Shamanism for dummies. Or what we should do with the drum.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, in matters of shamanism it is not worth it to state anything with 100% certainty. The thing is that there are a whole lot of opinions on all the crucial issues concerning the topic. And, paradoxically, almost all of them are true.
The fact is that shamanism is a very personal substance. So many shamans, so many shamanisms. Or, more precisely, so many shamanic traditions. There are, indeed, a lot of traditions and often they may consist of one or several persons.
For example, the shaman, his predecessor and his disciple. These can be the only carriers of a certain tradition. There are few mass shamanic traditions such as, for example, Buryat tradition.
Typically, a specific shaman’s shamanism is built empirically, from the standpoint of personal intuition and feelings. Shaman builds his own inner universe himself, where he can „go“ to get an answer to this or that question, and to communicate with spirits and give them tasks. Is it a scientific approach or not is debatable, but if you rely on the theory of the plurality of worlds, there are no any contradictions.
Shaman lives in two worlds: in this, where we are with you live in, in the material world, and in his own, which we can call virtual universe, the basic laws and world order of which may fundamentally differ from those of our world.
And, as the main conclusion, all that a particular shaman states about his shamanistic traditions and realities is true only for him, or for the followers of this particular shamanic school, with established traditions and concepts. For a shaman next door things can be different. Even diametrically opposite. But, at the same time, despite the irreconcilable contradictions, both are right in their own way.
So many shamans, so many universes
…and the possible rules. I hope you understand what I mean. In a nutshell, if there is some kind of a shamanic concept. And if you don’t like it, build your own and it will be none the worse. But all the above mentioned is, namely, about metaphysical matters. But there are also physical. Here all is absolutely different, as long as, the laws of physics in our reality are unchanged. This applies to material things, which include drums too. Making a proper drum rests not on mysticism with metaphysics but the physical principles of interaction of material bodies.
This, in turn, allows us to describe the specific quality requirements for a drum and the goals that the drum allows to reach. The right drum should have a powerful and rich in overtones sound. As a matter of fact, powerful rhythmic pulsation within a wide range, rich in variety of harmonics, helps the human mind enter the altered state of „shamanic journey“. The sound of the shamanic drum, its power and richness, especially important for noobs, or experienced but weak shamans. To them it is a means for achieving another world. Without the drum transition becomes very difficult, or not possible at all.
And here we are. The next shamanic paradox…
The greater the shaman, the smaller the drum
Actually, only weak shamans need a drum as an effective means. Strong and experienced, „Advanced“, shamans do not need a right, powerful drum. They have a completely different criteria for quality and usage.
For an advanced shaman drum is just a fetish. Its purpose is to participate in a symbolic rite of passage. In principle, in this case, the shaman can make a drum of a frying pan lid, or a tin can, or just draw it on a board.
The thing is that some advanced shamans live in two worlds constantly at a time. Roughly speaking, they are „online“ all the time. And some — go „online“ with a single click. All this, thanks to the training and mental plasticity. They no longer need to move, long and hard „warm up“ their psyche with drum pulsation. A simple desire, usual condition and situation which are provided by the rite are quite enough. In this case, the ritual drum part is symbolic.
And, accordingly, not physical qualities are used in its building, but metaphysical, symbolic.
Right here is…
The trap for neophytes
A newbie, looking at a cool shaman, with a fancy drum, in vestments and with a bunch of bells and whistles, thinks if he gets all this, he can easily becomes a shaman too. And makes his artifacts according to the principle — the cooler, the better. Often, overdoing it, making coolness and hipness an end in itself. Not the right approach at all, resulting in entirely wrong direction. As a result, in the best case, we are not having a shamanic journey here but an auto-training,
during which the neophyte convinces himself that he is a shaman and that he communicates with spirits. And at worst — just a clown who deliberately lies to people, trying to convince them that he is a shaman.
It is understood that when the selection or making of artefacts takes place in a such a way, no one thinks about the physical qualities of the drum. The most important thing is considered the cool look. Any images on the membrane, without understanding their meaning, horned rim, because it looks cool, fancy cross piece with a bunch of amulets, about the purpose of which they have no clue sometimes.
And moreover, the drum can be made from low quality materials, and not by very skillful hands. And will sound like a shoes box, stuffed with newspapers. Also, such artifacts are usually very heavy and awkward to handle, which is also not conducive to the main task — transition into an Altered State. In general, such a character looks like a goof, and there are a lot of such persons.
And those crooks gather their own crowds. All kinds of continuously performing shaman gurus, traders of souvenirs, amulets and drums, leaders of mass shamanic seminars about nothing. They peddle a postulate that if you own the most magical artifacts, know the most powerful spells, wear the most expensive clothes then you can quickly become the Truest Shaman.
Here we come to the next paradox…
To use a Magical Artifact, you must be an advanced and experienced shaman
But the paradox is that the advanced shamans don’t need artifacts. They can handle it and do without it anyway. But neophytes will not be able to use it, because they are not shamans yet.
So if you don’t want to look like a jerk, don’t pay attention to those bells and whistles, and go find a shaman mentor, who usually does not look too bright and pathetic. Or learn by yourself, putting aside all coolness and hipness.