Fire and Drum — Community Building Tools

Fire and Drum — Community Building Tools

The light and warmth of a fire, combined with the rhythm of the drum, create an environment to develop common bonds. As a result, fire and drum are the first tools used to build communities.


Building and maintaining a fire was a necessity.  The ring around the circle is a natural place to gather.  The more people use it, the more uses they found beyond warmth and cooking.  We don’t know how they discovered the partition of consciousness we call the Shamanic State of Consciousness, but it probably involved the use of crude drum or rattle around a fire.

Drum Circle

It makes sense that the drum circle probably originated around a fire.  The reasons for the drumming vary depending on the purpose.  This can range from simply being a time to gather and unite, providing specific guidance for the Shamanic journey.  The social etiquette for the circle depends upon the purpose.  As a community building tool, everyone can join in and flow of the rhythm changes.

If the purpose of the circle is for a specific purpose, the teacher controls the melody and rhythm just like the conductor of any orchestra.

There are several excellent books and drum track recordings for those interested in the Shamanic journey.

Fire and Drum — Community Building Tools

“Fire brought man together, drums built communities.” — Dan Shinder

The campfire brought people together. At night, fires provide an inviting and practical focal point.  Not only does it provide light and warmth from the cold, but it also provides heat to cook. Cooking food may have been the initial purpose.  However, the fire became much more.  Watching and listening to a campfire has a soothing effect on the mind.

The drum unites people.  Our heartbeat synchronizes with the rhythm.  This synchronization helps people to connect. So, fire and drum are a powerful relationship and community building tool.  They bring people together.

Mnemonic Memory Tool

If a fire can bring people together, drumming can provide a purpose.  For instance, in the  Shamanic Journey, then a Shaman or teacher controls the fire, the drumming, everything. They become the conductors of a symphony of spiritual exploration.  In this way, sound and movement are a powerful mnemonic learning device. Sacred drumming and dance are at the core of many indigenous cultures.  They use it to pass along knowledge of many things from healing practices and preparation of medicinal plants to their history.

Many ancient cultures took considerable time and effort to understand the use of rhythm and melody.  They use these tools as mnemonic learning devices.  The music, rhythm, and dance can communicate complex kinesthetic and cultural knowledge.  It becomes a foundation both learning and community building.

These tools are also great for raising the level of your vibrational frequency.  The drumbeat synchronizes with your heart and with the heartbeat of those around you.  So, using the drum raises the vibration of everyone involved.

The Rhythm and Dance of Silat

The Indonesian archipelago is a good example of how the rhythms of the Gamelan orchestra are part of the martial arts of Silat and Kuntao.  These martial arts use the framework of dance and music as mnemonic learning devices to bond, memorize and associate specific techniques.  The dance movements incorporate the use of peripheral vision.  Thus, giving the dancer the characteristic far-away stare. The sacred dances encoded various martial arts principles.  So, when the dancer performs the choreography of the dance, they are practicing their fighting art.  No matter the situation, they can move in proper alignment to counter any attack.

When we combine peripheral vision with the rhythm and melody of the Gamelan orchestration, the practitioner enters special frame of mind.  It enables you to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and override the automatic engagement of the sympathetic nervous system.   This may seem counterintuitive.  However, it is the parasympathetic nervous system rather than the sympathetic you want to dominate in this life-threating situation.

With the Parasympathetic in charge, you can “move on time” and in the “right way.”  Training with music ensures proper body alignment, fluid movement, and application of the techniques.  The practitioner can control fear and anger in a combative confrontation when they combine all the elements together.  This provides a distinct advantage. As a result, the physical confrontation becomes a dance albeit a deadly one.

Silat Concealed in Plain Sight

Many of the Western cultures that occupied Indonesia forbid the practice of their martial arts.  Concealing their martial arts in the dance, they could practice in plain sight.  The untrained Western eye simply saw an interesting dance.  It does not compare with Western ballet.  Nor, does it appear to have the punctuated movements many in the West associate with other martial arts.  The Indonesian dancer has an unusual unblinking stare and moves with unusual jerky, awkward even ugly movements by Western standards.

In Conclusion

We use drumming and sacred dance as a part of the blended learning process at our weekend retreats.  And, when possible, we prefer an open campfire.  Fire and drum are still excellent tools for building community.

If this article resonates, there are more on our blog. To find out more about our organization, see our page FAQ.

Interested in spiritual exploration?  Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey.  Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions.  Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their own path.


Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s Book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Image from Google.
Drum Circle, Wikipedia
Shaman, Wikipedia
Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation by Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman
Kuntao, Wikipedia
Silat, Wikipedia

Fire and Drum — Community Building Tools

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