Unlike the European cultures where musical instruments carried a historical or personal value, within the traditional Native American cultures, spirituality was inexplicably intertwined with the bell, drum and rattle. These instruments were deemed to possess a life and persona of their own, which could be awakened when they were played. Furthermore they were instrumental in assisting an individual in centering and in their communication with the higher forms of wisdom within the spiritual realm.

My bell, drum and rattle speak to me, they speak as do my dreams and the five Great Nations speak. As I stroke and caress the drum, as I shake the bell and rattle the intensity of their communication increases. The more I listen the more intense their words, until I am carried away into an ecstatic magical realm. It is ecstatic simply because it is so gutturally, mentally overwhelming and exhilarating, it is magical simply because it is so natural.
It is natural and magical because they are simply a bell, drum and rattle
and I am just simply a listener that believes.

When the Great Spirit created this world a portion of the Great Spirit's essence was left within all that was created. Thus came into existence the five Great Nations. The Animal, Human, Mineral, Plant and Spirit Nations all can be sensed, all can be felt, all are part of the Circle of life and all have words to speak,
If we just chose to see and listen.

All my relations. I honor you in the circle of life that you journey with me. I am grateful for this opportunity to acknowledge your presence within this prayer....
To the Great Spirit, for the ultimate gift of life, I thank you.
To the Mineral Nation that has built and maintained my bones and all the foundations of life's experience, I thank you.
To the Plant Nation that sustains my organs and body and gives me The Sacred Smoke and The Healing Herbs, I thank you.
To the Animal Nation that feeds me from their very own flesh
and offers a loyal companionship in this my walk of life, I thank you.
To the Human Nation that shares my path as a soul upon the Sacred Medicine Wheel of Earthly life, I thank you.
To the Spirit Nation that guides me invisibly through the ups and downs of life
and for carrying the torch of light throughout the Ages, I thank you.
To the Four Winds of Change and Growth, I thank you.
To the seven sacred directions, to the North, South, East, West, Above, Below and deep within, I offer my words of thanks.
You are all my relations, without whom I could not live, nor exist. We are in the circle of life together, co-existing, co-dependent, co-creating our destinies. NO One, more important than the other. One Nation evolving from the other and yet each dependent upon the one above and the one below. All of us a part of the Great Mystery.

I Thank you all for this Gift of Life

Mitakuye Oyasin (Traditional Dakota Prayer)

The Native American religion is closely connected to the land in which they live and the supernatural that dwells therein. While there are many different Native American religious practices, most revolve around an omnipresent, invisible universal force. Native American spirituality is often characterized by Animism or Pantheism, with a strong emphasis on the importance of personal spirituality and its inter-connectivity with one's own daily life, and an even deeper connection within the natural and spiritual worlds. Their lives were steeped in Religious Ceremony and Spiritual power, that they believed, suffused the world. They believed that sacred spirits and supernatural forces could be found in all of the animate and inanimate. Through religious ceremonies, they attempted to harness the aid of these Spirits and forces to serve the interests of man. Which cumulated amongst the Dakota Sioux with the Drum Religion. This was a religious movement created to encourage a sense of unity amongst the Native peoples through ritual. These rituals included the playing and the keeping of the sacred drums and the passing on, of sacred knowledge. It has been said that the Native American can not survive without a drum, for it carries the heartbeat of the Indian Nation. It is also felt to carry the heartbeat of Mother Earth, and calls the spirits and nations together. Different Nations had different traditions about their drums and how to play them. So for brevity sake I am only talking about the Sioux and their drums.

According to stories that I remember from my youth, a Dakota woman called Wiyaka Sinte Win (Tail Feather Woman) was the originator of the Drum Religion and its rituals. The story goes, that while she was being pursued by The Isantanka (Big Knives)(US Soldiers) she hid in a lake under some lily pads. While she hid, she prayed and was visited by the Great Spirit who granted her the gift of the Drum's Sacred Teachings and Songs. At the heart of these teachings is the revered Dance Drum (see PowWow Music). This Drum is regarded and treated as a sacred living being. Whose care includes protecting it from touching the ground, keeping it properly covered when not in use, maintaining a light next to it at night and maintaining the proper reverence, respect and behavior while within its presence...

