The night was luminous when we drove to Ocean Park for the monthly gathering of pagans and moon lovers, The Full Moon Drum Circle. We alighted from the car and dragged our feet through the sand, passing night swimmers, lovers, and moonbathers (or was it sleeping drunken revelers?) along the way. We craned our necks to compensate for the temporary night blindness as we searched for the visible signs of the event: drums, bonfire, people.
A few minutes later, we saw about a hundred people silhouetted under the lunar glare and the flicker from the bonfire. Many were sitting on the sand while a few danced with the rhythmic banging of drums and chants. The dancers, some clad in an all white dress like La Llorona, circled the fire with arms spread as if receiving an embrace from an unknown spiritual energy. When the bonfire was reduced to a flicker, more wood were put in and the fires stoked once more.
A ten-year old girl came up and sat beside the bonfire along with five adults. She kept her head down as if in prayer. The women next to her murmured something–the words lost in the cacophony of beats and the gentle buzz of the breeze. They raised their open palms above the girl’s bowed head. Everyone who knew what was going on looked and did the same. After a moment, the tight circle around the bonfire exchanged smiles and hugs, then the little girl ran towards the sea followed by the others. Their giggles occasionally hovered above the drumbeats and the chants as they nourished themselves in the sea’s embrace.
The dance continued on and on, one tired dancer replaced by another willing moon worshipper. After a while, a woman stood up from her chair and handed her cane to another person. She planted her feet into the sand and started a gentle dance. Eyes closed and in trance, she moved her hips in slow gyrations, spreading her arms like wings before the fire. It was as if she was catching the escaping heat of the embers and drawing it towards her body, maybe warming her soul in the process. The other dancers went up to her and waved their palms, feeling her aura or, perhaps, to give or draw energy from her.
As the drums died down and everyone sat around the circle, one of the Full Moon Drum Circle leaders called everyone to attention. He led the gathering to face each of the four cardinal directions and towards the moon. The shuffling of the feet on the sand replaced the beating of the drums. Like an initiate, I turned with the rest of the crowd as the “shaman” invoked the spirits at every direction.
Like all things ecstatic, the gathering ended–the crowd dispersed, the bonfire extinguished, and the drums silenced. Everyone went back to the realm of the ordinary: cooking their meals, setting the bed, nursing their infants, getting the toddlers to sleep, going through the usual nightly chores. It was as if that night did not happen at all.
Next time though, when the moon is at its peak again, they will come dancing. And we might be there too to bear witness.
Drum Circles in other places: