Shamanic Drum Journeying
Photographer: Chris W Parker
In shamanic cosmology, there are three worlds within our world. In other words, it is made up of three inner planes of consciousness: another way of referring to these is the upper, middle and lower worlds.
Each world has a different vibrational quality. Shamans travel between these worlds to obtain knowledge, wisdom, guidance or healing.
The symbology of the three worlds is interesting. The three together are represented as the world tree. The lower world is the roots of the tree, while the middle world is represented by the trunk. The upper world is the branches of the tree.
To access the three worlds, it is necessary to move between different states of consciousness. For example, you might go into a state of ecstatic trance from listening to or playing instruments. Drums and rattles are particularly useful for this, which is why they're a staple part of the shamanic world. Chanting is another way to alter your state of consciousness. One of the most powerful ways to alter your state of consciousness is through the use of sacred plant medicines such as ayahuasca, huachuma or medicinal mushrooms.
Once our brainwaves start to shift, the trance takes hold and we find ourselves in the theta state of consciousness. This is the state we enter when we are in a phase of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep or a lucid dream. We can also be in the theta state when very relaxed. Theta brain waves are characterised by a light trance state, and this can be brought on by rhythmic drumming during a shamanic drum journey. Once in this state, we are free to explore our imagination while the physical body and thoughts of everyday life take a back seat. This is when we are able to choose which of the three worlds we wish to visit.
The Three Worlds
The Lower World
The lower world is not always the first choice for a visit. This is because it is perceived as the world that contains dark energies. However, this is not true. It is actually the world where you can encounter the spirits of earthly beings like animals and plants, and even rocks and natural earthly structures like mountains. The lower world is a place where you can receive unconditional love and guidance. It contains lots of information about our natural world.
Traveling to the lower world means you are likely to encounter spirit guides, or power animals. You might also meet the spirits of your ancestors. During shamanic drum journeying, it is common to connect with power animals so that lost personal power can be retrieved.
The middle world will be the most familiar one to you, as it is the world you live in every day from the moment you awaken until you go to sleep. The middle world is our everyday 'reality', however much that may vary from person to person. Every person has their own challenges to deal with in life, and it could well be that they are spiritual tests.
The duality of this life means that although there are many challenges, there are also countless blessings. This creates a balance that we must appreciate, as the duality allows us to perceive and understand each experience, growing more with each one. The middle world is a place for both exploring and appreciating mystery. The possibilities in this world are endless, and we are only limited by our own perception.
The upper world is a place for receiving healing, wisdom, assistance with our problems, and spiritual guidance. Here we can interact with the deepest levels of our own natures, learning important lessons and uncovering our sense of purpose. Although at times life can rock us and make us feel like we've lost our way, the upper world is waiting to help you restore that lost balance. In the upper world you can reconnect with your soul or higher self (whichever label makes the most sense to you).
The upper world is also a place where you might meet other kinds of beings. People report encounters with aliens, spirit guides, deities and even angels. You may find your spiritual teacher here, ready to discuss whatever it is you most need to hear. It is very soothing to know that they exist in this realm and are always waiting to help you with your life.
It is important to try to get out of the mind, so to speak, when going on a shamanic drum journey. The rational mind will only get in the way of the experience, trying to drag you back into the 'here and now', casting doubt on your experience and dampening your imagination. However, it is surprisingly easy to let go when you are very relaxed, in the theta state. People can be quite surprised by the level of clarity their journey had. This is just one more shamanic practice that can lead to deep and lasting healing. It can also help you to recognise other layers of reality as places that you can access whenever you need wisdom, guidance or understanding. You can then use these newfound understandings to make the best of your life here in the middle world.