Drumming, in the powerful feminine/goddess traditions of Mediterranean & Middle Eastern cultures, was a medium of communication & spirituality; a way of exploring consciousness & the surrounding world. In all ancient friezes, bas reliefs & hieroglyphs the drummers were women. This book was a gift from a son to his drumming mother & I have drunk from this spiritual history of rhythm as a thirsting nomad coming out of a desert - carefully, knowingly & with intense affection. The images of women from ancient times, little statues, fragments of funeria, swatches of hieroglyphics from Egyptian graffiti are bone-deeply evocative. As a midwife of frame drums I know the awe-inspiring effect shamanic drumming has on health, happiness & that elusive sense of belonging. This is the story of one successful woman's search for identity, spiritual connection & history of her gender. It is a search for every woman among shards that have been overlooked by the erstwhile all-male fields of anthropology & archaeology. I recommend Layne Redmond's When the Drummers Were Women because this is a well researched volume & is for every women to reconnect with her ancient story & how spiritual has been our lineage. Wonderful, ecstatic stuff - do check out my eInterview with this author!
How do you stand back far enough from something that is as personal and lifegiving as your own heartbeat so that you help a casual questioner understand it? What do you include, what do you leave for another time? I've long looked for a primer for exploring prehistoric spirituality. Like Goldilocks, those I found were "too, too dreary," covering detail after detail without finding the soul, or "too, too gooey," too close to the writer's intimate self and not reaching my needs. Redmond's book on drumming is "just right." It is clearly written and interesting. It is easily accessible to this casual reader. At the same time it is well researched with sufficient documentation both to make her assertions credible and to permit the reader further research. The notes, discography, bibliography, index, even the credits for the illustrations underscore the quality of the material presented and offer the reader plenty of direction for further investigation.
WHEN THE DRUMMERS WERE WOMEN is a great bargain! In less than 200 pages, charmingly illustrated with black & white photographs and drawings, Layne Redmond accomplishes three tasks. Her original goal was to write a history of women's ritual drumming in selected ancient cultures. In reaching this goal, she has created a wonderfully accessible overview of the role of the Great Goddess in India, Sumeria, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Redmond also surveys the Paleolithic and Neolithic roots of the Goddess, as well as the transformation of the Goddess into the Virgin Mary. Not least of all, she anchors her story in the contemporary world, weaving together her personal and professional quests, the response of other women to her work, and relevant scientific research. Inevitably, in such an ambitious yet brief work, there are occasional flaws such as overgeneralizations or historical anachronisms; but these do not outweigh the merits of the book. Both her drummer's point of view and the breadth of her research offer new insights to readers familiar with the history of the Great Goddess. At the same time, her brevity and style make her work an excellent introduction for readers new to the subject. The subtitle of the book is "A Spiritual History of Rhythm", and the purpose seems to be both to document the role of sacred drumming by women priestesses in ancient times and to argue the value of drumming in contemporary spiritual practice. In pursuit of these two purposes, Redmond illuminates the role of women in ancient religions, the development of various mythic symbols, the evolution and suppression of the Goddess, and the physiological & psychological bases of spirituality. What may have started as a little book about rhythm became a major quest--as fascinating to the reader as it was meaningful to the author.
Once in a while one encounters a book that makes one think again. This book didn't make me think again as such, but had me actually reviewing my whole life from a feminine perspective - finally! Well written, a real page turner. Should be on the history curriculum for years to come...
By tracing the history of the frame drum Redmond greatly expands our knowledge of the role of the Goddess (and women) in prehistory and classical times. While Christianity suppressed the Goddess more successfully than the storm-gods that proceeded them, she still re-emerged as Mary.
One of the many interesting facts you will learn from this book is why the church tried to ban music, including the drum.