March 3, 2012
Most people who know me know that I have been on a journey of discovering Native traditions and even have had a tipi in my backyard for some time. Most gardeners know the healing power of gardening. Honouring all things and connecting with nature and the energies of the universe are very important to me.
Last week I was contacted by Tracy at roughandtumbled.ca who was seeking contact information for a Native Elder who conducts ceremonies to “birth” hand-made drums. I didn’t have a name for them but I did ask that I be kept in mind for future drum-making events.
On Thursday I got an email saying that someone had to back out at the last moment and their drum was available. I jumped at the chance.
And so today I spent the day making my own drum. There were ten drum-makers, our two hosts (Tracy and Rob) and our Ojibwe guides Anthony and Karen.
The Drum Frame
The drum frame is three layers of circular pieces of yellow cedar (circular, not joined). My drum is 12”. Most were 14” and one was 18”, I do believe.
Our first task was to give it a nice sanding and then coat the edge with some beeswax.
The next step was to cut.. and cut .. and cut .. and cut a piece of rawhide (deer) into one long strip of 1/2” sinew. Oh my hand. Two hours of struggling with scissors cutting and cutting and cutting. As a left-hander, scissors and I have never gotten along. I was put to the test of concentration and commitment. I am reminded of LumberJock Matthew (10 years old) who said, “we’ll get through it” … and we did.
The Drum Skin
With that task completed .. finally… we punched holes around the edge of the drum skin. Mine was deer hide. Some skins were elk. By folding the circular skin in a series of halves we punched a total of 16 “pairs” of holes.
After a DELICIOUS lunch we continued on and added the lacing to the drum.
This was a task that took very good “spacial awareness” as many of us struggled with getting the rhythm of the order of holes. 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock.. right to left.. outside to inside.. But, back to Matthew – “we’ll get through it” and we did.
Having strung the sinew laces we then had to tighten them – again testing our brains as we, once again, had to find a rhythm of where we were and where we were headed. Follow the sinew.. pull… follow the sinew—don’t go in reverse and undo what you just did….. “We’ll get through it”.
With it tightened, we then tied sections together forming the handle and once again tightening the sinew. Thirteen wraps, representing the thirteen moons in the year. Next, seven rows of weaving, representing the 7 Grandfather Teachings: Wisdom, Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Humility, Truth.
This was repeated four times.
Drying The Drum
When I got home, I hung the drum in the living room. It will take about two weeks to dry out.
When the light was right this is what I saw through the drum:
Birthing the Drum
These drums are not ornamental. They are Sacred creations and they won’t be used until they have gone through the birthing ceremony. Our ceremony is scheduled for the end of the month.
Then I will be out in the old tipi or in my cabin helping the drum sing as I look around my gardens, seeing and honouring all that Is.
-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)