Go Deeper

Healing Like The Wolf: Christine Campell Drums Insights Into You

Posted August 13th, 2010

It all began with a vision quest. Christine Campbell, a musician, healer, and teacher of nature awareness and tracking classes, normally feels very comfortable in the wilderness. She was having panic attacks before a four-day vision quest in 2002, then another woman handed her a wolf pelt. Christine pulls a face.

“‘I was like uhhh, I’m a vegetarian, I don’t really like this stuff,'” she says. “But the woman said ‘No, I think she wants to comfort you.'” Christine put her on her sleeping bag that night and then took the wolf pelt with her on the vision quest, yielding, she says, beautiful dreams and a feeling of protection.

“I was saddened that I would have to give her up, but the woman said ‘They told me I would know who to give it to to be a guardian.'” Christine brought the wolf home and kept her on a healing table. A woman with a lump in her breast came to visit her and wanted Christine to put the wolf pelt on her.

After the jump: a healing wolf, drums, and release.

Afterwards, says Christine, that woman had no lump. Since then Christine has taken the wolf, which she believes was shot by a hunter from a helicopter and whom she heard in a dream is named Heyowana, with her to the drum circles she conducts at hospitals, jails, and ceremonies.

“I wrote a song called ‘Heyowana Song: For Those Who Have Been Silenced’. . . Everyone who hears it responds to it,” says Christine. Journeys of the Wolf, her musical performance for the 2010 Philly Fringe, tells the story of Heyowana.

Christine studied at the Philadelphia Music Academy (now University of the Arts), though she dropped out repeatedly because of her concerns with the Vietnam War. “I couldn’t justify spending six hours a day trying to get this note right while my friends were dying,” she says. She eventually graduated with a degree in vocal performance, and was later introduced to drumming when she married a drummer.

“I dated a lot of drummers, then I finally realized I was just looking for the drum!” she laughs. “Somebody handed me a frame drum back in the ’90s and I just started playing it and I felt a deep affinity.” She started integrating drumming into the music classes she taught at Upland County Day School in Chester County and taking them with her on her healing work. “And then all of a sudden my house had 70 drums in it.”

Christine became interested in nontraditional healing after struggling with her own immune health issues in the late 80s. She studied Reiki and Native American healing along with medicinal plants and herbs.

“Doctors do really good work, but I think people need hope,” says Christine. “You can still go with regular medicine if that’s what you want, but you have to have something that deals with fear.” Christine holds a large frame drum painted with a wolf near my face and beats it with a mallet.

“Did you feel that vibration?” she asks. I do—it reverberates across my face and makes my eyelashes flutter.

“It goes into you and it moves. We say that [when you have a medical problem] something’s stuck, and it starts releasing those blocks. 100 years ago when you went to the doctor, the first thing they’d ask was ‘When did you last make music? When did you last dance?’ Because they knew that we’re inherently creative beings,” she explains. “Now when you get over the age of 20, there’s a divide. All of the sudden they’re creative, and I’m a businessman.”

Drumming, she says, works on the spirit as much as on the body. “When [the oncology patients that she visits] pick up a drum on their own, they smile,” she says. “I’m a singer and I used to do singing circles. It’s really hard to get people to sing. But everybody, if I pass out a drum, has fun. It empowers people.”

She tells me a story about conducting a drum circle at a prison, where one prisoner was hitting one of the drums so hard that she was worried he would break it. “He said, ‘That’s the first time I’ve been able to take my anger out in a way that didn’t harm anybody.'”

Journeys of the Wolf will feature drumming, but also uses many instruments and vocal narration to tell the story of Heyowana. Christine says she’s always been fascinated with wolves and as a child had a lot of dreams about them but didn’t know why. In October of 2007 she had a series of dreams that inspired Journeys‘ songs.

“It has four main parts, like going around a medicine wheel or a sweat lodge,” she says. During that first vision quest with Heyowana she says some words woke her straight out of her sleep: “Sing the forgotten songs.”

“If you watch the nature of a wolf pack,” she says, “everybody has a place and a purpose, just like in the drum circle. That’s what we teach—honor everybody . . . I just know that I’m supposed to sing their songs.” She says it was a validation when she was handed the wolf pelt.

“I said to one of my teachers, ‘I don’t know what to do with this.’ They said, ‘How many white women do you know that were handed wolf skins? Can you accept that you’re supposed to do something?’ So I used it to raise awareness for nature,” says Christine, who would someday like to have a wolf rescue like the Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, New Jersey.

The Facebook group that she set up for Journeys of the Wolf has attracted over 1700 fans, including quite a few people who contact her who she says believe they’re werewolves.

“I love nature and I love wolves and I love this,” she says, “but I don’t think I’m a wolf. I allow that truth to speak through me.”

Journeys of the Wolf, she says, can be appreciated by many people, whether or not you’re a werewolf. “Sometimes [the audience] has been people who are very environmentally concerned, or people who want the spiritual message, or people who want to hear the music—it’s an open door.” Christine invites you to bring a drum to the performance of Journeys of the Wolf if you wish to play along.

“I’ve seen a lot of young people that identify with wolves. They’ll say, ‘I’m the lone member, where’s my pack?'” she says. “I think everybody’s looking for their pack.”

Journeys of the Wolf will be performed on September 11 and 12 at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion, 2110 Chestnut Street. 3:00 pm both days, $10.

–Ellen Freeman

Photos by Ellen Freeman.