Ever curious, I once took part in a shamanistic drumming session in a psychedelic trance festival. Perhaps expectedly, the experience was an appalling disappointment. I walked out of the festival’s healing village filled with contempt towards the shamanist. Curiously, at the same time I was certain that there was a better way to do shamanism. This soon turned into determination, and determination turned into a Koelse project to develop a different kind of shamanistic experience. The result was a series of urban shamanistic sessions in Berlin and Helsinki, closing spectacularly in Kovaydin Vastarinta’s Brainbashers: 2012 Fest in Tampere, Finland.
The structure of the terrible drumming session experience was very simple. Lie down, close your eyes, listen to the story. If you manage to get in the mood, have good time with your new found power animal. That was the whole script. The main problem was that the stupid story took me to a rain forest. I was certain that I was in the wrong place. I felt that my power animal would rather be lurking in the dry sandy pine forests of my native Northern Ostrobotnia.
The session being my only contact with shamanism, I decided to take everything as it was and just replace the rain forest fiasco. Thinking about it, even the pine forests were quite alien to me. I had lived all my life in urban or suburban environment. It was clear that my story was to be situated in the cityscape. Since there are very few animals in the city, I also changed the power animal into a “power appliance”. I imagined that all man made machines and devices had a soul, and that the task of those undertaking the astral journey was to find a special one amongst them.
Of course such sessions would need a proper setting. For that, working as part of Koelse was priceless. For each session individually, a suitably urban and secluded venue was selected. This was usually somewhere near where Koelse was based at the moment. Because the attempt was to really push the participants into other planes of consciousness, an immersive, multi sensory experience was prepared for them. Lights setup and noise machines came quite naturally for Koelse. Additionally there were by good or foul smelling things, things that feel nice on your skin, recordings of sounds of the city, and other similar items.
Upon arrival, participants were instructed to lie down and close their eyes. Then I started to “drum” with a “witch drum”. Depending on session, this was either a keyboard or a Koelse drum machine. While drumming, I recited a story about an astral trip through the city inhabited by appliance spirits. I also gave out instructions on how to find and befriend one. During this time, Tuomas and Sara took care of the athmospere, going around and operating the equipment and props we had set up.
The main session in Brainbashers Fest was open for anybody who signed up beforehand. All the others were invite only events aimed for selected people. The general impression I got from participants’ comments was that the sessions were well liked. Some have told me pretty spaced out things about their experience afterwards. Unfortunately, in order to protect participants’ privacy, I cannot explain these in detail here. However, the general tone is that some people did actually meet their power appliances. Some even met their power animals, regardless of all the effort I made to stay away from them.