Drum Birthing: my experience shared
I want to share here what I feel is permitted of this incredible process. Beltane weekend, beginning on my friend's canal boat moored close to my house, it felt fitting to be aboard a peaceful watery vessel (a "womb") floating in warmth, nurturing colour, tea and blankets with a watchful, resting sun-hound at my feet! I felt held, safe, poised at a pivotal point in my healer-journey. The making of my drum. An initiation. One that brought up far more emotional and physically-felt sensations than I expected, feelings I do not have words for. I shall summarise the process here with a select few photos and where relevant connected stories. Some details feel sacred and personal for me to hold inside, between Katherine and I, or for the campfire sharing-circle. For the meeting of my drum to reveal, if it feels fitting. But some details and the methods can be joyfully, openly shared here. I feel deep gratitude and love for my friend who shared, held and facilitated this process with me so beautifully from a week before the practical making, to current musings and experiences still unfolding this new moon first play / first journey with my new drum day. Katherine Walker is a Wyrd Artist and Maker whose works can be found on Unspeakable Arts. Amongst her visionary arts are writings, zines and shamanic-infused, spirit-honored crafts of great skill and beauty each made as unique items. Explore her world! Commissions can also be facilitated (rattles, drums...).
I began with a beautifully crafted Ash hoop sourced from Heron Drums, by drawing symbols and art on the inside that came through play, visions and meditation. Drawn to the World Tree; the flexible, adaptable, holding and releasing strength of this pale and dark-grained wood. A tree that has often found me in crisis, in loneliness or at the edges of my comfort in life. The Ash I met on the Isle of Mull springs to mind. By a sea loch, gray volcanic-sand beach with sea eagles above, twisted coastal oak groves and this huge wide-trunked Ash standing on the edge of grove and sea-loch rocks. Weathered into a beautiful shape by years of brine-winds, strong and with secret hollows for secret offerings for the wayfarer or traveller to leave or find.
I met this Ash tree during a crisis of spirit. Of body. During a journey I had to cut to short due to exhaustion and illness and largely unrelated fears / anxiety. My recovery from and my leaving of the corporate bullying of my work at the time, from a nervous breakdown held in the lungs and stomach and fueled with addictive spirals. Mull was both exposing and hugely challenging as a trip for me (and my partner as we were forced to change our plans to cycle the island further together by this overwhelm I was experiencing). The experience which was not the relaxing wilderness escapism I hoped for, was showing me my broken parts, my need for nurture but my refusal to accept it, with storms and gales in a tent huddled with my partner all night. All weathered right by the stoic but peaceful, flowing presence of the Ash, who I meditated with a few times on this (for me) short but elementally-renewing trip four years ago now.
The relationship I have with this tree has taught me in simplicity about the strength and huge flexibility of body and spirit. But also the deep need to be vulnerable and let vulnerability also be a source of great strength. Something our culture does not support or even perceive favourably. Ash has connected me to my in-more-worlds-than-one self; with the old myths and stories around the world tree, resonating particularly with the Norse World Tree: Yggdrasil. Ash feels fitting for a drum. I almost went with Birch, tree of beginnings and resilience, but this may become my handle yet to be made.
After the hoop was decorated, with the tension-holding metal ring in place loosely in the center, the second day was based this time in my home. Over night I had ceremonially soaked the ethically-sourced (from sustainably managed woodland in my home county Cumbria) red deer doe skin in my bath with herbs, Ash wood, Hawthorne from a tree I meditated with before the process began and Mugwort, crystals and candles burning. The meaning of the phrase "drum birthing" was truly resonating inside me, evocatively communicated by Katherine and was bringing up all kinds of emotions as the process deepened. I am currently struggling with aneamia and fatigue. The heatwave plus working through the intense process of attaching the skin to the hoop and this dizziness felt somehow part of the process. This is also where the joy of working one-to-one with a close companion made so much sense, as in a group workshop setting these feelings would've merged with everyone else's anticipation and stimulation. I don't think that would've worked for me. Frequent breaks between the shared process of cutting, making the laces and punching holes with a leather punch around the edge were all allowed to flow comfortably. Nourished with slow-cooked locally-sourced, iron-rich lamb and organic vegetable casserole and shots of nettle infusion!
Laguz (rune): Nourish the blood....(one of a few runes pulled before the process)
Soundtrack in preparations: Anilah: Warrior
The hole-making, the tensioning - like wet umbilical cords - twisting, threading with just the right amount of force and gentleness. Gratitude for having support with this connecting and patience-requiring process, especially when waves of dizziness kept sweeping me away. Then to dry close to my altar by the pre-made and gifted by my partner-lover on the winter solstice: hazel-twisted felted beater. Waiting for 6 days like an excited child / parent / friend!! Must. Not. Beat. Yet....Today the waiting was over.
The face of my new companion in adventure, healing, campfire or spontaneous song, sound and wildness: shared and solitary. Their name is now apparent to me after my first journey and beat this New Moon morning. A process illuminating to me, as my first play was not as I expected - a lesson in the mind's expectations as restriction sometimes! I calmed into finding the places of resonance, free of expectation with inner child presence, in sunlight this morning. We sang, hummed, their song rising high and melodic, their deer-skin life force in flashes of lush May-green foliage, two season's of deer-children, the playfulness of true wild spirit as I then flew up, up, upwards to meet Drum and know their names. The journey many ancestors have taken, in many lands. I feel blessed to hold this drum and all it means, beyond my mind's grasp of this process (no room for logic and linear processing here! Come with surrender, total surrender), beyond anything I can know now or thought I knew about this process. I am humbled. I am excited. I am pleased I could enjoy the flow of paint an the use of my hands in new and simultaneously deeply familiar crafting-ways.
We are all born with a hole that only something from nature can fill... (paraphrased from Stephen Harrod Buhner)