Fire and the Drum Circle — Community Building Tools

Fire and the Drum Circle Our First Community Building Tools

Combine the light and warmth of a fire with the rhythm, and the result is the perfect environment to develop social bonds. This is why these are the first tools community building tools of society.

Fire and the Drum Circle

It is interesting to see the impact two elements have on the development of mankind. Let’s look at how light and sound become the foundation of society.

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

We should not forget these tools.  Perhaps their use is something we should emphasize more than watching TV?  There are some good reasons to bring this practice back.


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 our ancestors discovered the Shamanic State of Consciousness it involved the use of drums or rattles around a fire.

Drum Circle

The reasons for the drumming vary. This can range from simply being a time to gather and unite. Or it can be to provide the focus for a special goal like healing. The social etiquette for the circle depends upon the purpose. Those with a specific purpose have a specific rhythm. If the group is simply to create community, the rhythm can be very free form.

As an essential tool for building a community, the circle is the natural form.  Everyone can see everyone else.  And people can join in, and the flow of the rhythm changes.

Fire and the drum circle are the prefect combination.  The fire becomes a focal point.  It’s a time to prepare food in the fire’s safety.  Around a fire it is easy for the leader to control the melody and rhythm, just like the conductor of an orchestra.

There are several excellent books and drum track recordings for those interested in the Shamanic journey.  You don’t need a fire to practice this spiritual technology.  However, practicing with others can enhance your own experience.

The campfire brought people together. At night, fires provide protection.  They are an inviting and practical focal point.  Not only does it provide light and warmth from the cold, but it also provides heat to cook.  The initial purposes may have been warmth from the cold and the cooking of food.  However, the social nature of the setting makes a campfire a focal point.

Flames provided one form of protection from predators.  Drumming is also a way to deter curious animals. Watching and listening to a campfire has a soothing effect on the mind.  Add these ingredients together and you have the catalyst for positive social interaction.

Original Community Building Tool

The drum unites people.  Our heartbeat synchronizes with the rhythm.  This synchronization helps people to connect. So, fire and the drum become a powerful force in the development of culture.

People used these two elements as tools to explore awareness.

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 for 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 that involves several elements. It combines music, dance, and martial arts techniques. It makes an efficient mnemonic learning device.  <

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.

This tradition combines peripheral vision with and music. The practitioner enters a trance-like state of mind.  It enables one to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. This overrides the automatic engagement of the sympathetic nervous system.  This is our fight, flight, or freeze reaction.  It makes us react without thinking to avoid danger. Disengaging this may seem counterintuitive. But to engage the higher thinking function you need the parasympathetic nervous system. This enables one to analyze the ever-changing combat situation.

With the Parasympathetic in charge, you can “move on time” and in the “right way.”  Training with music ensures proper body alignment. It facilitates fluid movement and seamless application of the techniques.  The practitioner can control fear and anger in a combative confrontation when they combine all the elements.  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 martial artist has an unblinking stare. They move 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 the 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 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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