Birdsong Sound/Peace Chamber

Sweat Lodge and Dance Land


Elders: Tom and Kristen Bissinger

601 County Park Rd

Pottstown PA 19465

(610) 469-9029

Pennsylvania spring birdsong is experienced as diverse melodious choirs of delight, enlivening the dark of the early morning and throughout the day, with colors and dense textures of sound. These sonorous experiences held my rapt attention and were treasured during the 30+ years of living in Pennsylvania. Being a flute player, played by the flute, I rather connect deeply to the songs and characteristics of birds, not unlike what Beethoven was said to have experienced. How apropos that I ‘grew up’ in the Pennsylvania Birdsong Sound Chamber Community, and that the Chamber was named Birdsong!!!

I first came to know the Birdsong Community in the early 1990’s, when a Sage-Woman in my life, Jane Moore, took me to a Sweat Lodge on this land. This is where I first connected to Ancestral roots and an incredible, wise, creative community. For twenty four years I have experienced the gifts…no…treasures, of sweating, dancing the land, working, building and maintaining the land, performing, recording, giving a gong-bath, participating in ceremony and cultural experiences, fluting and chanting in the Birdsong Sound Chamber. These transforming experiences, along with weathering the challenges, and sharing in the joys of this amazing life with the Birdsong Community, have been deeply nourishing, and have guided me into a realm of maturity, that most two-leggeds, do not have the opportunity to do so. Gratitude ensues…

About Tom and Kristen Bissinger

Tom and Kristen met Joseph Rael in 1987 when he came to their house to teach them and their friends how to build a sweat lodge and instruct them in ceremony. In the spring of that year, Joseph led a Long Dance for the Harmonic Convergence on their land as well as other ceremonies. Tom then attended the first Drum Dance held on Joseph’s land at Wa Chi Chi Hu in Colorado. The following year Joseph moved the Drum Dance to Birdsong. In 2018 Birdsong will be hosting their 30th Drum Dance!

In 1987, Tom and Kristen also danced the first Drum Dance with Joseph Rael – Beautiful Painted Arrow in Colorado. After this dance, Joseph asked the Bissingers to have the Drum Dance in Pennsylvania, and so, the second Drum Dance was danced upon the Birdsong Land, where Joseph shared his family by bringing his brother, Benito, and niece, Carla Jo.

Here is a inspiring sentiment regarding the Drum Dance that Tom sent out to the Birdsong Community in 2017:

In 1987, I danced the Drum Dance at Wa-Chi-Chi-Hu, Joseph Rael Beautiful Painted Arrow’s land in Colorado. It was a life changing experience for me. It was strange, it was new, unlike any kind of gathering or ceremony I had previously encountered. Thirty of us stood in two opposing lines, sixty or so feet apart, divided by a rope line of feathers dangling between cedar hoops. We danced off and on, for three days…towards the feathers, and back, to our place on the line. I ran, I walked, I trotted. Joseph urged us on. Joseph’s sons, with two solid sticks of cedar in their hands, beat on a log. That was the drum. At night we rested.

In 1988, Joseph moved the Drum Dance from Colorado to Pennsylvania, and we have danced here ever since. What I encountered at that first dance would be difficult to put into words. I can describe what happened, from my point of view, and that would not be your experience. I will share one thing: I flew East after the dance and shortly had a dream- the gist of it was that two eagles, fierce, with large talons, landed and seized my heart. Metaphorically, that’s what happened to me; an awakening, a profound push beyond limitations; a recognition of all our humanity, and the thought, in some way, “this dance is life-changing” for me. Not as a wanna-be Indian, although how cannot one think of the First Peoples who held this land and painfully yielded most of it to waves of immigrants? Respect must be given in these ceremonies, not only to our Ancestors, but as it is said, for All the People.

Over 28 years many have danced here and around the world and continue to do so. We are touched in ways we know not, and that is the beauty of it. If you think of community and ceremony as being a mix of commitment, cooperation, and contribution, then you begin to get how profound these dances are. The Drum Dance is your giveaway: dreams, visions, insights, joy, anger, tears, confusion…and love.

Tom and Kristen have followed Joseph’s teachings over the years. In 1997 the Birdsong Peace Chamber was completed, built with community labor and money. Tom and Kristen have danced at many other dance sites in the U.S. and South America, and continue to be informed and inspired by Beautiful Painted Arrow.

As a part of their Earth Dance, Tom and Kristen have raised two amazing children together, and have created beauty through the arts, and teaching by example. Tom is an accomplished playwright, actor, writer, artist and an authentic elder of the Birdsong Community. Kristen is a cultivated dancer and teacher of dance. She guides with wisdom and heart, ceremony, on the Birdsong Land.

Many moons ago, I was most impressed to learn that Tom, Kristen and their first born son, sailed around the world; Adventurous in Spirit and Loving in the Heart!

Ceremonies on Birdsong Land

  • Monthly Sweats
  • Young People’s Sweats
  • Fire Ceremony
  • Vision Quests
  • Winter Drumming
  • Winter Story Telling
  • Women’s coming of age ceremonies
  • Dances: July-Sun-Moon Dance (Chief-ed by Kevin Koser), September-Long Dance (Chief-ed by Jim Frank), June-Drum Dance.
  • Family Dances: Spring-Sandhill Crane, Autumn-Corn Dance (Dreamt by Tom)