When women played drums

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Just published in the 'Le Civette' series of Venexia editions is a classic on the Sacred Feminine, When women played drums by Layne Redmond. A book that those who study and love these issues have been waiting for. A spiritual history of rhythm, as the author herself defines it in the subtitle.

And it is an all-female story, as unknown to most people as anything not told in the official, male, patriarchal one. The beautiful story of a world in which the Divine expressed itself through women and their sacred sexual bodies, mirroring and shaping a nature that was itself feminine.. A world that would last until the advent of Christianity and then re-emerge after two thousand years.

It is the history of the 'frame drum', one of the oldest known musical instruments, still used in what is left of a koinè Mediterranean from the Iberian Peninsula to India. A tool very similar to the one still used in Siberian shamanism to induce the trance ecstatic in healing rituals. It is the story of a repressed and forgotten aspect of women's spiritual heritage, the first female drummers, the only ones to have played the drum for millennia.from the sacred caves of ancient Europe to the mystery cults of the Greco-Roman era. The subsequent prohibition of drumming in the religious world, especially if played by hands and danced by women's bodies, marks a watershed in the process of denial of female authority in the western world.

The world is rhythm, Nature is rhythmrhythm is in things, in life, which is born and evolves with rhythm, and women's bodies, with their monthly menstruation and pregnancies, mirror an order, not only of the moon, but also of the sun and the stars in general.

The book introduces the history of the Sacred Feminine and the cult of the Goddess with a excursus clear, linear and richly illustrated. It tells us about this Goddess with a thousand names, Hathor, Isis, Astarte, Inanna, Aphrodite, and then Cybele, Artemis, Ariadne, all historical goddesses descended from a single Great Mediterranean Goddess, an archetype dating back to the Palaeolithic period that united Europe and Asia in the worship of a Divine Mother. And rituals to this Mother of All were celebrated mainly by women drumming, renewing the bond between human communities and the parent Earth.

Rhythm is day and night, work and rest, seasons, life and death, decomposition and rebirth, and humanity has survived thanks to an understanding of these cycles, of these alternations. The ancient world, which has come down to us through the peasant world, has a magical vision of what surrounds it and speaks through symbols, which are now meaningless to us but which have spanned history, and many of these symbols refer to female archetypes that the author wants us to recover. The deep beat of the drum is an echo of the human heartbeat that synchronises with the rest of the cosmos.

This powerful tool, sacred in the hands of women and only them, has the shape and size of a grain sieve, and the Goddess is Demeter, and is round like the Moon and like a pregnant belly or breast, and the Goddess is Hathor and Isis, and is often red, the colour of blood, or green, the colour of vegetation, because the Goddess also protects plants (Potnia phiton) and with them heal the ills of body and spirit. And goddesses are those who taught men to speak and make music, Inanna among the Sumerians, the nine Muses in Greece.

It is a frame drum, in the different Mediterranean cultures, that vibrates to awaken life in the seeds of grain found in the earth, to awaken female sexuality which was sacred at the time, to accompany the rites of birth and childbirth by making the uterus contract. And always the drum played by women chases away evil spirits creating a purified space, helps to give time to work and human effort, unites and keeps the group cohesive (because in archaic cultures the individual does not exist).

Until the advent of the Patriarchate, women were the spiritual leaders of the communities, and goddesses and priestesses from historical times are often depicted holding a frame drum to synchronise mind and body. Our ancestors are aware of the power of their bodies and able to synchronise their monthly cycles and pregnancies. Women know rhythm and time, they see it on their bodies, and they learn the rhythms of the grains, which also grow in a dark womb. E time is not like ours, linear, with a beginning and a direction, but is also cyclical, always returning to the beginning, like the snake biting its own tail, another feminine symbol.. It is always women who knead the flour and make it swell with yeast to create loaves of bread, which are also round, to be baked in ovens reminiscent of the womb of the goddess and located inside religious temples. And round, like drums, are the ceramic pots, which women also invented, and this shape is round like the egg, universally a sign of life and rebirth. Our ancestors observed, listened to, and confronted the reality around them with admiring and fearful eyes, and perhaps it was by listening to birdsong that women invented music.

Archaic peoples believed that honey came from the moon, and another symbol of the Goddess is often the queen bee. melissae were the priestesses of Demeter, Rhea and Cybele. Each attribute of the Goddess represents a means of understanding reality and the way it is structured in this world.

Very interesting part dedicated to yoga, which the author links as its origin to this sacred and cultural context: the search for harmony between body, mind and spirit, and between the individual and the universal dimension is the same as that which drives the mantra and the most famous of them, OM, similar to the buzzing of bees (animals of great value in Hindu symbolism).

The excursus of the different symbols throughout the different historical civilisations is compelling and ends with the advent of Christianity, in which the frame drum is expelled from the sacred frame to enter the profane one (and only in the late Middle Ages) of dances and love songs. The cults become for a single voice, preferably male, too disturbing a female voice and body swaying to the rhythm of a drum, whose vibrations refer to a fearsome power.

But the Goddess is too powerful in the Mediterranean world to succumb to a God who is Father and Son at the same time, and he makes room with gentleness and strength at the same time: its symbols will be re-signified in the way we know best. The dove of Aphrodite, the moon horns of Hathor-Isis-Artemis, the snake, the rose become something else, ritual definitions such as 'Queen of Heaven' formerly of Inanna pass to her. The litanies of Isis become Marian, to be sung while holding the rosary, another circular ritual object that has survived in Hindu rituals.

The power of the drum, the ability to excite hearts, becomes the domain of the military.It stimulates war and accompanies those condemned to death. It survives in the popular world on the shores of the Mediterranean, which has always maintained its vital and healing character: think of the phenomenon of Tarantismo studied by the great Ernesto De Martino.

In the last part, the author proposes new rites of rebirth of a spirituality based on words, thoughts and feelings declined in the feminine to reconcile us with the power of our body, which is beautiful, good, capable of giving life, love and harmony. A body that has a rhythm and knows how to communicate it, through the sound of the frame drum, to its community. A body that knows how to nourish and heal.

It is a beautiful body because Nature is beautiful, harmonious because she herself is harmonious, a powerful body that patriarchy will try in every way to restrain, limit, dominate, annihilate. To rediscover the sound of the drum is to rediscover a part of ourselves.which has been dormant for too long. The author dedicates this book to all of us, reminding us that We will only survive as a human race if we reconnect with feminine values of compassion and healing, of care, protection, nurturing, and consideration for the sacredness of all life.

Anna Perenna


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