Across all time and in every culture, persons of power have traveled to alternate realities on the vibrations of a journey drum.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Using sailor's ropework to decorate a drumstick

This post continues my story of how I felt, wrap and finish a drumstick for my shamanic frame drums.  After the wool felt sleeve is dry I secure it with a band of plant-based glue  in preparation for the next step, which involves a circle of smoke-tanned leather and a pair of very sharp scissors.

The leather needs to be cleaned and well finished on both sides.  Any fiber or irregularities left on the skin will cause the thong to have weak sections, and I will need a length of leather that is thin yet even in thickness and sturdiness.

I cut 10 feet of  thong to cover 5 inches of drumstick.  I learned these calculations from my favorite book of ropework projects:  Des Pawson's Knot Craft.  I am going to use St. Mary's hitching to cover the center section of this drumstick, so I also cut a second thong of 5 feet. 

I begin with a constrictor knot in the middle of the long piece of thong that will also hold the end of the shorter piece of thong in place. 

There are now three lengths of thong on the right side of the stick.  St. Mary's hitching is made by always making the hitch from the top strand, with all hitches going in the same direction.  As I wrap I keep the hitches tight and each strand of leather snug against the previous ones so the resulting pattern is without loose places or gaps. 

I think St. Mary's hitching is the more unusual looking of the two patterns I use: hard to figure out how its done and yet easy to create.  I like that combination.

Moku hitching is made by dividing one thong into two equal lengths, beginning with a constrictor knot, and then hitching alternate strands in opposite directions. 

I'll conclude this photo album another time with a description of how I finish the handle of the drumstick.  You can see these and other drumstick styles by going to the Journey Oracle website or my webstore on Etsy.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Making a felted drumstick

This photo album will show how I make a felted drumstick for my shamanic frame drums. Unwashed wool that has lots of lanolin works best.  This wool is from the Falkland Islands and some of the best I have used.  Maybe it is because the sheep protect themselves from the cold with lots of oil.

 First I card the wool and peel off each section, setting these aside until I have 6-7 lengths with which to form the head.

Next the wool sections are laid over a hardwood dowel that has its ends rounded and is sanded along its length,  At this stage everything looks quite fragile.

As more and more pieces of wool are added and the wool is pressed with my hands, the shape begins to resemble a drumstick, but of something I would like for a special dinner.

Once the wool is shaped, and I can feel that the thickness on the tip and sides is about the same density, I gather a boiling kettle of water, a stone, dish soap, and the drumstick on a old broiler pan.

This is the scary part!.  It seems that all my hard work to shape the wool has disappeared into soap and water. In fact, this is the scary part.  If the wool wraps around itself and folds over, it will felt to itself instead of into the shape I want--making creases and lines in the finished felt.

As soon as I can tolerate the heat, I use my fingers instead of the stone to push the wool into the stick. The hot water causes the wool to shrink, and the liquid soap causes the fibres to slip past each other.

At some point I cut off the bottom length of wool that stretches down the stick as I squeeze.

A nice shape begins to emerge in the soapy hot water.  Getting to this stage takes me about 1 hour and one full kettle of water. 

The last step is rinsing out the soap with cold water and lots of squeezing, not twisting.  As the soap leaves the felt becomes more and more compressed and tightly fitted to the stick.  

The felt and the stick dry for about two days before I use a felting needle to tighten the fibre even more.  I'll make another photo album of how I use leather and sailor's knot patterns to wrap and decorate the center section of the drumstick.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Drum with wolf painting

This new painted shamanic drum from the Journey Oracle has always been called Old Sister, even before I saw who Old Sister was.  A wolf.  So why is a wolf the Old Sister?  What is the symbolic meaning of wolves?

 I understand that wolves are our oldest companions and teachers.  They symbolize the essence of a wild un-tamed spirit. Wolves are highly intelligent, will avoid aggression if possible, and take care of each other with devoted loyalty.  They are a symbol of an intact wholesome relationship with the wild.

So this is our old sister, singing us back to the mystery of our earliest memories, when humans and creatures sang together.

The interlacement pattern on the back of the drum is also an "old sister."  The Pentacle is the most revered of all esoteric symbols,  and in ancient times meant "life" or "health."  The Earth Mother herself gives us the sign of the pentacle in a transversely cut apple core.

This pattern of sailor's whipping combines French hitching with a sinnet design to create a practical and artful way of holding the interwoven stars.  The smoke-tanned leather brings back ancient memories of campfires in the deep woods.

In the voice of this drum Shamanism and the Old Religion are combined to help us find the way back to our wild and spiritual family.

14" frame drum
blacktail deer hide, spruce wood
cedar fittings, smoke tanned leather


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If this is your Old Sister, visit my Web Store at or contact Kristen at

Listen to this drum being played with a felted drumstick by clicking on this link:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New drumstick with rattle from Journey Oracle

I have been building drumsticks for my shamanic frame drums for many years, and just like the interlacement patterns on the backs of my shaman drums, my drumsticks keep becoming more elaborate.

