Shamanic drum therapy and drum building

As many of my readers have searched for articles about shamanism and the shamanic drums, I have decided to write this post about shamanic drum therapy. The other day I heard about a friend who visits a therapist and get drum therapy. She finds the effects from the therapy really healing and energizing and who knows, I might try it myself one day.

Drum therapy is an ancient method that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the Minianka healers of West Africa as well as among the shamans of the Sámi people of Finland, Scandinavia and Russia, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and keep up physical, mental, and spiritual health. Still today drum therapy is used in Lapland by several therapists to cure different emotional problems and decreases.

drum healing


Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews show that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self. The therapy session lasts for about 1,5 hour. This is not something you just run away on your lunch break and do. It requires you to really get the drumming into your systems to have the desired effect.

shamandrum therapy

Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on Alzheimer’s patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. Study results prove that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders, and a lot of physical disabilities.

Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress. Stress according to current medical research contributes to nearly all disease and is a primary cause of such life-threatening illnesses as heart attacks, strokes and immune system breakdowns.

Chronic pain has a progressively draining effect on the quality of life. Researchers suggest that drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief. Moreover, drumming promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the bodies own morphine-like painkillers, and can thereby help in the control of pain.

The therapist Markku Backman in Finland has developed a shamanic energy treatment, which he calls Whizhealer therapy. Whizhealer therapy has influences from methods used by ancient shamanic and other nature people using the shamanic drum in treatment. Whizhealer treatment takes about 1,5 hours and is followed by a discussion for approx. 10-30 minutes. Markku Backman tells the therapy should be taken on three different sessions to have the best effect. As your energies start to flow they open obstructions and open your existing locks of emotions.

shaman drum

If you want to have a drum of your own you can take part in a drum building course and make your own shaman drum from reindeer skin and stick from antlers. You can also add important symbols to the skin. The link for drum making courses is unfortunately only in Finnish, but you can look at the pictures and get the idea how to make a drum of your own and take a look at the drum video to get an idea of how the drumming goes. I have also written about the symbols in my post You can read more there.


If you decide to buy a drum or make one of your own the drum is never a shamanic drum before you have performed the inauguration ritual in the nature somewhere on a hill or fell. You lit four fire places around the area in all four directions, to the south, to the north, to the east and to the west, and walk slowly around the fire places and ask for the spirits to bless your drum. This ritual is thoroughly described on Thuleia’s home page. Unfortunately only in Finnish, so far.

The shaman drum and their symbols are often used in manufacturing of souvenirs from Lapland. For example this bath towel I have bought from the Arctic circle. I love the colors and the symbols on it!



The Lapish Shaman’s drum

Many tourists visiting Lapland meet with a shaman during their guided trip. Not all of them get the meaning of this visit clear to them. A visible sign after a visit to a shaman’s tepee are the marks in front of your head made by the shaman with some soot from the fireplace. As many of my readers are interested to know more about the shaman traditions in Lapland I will try to explain a little more.


To start with, I want to explain to you what a shaman is. A shaman is a person regarded as a messenger between the human world and the spirit world. The shaman typically even enters into trance state during a ritual where he drums on his magical drum. The shaman communicates with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the deceased. The shaman communicates with both living and dead to reduce unrest, unsettled issues, and to deliver gifts to the spirits.

shamaan drum shaman with drum

shamandrummingShamans have various strengths. Shamans have the knowledge and the power to heal by entering into the spiritual world or dimension. The shaman may have or acquire many spirit guides, who often guide and direct the shaman in his travels in the spirit world. These spirit guides are always present within the shaman though others only meet them when the shaman is in a trance. The spirit guide energizes the shaman, enabling him to enter the spiritual dimension. The shaman heals within the spiritual dimension by returning ‘lost’ parts of the human soul from wherever they have gone.

There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world, but several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Common beliefs are the following:

  • Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society.
  • The shaman can communicate with the spirit world.
  • Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent.
  • The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits.
  • The shaman can use trance inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests.
  • The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers.
  • The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guides, omens, and message-bearers.
  • The shaman can tell the future, throw bones and do other varied forms of divination

Sami shamanism is shamanism as practiced by the Sami people in Lapland. Though they varied considerably from region to region traditional Sámi beliefs consist of three intertwining elements: animism, shamanism and polytheism. Just like the beliefs of many other indigenous people all over the world.

Living of the nature has formed the original conceptions of the world among Sámi; the world view was animistic by nature, with shamanistic features. They believe that all objects in the nature have a soul. Therefore, everybody is expected to move quietly in the wilderness; shouting and making disturbance is not allowed. The marks on the forehead of the tourists after visiting a shaman mean they have been in contact with a reindeer’s soul and are called to return to Lapland in shape of a reindeer.after their death.

The shaman has often a ceremonial drum known as goavddis in Northern Sami and gievrie in Southern Sami, but he does not have a ceremonial dress. He is probably also yoiking in the important ceremonies. The drum has been referred to as a magic drum or fortune-telling drum by the Sami’s neighbors, and the shaman is considered to be a “magician”.


The drum was originally an instrument for the shaman when he was going into trance. The monotone drumming helped him to reach the trance. That was very much condemned by the community and judges gave various punishments: fines, imprisonment, flogging and even death if the shaman did not stop using drum ceremonies. The Sami tried to defend themselves by stating that the drum was used as a `compass’, and even as a `calendar’, but the judges were not convinced. A larger number of drums were burned during the 17th and 18th centuries, although some 70 are still preserved. Nowadays drums are manufactured again.

The ceremonial drum, linked to the shaman, has paintings on the membrane. The fortune-telling drum has a wealth of pictures, which are a source of inspiration for Sami artists, but which are difficult to interpret.

Some of the most common pictures on the drums are The sun (Beaivvás), The moon (Mámmu), The salmon (Guolli), The reindeer (Boazu), The Goddess of fertility (Varalden), The God of hunting (Leibolmmái), The Shaman drum (Goavddis) and The God of thunder (Diermmes). Taigakoru in Lapland manufactures silver jewelry with symbols from the shaman drum.

The sunThe moonsalmon The reindeerThe godess of fertility  God of hunting shaman drum the god of thunder