To engage in a shamanic journey requires that you enter into an altered state of consciousness to create the awareness necessary for the experience. This is called the shamanic trance. We go in and out of some form of trance at least a few times each day, sometimes with intention but often spontaneously and without being aware of it. Daydreaming is an example of a light trance. Meditation is a trance state, and depending on the form, the person meditating can go quite deeply into an altered state.
Shamanic trance can be brought about through singing, dancing, drumming, rattling, meditation, plant medicine or a combination of these. The use of the drum by indigenous cultures in ritual and ceremony has specific neurophysiological effects and the ability to elicit temporary changes in brain wave activity, and thereby facilitates imagery and possible entry into an altered state of consciousness, especially the shamanic state of consciousness.
Drumming in general, and rhythmic drumming in particular, often induces imagery that is ceremonial and ritualistic in content and is an effective tool for entering into a non-ordinary or altered state of consciousness even when it is extracted from cultural ritual, ceremony, and intent. The drumming also elicits subjective experiences and images with common themes. These include: loss of time continuum; movement sensations, including pressure on or expansion of various parts of the body and body image distortion, "energy waves," and sensations of flying, spiraling, dancing, running, etc.; feelings of being energized, relaxed, sharp and clear, hot, cold, and in physical, mental, and/or emotional discomfort; emotions, ranging from reverie to rage; vivid images of natives, animals, people, and landscapes; and non-ordinary or altered states of consciousness, whereby one is conscious of the fact that there has been a qualitative shift in mental functioning, including the shamanic state of consciousness journeys, out-of-body experiences, and visitations.
* Words from Earth Magic by Steven D. Farmer, photo by Kira Van Deusen