Giving Birth to a Prayer Rattle

Sacred Rattle - Joshua Tree - 19Dec, 2012Nancy Smeltzer, MFA

My heart tribe, The Journey, was recently out at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center to celebrate New Beginnings for the upcoming year and to support each other in creatively and spiritually creating a life of passionate explorations. Before the retreat actually began, we had the honor to make sacred rattles under the tutelage of Lisa Starr, a local drum maker and spiritual guide. Her reverence for the process and the materials was profound as she instilled in us the sacredness of making an instrument that would be used in a ceremony later in the day.

Lisa had soaked elk hide squares and carefully crafted them into spheres by shaping them into balls around sand from the property that she owns. We were asked to choose one that spoke to us, and I quickly took one from the middle of a row of glasses that held the hides. The one that I chose was quite adamant about being mine. Then we chose sticks that Lisa had gathered from a tree on her land. I was one of the last to choose, and was at first a little disappointed that mine was not very straight. Then, I quickly realized that my life has rarely taken a straight path, so why should the handle of my prayer rattle be any other way. I then noticed that the stick had two furrows on one side, again indicative of some of the trials and tribulations over which I’ve prevailed. I quickly realized that I had the perfect materials for my rattle.

Lisa gave us some Joshua Tree seeds from her property, and then we were instructed to go outside and add some small pieces of gravel. I held the rounded curve of the top of the rattle in my hand and shook the contents after the addition of each piece of gravel. Some of the small rocks didn’t contribute to a pleasing sound, so I thanked them for offering to be part of my rattle and put them back on the ground. When I gathered up enough small pebbles to give me the sound I thought I wanted (remember, the hide was still wet at this point, so the sound was a bit muffled), I went back inside to complete the next steps.

After sanding the sticks, we massaged citronella wax into the wood. I was surprised at how pleasant the wax smelled, as I was only familiar with it in oil form to burn to keep mosquitoes away and am not particularly fond of the smell in that form. Then, using thick, waxed thread, (about the thickness of carpet sewing thread) we were to wrap it tightly around the ends of the hide, making sure that the stick was firmly fastened in the middle. As I was doing that, a weak spot broke through my hide and I had several small tears. I started to toss the original hide and get another one, then I realized that, no, here was another metaphor of my life. “When I break things, I can always sew them back together” is one of my  personal mottoes (I’m also an art quilter). I ran back to my room to get a needle and quilting thread that I had with me to work on an art quilt I had brought from home. My needle had a round diameter, made for going through cloth, not a triangular shape for using on leather. Even though the needle broke after the last stitch, I was able to secure the tear in the hide, which you can see at the tip of the red arrow in the photo above.

Prayer Rattle against brush at the drumming circle in Joshua Tree National ParkThe rest of the rattle making process went on without any hitches. Lisa showed us how to reverently add the prayer bundle made of a small piece of fabric, some feathers, and some beads. Each wrap of the string and leather thong that secured the materials in place contained intents and wishes of each rattle maker as they breathed life into their instruments. Soon the process was complete, and we headed out to the Joshua Tree National Park to have a drumming ceremony and to bless our rattles. Little did I know what was to await me there, but that will be included in the next posting.

 Which ways do you use to make choices in your life? Do you honor the materials that you use to craft your life and thank them for helping you along your way?

Why not leave a comment as to your thoughts on this posting. Please take a minute and fill out the form below and share your ideas with the rest of us. We all grow when we share our thoughts and impressions, so why not join our growing community of those who appreciate learning about our inner selves and the intricacies of healing work. We’d love to hear from you! Also PLEASE tell like-minded souls about this blog. We’d love to have them join us, too.

You can find out more about my healing work at, about my artwork on my web site at (be patient as it loads; it’s worth it), and can find me on Google + , Facebook (for Transition Portals), Facebook (for Fiber Fantasies),  and Twitter.

About Nancy Smeltzer

I'm passionate about long distance spiritual and alternative healing, having had a successful practice now for over ten years. My clients work with me over the phone and on Skype from all over the USA and Canada, as well as Switzerland, Russia, and Australia. I specialize in helping people heal their negative repeating patterns of behavior and remove the stuck energy in their unconscious minds. By doing that, they can quit going round and round in circles,. repeating the same mistakes, and move forward to having the life of their dreams. Besides my holistic healing practice, I've also been professionally creating art quilts and other fiber arts for over 30 years. My specialty is contemporary beaded art quilts. On my web site, I bill myself as the "Self Proclaimed Button and Bead Queen of Maryland (USA)." My recent works have images that are based on what I see when I tap into a person's energy field and are called Meditation Gardens. These visionary art pieces are the perfect place for that person to play and meditate. In my spare time, I'm a rabid, avid "dirty nails" gardener, composing scenes with plants. Sometimes, I come inside so dirty that my clothes have to go straight into the washing machine; they're too dirty for the dirty clothes hamper! -The Official Google + site for Nancy Smeltzer
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9 Responses to Giving Birth to a Prayer Rattle

  1. Nancy, Thank you for sharing the story of our sacred rattle making ceremony. I love mine! What a gift! Whitney

  2. Kristl Rugg says:


    I am inspired to share after reading about your experience with the birthing of your rattle. Your insight of how each step to creating your rattle is a representation of your life is awakening, the small steps in life that can bring us to opening up our minds and realizing the inner connections. I will join you on the journey of sharing.

