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The Cybelines: Elements of a Multicultural Monotheistic Paganism

Part I: The Drums.

Close your eyes. Picture, in the garden of your mind's eyes, a full moon lighting up a spot of land, with a large fire, with a flat stone upon which sits bread and wine. Add smiling, laughing women dancing around the fire, playing a rapid, energizing rhythm upon their frame drums.

Change the races of the women, their clothing and the styles of their hair.  Alter the image of the ground beneath their feet; change the sand to grass, change the grasses, make the ground stone, then marble, then grass again. Add mosiac inlays to the edges of their drums; change the drumheads from fish skin to goat skin. Add brass systrums to the drums, then turn them silver.

The picture in your mind has been altered radically, yet essential elements remain. The women, the moon, the fire, the drumming, the fruits of the earth are always there, changed yet unchanging.  Your sense of sisterhood with them, in whatever garb, in whichever place, remains within you and urges you to join in the dance.

In the eleven thousand years of its existence, it has always been the unchanged essentials of the faith that call us to the circle around the fire. Our footfalls start to match the rhythm of the drums as we approach the Mother of all Women and the Mother of Creation.  The rhythm matches the innate rhythm of life within us all, set in motion in the cosmos at the dawn of time by the Magna Mater.

Because the rhythms of the Mother are innate to us and to Her Creation, the call to Her, the sense of familiarity that we feel when we come across them are to be found in all places and all times, whether or not the line from the priestesses of Anatolia ever touched a place. It cannot ever truly be extinguished. Bhride's fire burns again in Ireland and flickers to the sounds of the Bodhran being played, primal patterns carrying into the night. A few hours later in the valley of a river undreamed of by the ancients, the same scene is conjured by women of a different tradition, yet ultimately honouring the same Great Mother. Her call, heard by the ancients, brought the women to the fires beneath the moon. Whether the summons' source is honoured as Hawthor, Isis, Innana, Bhride, Cybele, Ashterah, Magna Mater or any of many other names, Her call touches upon a yearning in all women that brings us forth to Her unless it is suppressed by our own fears or by others whose fear is imposed upon us.

Multiple feminist authors, notably Luce Irigaray, have spoken of a unique spirit within women reflecting a suppressed language of women and have striven to find it and learn to express it. Irigaray characterized it as a language of emotion. Mary Daly and others tried to capture it in their writing, yet the language of women has never truly been silenced, even when proscribed by law. It is the language of the rhythm of the drums, full of emotion and expressing that emotion freely. Layne Redmond understood this and explored it in depth in her work, "When the Drummers were Women."

Beneath the stars and the moon, warmed by the fire, joy pours forth in the language of the drums from women gathered together. The power of the closeness of many sisters is coupled with the ecstasy of the presence of the Mother and rises into the night to touch the skies. With drums in their hands, men who recognise the presence of the Divine Feminine within themselves join in the voices that are filled with the essential rhythm of the Mother, of the Earth, of Creation, and their presence can enrich us further.

Percussion, then is the universal voice of women and their emotion. It is the language of women and their Creator, with a Rosetta Stone set in the essence of us all. It permits us to call out and it translates the call of the Mother. It is this that allows us to hear the messages from the hearts of our ancient sisters and to truly understand their very essence. It binds us to them and to each in a most intimate kinship, a sharing of each other's very depths. Without knowing Phrygian, Ancient Greek, Sumerian or ancient Gaelic, our sisters call us to their circle across time and space in the voice of rhythms and we understand them clearly; we all call to the Mother together in the same tongue, Her tongue, the language that she set within us at the dawn of humankind.

For us to speak from our souls without a censor, then, percussion is essential, essential to ourselves and essential to the community gathered. The language of the drums, of the emotion conveyed to each other and to the skies, is the best and purest language of the Divine Feminine that can be attained for it is the original language of the Goddess, mirrored in the rhythms of nature.

Rev. Dr. Caillean Maureen McMahon

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