Thursday, September 29, 2016

Making a drum is a ritual of respect

Every part of the process of making a drum is an opportunity to create a ritual of respect for the tools, the materials, the processes that make the finished drum a sacred companion. 

I first met this phrase, Rituals of Respect when I read Inge Bolin’s book with this title.  The understanding that “respect for others is the central and most significant element of all thought and action” has guided all parts of my drum making. Here are some of my rituals of respect.

An old tool is an elder.  Keeping everything in good order is respectful of the decades of use pitted into a polished surface and held in a split handle.

There is no garbage.  Giving what isn't used back to nature shows respect to all the parts of the tree or deer, rather than just to the parts that will become the drum.


Details matter.  If the wooden frame has sharp edges the dried drum skin will 'buzz' where it crosses the rim.  Sanding an even bevel shows respect to the hoop for how it is being asked to support the drum's voice.

Treat everything with the same attention.  When I prepare a skin, I clean all the way to the edges, even though I probably will not involve these in the drumhead.  All the skin mattered to the deer, so it is respectful for me to work everything the same.

Make the drum that is in the hide.  Matching the size of the drum to the size of the deer is respectful of using as much as possible of the deer's sacrifice.

When others want to see what you are doing, make sure they have a special place to sit.  It is respectful to treat everyone who comes as an honored guest.

Every part, and every part between the part, is whole.  Every part is nested inside a larger part, and in turn has smaller parts within it.  This elegance of inter-dependency is worthy of respectful attention.

Beckon spirit to appear, rather than imposing a spiritual view. Then when the spirits appear, the respect will flow back through the maker of the drum and on to the one who plays it.