As I sat in this workshop I felt tired, a little unwell and rather emotionless apart from the feeling of sadness that had been setting in more deeply over the last few weeks. This feeling had led me to contemplate changing the date of the workshop to when I felt ‘more happy’ or ‘was in a better place’ yet I felt guided to be here no matter how I was feeling. But because of the lack of clarity in my own spiritual connection over the last few days I had no expectation or idea of what my drum would be or what I would use it for.
I watched Jonathan work and teach us the method of drum making gripped by every detail. The respect he showed to the energy of the drum, the animal skin, the wood and all our guides I knew I was in the right place.
When it was our turn to make the drums I took a place at the table next to my shamanic guide and teacher, and my soul sister, but a feeling of confusion set in on where to sit. I was called over to collect my skin and felt confused again and found myself wandering around the table not knowing where to settle. One of the gentlemen on the workshop saw my confusion and warmly made a space and welcomed me. Yet I moved again. Eventually I settled in a place still feeling confused about whether this was the right place for me, whether I was meant to be at the other end with my soul sister. The people I was surrounded by showed me huge kindness and acceptance so I inevitably stayed put.
I walked over to collect the horse skin and two sat in water in the box – the top one looked beautiful in colour, gentle and even throughout, yet the one underneath called to me. It was tough, thick and roughly folded. It felt right so I took it.
As I worked with the drum, laying out the skin, blessing it, a beautiful rose quartz that my soul sister had been guided to bring especially for me that day, sat with me. I could feel the unconditional love the rose quartz was infusing the drum with and how it was connecting both the wood and the horse skin.
I began to lay out the horse skin and I felt a feeling of sadness come over me, a grief of the life that no longer was and tears sprang to my eyes, the feeling was all too familiar. I smoothed it out as much as possible but it was deeply creased in some areas. I continued anyway. I began the lacing at the back and felt guided to say my prayers as I worked. As I systematically slotted each lace through the hole and crossed back again, all I could think about was how this was so symbolic of our life. We walk a path to a goal and fumble our way through, then we balance, untwist, strengthen and continue to the next stage weaving a spiritual structure and this is simply the nature of life. I tightened the lacing when finished but still could not get the creases to come out or the skin to pull any further - it was content as it was.
Finally I had to come to tying the handle. I already knew I was not allowed to do the traditional cross handle symbolising the four directions of the earth that Jonathan had showed us. I was guided to do five but in myself I had decided on six. I asked Jonathan to help and when he asked me how I would divide the laces and although I am very good with maths I could not for the life of me seem to add up to sixteen! He very kindly wrote it down for me. I looked at the paper and it didn’t feel right. So I decided I would simply do what felt right and as I weaved and I crossed over I was guided to split the laces according to the desire of the drum. It simply would not let me do anything else – no plan or maths was allowed! Weavinf and twisting the handle all that kept going through my mind is I don’t care what anyone else thinks and screw the rules this is what feels right. I have no desire to fit in and this is pure creativity at its best. There was also a deeper sense that although the spiritual structure of the path we walk and the nature of life is set, what we choose to build from it is truly our own. And if we build nothing it can simply become a web of lies and deceit.
When I finished I realised I had ended up with a five armed handle. I also realised that the handle was no longer central it had moved over to the right. Yet as I turned over the finished drum, looking at the large creases still in the in one part of the skin, the deep folds around the hoop, the uneven five armed handle and the fact my drum was no longer round it had become an oval, all I felt was love and I could not stop admiring its beauty. I loved every single imperfection. Every single crease that should not have been there. Every single detail that did not work with the laws of symmetry. All I could see was beauty in the imperfections, the unique elements that made it mine.
With everyone finished we lined up our newly birthed drums next to each other. I took the time to look at the other drums and realised mine was the only horse skin – all the others were stags. All of the their skins had been pulled neatly over the front and the hoop, yet each one held its own beauty, its own energy, its own detailing in the handle and there were a few that spoke very strongly to me. They were all simply stunning.
A few others in the group saw mine and out of concern it wouldn't play well because of the deep creases still in the skin they told me my drum ‘wasn’t right’ and insisted that I must show Jonathan, so I did. As he quietly contemplated whilst looking at my drum I found myself explaining to him that I don’t care my drum isn’t normal and that I don’t even care if it doesn’t play well, it is still mine to be loved and that I unconditionally love my drum. Its imperfections are why I love it and what makes it mine. We decided to see if the skin would settle more as it dries over the next seven days.
