Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Thrifty Mystic

Of all the qualities shamans tend to possess, I believe that resourcefulness is one of the greatest. And why is that? Because, as shamans, we spend a large amount of our spiritual lives cultivating our ability to 'see'. Over the years I've learned time and time again, that whenever we have need of something the universe will provide it for us. We simply need the eyes to see those solutions. And so, in the spirit of resourcefulness I've created a short guide that I hope can help when you're without your arsenal of tools and helpers, or for those us who find ourselves strapped for cash from time to time.

If you've just discovered the wonderful world that is the shaman's journey, you've surely spent atleast a few hours salivating over the wide array of tools shamans commonly use. The following are a few rather inexpensive ways to make these tools for yourself. (So tell Mr. Piggy Bank he's safe...for now.)

The Drum- Of all the tools used, the drum is one of the most common.Providing a wide variety of functions for the shaman. We use it to call upon Spirit, journey into the Otherworlds, for prayer, etc. But, for a good frame drum you can spend anywhere from $60-$200, depending on how its made, who's making it and what it's made of. So what can you do in the meantime while you're saving up? For about $10, you can make a square framed drum out of wood, nails, and packing tape. Click the link below to watch a tutorial on how to make one of these creative instruments for yourself.
Thanks to Charles Gilchrist and BaBa Jubal for making this wonderfully instructive video.

The Rattle- Rattles, just like drums, have a multitude of functions. Some of these functions are healing, conversing with the spirits of a place, and preparing ceremonial ground. They can be made from many materials like gourds, large cowrie shells, and rawhide. Depending on the type of rattle, you can shell out $20- $100. But you can visit your local dollar store and buy a large dog's chew toy (made from rawhide) for about $5. To use the rawhide simply soak it in water until it softens and then cut out your rattle head. Then scour your home for a hammer, a nail, wood glue (or any other heavy duty glue), string, a stick, and something to fill your rattle with like rocks, shells, or beads.

Medicine Bags/Bundles and Mestanas- The medicine bag is a well known icon of the shaman, it a sacred and incredibly personal reflection of his or her spirit. As are his or her medicine bundles and mesas. I combined these sacred obects due to a great similarity in the materials used to make or aquire the fabric or leather. One very easy method of saving money on supplies is to shop at your local goodwill, consignment stores, and flea markets. Where you can pick up a leather jacket or purse or even placemats for a few dollars, and then simply dissamble them into raw materials. Another great idea that is completely free, is to call local interior design stores and ask if they have any upholstery samples or sample books they would like to get rid of. Finally, you can always make your own cloth using a simple cardboard loom. Where you can weave your own designs out of yarn or even those old clothes hanging the back of your closet.

The Flute- Flutes are an instrument of the soul, giving voice to the music that lies in the heart of the shaman. Often these are made from river cane, bamboo, or cedar, which can cost anywhere from $20-$130. But until you save up the money to buy one of those exquisite love flutes, you can thank the Physics Department of Michigan Technilogical University for creating an easy to follow tutorial that can use to make a PVC flute for around $5. Click the link below to get started.

Smudge Sticks- Made of various types of sages, smudge sticks are a staple for most shamans. Used mainly for cleansing and purifaction, we rarely start a ceremony without them. But what happens when you don't have them? One very simple solution is to use Pine needles. Pine has been used by many different traditions to cleanse ceremonial ground and participants. Just gather the dry and seasoned needles that have fallen around the base of the tree. Once you have them, you can tie this small bundle with another pine needle and light it. Forgot your lighter too? No worries, you can use a small branch from this sacred tree to sweep the area and brush off the dense energies of anyone in attendance.

Offerings- Most shamans keep a small pinch of tobacco on their person as a sacred giveaway, or offering to any spirit we may come across. However if you can't get your hands on tobacco for whatever reason, you can always use corn meal. And if nothing else, you can pluck a hair from your head, offering a piece of yourself in return for any teaching you may have recieved.

I hope these few tips will help as you walk your path. Be sure to look in the coming weeks for my new Build-a-long project series, where I will show how to construct various shamanic tools and ceremonial items.

Please feel free to email me at with any questions or with subjects you would like to be covered in my blog.

Mitakuye Oyasin (We Are All Related)

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic read! I never thought of softening up chewtoy rawhide to work with, that is a wonderful tip. Love the pine needle suggestion as well :)

    I was talking with another shaman friend a while back, about tobacco and cornmeal offerings. She makes an offering every morning, and we got to talking. I never really felt the connection with cornmeal, but for me rice is the staple offering that works.