The Teachings of the Sacred Drum

By Patrick Pinson

When the sacred is removed, we lose touch with the natural. We lose touch with our natural rhythm, ourselves, each other and our creator. We forget that we are spiritual beings in a human experience. One tool that helps me remember that I am sacred is the drum. Making contact with a drum awakens our sacred. When I drum or make a drum, magic happens and the drum becomes my teacher.

Drumming is active meditation. When I take for granted the experience of making a drum, I am not being respectful to the spirits of the tree and animal I am working with. When I lead a drum making session, I tell the participants that the drum will teach us from the moment we sit down and begin to have a relationship with it. All of our blocks come up, such as perfectionism, blame, impatience, intolerance, envy, fear and pride.

A lady who had purchased a drum kit from us called from Illinois to inform me that her drumhead had a hole in it. I told her that holes don’t affect the drum’s voice and in fact most of my own personal drums have holes in them. The holes help me to remember that I have holes in me and that I am imperfect. The holes make the drum special and holy. The holes allow the air to pass through and create a special vibration. She balked. I told her that she would never find the “perfect” tree and yet all trees are perfect. She said she would think about that.

When I open to the holiness of the drum – the tree spirit and the spirit of the deer or elk, the magic begins to happen. The more I can be present in the moment, the more the drum’s medicine begins to work. I can control certain things when I make a drum, and some things I cannot change. I tell others that the voice will be just what they need and will constantly change just as we constantly change. My Native friends tell me that we were all born with a drum – our heartbeat. We hear the heartbeat of our mother in her womb, and the drum is the heartbeat of our Earth Mother. All of the rhythms of the drum are based on the heartbeat.

The drum is feminine; its origin lies with the goddesses. When men drum, they are grounding themselves, bringing the energy from our head down into the Earth. Drumming opens the feminine and, when I drum, I feel grounded. Thinking is a male, the north on the medicine wheel. Drumming creates balance, and I am both grounded and inspired.

When you awaken to and honor your rhythm through the drum, you awaken to inner healing which manifests outwardly to heal the planet. I feel the more drums that are made and played, the more healing will take place. Part of our rape of the Earth is our disconnection from our Mother Earth. Technology has looked at our planet as dead, as something to take from. Many men have been raised to be fiercely independent, to take from the women, to compete for and strive to get more and more of everything. Because of this attitude our planet is in crisis and we are at a crossroads. The drum connects us to the truth of the spirit that runs through all things. We are one voice and we are all one. Fear disconnects us; Drumming dissolves the fear.

Each drum has its own unique voice and vibration. I tell potential drum buyers that the drum is seeking them, as much as they are seeking the drum. If you listen and select the drum with both your left and right brain, with your total being, the connection will be made. Feel the vibration; hold the drum over your heart and direct the healing vibrations toward the muscles that protect and hold your love.

Each animal from which drums are made has its own medicine. Elk medicine comes from the west on the medicine wheel (the way I was taught). In the west are the thunder beings, the emotions and the element of water. Elk teaches perseverance and stamina to help us to heal the deep wounds to our inner child. The elk penetrates to our core, or gut, where we hold all of the “swallowed whole” values of our parents and teachers. Elk helps us let go to our healing tears and helps us grieve losses and go within. Elk helps us release to the void (often called the fertile void of our not-knowingness) of death. The warrior walks toward death not as an ending but as a gateway to a higher rebirth. When we are working on our dark sides, drumming with elk keeps us grounded in our ki – our center, our power.

Deer medicine touches and heals our hearts. The medicine of the north: the red road and the path of the heart. When we are healing our heartaches, heartbreaks, or opening the heart and learning to speak from the heart, drumming with deer is powerful medicine. Deer will open you to the higher Drum truth of the intention of your heart.

Our community at Cedar Mountain Drums constructs each drum with love, respect and prayer. We smudge the materials we use and offer tobacco to the spirits. Our hides are from hunters who bring them into the area service clubs who in turn process them into rawhide. Whenever possible, we go through these hides and select only the finest of them for our drums. We consider ourselves to be the stewards of our drums and honor their sacredness.

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