After making beaters it was time to journey to connect with the spirit of the drum. As soon as the drumbeat began I found myself riding horse, a young pure white male and we were racing, running. I was riding but I was also being carried. It was a union with neither as the leader. I was being shown the strength of the animal that would carry us through and again I felt a certain sadness and grief of a life lost, yet I realised that this feeling was also a feeling I had been carrying myself over the last few weeks. We were then in a very small clearing in the woods and my drum rose in to the air as I sat crossed legged on the ground. It began to shine a beautifully large bright white light and span so I could see the back and I saw a star in the five armed handle. In that instant I understood that this drum was my guiding light, my guiding star on my journey enabling me to be able to do that for others. The drum told me that I was able to unconditionally love others including the drum itself and yet I struggle to show myself the same unconditional love and kindness during a time where I felt misshapen and almost broken. The drum showed me that I would not use it to clear away the darkness, I would use it to transmute the darkness into light – pure alchemy working with the five elements rather than the traditional four. It also showed me that without darkness there would be no light. The journey ended with the feeling that the drum is me.
On returning from the journey back into the workshop space I felt a deeper sense of love for the drum and held it lovingly in my hands - feeling a deep connection to the animal’s soul who had blessed me by choosing to walk this journey with me and the wood that had given its life to being the backbone of my star.
Jonathan explained that as the drum dries over the next seven days each stage, each day, it has something new to show you. Something new you will see in the skin which after the seven days when it is completely dry it will no longer be there and never be seen again. This resonated with me so strongly as I know that although this feeling of sadness will not last, each stage of it has something to show me, something to teach me, something spiritually invaluable that I could not learn with out the process of overcoming sadness.
After the workshop I went for a drink with my soul sister and I could feel my drum calling me from her room. As I drove home I felt the horse empower me and the drum speaking to me whilst propped up sitting in the front seat like an old friend.
Finally, at one o clock in the morning I had the quietness to be able to sit with the drum and really look at the detail. As I looked at the lacing and ran my hand around the hoop I heard ‘earth, moon, stars, sun’ relating to different sections of the lacing. The off centre position of the handle suits my arm length perfectly and I am convinced it will make it more comfortable for me to play. As I flipped it over to look at the face the white mark in the middle to me spoke the sign of being touched by angel, a pureness of the soul that can never be removed or unseen, where all the light comes from no matter how large or small. The creases have smoothed over yet there are still some gentle ripples which I don’t think will even out. They speak volumes to me, some creases we have experienced in our life don’t ever smooth out yet they are part of who we are and create an inner beauty and uniqueness of the soul. To me they are not a deformity they are a definition of the life lived, an experience and literally a new sound that can be played that sounds like no other part of the drum. It is what makes us different.
I decided it was time to sleep and for the first time in two weeks I dropped off instantly and had a restful deep sleep. The first thing I did in the morning was look at my drum when I woke – it pretty much near enough slept next to me. As I turn it over in my hands, again with the lacing I hear ‘earth, stars, sun, moon’. As I take a close look at the skin in the daylight the markings remind me of the constellations, the galaxy and an intergalactic planetry system. These are things I think about very rarely so it surprised me. The white mark still speaks like an angel to me, the markings of a God, of a higher vibrational energy. There are scratches on the drum that really concerned me as I wondered if I damaged it without realising yet I have come to accept that this is the way the skin is. Looking at it now it reminds me of the scratches and scars of life experience. Present yet completely imperceptible when making the drum and completely imperceptible to the sound of the drum. Almost irrelevant. The non-symmetrical roundness of my drum reminds me that the soul is infinite and its unity with god is ever present, yet the soul is totally unique in its shape. Both the soul and God are one, yet separate. The colour that is starting to just come through the skin just above the wooden hoop is a beautiful deep brown and there is a strong earthly sense of grounding. The deep folds around the edge reminds me that we are simply human, there is no perfect fit in life.
Today I have a feeling of peace and calm that I haven’t been able to find for weeks, even months. There is finally room in my heart for something else. With all the healing work I do on myself and others, it is the healing power of drum making that has given me this and I am eternally grateful to Jonathan for teaching it with such compassion and heart, to my soul sister as without her none of this would have been learnt with such love and to my guides for supporting me even when I can’t figure out how to support myself. Thank you.
If you would like to take part in a Drum Birthing Workshop have a look at Jonathan's website www.herondrums.co.uk