This past weekend, I made a drum.
I call her my moon drum – she’s made of buckskin and dyed with indigo.
It’s something I’ve been wanting to make for years but have been terrified of even attempting for various reasons.
I would make the drum incorrectly and offend the spirits of the indigenous cultures who originated drum making. (yes, really)
That I was culturally appropriating a sacred art that wasn’t my of own lineage (being a white girl who is most likely descended from european colonists), therefore shouldn’t be allowed to do it at all.
That I wouldn’t properly honor the animal whose hide I would be working with.
That it was not cool to use a dead animal’s hide to make something for my enjoyment.
…or that I would mess up and my drum wouldn’t work because I wasn’t working with a master teacher.
Now, you might expect me to follow that up with a statement about how all that limited thinking is BS and that I am worthy of my creative desires and that I should take a dabblist approach to this project (like any other!) and simply begin.
But I actually think a lot of these reasons I gave are important ones to ponder. I’ve seen many well-meaning people around the world dive into indigenous crafts without being thoughtful about the cultures that originated them, the teachers who share their knowledge, and sustainability and sacredness of the materials used.
The key distinction here is that, while these concerns are important ones to ponder, they aren’t necessarily reasons NOT to do something.
I have been wanting to make a drum for years now, and all those concerns I listed above turned into a belief that I, as a human being, wasn’t worthy of making one at all. Or that I would need to travel to a far off land and pay lots of money to work with an indigenous elder to do so (that sounds amazing actually…but not realistic for me right now).
So, after years of yearning, a few close girlfriends and I made the decision to gather and make drums together – and we committed to doing it with intention and meaning.
This is how we did it…
We searched the web for medicine drum-making kits that was a sustainable source of hides and settled on this one.
We agreed to make it sacred and spacious by scheduling a whole day (so we wouldn’t feel the need to rush).
We soaked our hides (the face of the drum) the night before. I soaked mine in indigo to make mine a moon drum. I filled a bucket with water and added the dye and the hide, making a little ceremony out of it with sage and setting an intention for the drum.
All the women brought food homemade with love to nourish us throughout the day. One of the women even made us a delicious elixir with cacao to open our hearts and calm our hands.
Before we began our drum making, we took some time to go around and check in with each other. Each woman had 5-10 minutes to share how she was feeling and what was going on in her life. It’s a wonderful way of including each other in what’s going on with us, to laugh, to cry, and to ground us in the present moment.
We lit a candle, put our hands on our hides and gave thanks to the animal (the deer, the elk, the buffalo) that this hide belonged to – to honor its life and set the intention of doing that with each beat of the drum.
We set intentions for each of our drums – speaking them aloud and writing (or drawing) them on the inside of our drum frames. My intention was for this to be my moon drum and to represent the soft roar of feminine leadership I wanted to call in for myself and others each time it beats.
Then we began.
We had paper directions that got us started. Then we had to look up fuzzily shot tutorials on YouTube to keep us going. We cursed. We giggled. We worked in silence. We hummed along to our playlist.
Then it got hard.
We got confused, and a little paralyzed. We stopped. We texted our friend who had made 3 drums before and within 15 minutes she showed up at our doorstep with a drum (and some grapes) in her hands. She burned some sage and sang a song to us (with her drum) which immediately soothed us and had us diving in again to tie and tighten our drums.
“Ohhhh, this is the hardest part,” she said. “You’re getting close!”
We sighed, bowed our heads, and kept going.
She sweetly guided us back to focus and determination – having us pull harder, wrap tighter, continuously wetting the hide and sinew with a washcloth to prevent them from drying and hardening.
She kept saying “this looks amazing!’ whenever we noticed imperfections (like the mole on the buffalo hide, the way the indigo was smudging away and getting all over my hands, or the weird knot I had to make to salvage my sinew and move on to the next set of strings to tighten).
It was all perfect. We made our drums with our very own hands. It felt sacred.
And then we had to trust.
Trust our drums would dry and tighten enough over the next few days (they are a little flappy when you are finished). Trust ourselves not to touch them until they were dry. And to be grateful for the work, the toil, the sweat, and the joy of the whole process.
Afterwards, we stretched out our backs, hungrily ate more food, and drink hibiscus lemon honey tea to nourish ourselves after our long day. I went home and took a bath and crashed right into bed.
That was the sacred art of making in sisterhood. It felt like a beautiful way to honor, give reverence, feel gratitude, and also make my very own drum.
Have you ever stopped yourself from making something sacred because of the fears I listed? Or maybe there were other (somewhat valid) reasons? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments below!
And, if you’ve made a drum, I want to see it! Tag me @beccapiastrelli on Instagram with a picture of it.