Layne Redmond, 1952-2013, for Many Voices

As a producer and editor for Sounds True, I am friendly with most of “my” authors. I have become friends with a few of them. But there’s only one who was more than a friend, and that was Layne Redmond. But I’m not alone in that. Within 24 hours, Layne had almost 1000 people “like” the announcement of her death on Facebook.

We first worked together on her book Chakra Meditation, and later on her 2CD set Heart Chakra Meditations and a couple of other projects. We bonded almost immediately, as most people did with Layne. But we shared something unique: We were both surrounded by people whose roots were Buddhist or Hindu, and our deepest heart connection was to the Greeks.

I accompanied Layne on two of her drumming trips to Greece and Cyprus. On the first, it was her and ten women drummers and me. We traveled through Greece and Cyprus, performing rituals at sites sacred to Aphrodite and Dionysus. We ended up in Cyprus, where Aphrodite reportedly first came ashore, and joined with a group of Cypriot women, reintroducing them to the drumming rituals that were practiced by their ancestors 2000 years ago.

Layne’s book When the Drummers Were Women: A Spiritual History of Rhythm (1997) was the first book to explore what was then a radical idea—that the drummers of ancient rituals were women, and there is a reason for that: women are the closest to the earth, to birth and death, to fertilization and nurturance and harvesting—and so essential for any effort’s success. And the reason women were the drummers was because they heard the heartbeat of the earth, the way a fetus “hears” the heartbeat of its mother—they are one.

I experienced this phenomenon directly when I was studying with Layne in Cyprus. I’m dyslexic, which apparently means I’ll never be able to make music. But one day in class I finally got it, and entered some zone where it wasn’t that I wasn’t thinking, but I wasn’t thinking in thoughts. And I wasn’t drumming, I was watching my hands drum. And then, someone asked a question and the class stopped drumming. I was afraid I’d lose the beat, so I turned to the wall and continued to drum softly until Layne finished and walked back to the front of the room. She picked up a tambourine, paused, and came down right on the beat. And I realized she wasn’t creating the rhythm, she was hearing it.

During our first conversation as editor and author, the subject of death came up. Turns out we shared something else—in our teens we both had a near-death experience and remained aware for an extended period of time outside of our bodies. That’s why we understood each other immediately; we recognized each other. We were trying to make the best use of the time we had left. We were determined to stay alive until the day we died, to experience every sensation as fully as we could—pleasant and unpleasant. All of it.

There were times that we were so close that it scared me a little. I recorded one of those experiences in my journal in May 2005.

It had been a long drive to Delphi and we arrived late at night in the dark. I was looking down a valley of scrub between the road and the Corinthian Bay, wondering how archeologists knew where to dig for sites. From folk stories, I imagined, and oral histories. And literature. And a thought appeared in my head, surprising me: “Like Plato.” And I thought, “No, that’s not right—not Plato—he didn’t write history.” And at that moment Layne said, “Randy, have you read Plato—Neo-historian? It’s about how Plato was really writing the history of the previous 8000 years.”

Layne and I had so many plans. She wanted me to do an original translation of Euripides’ “The Bacchae” and we’d perform it at Mardi Gras using some Brazilian girls she’d found in Salvador as the Bacchae—“Nobody moves like a pubescent Brazilian girl,” she said. “Dance and music and ritual is the center of their culture. They dance before they learn to walk.” We explored the possibility of recreating the Eleusinian mysteries in some caves in Cyprus or on one of the Greek islands. There was to be a book on the bee priestesses, a recording of hymns to Mary, so many film ideas. But if you check out her website, she was able to preserve enough to ensure that she’ll be teaching for many generations to come.

At the end of our first trip together, one of Layne’s students told me I was Layne’s guardian angel, and I certainly felt like it. So it was tough to be so far away throughout her last months. Ironically, we had plans for her to come out to stay with me in Boulder in May, the last time she’d be comfortable enough to travel, and then two days before she was to arrive, my mother began her death process and I had to fly to Connecticut instead. Then we made plans for me to stay with her in September but in August she changed her mind. It hurt me deeply to be estranged at the end, but it’s now two days after her death and I can better understand what happened.

Well, Layne, it turns out you’re the first to go. Well, bon voyage! See you soon!

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