This 20 inch Shaman's Drum was obtained from Tachini Drums whose store is also located on eBay

This Drum is a symbolic marriage of the Animal and Plant Nations. The Birch tree provided the wood,
the mighty Elk provided the hide and lacing and the lowly Bee provided the sacred wax.
As the drummer uses the drum, it is endowed with his spirit, love, mentality, the oils of the drummers hands and the sweat of the drummers brow, all of this is absorbed into the hide and becomes an extension of the drummer. It is therefore understandable why many Native Americans do not allow anyone else to use their drums.
The wisdom of Elk includes:
Stamina, Strength and Sensual passion.
The wisdom of Bee includes:
Concentration, Prosperity, Reincarnation, Communication with the dead and Helping earth-bound spirits to move on to their proper place in time and space...

Anklet Bells - Ghungroo

The history of the sleigh bell goes back almost 2500 years to the time of the Roman Empire. During the Medieval Ages, the single bells, (which were usually silver or gold), would be mounted on the warhorses of Knights for decoration and ornamentation, which then became a symbol for the wealthy. Over time, these bells became good luck charms.
And were thought to protect people from disease and evil. To the Native American they were believed to bring good luck or fortune.
Also they protected people from disease and drove away evil.

For Native Americans these bells are worn as either bracelets or anklets (in place of the leg bell harness) and are a symbolic marriage of the Animal, Mineral and Plant Nations.
The cloth is velvetine (cotton and silk), the mineral Nation provided the sleigh bells, rivets and buckles and the Deer provided the leather.
The wisdom of Deer includes:
Ability to listen, Connection to Mother Earth, Gentleness in word, thought, touch and deed, The Power of gratitude and giving.
Dance Bells may be obtained from Amazon, Arts Impex, Crazy Crow Trading Post, Ebay and Grey Owl Indian Crafts

If you love the sound of the Native American Rattle, you will definitely benefit from adding a rattle to your drumming circle. Rattles are a Native American icon representing the Indigenous Nations and their unique culture. They are also among the most popular musical instruments utilized within and for the spiritual connection with the creator as well as for use within their public gatherings.

As you study the intriguing history of the Native American Indians and their use of musical instruments, you will find that the Rattles was symbolic among the Indigenous Nations and were essential to the ceremony in which they are used. As with the Bells and Drums it is said that Rattles symbolize only the animal, plant, and mineral Nations. BUT, in actuality they are the unifying force for all five Nations. Each rattle is made up of 3 nations, (The Animal, Mineral and Plant). The Animal Nation is exemplified in the form of the container and decorative designs of the rattle. The Mineral Nation is represented by the rocks or crystal that are used to create the sound or also by the paint used for the artwork depicted upon the rattle. And, the plant nation is symbolized by the handle.

When studying the uses of Native American rattles and how they are played, you will learn that virtually every Native American Nation and culture included the rattle within their ceremonies. There are many different types of Native American rattles, together with the popular gourd rattles and turtle shell rattles, the simple rawhide rattle is the most commonly used in Native American Nations. The images (the animal, plant, abstract design, ect) used in the artwork placed upon the rattles, differ with each nation. You will find it interesting that the different nations including the Apache, Cherokee, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, Seneca, Sioux and Zuni can all be identified by the variations of the beautiful art on their hand crafts. One thing these nations do have in common is that they all play rattles in their many ceremonial events and as part of their music, dance, medicine and spirituality...

Buffalo Drum Rattle
These Buffalo Drum Rattles are duplications of those used by the Sioux
The Buffalo Drum Rattle is also known as the Pellet Drum, Monkey Drum or Rattle Drum and is a member of the percussion Membranophone Family. This classification is characterized by their construction and the manner in which they are played. They have two heads (either a single double-headed drum or two hemispherical single-headed drums joined together with the heads facing outward), and two pellets, each connected by a cord to the drum.
Drum Rattles are affixed to or pierced by a vertical rod or pole, and, depending on the instrument's size, the rod or pole is twisted either with one or both hands or between the palms, causing the pellets to strike the drum heads.

The Buffalo Drum was not only covered with Buffalo Hide (Bison), It was used in a ceremonial Buffalo Dance conducted for the four day period of the buffalo hunt.
This ceremony promised the Buffalo Herd that only that which was needed would be taken and thanked the bison for that which they provided.
In addition to the ceremonial use the Drum Rattle was also a classic toy used by Native American children.
Not many of the North American Nations used the Owl Feather, But for the Sioux they were highly prized and valued.
The painted turkey feathers were obtained from Boonslick Trading Post located on Ebay who will also do custom feather requests
(feathers also may be found on Crazy Crow, The Fabulous Feather Store or Lovely Feather Craft Store on Ebay).
The rest of the rattles materials may be obtained through Centralia Fur & Hide, The Leather Guy or Crazy Crow Trading Post.
Or you can obtain an Indian Drum Rattle, Monkey Drum or a Chinese Drum Rattle on Amazon or Ebay and recover & modify it.

