Of Drums and Spirits

I am not Native American nor do I carry indigenous blood with the exception of distant ancestors. I had a friend drop by for a visit the other day and he is of Native American decent. We shared stories about recent Life happenings, and he shared his sorrow over the recent deaths of four of his sisters since June. Tears came to his eyes when he softly spoke about them…especially about the loss of his favorite sister to whom he was extremely close.

To help ease the difficulty of his emotions, I gathered up a frame drum I recently decorated for myself. My friend absolutely loved it, holding it fondly, striking it with my handmade mallet over and over again. He lamented over the condition of his own drum. The drum head had shrunk and pulled away from its base. Without a drum, his prayers lay silent….unexpressed within his Heart. I told him that I had an extra frame drum, an offered to decorate a drum head especially for him. He burst forth with such excitement and longing that I immediately told him I would do it. Why not? I had made one for myself…

Easier said than done. How do I give the drum head symbols that represent who he is? How do I change its tone to blend with his Voice? How do I give the Spirit of this drum an expression all its own?

There simply was no path this white girl could follow to accomplish this task….. Sooooooo, I decided to shut off my logical brain and let my subconscious do the “muse” work. Of course I looked at other drum heads and their symbols. I looked at native American symbols, looking for “who knows what” and slept on it.

I have known Russell some years now. I have known him at church, sat over cups of tea and listened to his stories, seen his home, met his family, and created and mended his prayer beads more times than I can count. I have heard him speak his Heart at times, and have witnessed his connection and passion to the Great Spirit. What a deep, deep honor to be asked to design him a drum head.

I finished his drum today. A process that simply happened, and happened quickly. The design of the drum has it’s own Story …. a Story that reflects how he sees and interacts with his World. He is both Shaman and Christian, so the Voice of his drum needs to Sing this Song. I wrote up a description for him that explains the design, colors and arrangement of components. It goes like this…….

The Stories within the Drum:
Story #1 – The Creation Story
Day 2 – Firmament. Which means “The heavens or the sky”… And God said “Let there be a firmament between the waters above and the waters below”. The “Waters above” or the heavens, are represented by the Dark navy ring around the edges of the drum head. The presence of the 3 white dots represents the Presence of God in the heavens above Us. The sky above our heads is represented by the blue colors on the upper half of the drum
Day 3 – Dry Land. “And God said … “Let the earth bring forth grass, herbs and trees …”. The dry land is represented by the green colors on the lower half of the drum.
Day 4 – Sun, Moon and Stars. “And God said, “Let there be Light above the firmament”. The Sun is central to the design whose rays penetrate to the North, East, South and West in yellow colors.
Day 7 – Creation of Man. The Creation of YOU…. YOU are represented by the Medicine Wheel in the Center of the drum head. The colors of the Wheel are taken from the tribal people’s of the Apache and Comanche who represent native people’s of the Southwest and northern Mexico.

Story # 2 – Personal Medicine of Healer
Your Gifts of Medicine are represented by the rays that extend out from the Medicine Wheel. Your Gifts bless all things above, and all things below. Your Gift of Song is Powerful….lift your Voice to Heal yourself, others, and most importantly to Heal and bring Balance back to Our World…. The three dots within the Medicine Wheel and at the end of the rays represents the Presence of the Spirit within you and your Medicine.

Story #3 – Of Ancestors and his own bloodline.

The Rim of the Drum has 3 colors… Navy Blue for the heavens above. Crimson Red is painted in a thick band around the Rim which represents your ancestors. The thin band of Vermillion Red represents You, Your children and grandchildren.

The drum head needs to thoroughly dry and “cure” a while before using. I still need to drill holes and thread a hand hold on the backside. When ready, I will present this gift to him with tobacco in hand…. can’t wait to hear his Song…

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