Haley George sat in a clearing at Prince Edward Campgrounds Saturday with her eyes closed and her right hand over her heart.
Encircled by nearly 50 drummers beating in unison as part of a celtic drumming healing circle, George said she was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude toward Mother Nature.
The Corner Brook resident describes herself as a “bit of a gypsie” since she has lived all over the province, but here she was Saturday during the Mother Earth Gathering: Come Celebrate!, feeling completely at one with her surroundings and companions.
“You’re definitely not alone,” George said once the healing circle wrapped up. “We need to reach out to the people that don’t know about this because the stronger the connection the better.”
Fostering a strong connection with the environment and one’s place in it was just what the organizers of the event had in mind.
The gathering was open to anyone and started Saturday with a sunrise ceremony and included such activities as yoga, a Peruvian prayer ceremony, Mi’kmaq water ceremony, nature walk and talking circle.
George and fellow participant Elsie Simon both admit they knew little about the event or what to expect when they arrived Saturday morning.
Simon, a Stephenville resident, said the drumming ceremony in particular helped her focus on clearing her mind and being totally in the moment.
Like George, she said the rhythmic beating took her to a very personal, spiritual place.
“It takes over your whole body,” Simon said. “You can feel the other drums vibrating and your drum vibrating. My eyes were even vibrating ... it’s great energy.”
Maggie Atkinson has been a celtic shamanic practitioner for the past 10 year’s and helped facilitate the drumming ceremony.
Beating on her drum, Atkinson moved around the circle Saturday as others joined in. Soon, the sound of dozens of drums in unison echoed above the trees and throughout the park.
When, as George and Simon did, participants were moved enough to leave their places on the fringes of the circle to sit in the middle, Atkinson would move close and tap her drum near them in order to encourage the healing spirit in the air.
Atkinson said while the drumming can induce unique experiences for each participant, the goal is to help make one more aware of his or her natural surroundings by helping them relax and meditate.
It’s a role which seems to come naturally for the art history professor at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.
“It’s not voodoo or witchcraft — it’s just another form of meditation,” she said while noting the ceremony was open to those from all faiths and backgrounds.
She said the drumming circle, and lager gathering, is a great chance to foster connections between people and nature in a world where the environment and community bonds are under constant threat.
“It makes people feel good to give back in a world where we’re always taking from people,” she said. “It’s a reciprocal thing ...and before you know it, you both feel good.”