It seems to me that there are two different sets of intentions around the fire circle.
One is shamanic and ecstatic, and the engine is rhythm. The other is creative and artistic, and the inspiration is music and poetry. Both types work around the fire. Both work with Transformation, albeit different paths. The African drum orchestra (jembe, dundun, bells and shakers), lends itself to the trance/dance and can be a powerful change agent, when held with skilled drummers in a community setting.
Beginning in 1990 in New England, there was a group developing a fire circle tradition that involved a few hours of hard-driving rhythms and ecstatic dance, followed by a few hours of sweet, quieter music, singing and sharing. Ten years later at FireDance, these two things were separated. A small group decided that they wanted to create a fire circle space “to optimize seating and instrumentation” for quiet instruments and voices. That is, specifically, to exclude jembes and dunduns. However, in my view, the issue was/is not the instruments; it is the intention. When you say there are no “loud” drums, that means no trance journeying, no “popping,” no ecstatic dancing. It is a preference for artistic expression.
Ten years later (i.e., twenty+ years since 1990), many different Fire Circle gatherings have developed around the country, with their roots in the Sacred Fire Circle that began in New England in the 1990s. I have loved to visit many of them, and to experience the various ways that people create the Fire Circle. I enjoy the chance see many people shine their light. But I do prefer the shamanic style of Fire Circle, with a place for me to offer my gift to the community, which is to play my drums with my drum brothers and sisters, in service to the dancers and their journeys. One of my favorite things is to look around the drum pit to see certain people drumming together, knowing how to carry the rhythm, holding the whole circle. I still hold the memories of the days when some of us were a team, memories in shining colors. My fondest wish is to have that experience as much as possible, with as many as possible, sharing the same intentions.
Do you know of any more shamanic-style Fire Circle events?
I’m thinking about where to go this summer…