Connie Hill promotes healing and wellness with drumming circles and astrology readings

BARBARA SHERMAN - Connie Hill pretty much lives in a drumming world with drums all around her Eldorado home, and she is holding a special one given to her by a friend that is a turtle, her spirit animal.Whoever coined the phrase about people marching to a different drum must have met Connie Hill.

The Eldorado resident, who runs Grandmother Knight's Consulting/Wisdom for Life's Transitions, makes drums, leads drum circles and teaches drum-making. Plus, she is an astrologer.

Hill has been interested in drums since she was young. When she was about 40, she took a drum-making class.

"Immediately I wanted to teach people to make their own drums," she said. "Six months later, in 1989, I started teaching people how to make their own drums. As of several years ago, I had taught almost 350 people how to make drums, and now it is as many as 500. Besides Oregon, many of these drums have been taken all over the country and the world."

BARBARA SHERMAN - Connie Hill knows the history of every drum on her living room wall, and she has made a good number of them herself, a skill she teaches to others.Drumming is practiced around the world in various cultures. It involves utilizing a repetitive rhythm that starts slowly and increases in speed and intensity to lead practitioners into a trance-like state.

"We do several drumming circles each month to send out healing energy to the planet or to people who need help," Hill said. "It is like sending out prayers for someone."

Hill said her spirit animal is the turtle, and one of her favorite drums, a gift from a friend, is turtle-shaped. "I put new rawhide on it," said Hill, explaining that drums can be made with hides from elk, bear and horses.

"I have used deer, but it is harder to work with," she added. "A student made a drum out of buffalo hide last year, and they also can be made out of cow and goat hide."

Hill purchases hides from two suppliers — one in Lebanon, Ore., and the other in Centralia, Wash. The lacing, or strips of hide that hold the top of the hide around the frame, also are made from animal hide.

"For years, I cut all my own lacing, but now I've gotten older so I buy the lacing already cut," Hill said. "I buy whole hides so I can use one to make many drums. We use every piece of the hide. Small pieces make great and interesting rattles. We don't throw out much at the end of a class."

She added, "I cut the hide the right size and soak it overnight in a bucket of water. As people make their drum, they put their energy into it, and we ask the spirit of the animal to be there with us as we make the drum and use it. You can make a drum in one setting in two to two-and-a-half hours."

According to Hill, her students want to start drumming as soon as the drum is completed but they have to wait until the drum is dry, which takes a day or two depending on the weather.

"When drumming, we use drum beaters or sticks — with leather tied over a small amount of yarn with waxed linen thread," she said. "We also sometimes use our hands to drum."

And Hill shared a secret: She adds a little craft glue to the end of the stick to keep everything in place.

Born in Florida and raised in Kansas City, Mo., Hill got married in her early 20s, and the couple decided to move to Oregon, sight unseen. After she had two daughters, her husband moved to Arizona while she stayed here, earning a degree in sociology from Portland State University

After working for Tektronix for 10 years, Hill was laid off and did other jobs until going to work for New Renaissance Book Store, a metaphysical book store in Northwest Portland.

"I had always wanted to live at the coast, so in 1995, I moved to the Waldport/Yachats area," Hill said. "I worked as an astrologer, did drum-making, led drumming circles and went back to the book store every two weeks. Then in 1999, I decided to return to the Portland area.

COURTESY OF CONNIE HILL - Connie Hill took this photo of a woman making a drum in one of her drum-making classes, using animal-hide lacing to make it taut."I worked for the book store the whole time I was at the beach, and after I got back, I became the event coordinator at the store for 10 more years," she added.

Hill's work as an astrologer ties in with her drumming mission. "I lead drumming circles around the full and new moons each month," she said.

To do an astrology reading, Hill explained that she uses a client's date and time of birth along with the location to put together an astrology chart. She looks at that information together with what is going on currently to gather information for the session.

"I was born in the evening," Hill said. "If I had been born in the morning I would be a totally different person. People come to me if they are considering major changes: staying married or getting divorced or wondering if they should move or start a new business or make a major purchase."

Decisions like that are not always based on logic, she added. "I don't say, 'Quit your job' or 'Get a divorce.' I tell them to look at many different things before making any decision. It's fun. I get a little window into people's lives by what they choose to share with me. What they share is what they might share with their best friend."

For the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, Hill went to McMinnville and did astrological readings because people were interested in how it affected them.

"What I found was incredible," Hill said. "The astrology chart is divided into 12 parts, or houses, like slices of a pie. The first four unrelated people who came for readings all had the eclipse in the same house, which is related to dreams, emotions and intuition. The next four, also unrelated, had the eclipse in the area that is about death and transformation. I loved seeing the patterns."

Hill doesn't have a large practice. "I maybe do a couple readings a month. Some astrologers do four or five a day."

Asked if Pluto is a planet — it was designated as one since being discovered in the last century, but then demoted in 2006 — Hill replied that Pluto is once again considered a planet, although a dwarf planet.

"I consider myself to be a spiritual person and these drumming circles are a big part of that spirituality," Hill said. "Starting in 2009 I led drum circles at the book store every time there was a full moon and did it for eight years. Now I lead most of my circles in Tigard. Some people bring their own drums, and I have extra drums for those who don't have their own. We get into a meditative state, and recently we drummed for storm victims in Texas and Florida, and fire victims here in the Northwest."

She said around six to 12 people usually take part. "The circle is never the same, and each person is in a different place each month, but they always leave feeling better," she said. "It is always a really interesting group. "

In 2013, Hill published a book called "Money Stories: How Money and Spirit Combine to Create Abundance," in which she interviewed 17 successful people about how they did just that. The book is available on Amazon or from Hill.

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