Music, Chants and Instruments

Is this a structured process, guided by facilitators, or can I share my favorite songs, rhythms or dances? 

dianehandsdrumThe magic of our fires is deeply rooted in the spontaneous nature of how each circle unfolds. Your songs, rhythms and dances are certainly welcome! Our entire Gathering is a safe container full of people willing to witness, embrace and participate with your offerings. The only pre-planned elements are the nightly fire lighting rituals and the solar salutation ceremony at dawn.  With that stated, there are certain sensibilities that, over the course of many fire circles, we have found make best sense to embrace. We usually offer songs to the circle in a call-and-response fashion. We usually sing songs in the primary local dialect (which in this case is English), and/or we offer an English explanation of song lyrics, so that our fellow participants know exactly what we are invoking through our songs. Please explore and learn about just some of the many songs that people bring to the fire.  A cappella vocals, beatboxing, overtoning, jazz scat improv, speaking/singing in tongues and other such wordless offerings are also heartily welcome in the circle. So long as your creative offerings are made with sensitivity to the group-at-large, bring it on!

Is there a CD or songbook available, so I can learn some of the chants before the Gathering?

Sound samples (in MP3 format) and the lyrics for nearly 100 chants may be accessed online by joining the Fire Tribe Chants eGroup. There are also links to other websites that offer lyrics and MP3s of chants popular in our circles on the  Related Links page


I play a frame drum and I'm often drowned out in typical drum circle by djembes and dunduns – will there be opportunities to play and be heard?

There is an incredible variety of drumming styles at Illumination, and we work hard to create a community wide mindset of sensitivity which values and encourages softer instruments and voices. We even have developed a language – a set of simple cues – for quickly communicating with each other in the circle, so that we can adapt to whatever musical offerings are emerging, so that we give each other full support in being heard.  For more info on this check out the alchemical rhythmatism article in the Resourcery section of this website.


Should I bring my guitar (flute, accordion, saxophone, etc.)?

Instruments of all kinds are welcome! Musicians who play melody-based instruments (guitars, for example) are encouraged to jam and share songs throughout the day. Instrumentation at the fire circle is predominantly focused on percussive and ambient sound offerings, though a careful, patient, and crafty melody player will sometimes find a few delicious moments of exploration at the fire circle. The key to this kind of participation is sensitivity to the flow of energy and rhythm that is already present. We tend to focus of voice and acoustic percussion (drums, shakers, rattles) and ambient/drone (bells, singing bowls, didgeridoos) instruments. Certain acoustic instruments such as flutes can be a beautiful and supportive addition to the mix. Instruments such as guitars and keyboards are rarely played in the circle. The best advice we can offer is; conscious listening and thoughtful discretion are the best strategies for determining how best to add your gifts to the circle. If you're not sure about how to offer your musical gifts to the circle, watch, listen and ask our facilitators.  We are dedicated to everyone finding their voice in the circle in ways that synergize with the collective voice of the Gathering.