The Child's Drum Rattle is composed of Brain Tanned Buffalo Hide, Wolf Fur and Lady Amherst Pheasant Feathers.
The 2 faces represent the Spirit and the Natural Worlds. There are 13 tacks per face, representing the number of moons within the year.

The Buffalo Drum Rattle is composed of Brain Tanned Buffalo Hide, Deer Hide Lacing, Horse Tail Scalplocks, Wolf Fur,
Lady Amherst Pheasant Feathers and painted Turkey Feathers (Imitating Owl Feathers).

The wisdom of Buffalo includes:
Abundance, Challenge, Courage, Earth Creativity, Feminine courage, Formulating beneficial plans, Generosity,
Giving for the greater good, Hospitality, Knowledge, Sharing work, Strength and Survival.
The wisdom of Deer includes:
Ability to listen, Connection to Mother Earth, Gentleness in word, thought, touch and deed, The Power of gratitude and giving.
The wisdom of Horse includes:
Power, Stamina, Endurance, Faithfulness, Astral and Ethereal travel, Interspecies communication,
Control of the environment and the Freedom to travel free.
The wisdom of Wolf includes:
Steadfastness, protection of self and family, Social and familial values, Ability to pass unseen,
Death and rebirth, Spirit teaching, Guidance in dreams and meditations.
The wisdom of Turkey includes:
Harvest bounties, Honoring the Earth Mother, Sacrifice of self for a higher purpose and Understanding the gift of giving.
The wisdom of Owl includes:
Comfort with shadow self, Freedom, Keen sight, Link between the dark unseen world and the world of light, Messenger of secrets and omens,
Moon magic, Secrecy, Seeing behind masks, Shape-shifting, Silent and swift movement and Stealth in hunting.
The wisdom of Pheasant includes:
Movement through ego, Using color to heal, Expansion of self awareness and Understanding the use of ritual.

Lap Rattle

This Lap Rattle consists only of the Animal Nation. It is the symbolic marriage of the Deer, Tortoise and Wolf. It is the symbolism of those three members of the animal nation that provides the additional links to the plant and mineral nations. The Deer provided the leather.,
The Tortoise provided its shell and the lordly Wolf provided its fur, jaw and teeth.
The wisdom of Deer includes:
Ability to listen, Connection to Mother Earth, Gentleness in word, thought, touch and deed, The Power of gratitude and giving.
The wisdom of Turtle/Tortoise's includes:
Patience, Psychic protection, Self-reliance, Tenacity, Symbol of Mother Earth, Connection with the center and Navigation skills.
The wisdom of Wolf includes:
Steadfastness, protection of self and family, Social and familial values, Ability to pass unseen,
Death and rebirth, Spirit teaching, Guidance in dreams and meditations..

Bell Gourd Rattle

This is a Cherokee beaded, Bell Gourd Rattle (also called a Dance or PowWow Rattle) and is a symbolic marriage of the Animal, Mineral and Plant Nations.
The Animal Nation consists of the Mallard who donated its feathers, the Horse who furnished the hair for the tassel and the Dear who furnished the buckskin
The Mineral Nation provided the beads. And the Plant Nation furnished the Gourd and shaft.
You can obtain a kit from Crazy Crow if you wish to make your own.
The wisdom of Deer includes:
Ability to listen, Connection to Mother Earth, Gentleness in word, thought, touch and deed, The Power of gratitude and giving.
The wisdom of Horse includes:
Power, Stamina, Endurance, Faithfulness, Astral and Ethereal travel, Interspecies communication,
Control of the environment and the Freedom to travel free.
The wisdom of Mallard includes:
Grace on water, Seeing clearly through emotions, Spirit helper of mystics and seers, Water energy...

