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When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm

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In this long-awaited, lavishly illustrated book, drummer Layne Redmond presents an empowering narrative history of the sacred drum in the ancient Goddess civilization, using her extensive collection of images gathered during more than five years of research and travel in the Mideast and Europe. 80 photos & drawings.


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In this long-awaited, lavishly illustrated book, drummer Layne Redmond presents an empowering narrative history of the sacred drum in the ancient Goddess civilization, using her extensive collection of images gathered during more than five years of research and travel in the Mideast and Europe. 80 photos & drawings.

30 review for When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Redmond's thesis is quite fascinating, and it is wonderful to see this area of oft-overlooked women's spirituality and religion come to light. However, I was a little disappointed in the writing of this book, finding it straying too far from the intended topic of the history of women's drumming practices. In recent years, many books have been published with this theme: ancient goddesses, Divine Feminine, etc. I picked up this book because I thought it would offer a completely new angle on ancien Redmond's thesis is quite fascinating, and it is wonderful to see this area of oft-overlooked women's spirituality and religion come to light. However, I was a little disappointed in the writing of this book, finding it straying too far from the intended topic of the history of women's drumming practices. In recent years, many books have been published with this theme: ancient goddesses, Divine Feminine, etc. I picked up this book because I thought it would offer a completely new angle on ancient practice, yet, I found it repeated things that I have learned in various other publications. There were a few new insights, as well as very interesting images and pictures to demonstrate how ancient women used their drums, but not the amount of information for which I was hoping. One other qualm I had with this book was the subtitle: A Spiritual History of Rhythm. When an author attaches this inclusive subtitle to a book, the reader hopes for a survey from many different cultures and continents. I was disappointed that African rhythm history was altogether ignored in this book, in favor of Asian, and European rhythm history. African rhythms are some of the most ancient, and the women had a special purpose and place in the development of rhythm and music in Africa. Why ignore them? Perhaps Redmond's subtitle should have read: A Spiritual History of Frame Drumming in Europe and Asia. At least that way, it would have been clear upfront what the reader could expect. Although I have been critical of the overall work, I applaud Redmond's effort to commute her passion and love for drumming and rhythm, as well as her devotion to the Divine. Reading the book inspired me to pick up her CD, and I am anxious to hear more of her work.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ✨Bean's Books✨

    Great information. This book is a historical reference piece on the divine feminine. Where it began, how it developed, how it died and how it is reviving. it is very well-researched and goes into great detail about individual goddesses of the drum and rhythm. It goes very in-depth into the sacred feminine and where that has derived from. It speaks of different cultures from around the world and the female deities who represented them. The illustrations although black and white really add to the b Great information. This book is a historical reference piece on the divine feminine. Where it began, how it developed, how it died and how it is reviving. it is very well-researched and goes into great detail about individual goddesses of the drum and rhythm. It goes very in-depth into the sacred feminine and where that has derived from. It speaks of different cultures from around the world and the female deities who represented them. The illustrations although black and white really add to the book and it's information. Some of the photos are of ancient statues and carvings and paintings that are just unbelievably gorgeous. It had a lot of information for the Layman but not a lot of new information for the well-versed. If you are a seasoned Pagan practitioner you will probably already know most of the things covered in this book. Altogether the book is very well compiled and obviously very well-researched. It is put together in such a way that it tells a definitive story throughout history. in my opinion this is the best way to lay out a historical reference book. it makes it much easier for the reader to follow and remember the information they are reading. This is definitely a book that I would recommend to any woman looking to revive her ancient roots and become in touch with the rhythm of her sacred & divine self.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Overall decent, but I've read much better books on the Goddess and on Classical history. Sometimes her arguments take leaps and bounds away from actual scholarship on these topics. Sometimes it's painfully clear that she had an agenda writing this book, and she too liberal liberties with ancient history and classical anthropology. Still, it's a great book on the subject of women and drumming, but NOT a good book if you want accurate history and ancient religion. If you're new to this subject, be Overall decent, but I've read much better books on the Goddess and on Classical history. Sometimes her arguments take leaps and bounds away from actual scholarship on these topics. Sometimes it's painfully clear that she had an agenda writing this book, and she too liberal liberties with ancient history and classical anthropology. Still, it's a great book on the subject of women and drumming, but NOT a good book if you want accurate history and ancient religion. If you're new to this subject, beware! If you're an old veteran, you'll know it when she does it. Typical of Second Wave feminism and Goddess worship... That said, I've taken a drum class from one of her students and it was amazing. Redmond really knew her stuff! I also have two of her drums and adore them both. She was a talented, beautiful individual, and this book was obviously a labor of love.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rana El Ibrik

