The Pagan Basics series is for those looking to find out more about the basic concepts, symbols and values of paganism. A series of short articles which give explanations to some of paganism’s most fundamental concepts, images and shared understandings.
A drum in its most basic form is a skin stretched over a wooden frame, which produces a sound when struck. The majority of skins available are those of goat, although there are deer skins and acrylic/ synthetic skins available.
Pagans use drums and drumming in a variety of different ways, you may see them included in a ritual context, as an aid to meditation or journeying, or as part of a social context. Because of the different uses, respect the relationship an individual has with their drum, some may view it just as an instrument, others as a sacred tool which they alone play and touch. Drums are often highly personalised, and it may be that an individual owns several, each having a different purpose. A drum which a pagan uses in ritual may not be the same one they use when drumming socially.
There are two commonly used types of drum, the first is the flat skin, usually with a round frame, but can be angled as the picture below. This bears resemblance to the Gaelic Bhodran, some pagans will use a traditional two-ended beater to play this, or use a one-ended beater with a padded head to produce a muted sound.
Sometimes these have their skins decorated; this can be an image with some meaning to the owner, a representation of a spirit or totem animal:
The second most common type of drum is the Djembe: which is usually played with the hands and not a beater.
Pagans are not limited to these, you may see other drums or percussion instruments such as rattles, tambourines and sistrum being played.