DiversiTree • http://diversitree.org The Divinely Inspired Publication for Inclusive Spirituality
Earth Drum Council (EDC), is a community that Morwen and Jimi Two Feathers hold close to their heart and where their roots run deep.
They began EDC as an opportunity for the Earth Spirit community, the northeast Pagan Community, to learn new rhythms together in an intentional, sacred space to support personal and communal transformation. Back in the early 90’s, this type of drum circle wasn’t easily available like it is now all over the country. The original idea was to go deeper into the drumming experience as a collective and afterwards to explore community-building through the council experience of a talking circle.
A drum and dance circle in Boston had been happening regularly since the late 80’s when Morwen and Jimi Two Feathers were given the reins and asked to bring their leadership to the drum and the fire circle. A fire circle is a drum circle that happens outside around a bonfire at night.
Jimi Two Feathers studied under the Wampanoag elders where he learned about sweat lodges, smudging and non-violent communication. Together with Morwen’s communication and facilitation training, they helped form the fire circle community in the Northeast. The community celebrated how drumming helped them get past their left brains and instead get in touch with their hearts and delve deeply into themselves.
When Morwen and Jimi began to facilitate, the fire circle changed from drummers sitting in a circle staring at and straining to hear each other, to what we see today in typical fire circle set-ups: a “V” seating formation for drummers so that they can see, hear and communicate with each other more easily.
In 1990, Jimi met Imani White, a well known spiritual drummer, songwriter and musician from North Carolina. She was one of the first female drum teachers to arrive in Boston. Her classes and subsequent drum circles were a significant part of the women’s empowerment movement in drumming. Soon after, other women drummers like Abigail “Spinner” McBride, Joss Price, Bright Hawk and Karen Berggren (KB) arrived, attended EDC events and helped shape and contribute to the women’s drumming empowerment movement.
At the time, African drummers were not known for taking women seriously as drummers and often would block them from soloing. Also, during this period it was hard to find women to teach drumming. When Jimi met Imani that changed, and she was invited to teach at many events over the years sponsored by EDC.
When women first started to drum, EDC supported their female drummers by ensuring that there was at least one strong woman teaching and facilitating at their gatherings. They made room for women by lifting up the ones that showed up and welcoming the ones that visited occasionally. EDC celebrated them. The women drummers also formed strong bonds among themselves, which helped other less-experienced women drummers feel more comfortable. They made space for women away from men to drum together, to help strengthen the bond among the women drummers. The lesbian culture of the area supported this women’s drumming movement by attending the events. The example created by all of these women helped inspire younger and older women to pick up a drum.
For years, EDC thrived with the support and participation of strong female drummers and excellent female percussionists; all seeming to find themselves in the northeast at the same time. “Unlike anything else in the area,” said Morwen, “EDC helped many of our well-known strong female spiritual drummers find their wings.”
Now, it is widely recognized that the drum as the vehicle and the dance as an active form of prayer leads to transformational states of consciousness; and when done together in a circle, it often leads to forming strong bonds and the foundations of a fire circle community. For many in this community, fire circles changed their lives, connected them to community, and gave them a deeper experience they would never forget.
The work of Earth Drum Council focuses on drumming as a tool for community-building, cultural awareness and personal growth. Drumming and dancing have played similar roles in cultures all over the world: celebration, communication, marking rites of passage, invoking religious ecstasy and healing. EDC strives to create a space where many different drum and dance traditions can be experienced, respecting the integrity of each culture while acknowledging that all are related in the human heartbeat. In that acknowledgment is the seed of a new culture, one that honors all regardless of race, gender or sex, and integrates mind, body, heart and spirit. The intention of EDC’s fire circles has always been to create opportunities for all people, from all walks of life in order to positively change their lives. Even in Morwen’s own personal healing journey, she gives credit to the rhythms of the drums and the community as a whole.
Earth Drum Council has been around for 26 years. The first 15 years were steady with bi-annual EDC events and twice-monthly drum and dance evenings in Cambridge, MA. About ten years ago, EDC took a break from hosting their events, but have resumed drum and dance evenings in Concord, MA. Over the years, many people have asked for a reunion weekend, which was accomplished in September 2015. Most of the group in attendance were part of the original core group of women drummers and percussionists that regularly attended EDC events in the 90’s, including Morwen, Olympia, KB and world-traveler, Bright Hawk.
Workshops were taught by Bright Hawk and Alice Heller, another long-time EDC participant and facilitator, who taught an African dance class. There was also a fire circle that included many female drummers. EDC ends its events with a closing circle to share moments of gratitude and unity. The EDC community has helped lift up many of the female drummers who are now inspiring others around the world to experience rhythm in a transformational way.