    This book exceeded my expectations, I think it will be my very first book to re-read, I must do so again soon. A much more suited title would do it more justice, something as close to how deep and mystical it is. I look forward to learning more about Redmond and learning from her too.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    This is more accurately a spiritual history of spiritual history, which is fine, but I was hoping for more drumming. There was mention in an article I read of Redmond's book; in particular about the misidentification of early art as Women with Cake, rather than identifying the circular object as a drum. Women celebrated the goddess with music, and Redmond has a bounty of artwork to show that is truth. But women also celebrated male gods with drumming in ancient cultures. In a 189 page text, Redm This is more accurately a spiritual history of spiritual history, which is fine, but I was hoping for more drumming. There was mention in an article I read of Redmond's book; in particular about the misidentification of early art as Women with Cake, rather than identifying the circular object as a drum. Women celebrated the goddess with music, and Redmond has a bounty of artwork to show that is truth. But women also celebrated male gods with drumming in ancient cultures. In a 189 page text, Redmond covers the entire history of goddess in summation, producing grand generalizations. "Because drumming was recognized as an ancient source and symbol of the power of female technicians of the sacred, drumming was banned." Drumming was banned in many cultures around the globe, including those that did not worship the goddess. Perhaps the banning was of women in spiritual positions of power, rather than the drums alone. This book is a very good short read on ancient art of women in celebration - the pictures and illustrations are worth a perusal. I'm going to look at Redmond's video Ritual Drumming, and also look at her own line of drums created by Remo, Inc. Redmond writes in the notes that this undertaking was the hardest thing she's done in her life. I honor that effort, and appreciate the results.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This book opened my eyes on the Goddess' path. I didn't know that centuries long ago, that the Goddess, by different names, ruled over countries & was the supreme deity that was worshipped & loved. And how She was worshipped! By frame drums & dancing with joy! Women were Priestesses, who were respected & their leadership guided their communities. This book was an eye-opener to an ex Roman Catholic, who knew nothing of this history, or this knowledge. I strongly recommend any Woman to read this bo This book opened my eyes on the Goddess' path. I didn't know that centuries long ago, that the Goddess, by different names, ruled over countries & was the supreme deity that was worshipped & loved. And how She was worshipped! By frame drums & dancing with joy! Women were Priestesses, who were respected & their leadership guided their communities. This book was an eye-opener to an ex Roman Catholic, who knew nothing of this history, or this knowledge. I strongly recommend any Woman to read this book, no matter what spirituality she might believe in. This book is a staple in Herstory and belongs in every library or home, or both. Buy this book for a girlfriend. She will now, or later, thank you for this modern classic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shala

    It was good for the type of book it was. I didn't go Ga-Ga like some folks I know. It's dry. More like a manual. It was good for the type of book it was. I didn't go Ga-Ga like some folks I know. It's dry. More like a manual.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    I discovered "When the Drummers were Women" while trying to do some research into the history of the Darbuka, a type of drum originating in Egypt and Turkey. And by some miracle, this book came across my path. I do wish the book was a bit more focused on drumming, but I can't even complain because I love how the author was not afraid to intertwine scholarship with spirituality. This is how we are meant to be studying the past. After Christianity completely stomped out what was left of the goddes I discovered "When the Drummers were Women" while trying to do some research into the history of the Darbuka, a type of drum originating in Egypt and Turkey. And by some miracle, this book came across my path. I do wish the book was a bit more focused on drumming, but I can't even complain because I love how the author was not afraid to intertwine scholarship with spirituality. This is how we are meant to be studying the past. After Christianity completely stomped out what was left of the goddess traditions, it has largely been men who are in charge of interpreting history. I guess you could call it sort of "alternative" research into these topics, such as this book, are STILL seen as woo-woo fairytales because no one with an expensive PhD wants to risk their reputation to say that our female ancestors may have known MORE about the universe than our male-dominated scientists do today. I really appreciate the work that Redmond has accomplished here, because she doesn't take the easy route and just report the archaeological evidence (if you want that, there are plenty of other sources), but it also takes the extra step to humanize the people (mostly women) who once USED those objects in a deeply meaningful and empowering way. Redmond does not shy away from advocating for modern women to reawaken their ancestress' spiritual traditions and incorporate them into their modern day lives, if they choose to. This was the perfect thing for me to read right now, as I am about to start learning the Darbuka! I have felt a pull towards drumming for almost my entire life, but settled for piano because I didn't see drumming as a "feminine" activity. My perspective has been completely flipped, and I think reading this has had a profound impact on the way I will play my music in the future!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Marie

