Bean-Sidhe Drumcraft 3

With Fiona Dove

And again, things have moved forward since I last wrote and I’m now back home in Hereford. Reminder … Fiona is in process of getting 3-day workshop together for this autumn, the dates are the evening of Fri 20th October to the morning of Tue 24th. She’ll have the details up on the Bean-Sidhe website soon, I’ll give the details here and Facebook/Twitter, but if you’d like to come on it contact Fiona now as there are only 4 places and I think one of them is gone already ????. Contact Fiona at at beansidhedrumcraft@gmail.com.

 

So now, back to what happened up in Scotland, I’d just finished about us working with earth and fire …

Fiona began lacing the drum. She was using an inner ring to lace to rather than cross-lacing, the drum-spirit had asked for that. We both like it too, it seems to form a more stable anchor and handle for the drum. We’d considered and spoken with the drum-spirit about using, making, a wooden inner ring out of twisted birch or willow but this drum didn’t want that, it asked for metal so that was what we gave.

Lacing, again, isn’t rocket science but it does require focus and concentration, it would be too easy to suddenly find yourself going the wrong way about. Whether or not to twist the lacing was another consideration, some drums like it and others don’t so we’d talked about it the night before. Both of us are also spinners and weavers so the concept of “twist” has more meaning for us and we got into a “how many twists” thing as you do when spinning … LOL. This drum wasn’t really into twists but it’s something Fiona intends to talk about on the workshop as some will be.

Lacing the drum is such a sound thing … air thing. It’s all about tension, and the sound. As you start the process you feel you’re working with something like a hundred miles of lacing as you pull the whole jolly boiling through each hole. About two thirds of the way round your feelings go 180 degrees and you begin to panic that you may run out and not make it all the way around! It’s somehow weird, you begin thinking you have far too much and then you worry you don’t have enough – where has it all gone? Then you realise you need to be centring that ring, and adding some tension as you go to hold the ring in position … and, in doing so, you give yourself more lacing. For me, it’s rather like a breathing process, in and too full, out and too little, but like breathing you begin to get a rhythm to the whole thing. And, in Fiona’s case, a little humming song. You sing to the drum as you bring it into a state where it can sing back to you.

There was a quiet “phew!” as she got all the way round with the lacing for the first time. Then she picked up the drum and tapped the hide. “thwuck” it said, flatly, no singing voice there yet, so round she went for the second time, tensioning each thread … and acquiring yet more lacing back as she did. Hide stretches, skin stretches, especially well when it’s wet, that’s what enables you to put the tension in. at the end of the second round she tapped the hide again – this time the “thwuck” was a little brighter, his voice was coming but it wasn’t with us yet. Third time around, more lacing and … this time … it was a “thwunk”, there was tone in there, a sound more than like the slap of a wet fish.

Now’s the dangerous and difficult time, the time when you could easily over-tension and ruin the drum! Fiona sat with the drum and asked, “Are you ready?”. It asked for the tiniest, teeniest bit more tension, a very delicate job that requires you to keep tapping and listening as you go, and not always in a simple circle round, it may also need more tension in different places. And then … “THWUNK” said the drum, ringing softly. He was done.

We put him in a cool dim room to begin his long drying process, then took him back to Fiona’s home at the end of the week to another cool, dim room.

He sings now, a lovely deep and ringing voice ….

 

Next job is to begin to make his beater and we’ll be writing about that sooooon  …

 © Elen Sentier & Fiona Dove 2017. All rights reserved.

Exploring Thresholds

Following on from writing the Merlin book I’m giving a workshop on Exmoor on Exploring Thresholds. It will be an intimate and informal workshop, just 4 participants, and happens out in the wilds of Exmoor, at ancient crossing-places where I’ve worked with Merlin all her life, and my father before me.

Thresholds can be tough and confusing, difficult places – I’ve crossed enough during this lifetime to have great respect for them. Merlin has always been my guide and ally, helping me across, and I’d like to offer the introduction to him and how he works this way to you. Nowadays, we’re encouraged not to take particular notice of thresholds but it wasn’t always so, we used to celebrate and work with them as I was taught as a child. Acknowledging thresholds, accepting and spending time at them, giving them respect, really works. It helps us, and it helps all those around us too. Exmoor is full of thresholds between worlds and we’ll explore some of them on this workshop … and what they hold for each of us.20160706_190319

I’m starting a new way of working too, working with Dr Kevin Ashby PhD, a poet and writer who’s been studying the old ways with me for several years now. Kevin’s great fun, has lots of insights and a wicked sense of humour, and he’s an ace drummer and overtone singer too. As well as working with me, Kevin will be setting out his own workshops in 2017. Between us, Kevin and I have done a load of threshold crossing and so are good guides to help you.

If you feel this might be fun, get in touch with me at elen.sentier@yahoo.co.uk for more info, and to book. This workshop is really small and intimate, just 4 places, so it’s worth getting hold of me fast to book yours.

