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.
The 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?
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