    Not only did the author connect the drum to our divine female ancestors, but she spoke to a contemporary audience who seems to need evidence to believe in a religious history that is instinctively a part of universal truth. Discussing archaeological evidence to demonstrate the heart of our society, the drum as a heartbeat, the rhythm of humanity, there is no disdain for the intrusion of science into the myth. The author produces these patterns, these themes with a curiosity and sense of amazemen Not only did the author connect the drum to our divine female ancestors, but she spoke to a contemporary audience who seems to need evidence to believe in a religious history that is instinctively a part of universal truth. Discussing archaeological evidence to demonstrate the heart of our society, the drum as a heartbeat, the rhythm of humanity, there is no disdain for the intrusion of science into the myth. The author produces these patterns, these themes with a curiosity and sense of amazement that has embedded itself in my own creative pursuits. A demonstration of a credible, and authentic source for further study, thank you Layne Redmond for your wisdom.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    'When the Drummers were Women' is significant to me as a history of the role of women playing frame drums in the sacred observances of early civilizations, documented as far back as ca. 5600 B.C.E. In a jazz band at a grade school in the early 1950's, our drummer was a girl: the reappearance of women as drummers and a means of renewal. If you are interested Women 's Studies you'll be grateful to the author Layne Redmond who plays and teaches fame drumming. Her extensive documentatin and rich bib 'When the Drummers were Women' is significant to me as a history of the role of women playing frame drums in the sacred observances of early civilizations, documented as far back as ca. 5600 B.C.E. In a jazz band at a grade school in the early 1950's, our drummer was a girl: the reappearance of women as drummers and a means of renewal. If you are interested Women 's Studies you'll be grateful to the author Layne Redmond who plays and teaches fame drumming. Her extensive documentatin and rich bibliography and robust illustrations qualify this gem for your shelves.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Monique

    I loved this book! It was my introduction into the theory of an ancient goddess worship. Even though it has been many years since I read it, much of the information is still solid in my memory. The author has an accessible style and her claims are often supported by the many illustrations included in this book. The emphasis is, of course, on the drumming (and music) aspect of worship and spirituality.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Serving both as an essential overview of the history of matriarchal, pre-Christian societies, as well as the frame drum’s own history as a tool for ritual and higher consciousness, primarily played and led by women, Redmond has left me wanting to learn way more about both. It also inspired me to read more about her own life & music, sadly cut short too soon.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Inga

    inspiring, made me re-tape my tambourine and tune my drum.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rosemarie

    I read this along time ago probably around 1995. I would recommend it .

  15. 4 out of 5

    Korie Brown

    Skimmed most of it. Not enough about the drumming.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leeza Robertson

    This is such a fabulous book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hillary

    Profoundly powerful.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Joni Sensel

    Fantastic. Well-researched, with loads of interesting facts, arguments, and images.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ella

    The book opened my eyes on the goddess' path The book opened my eyes on the goddess' path

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dionne

    Read along with my meditation group. Thought provoking and insightful.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Walcott

    This is a wonderful book chronicling the importance of women in ancient cultures. It was both enlightening and empowering to learn about the sacred feminine and how ancient civilizations revered the Goddess and her priestesses. The book talks about archaeological discoveries supporting Goddess worship as far back as the Paleolithic era. It continued to be the center of cultures through the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras. It is interesting to note that during these era, the evidence points to a ve This is a wonderful book chronicling the importance of women in ancient cultures. It was both enlightening and empowering to learn about the sacred feminine and how ancient civilizations revered the Goddess and her priestesses. The book talks about archaeological discoveries supporting Goddess worship as far back as the Paleolithic era. It continued to be the center of cultures through the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras. It is interesting to note that during these era, the evidence points to a very peaceful existence. The drum was an instrument used for ritual and meditation. This history speaks to my soul and confirms for me why I always felt disconnected from the teachings of the most of the patriarchal religions of today where women are treated as second class citizens--as if they are inferior and not worthy of a direct relationship with God. I don't think any woman could read this book without feeling a sense of reclaiming herself. We learn about women's suffrage and inequality in our history lessons, but we are never taught the ancient history of matriarchal cultures. By embarking on this journey, recognizing those stirrings inside of me and educating myself, I have a much greater sense of who I am and who we should and could be as women.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Francine

