing, centering myself. Letting the thoughts come and go; being sidetracked, releasing the sidetrack and breathing on into center. The drumming fills my ears and I focus on the rhythm and breathe with the rhythm. Feeling here, feeling stilled, feeling ready.

My Inner Guide begins to direct: Let your focus drop inside, breath inside, breath to center, breath to Earth. Focus on Earth, submerge your energy roots into Mother Earth. My energy intensifies. My mind swirls deeper, deeper, deeper into her core and rise the energy, rise the energy, rise energy. Up my roots, into yoni rises this energy. With one full breath, it rises to crown. My spine straightens. Head comes upright.

Crown releases and shines and connects with solar light. Branches reach-up and feel the light connection and sweep down around you to touch the Earth; around you now, womb of energy, of light energy. I breathe and my Shaman's Eye pops and is filled with a solar light. I can see the solar light shining inside - ah, the St. John's Wort is activated.

Marry solar and lunar; light and dark. Channel light energy through you and into core of Mother. Connect. Breath release and focus rushes through my body and empties into the Earth. Ah, I am connected; very complete. I feel my Guide smile.

Step in elevator. I do and turn to the buttons and push "basement". The doors close and the movement is downward. Relax. I will guide you. I will ask you the necessary questions. Just let go and journey. We know how to do this. We can do this. We will do this. I breath a great big release of air out of my lungs. I squarely face the door. The area in the elevator is predominantly dark.

The elevator doors slide open and I step out into what at first seems the lobby hallway before the swimming pool in the Bethesda, Maryland, Pook's Hill Marriott. Follow the light. Pinhole of light. Flash! Then...

Dum ca dum-dum, dum ca dum-dum, dum ca dum-dum, dum ca dum-dum.

Look at your feet. Grass. Ladyslipper? I've never seen Ladyslipper before so I'm not sure I'm really seeing that, it's just that that's what I think is in the grass.

Then lift one up.

Oh. Barefoot. It's my right foot. Wait a minute. There's a design on my foot. I think it's henna. Let's see, hum, it begins at the ankle and crosses the top of my foot and ends at my big toe. It's a serpent! I'm looking around the grass and thinking, but there are no serpents in Ireland! We are the serpents! WE ARE SERPENTS! I'm not so sure why I feel so strongly about that. Yes, I do.

Look up your legs.

Clothe. A skirt; a little ragged. Well, it isn't my best dress, I can tell you that because I'm out in the forest gathering herbs. Higher. A cape or cloak around me. No hood. Dull green color. I am wearing no jewelry.

Look at your hands.

Dum-ca-dum, dum-ca-dum, dum-ca-dum, dum-ca-dum.

I can't see anything.

See your hand.

Right hand. Fingernails. They're long, but I've chipped the pinky fingernail pulling up the roots. Left hand. It's touching my chest. I've got something around my neck, under my clothes. I think its some kind of necklace or bag.

Look at it.

I'm trying to pull it out, but I've got something on my back. It's a bundle.

Remove the bundle.

Oh, my! It's a baby. The bundle is a baby. Oh, look at his beauty. Oh, look at his tiny body. I've opened up the swaddling wrap and he's laying on it on the grass and he's wearing a little white dress. His hair is so red. And he's so fair skinned. His little legs are kicking out and his arms are flinging about.

Crying. Crying. I... he's hungry. He's my child. I lift him to my breast and I am shocked by the color of his eyes. They are cloudy blue, see-through blue, white-blue. They frighten me. I sense he--

How old are you.

Thirteen. No, twenty-three. I was thirteen when I had menarche. At thirteen it was suggested I conceive, but I ran from the men. I did not want a man to touch me. I am old for having a first child, but it was during the ceremony, during the first waning night that I danced and felt the energy explode in me and pulled my dress away from breasts and allowed them to be seen. The fire raged around me. My head was spinning. I felt as if I was swimming, sinking. Lost in the dancing figures around me; lost in the chaos of the releasing of the new tide. The darkness had begun to swallow us and we were celebrating the approach of Lughnasadh. He mounted me and I opened to receive him.

What's the necklace around your neck?

Let me lay my child down. A pouch made out of Cervus-megaceros. Inside it is a braid of red and black hair that is fastened through a holed spiral shell. Inside the shell is the Chuisheag grass. This was given me at my initiation; for at La Baal Tine I was the first to draw the Sgaith-an-tobar that year.

Who are you?

Dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum dum

I am Cunning Woman. I am story woman. I am healer. I am strong woman. I am Fay. I am this land. I am ready to tell my sgeal. I am ready!

The regression continued on for some time after this. I relived, or visioned scenes from the age of five until my death in my late twenties. When I woke from the regression, I was a bit disoriented and surprised to find that I was still sitting in my living room. I looked down at the Faery altar and then out the window into the garden that stood boldly outside ¬ a witness that Sinend, the Cunning Woman, Kisma now lived in the twentieth century.

Sometime during the course of the regression the beating of the drum completely disappeared, for when I came out of it, my hands were resting in my lap and the drum had actually slipped off my lap and was resting on its side. Powerful!

What is ritual drumming, and how can it be used? Ritual drumming is a tool we can use to alter our atmospheres and consciousness during sacred ceremonies, meditations, psycho-therapy, wild celebrations, and, as I have recently found out, even as an aid to performing a past-life regression. The usage of drumming is open to exploration. In your attempts to connect with the Great Spirit, or your Higher Self, may your drumming heartbeat provide you with a rich rhythm of life.

Author's Bio: 

Kisma has been involved with shamanic or earth practices since the early 80s. Today she is a certified Transpersonal Hypnotherapist, specializing in Past Life Regression therapy, into which she also brings Reiki, aromatherapy and flower essences.

For more information on Kisma's transpersonal hypnotherapy practice, visit Kisma's website today:

Official Tarot Guide of Kisma entered the world of tarot at the age of 8, began formal studies at 16, and performed her first professional reading at 22. With over 40 years of tarot experience she is the creator of the Faery Wicca Tarot, and a world-wide acclaimed psychic and tarot master.

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