Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why is a drum a "good horse?"

This new drum from Journey Oracle is more like a good work horse than a Thoroughbred.  The older blacktail deer skin from Cortes Island is sturdy enough to hold its voice when drumming long shamanic journeys outside in nature.  The thinner skins on most of my shamanic frame drums are better suited for the warmth of the living room, but this drum is dependable for the long ride through wild country.

The deep resonance of its voice begins with a clear single tone and slowly adds an upper harmonic as the drum warms to the vibration.  This is the voice I want to work with, like I would want a Suffolk Punch to be carrying me into some alternate realities, more than a delicate, changeable creature with thin legs.

The holdfast for this new drum is a medicine pouch made of doeskin, just the right container for objects and talismans of protection and courage.  The sacred numbers woven into the back of this good horse create a saddle of strength and cosmic return in the sets of 24 and 8.

Because 8 is the number of "as above, so below" the medicine pouch contains a floor of sturdy hide so that just as your spirit on the journey is supported, so is your hand on the drum.

 A drum is the rebirth of spirit into voice, and the bullet hole of the deer's death is at the same time the passageway of  it's new life as your good horse.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Paint wild animals on a drum

I made a drum to honor the awakening of the world mind on October 28, 2011, which had woven into the back the sacred numbers 9 for the underworlds and 13 for the heavens of the Mayan calendar. I said that although it was small it was huge.  The little drum was recently painted, and the wild animal that came to its surface is also small and huge: the Margay, a tree-loving cat from the land of the Mayans.

The Margay is perfectly suited for life in the trees, where it spends most of its time high in the forest canopy. It has especially large eyes to judge distances at night , allowing it to leap with confidence. Its night vision is six times more acute than that of humans.

The Margay has long, flexible ears that it aims with reflex action at any source of sound.  It also has highly flexible joints in its ankles, a slender build and a long tail for fluid balance and agility. The Margay is found in the rainforests of Central and South America, and is comparable to our domestic cat in size and weight.  Just the right sort of small huge creature to escort shamanic journeys into cosmic awakening and Mayan teachings.

So how do I  paint this wild animal on a drum?  I look for the eyes.  I try not to get in the way by making assumptions about what wild animal is coming.  I use the raw earth pigments as colored dust to mostly paint what is not the animal. I trust that the color symbolism of the chromium green and red iron oxide pigments, the story of the drum, and the posture and features of the animal all will go together in ways more mysterious and meaningful than I can imagine or plan for.  And because I do not tell the wild animal how to come--it does.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What makes something art?

I am a firm believer that any material has artful possibilities. While thinking about a topic for this week's blog from the Journey Oracle, I received some images in an email about coping with cold, hard winter in that especially human way--with wicked humour and creative surprise.

These artful efforts may not compare with Simon Beck's snow art in scale and artistry, yet even the humble snowman has forceful presence, if enough are present.

If art is a function of scale and effort, then indeed this singular snowman is elevated to the realm of Art, but is big effort enough?  What makes something art, or not?

If art is about making a statement as well as surprising us with humour, pathos, the unknown and the unimaginable, is part of its statement about the nature of the materials used, and of time itself in the process?

Will the feet of snow and the feet of snow create a dialog of impermanence for the passersby, or is art just a distraction on the way to the taxi?

Sometimes I think what makes something art is not the lofty, consciously considered explanation, it is the physical moment that stops us, just after we categorize with our calculating look an ordinary thing, and just before our senses transform.  That moment between knowing and un-knowing, is art.