    This book is beautifully illustrated...many more photographs than I've seen in some other books on the topic. The book covers the Divine Feminine and Goddess topics very well but it was light on the topic of drumming. The title led me to believe that I'd learn more about the practice but it was covered in so far as it was part of female-led worship. It could have gone further. Still, I'd recommend it if you are interested in learning about (or more) of what is known of early (pagan) cultures that This book is beautifully illustrated...many more photographs than I've seen in some other books on the topic. The book covers the Divine Feminine and Goddess topics very well but it was light on the topic of drumming. The title led me to believe that I'd learn more about the practice but it was covered in so far as it was part of female-led worship. It could have gone further. Still, I'd recommend it if you are interested in learning about (or more) of what is known of early (pagan) cultures that were led by women. We still have much in common today.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lavender

    I got this book from a friend who was moving and just put in on the shelf I have for spiritual studies and the occult. I needed a book for a reading challenge and picked this one pretty much on a whim without knowing what it was going to be like. It turned out to be really interesting, with a lot of historical notes and pictures of artifacts to back up the author's ideas. Recommended to anyone with an interest in women's history or ancient music. I got this book from a friend who was moving and just put in on the shelf I have for spiritual studies and the occult. I needed a book for a reading challenge and picked this one pretty much on a whim without knowing what it was going to be like. It turned out to be really interesting, with a lot of historical notes and pictures of artifacts to back up the author's ideas. Recommended to anyone with an interest in women's history or ancient music.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Duncan Reed

    Very interesting history of how Christianity stole nearly all of it's central ideas from various 'pagan' religions (including Hinduism) then largely removed the role of women, or changed them to be shameful, evil etc. However, many of those 'original' ideas go back even further to previous societies. A lot of the references in the conclusion / summary to scientific ideas and cultural ideas are blanket statements and are out dated, as the book was written 20 years ago. Very interesting history of how Christianity stole nearly all of it's central ideas from various 'pagan' religions (including Hinduism) then largely removed the role of women, or changed them to be shameful, evil etc. However, many of those 'original' ideas go back even further to previous societies. A lot of the references in the conclusion / summary to scientific ideas and cultural ideas are blanket statements and are out dated, as the book was written 20 years ago.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This book, written by Layne Redmond, one of the world's foremost frame drummers, is a comprehensive and really interesting history of women drummers through history with fascinating photos of ancient art depicting women drumming. I loved this book and loved the workshop i was able to attend with Layne This book, written by Layne Redmond, one of the world's foremost frame drummers, is a comprehensive and really interesting history of women drummers through history with fascinating photos of ancient art depicting women drumming. I loved this book and loved the workshop i was able to attend with Layne

  26. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I really couldn't put this book down. It's nearly fifteen years old, so some of the research could be out of date, and the writing seemed a bit disjointed in some places, but in spite of those things, it was still a very interesting read. I really couldn't put this book down. It's nearly fifteen years old, so some of the research could be out of date, and the writing seemed a bit disjointed in some places, but in spite of those things, it was still a very interesting read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

    Fascinating look at how the tradition of women playing frame drums lasted through millennia, how it was suppressed fairly recently (recent in terms of archaeology, at least), and how one drummer is reclaiming it today.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leela Francis

    Beautiful resource for the spiritual hsitory of women and music. There are so many untruths about ceremonial music we have taken for granted that this book uncovers. It's an important read for any woman on a path to empowerment. Leela Francis www.VividlyWoman.com Beautiful resource for the spiritual hsitory of women and music. There are so many untruths about ceremonial music we have taken for granted that this book uncovers. It's an important read for any woman on a path to empowerment. Leela Francis www.VividlyWoman.com

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christia

    This is a great book!!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This book is awesome. Women were the original drummers, woo who! Alright.

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