    On the morning of the rattle making journey we were given instructions to meet up at Joshua Tree National Park and be there by 9:00 am. I was leaving from Escondido, CA, so I left at 5:00 am; the drive would take me 2 hours according to the directions I printed out. I jumped in my car and continued on my way to Joshua Tree National Park. So as I am traveling along the road, enjoying the ride of solitude and music I arrive at the visitor’s center and text Lisa to let her know that I will be at the meeting place about 20 minutes late. I ventured into the Park area, paid my $15.00 to enter and the cell coverage drops in the deep desert. I arrive at the picnic area 20 miles in and look around for everyone and do not see my tribe. I had been excited about meeting my tribe for the first time and connecting during this rattle making experience. Lisa Starr who was the guide for this journey; I had met 1 year before and made arrangements to stay at the Bonita Domes during the Journey Retreat.

    to be continued

  3. Kristl Rugg says:

    After walking around the meeting area there were several spots my tribe could have been, making sure I checked out each area carefully, they were nowhere to be found. I looked at the paper I had printed out with the agenda for the day and read the print at the bottom saying that the meeting place might be changed due to weather. I examined the weather and it was very, very cold with high winds. I determined that this is what they had done. Since I had never ventured through the park area, I decided that I was going to go exploring and that is just what I did. I started on the trails with my backpack and camera. The rock formations were beautiful and the wonders around delightful with a feeling of rawness, living in the wild. I imagined life before all the technology and living about the animals in nature. I found a resting spot and ate an apple, before I took a bite I carved a heart into it and felt how happy and grateful I was to be right where I was at that moment in time. Life is perfect, no worries or stress, just being in the moment. As I ventured out some more I thought I better find my way back to the car because I had ventured pretty far and did not have a compass to find my way if I got lost.

  4. Kristl Rugg says:

    I got in the car and travel to another hiking area, Barker Dam. Here I walk the trail where settlers were in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. There were petroglyphs, which I had never seen before in my life. I was captivated by every site, taking pictures and enjoying this personal journey. I get back to the car and I look at a rattle that I made from our jacaranda tree in the back yard. It was made of pods that had been soaked in lacquer and I had beads that were wrapped around the stalk/stick with an arrowhead at the bottom, but this was coming apart, so I decided to re-vamp it by taking the beading off and wrapping a piece of leather I had brought to wrap around the rattle I was going to make with my tribe. After I did this, I walked over to the restroom in front of Barker Dam. I look at this woman and stared into her eyes, she stopped in her tracks and starred into my eyes. I know this woman I thought, she called out my name, Kristl? I said, Cricket? Yes and we embraced one another with a hug. I look over and there is My Tribe.

  5. Kristl Rugg says:

    They were all there. Lisa embraced me and took me to her vehicle, where she gave me all the pieces to my rattle. They were all there to venture into a ceremony with our rattles into the Barker Dam area. I brought my rattle that I had made months before. Lisa smiled and said no wonder, you already made your rattle and you were here holding the space for the tribe. I was delighted and jumped into line as we walked in silence to the sacred Diamond Caves.

  6. Kristl Rugg says:

    Due to not having internet during my drive I was not aware of an e-mail that was sent at 7:00 am letting us know that the meeting place had been changed due to weather conditions. I don’t understand sometimes why things happen at the time, I could have reacted in so many different ways to this situation, but it was in such peaceful alignment with nature. I surrendered and allowed myself to be guided by the mysterious wonders of the world in which I found myself. My inner child played with my adult self and found bliss everywhere.

  7. Kristl Rugg says:

    I put together my rattle that night in the Fox Pod at Bonita Domes. I may not have had all the steps of branding my rattle as the others had done together, but my rattle found me. It is a story of separation, but never leaving one another, for our spirit was connected and whatever source is out there made sure that we would connect. Faith is the word that comes to me, unshakeable belief in something, without proof or evidence. The coincidence I think not moments in life that happen and each time moments like this happen, it builds my foundation of a higher purpose to life.

  8. Kristl Rugg says:

    Thank you Nancy for the inspiration,
    Your Heart Tribe Member for Eternity
    Yes this life and thereafter
    Love and Light
    Kristl Lynne’ Rugg

    • Nancy Smeltzer says:

      Dear Kristl, thank you so-o-o much for your heartfelt description of what the rattle making experience was like for you. Yes, we each travel to our destinations with different agendas that often have to be remade as we go along. Thanks for being part of my heart tribe..mwah! Nancy

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