“Did you get any pictures?”asked one woman after the drum circle ended. No, I replied. I had been so moved by the event, that I did not want to step away from it. I will describe the event for you.
The farm holds a Drum Circle to Honor the Ancestors in our large barn on the first Saturday in November. The barn's hand-hewn chestnut beams created a strong sturdy frame that held its wooden walls and metal roof. The barn's interior, a large open space, felt like a receptive womb.
On Friday night, I swept the floor and checked to see if the lights strung between the beams still worked. I looked again at the stalks of corn we had tied around those beams in September at our Equinox event. I had been honored when a man shared his corn seeds from his family compound in the mountains of Greece.
On Saturday morning, I placed four bales of hay end-to-end and stacked three bales on top of them to create a simple altar. I positioned benches in a semi-circle and rolled a rug onto the floor. I hauled a crate of pumpkins and a basket of Indian corn out of storage and decorated the area. I gathered flowers, including a lavender aster given to me years ago by a beloved storyteller; fresh dill to honor the herbalists among us; a brass pig to honor the animals, several baskets of dried herbs and four candle holders to add meaning and light to the altar.
Soon a friend arrived. She spread chicken salad on slices of French bread, garnished it with chutney. She arranged baked sweet potatoes in one dish and put small cupcakes on another. We pulled out tablecloths, paper plates, cups and napkins, cider, water, and a crock pot to heat the cider.
A gentle mist fell as people arrived with food, drums and pictures of loved ones that they placed on the altar The drum leader arrived with extra African drums that we placed on the rug in the center of the circle. I poured libation to the ancestors to honor our blood relatives and those who had inspired us. The drum leader smiled. She asked us to position our drums so that they too could breathe. She invited us to sound a heartbeat rhythm: goong, doong; goong, doong. The vibrations reverberated in the timbers of the barn, the Earth below and recesses of our hearts. We birthed a sense of oneness with each other and our world. As the drumming stopped, we heard the sound of steady rain on the metal roof.
The leader taught us three basic strokes. We drummed another round. With our next set, she asked each of us to add our own distinct rhythm one at a time. Most said the names of those they wanted to honor. By now, rain fell heavily; the night sheer darkness. An African elder from Baltimore, her son and a friend arrived. They found the crack of light streaming into the darkness from the open barn door. They entered, went to the altar, touched the floor and gave a quiet blessing. We all introduced ourselves. We drummed again. Several women and the elder's son danced in the center of the circle.
The leader offered a three-beat rhythm and asked if anyone knew a song. A guest offered a song to honor the grandmothers and grandfathers. It fit the rhythm perfectly. Several of us sang this song softly, as the drum leader handed out rain sticks, wooden crickets and frogs. Our music mirrored the sounds of nature around us. After the last drum beat, we sat hushed, radiant silence enveloping us.
“Pure love,” one guest said. “Perfect!” said another. I had never before sensed so clearly that love needs form to manifest: a partner, a space, an inviting rhythm to show itself in this miracle we call life. Form begins and ends; the imprint of love remains. In this season, we honor the love that pulsed in the hearts of our ancestors, the love that now pulses within us; the love we have faith will continue—a love beyond time and space—even as this season, this chapter ends.