How To Host a Drum Circle

Celebrate a Sabbat with drumming, dancing, and raising energy. Image by Olivier Cirendini/Lonely Planet/Getty Images

Drum circles are a lot of fun, and if you've ever attended a public Pagan or Wiccan event, chances are good that somewhere, someone is drumming. You may not be able to see them, but you'll feel that pulsing rhythm off in the distance. In addition to being entertaining (and a great stress reliever), a drum circle serves another purpose - that of raising energy. Typically what happens is something like this:

First, one or two people will sit down with their drums. Usually, they're experienced drummers, but not always. One will begin a slow, steady beat, and the other will chime in with something a bit faster and more up-tempo. Eventually, other people will notice that there's something going on, and they'll join in, each playing their own rhythm and beat. A few more people may be intrigued, and join in with rhythmic clapping, stomping of the feet, or other sounds. A few folks might start dancing. What's really magical about this is that there's hardly any verbal communication going on at all -- it's all about the music.

As the drumming continues - and there may be as many as two or three dozen people joining in -- the beat speeds up, the pace quickens, and you can literally feel the energy in the air. It's a palpable humming that courses through your veins. Finally, the drumming reaches its peak, and at the same time -- without any pre-planning at all -- everyone stops.

Afterwards, there's typically lots of laughter, socializing, clapping… and then the whole thing often begins again.

Although many drum circles are impromptu, if you want to have one at your event it's a good idea to let people know that a drum circle may take place. That way they can bring their drums and be prepared.

If you decide to host one, here are some tips for making it a success:

  • Make sure you have one or two competent drummers to set the pace. If you have nothing but beginners, it can be awkward. Experienced drummers will help you get things started, and maintain the energy level that you want. They'll also be able to focus on the collective sound and feel of the group, rather than just their own performance.
  • Leave room for dancers. When a drum circle really gets going, no one can hold still for long. There will probably be people there who aren't drumming, but will need room to move around.
  • You may wish to have extra drums, as well a few non-drum instruments available for people who didn't bring their own -- maracas or other shakers, sticks to tap together, a triangle, etc.
  • If you plan to have children present, understand that not all kids have rhythm. For that matter, neither do a lot of adults. That's normal. Don't discourage anyone from playing along -- there's something truly magical about the complete lack of inhibition in small children, and they may drum or dance to their own beat.
  • If you're having your drum circle in a public place, watch out for local noise ordinances. You don't want the police coming by to break things up because you stayed out drumming too late. Likewise, if you're on private property, be considerate of neighbors. If there are other homes nearby, wrap things up at a reasonable time.

    Have refreshments available both during and afterwards. There is almost always food available at any Pagan event, but at a drum circle, it's extra important. Drumming raises a lot of energy, and it can be draining as well, especially for people who aren't used to that kind of activity. Make sure you have plenty of water to drink, and light snacks on hand. You may even want to have a blanket spread out in case someone feels disoriented and needs to lie down and get grounded for a moment.