Quartz Shaman's Rattle

This Quartz Shaman's Rattle was obtained from Steven Kauder
whose store is located at The Shaman's Market on the World Wide Web

The basic rattle was obtained from Steven Kauder. I have added the Wolf Fur, Horse Tail Scalp Locks and Crow Beads. What is unique about this rattle is that it is a Sparking-Glowing Rattle. This Glow, Sparkle comes about as Quartz points are vigorously rubbed together. This is known as Triboluminescence or Mechanoluminescence. This is the rattle that would be used for the Shaman's nighttime ceremonies.
This rattle is a translucent horsehide rattle filled with quartz crystals that produces brief flashes of light in a dark environment.
Initially it takes vigorous shaking in a darkened environment, to start the glowing sparkles. The more humid the air the longer you need to shake.
The wisdom of Wolf includes:
Steadfastness, protection of self and family, Social and familial values, Ability to pass unseen,
Death and rebirth, Spirit teaching, Guidance in dreams and meditations.
The wisdom of Horse includes:
Power, Stamina, Endurance, Faithfulness, Astral and Ethereal travel, Interspecies communication,
Control of the environment and the Freedom to travel free...

Peruvian Rattle

This is a hand-carved gourd rattle that was made in Central Peru.
This particular Rattle came from the gift shop in Machu Picchu.
But the Hatun Q'ero Shaman's Market of Peru can supply them.

These gourds are grown in the warm central valleys of the Andes, the costal oasis and in the jungles. After harvesting, they are thoroughly dried, skinned and then sanded smooth. The designs are carved on the gourd freehand, creating many intricate and fascinating designs. These are hand painted and can feature an old traditional design (flowers and animals)(such as a condor, dophin, eagle, hummingbird, jaguar, llama, parrot, serpent, toucan or wolf) or activities of everyday life.
Cleaning is simple, all you need is furniture polish or lemon oil.
Gourd carving is one of the oldest art forms in Peru and dates back to 2,500 BC...

Huichol Rattle

These are cultural relics from the Huichol Nation (Wixáritari the people) of Mexico.
They are traditional Shaman's rattles, The first represents Tayaupa "Father Sun". The Sun Brings light and illumination to the world. Tayaupa is father sun, master of the heavens, and his wife is the Eagle, mother of the sky and goddess of life. The Huichols believe all living things receive their power from the sun, and that He guarantees healthy crops and abundant food. The second is Coatl the Snake who Instructs the shamans in healing. The rattle on the Rattlesnake is believed to be the tongue of the greatest shaman of all, which is the fire god. Snakes may also be associated with the rain goddess. The Mother Goddess of the Sea is pictured as a huge coiled serpent forming herself into a cyclical storm cloud from which rain falls. The Huichols believe that rain itself consists of millions of small snakes. Snakes are valued for their work in the cornfields where they eat the rodents and pests harmful to the corn harvest. The third is Tatei Werika The "Condor/Eagle" Believed to be the embodiment of a goddess known as Mother of the Sky and Queen of Heavens. Huichols admire Werika and Tatei and consider the Eagle and Condor to be the most magnificent among all birds.
These rattles are made with a dried gourd which is situated atop a stick measuring approximately 12" in height (the gourd measuring an additional 4") and a small plume of feathers, which adds another 2 inches. These Rattles consists of the Plant Nation and the Animal Nation (which has donated feathers from two different birds).
Religion permeates all aspects of Huichol life, and most of these people make no real distinction between the sacred and everyday worlds. For the Huichol, their religion is life itself. Within their beliefs and rituals, they petition their deities for protection from the dangers of the natural and supernatural worlds. Their next request of succor is for the mundane necessities of life (sun and rain for the crops, successful deer hunts, fertility, good health, and long life). Within in the Huichol pantheon the gods embody and personify nature in all of its manifestations, with the three oldest being Takutsi (Great Grandmother Moon), Tatewari (Grandfather Fire) and Takutsi Nakawé (Grandmother of Growth and Germination, She who created the world). The large company of deities includes the sun, rain, wind, ocean, earth, and deer. Artistically rendered Votive offerings are made as visual prayers to the deities and to communicate their most inner needs and desires.
Rattles are known as "Kytsa", "The Voice of the Spirit", and are used during many different kinds of Huichol ceremonies, especially the Drum & Harvest ceremony in the fall.
Crafted entirely from a Dried gourd with painted or incised designs. These are filled with dried seeds from special plants, which are attached to carved Brazil-wood handles.
Hearing the sound of the rattle helps to balance the spirit and helps ceremonial participants go through the "Nierika" "The Doorway to the Realm of the Gods".

Rattles approximately like these, may be obtained from Dance of the Deer Foundation and The Shaman's Store...

free counters

Copyright © 2005-2017
Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute the documents of this Web Page
Under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
As long as credit is given to this Web Page and its Owner, this information may be disseminated...