I have just purchased my first skin drum after being a shamanic practitioner for 15 years, and a teacher for 10.
My friend Terry gave my first skin drum on my 50th birthday. She gave me HER OWN drum, which touched me so deeply I was speechless (and I am never speechless). But after ten years, this drum is not happy in winter, and her skin has started to split so she is saved for special night summer nights now when she likes to sing.
My Remo, whom I have adored (she has been with me on almost every journey, and in every training I have ever done – don’t let ANYONE tell you Remos don’t have spirits), will still be used, of course, but I will initiate my new drum at FFS The Way of the Shaman workshop I’ll be teaching here on Bainbridge Island this February.
My new drum from Cedar Mountain Drums is made of horsehide on a cedar hoop. A dark brown, she has a voice so sweet and big that I see herds of nonordinary horses come thundering in when I beat her. I feel her as well as hear her when I play. In Siberia, the drum is called “the horse” because it carries you away. I understand that in a cellular way now. Her sonic percussion resonance is sure, deep and sonorous from the first few beats.
I have a blessed rattle from Cedar Mountain Drums, too. A hide skin with a bear painted on one side, a bear paw on the other, and bear fur surrounding the rattle’s head like a collar. She has a beautiful cushioned handle of red suede, and a very sassy fringe on the end. This rattle touches me because of my great and ever-abiding love of Bear.
My shamanic tools are my beloveds. I journey to them to find out what they need from me to feel honored. I journey to them to learn their names. Why they have come to me now (even if I think I know the reason). What kind of work they best like to do. Sometimes they answer all my questions all at once. But at others, I am told to come back after we have formed a deeper experiential relationship.
Many years ago, in my first shamanic studio, I journeyed to the compassionate helping spirit of the space to find out what I could do to honor her. Over the years, I have found shamanic studio spirits (and I have had five studios to date) to be quite verbal, and they seem to have no trouble telling me exactly what they want -- whether it is the color of the room, particular objects put in particular places, altar offerings, etc.
Among other things, the spirit of my first space said she wanted a red floor. This presented a dilemma. The floors in my studio were beautiful, old wood and I didn’t like the idea of painting them. So I felt confused and torn. How to honor the request without doing something I did not want to do?
The next day I went to have a massage. I walked into Laureen’s office. Laureen was the best massage therapist I ever had. She knew bodies. I used to tell her she had eyes in her fingers, that’s how deeply she could “see” into my body.
Her room was tiny – about 8’ X 8” – and on this day, the floor was covered by a too-large-for-the space Chinese wool rug. It was fire engine red, and cut with floral designs of pink peonies. In the center, was a round, white circle holding many symbols. The poor, fringed 10' x 12' rug did not fit so it looked like the room was holding it hostage.
I asked Laureen when and where she got it. Her husband’s uncle had purchased it decades ago from China, and had paid $60,000 for it. He died, and left them the rug. It had just arrived the day before. She said she and her husband were not especially fond of it, and that she would prefer a Pergo floor in her massage studio.
I asked her if she will be willing to trade the rug for a Pergo floor in her small space and she loved the idea. Within a few days, my shamanic studio had its red floor.
For many years, clients and students have all said the work seems deeper and friendlier in my space than in others they’ve been in. I know my red rug is part of the reason for this. She holds us with her deep, soft warmth as we journey. Her name, which I do not have permission to share here, reflects her wisdom and her ancient knowledge.
Medicine bags have come my way, too. There is an adept, and retired, Zuni beader whose name is Shilah Love. A store called Keshi in Santa Fe, NM, (check it out – www.keshi.com) used to carry her work. The first time I saw one of the bags, a hummingbird, I bought it. The beading was unlike any I have ever seen. So delicate, with soaring design and color. I could feel the soul of the bag, and so I knew she was mine. I have worn her for almost every shamanic journey I have ever taken. She carries a bit of the power of all of those journeys.
Some years ago, when seeking to honor a teacher in a very specific way, I called Keshi and asked them if they thought Shilah would be willing to do a commissioned bag. I needed an eagle with its wings spread on the front of the pouch, and another animal beaded on the back. At first, Shilah said no. But then she left the studio, and told Keshi’s owner that eagles had followed her car home. She did the bag, and saw eagles every time she worked on it. To this day, it is a bag that honors my Teacher, all of my Teachers. I think of the miracle that happened when it was made, and how I love this woman deeply, this woman I have never met.
Students ask me all the time about power objects, and how you get them. First comes the need, the knowing – as in the case of the rug – that you wish to honor your spirits in some way, and they show you exactly how to make it happen. Like wanting to venerate a spirit with a medicine bag, and requesting it from the one beader I know who does her bead work like a prayer. Like honoring a new power animal out of love and respect, and discovering the way to begin your dance is to buy a new drum from a holy man. Accepting the many, many gifts from nature over the decades, all powerful and all special, now adorning the four altars in my studio. All of the altars are crowded with beauty, and every twig, stone, feather and tool has specific meaning and purpose.
When needed, I can work without any of them, but working with them expands the space, and every person who has ever come into the studio has said, "It feels so good in here." Of course it does. The space is crowded with love.