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The Gift of the Drum

The first spiritual awakening I remember was all about the sky. I was five. The second, when I was eight, pulled my gaze up to the top of a tall White Pine. Until I was 55, every exploration of my expanded being felt like an ascension into the Light, located somewhere above my physical sense of location on the Earth.

I never was attracted to Earth-centered spiritual practices. On my 55th birthday I attended a class in which Paula, the teacher, announced we would take a shamanic journey, a new experience for me. I automatically began to enter the process I had developed since my 30s, which was to “send up” to the realms where I always found guidance. I was just about there, when Paula began beating her round frame drum.

Immediately, I plummeted earthward and came to rest in a rich darkness. Instead of what I had learned to expect from my meditative journeys, a light tingling in my head, accompanied by a torrent of words pouring through my crown chakra to be written down, I felt and saw myself sitting in darkness on a blanket on the ground.

A shape materialized across from me: a woman of sorts, wrapped in a cloak of small, speckled brown and grey feathers, and sitting on a wolf pelt. Her presence was strong, direct, and authoritative. I felt a commanding flow of strength from her solar plexus, heart and mind. I noticed a familiar sweet, pungent scent of black loam.

What she told me changed my life.

In the ensuing 20 years my spiritual practice has expanded to shamanic journeying and learning from the Dark Mother who sat across from me. And yet my go-to everyday routines pull my inner gaze upward, welcoming the sparkling shower of bright light from what seems to be coming from above.

There is a section of the Jewish Friday night service called the amidah. Traditionally, observant Jews read several pages of written prayers silently during that five or so minute stretch, but my preference is to turn inward and seek nourishment from my connection to the divine. Sometimes I feel a clear flow of blessing and information, sometimes not. I've shared a few of these in this blog.

Since March of this year, when zoom saved so many of us from complete isolation, my synagogue, Ner Shalom, has offered services using that platform. And since our first zoomed Friday night service, during every amidah, a waterfall of words has fallen through the top of my head into my heart. It has been astounding to me.

Until two days ago, all of these downloads have had what has seemed to me to be a sky-oriented feel: as having come from the Light, from above, from that familiar source that often feels like Source.

The first one thundered through me, a primal waterfall:

Tohu v’Bohu

These sheets of thunderous water cascading

though your field of vision

are not your tears,

although your tears

may be rushing from

under your shuttered eyes

to claim ownership

of this hallelujah moment.

Those rippling torrents

are the blessing

I have been holding

until I knew

you would stand

for the force of my seed

and were strong enough

to catch all of it,

Wasting not a precious drop

of me.

My waters have broken.

My waters have broken

and you are the holy floor

upon which they fall.

There is a vast basin

beneath you and

when my waters

have saturated your capacity

for wonder

and left you sobbing

kneeling on the ground of your being

the waters will continue to

pour down

until the basin, the vast basin overflows

and then the one beneath,

the deep blue mystery

of all becoming,

will at last relent, releasing

all the straining angels,

their destinies unfurling,

snapping in the great ruach

one ray of eternal radiance

erupting into each DNA-assigned heart

to root-flower-and fruit throughout your

being in all the worlds.

And then

each one of you

will know

how exquisite is your presence here

how perfect is your vision

and the resonance of your voice

will fill your ears so you cannot hear

anything but the perfect pitch

of the cosmos singing you.

And then you will all hold

your birthright of love

in your hearts and in your arms and

your embrace will shape itself precisely

to the part of the world

You sent Yourself here to complete

and which has been waiting

to melt your fear.

And peace will shine

from within you

and all around you.

And so these blessings have continued, all sky-birthed, landing in my heart through my tingling crown chakra.

Until yesterday, when my sister congregant D’vorah Grenn supported our amidah silence with her frame drum. Once again, my nervous system resonated with the drum. I felt not my crown but my heart expand, and the words that came were distinctly more earth-centric:

How many of us are forgotten to ourselves?

Hawk-headed spirit mother

regurgitating her memories

to feed her young

all her young

deer-antlered suckling mother

softly treading forest paths

searching for children

to feed

“Hawk-headed spirit mother?” The Egyptian hawk god Horus, whom I have always believed to be male, has been my trustworthy guide, the spirit animal I learned 45 years ago navigated my ajna chakra.

As I searched for how to share Friday night’s amidah gift, I learned that indeed, the Egyptian goddess Amentet, or Amenti, is frequently pictured with a hawk sitting on her head. Her role is to support the deceased, offering food and drink to them, thereby regenerating them. All her children, especially those lost to themselves.

And, yes, I met the Deer Mother a few years ago in a course on Celtic shamanism.

We who yearn for divine communion can find vehicles to take us there. I have long trusted the tap on the crown. If I ever doubted the efficiency of the drum – which I have not since my first encounter 20 years ago – this gift has put that to rest.

I am human. My birthright spans the cosmos and I can explore it at will.

image of Amentet from

© Leiah Bowden 2020

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