 

 

 

 

dawn mist over the Barle deer Stag hind & fawn Dunkery from above Porlock Mounsey mist dawn Ponies at Wam Barrows4 Sun over Wam Barrows sunset 4

 

 

 

 

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And this is the Merlin book … due out Dec 2017

Keep an eye on my Facebook page for updates on publishing and pre-ordering.

 

Dancing the Heart to Wildness

Dancing is something most of us want to do and love doing when we can, even if we feel we need to be on our own to do it else we get embarrassed. Rhythm moves our feet, all our muscles, we want to move even if our social experience tells us not to. Rhythm, of drums, rattles, of stones knocking together, hands clapping or of the feet themselves stamping on the ground, all of this moves us.

Dancing is something most of us want to do and love doing when we can even if we feel we need to be on our own to do it else we get embarrassed. Rhythm moves our feet, all our muscles, we want to move even if our social experience tells us not to. Rhythm, of drums, rattles, of stones knocking together, hands clapping or of the feet themselves stamping on the ground, all of this moves us.

Often when people dance, be it at a disco, at home, at a party or out in the wild, they find themselves not in their usual frame of mind, not in their usual selves, elsewhere. Sometimes this is called trance, and sometimes the experience can take you a long way out of yourself into someone you hadn’t known before or certainly hadn’t remembered for a long time. Likely this person is your wild self, the self whose cells and body-memory can reach you … and reach back in time, maybe back to our hunter-gatherer ancestors even, to show you how it feels to live in tune and in harmony with all the rest of creation.

It’s such a simple thing, to dance, or so it sounds when you say it, but often it’s not so easy for us to do. Have you ever danced your way along a footpath across Exmoor, for instance? All on your own, nobody there but the hawks and the buzzards and the ravens and the sheep and the cattle and the ponies, and all the little creatures hiding in the grass and the heather, and the larks rising and singing all around you. Yes, you’re certainly not alone even if there aren’t any other humans around. And the other life-forms take notice of you too. They watch and sometimes comment like a snort from a pony or a loud “Caark” from a raven tumbling overhead. Yes, I’ve had the ravens dancing and tumbling over me while I’m dancing on the path, it’s good to have friends dancing with you.

Once you begin dancing on the footpath you likely find yourself singing as well, probably something wordless, humming, making vowel sounds, maybe more. Voice singing is one name for it. The old peoples all over the world do it and have their own names for it, like dancing it’s another thing that is deep in our bones.

Dancing and singing are indeed deep in our bones, in everyone’s bones I think, but may well be heavily overlaid with the patina of reserve that our modern civilisation expects of us. And, for most of us, this is a taboo that’s really hard to shed. We get stuck in the “Who’s watching me? What will they think of me? They’ll think I’m nuts! They’ll shun me!” syndrome that probably got handed down to us by parents (from their own training) from when we were knee-high to grasshoppers, indeed the patina of normality begins to be painted onto us probably from birth! It’s like a second skin that suffocates our true skin and so our true selves … like being painted all over with gold. The new skins shines and appears beautiful to our conditioned eyes but, in truth, it suffocates our real selves.

Dancing helps us shed this unnatural skin.

And so does singing, and drumming, and knocking stones together, and humming.

We have to forget learning steps, learning tunes, and learning set rhythms – although these are not necessarily wrong they can get stuck in the thinking mind as the only right way to do things! We need to relearn to allow our bodies to connect with the Earth and respond to the rhythms she gives us through the land, the path, even the pavement and the floor of our house. She’s always there, always under our feet even if she too wears extra skins of concrete and road surface and buildings, and we can always hear her through our feet. Even walking to do the shopping, down the pavement of the High Street, you can allow your feet to slip into a subtle rhythm – no need to go break-dancing unless you really wish to!

And it makes a big difference to our bodies. It loosens up the muscles, relieves tension, opens up the senses, stops the mind grabbing such hard control that we see nothing but what it feels safe with. All of that stuff on clenched muscles and clenched minds causes inordinate amounts of stress in us and so makes us much more liable to pick up a bug, a virus, strain a muscle, and suffer from anxiety, possibly even depression. All that stress stuff helps us to feel bad for most of the time … not good!

And it successfully hides us from, and hides from us, all the wonderful world we live in, all the beautiful creatures and plants with which we share Planet Earth. And add in that is also means we cannot see all the non-ordinary reality around us – it’s hidden behind the mask of normality our conditioning keeps us wearing.

Shakespeare gets Hamlet to say something really meaningful for all of us – There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

There are indeed, at least in the current civilised view of reality which is extremely small and limited. And dancing can help us open that box, put our noses over the edge and smell the coffee.

I’ve danced all my life, wildly in the wilderness and professionally as jazz dancer too. I’ve done the specialised stuff of learning techniques and steps and choreography, and I’ve done (and still do) dancing in the wild. I dance in my home, in my garden and out on the Welsh hills a few miles away. And I still dance on the moorland paths of Exmoor and Dartmoor, and in the Highlands of Sutherland too. If you’d like to dance with me I do days on the hills, contact me at elen.sentier@yahoo.co.uk