 Adding the felted beater head changed the range of and quality of drum sounds.  Now my drumsticks have two heads--one of wool and the other of padded smoke-tanned leather.

Next I added different styles of sailor's hitching on the stick shaft, which is both decorative and also carries the memory of those who were willing to journey away from land into the unknown.

Now I am experimenting with adding rattles to the drumstick.  This set of 5 deer toe bones is on a removable collar that can be used, re-positioned or removed, depending on the drummer's intention. Five represents to me the five layers of time as taught by Martin Prechtel.

This means the sound, which  is a quiet clicking accompaniment to the harmonics of the drum, is traveling through all time. As if a snake companion was sounding its warning of approaching healing and transformation.

If you would like me to design a custom drumstick for you, contact Kristen at  See more of my drums and the Journey Oracle cards at

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walking horse shamanic frame drum

This new 14" drum from the Journey Oracle--of blacktail doe hide on a spruce wood frame is special for lots of reasons.  I very rarely receive a doe skin from the Cortes Island hunters who bring me hides.  Doe hide is much thinner and so the overlay of harmonics is quite amazing.

This wonderful horse has been present to my gaze since the drum first dried, but I could not figure out how she was standing. This is because she is not standing at all, but walking right out of the Mystery toward the drummer.  Yes, I know horses' eyes do not look forward, but spirit horses can look in any direction they want.

The interlacement pattern on the reverse of the drum is the Octagram.  Barbara Walker says this"gateless design is achieved by extending all eight sides of the two squares until they meet at the points of an eight pointed star.  On contemplation it seems mysterious that a figure with an even number of termini should be formed of a continuous line, which may account for the magical implications so often drawn from the Octagram."  

This motif  is said to be a symbol of regeneration.

14" spruce wood frame
Blacktail doe hide
Cedar fittings
elk leather whipping

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New drums from Journey Oracle

Here are two new frame drums from the Journey Oracle.  Before I paint a frame drum I pay attention to the story in the deerskin, and also to the choices I make while assembling the drum.  In this case, the story of two drums in one deer skin.  This is very rare since the deer must be big, long bodied and young--not a usual combination for our small Cortes Island blacktail deer.  The deerskin also had quite a few scratches on the hide, the result of the animal rubbing against trees.  This was an interesting connection to the image I saw when I first gazed at the inner side of the raw hide, before I began to remove the hair and flesh, and saw the image of a tree trunk with deer teeth marks on its bark.  So the deer "playing" the tree is a strong message for me.

The last time I made two drums from one skin was to create a pair of drums called water sister and lightening brother, who in their images told part of the story of the Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun, written by Martin Prechtel. In their deeply patterned surfaces these drums are also joining together to tell a story and I find myself calling them old sister and young brother.

The image of a rattlesnake is quite clear to me in young brother.  Find the three rattles in the lower center and you too will see the snake coiling upon itself in a tight ball of energy. What a powerful symbol of healing and transformation.

Old sister is more of a puzzle.  I see the face of an old woman with a sweet grandmotherly smile in the left center, but what is she holding? I think this is Ixchel, the Mayan Jaguar Goddess of Midwifery, so then she is likely holding a rabbit.  And if this is so, and the rabbit is food for the rattlesnake, then the two drums together tell a story of regeneration--of death and rebirth--in both heaven and earth.

The interlacement patterns on the back of these two drums echo this message.  The old sister drum has a pentacle flower, which represents heaven and earth, while the young brother drum has a handfast of the magic hexagram, which represents protection from spiritual danger.

I think, sometimes, that the most fun of painting a drum is before I paint a frame drum.

14" frame drum of blacktail deer and Spruce wood
Cedar and copper fittings
Magic Hexagram interlacement pattern
$300. unpainted
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12" frame drum of blacktail deer and Spruce wood
Cedar and copper fittings 
Pentacle Flower interlacement pattern
$250.00 unpainted
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If one, or both, of these drums are yours, email Kristen at

Learn more about Kristen's drums at

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How I make a frame drum

I just finished a 19 image photo album on my Journey Oracle page on facebook showing how I make a frame drum.  Here are some of the highlights.

A frame drum has humble and yet powerful beginnings in a bath of "hot lime" and cold water.

I include pictures of me using a break knife and an ulu for preparing the hide, and show how I cut out the drum head.

I even share a secret for finishing the drum hoop to keep the dried drum skin from buzzing when played for the shamanic journey.

I demonstrate the most important first cut that fits the skin to the hoop and "sets the drum voice."

There are lots of images of constructing the back of the drum: punching holes and lacing thongs to anchor the back of the drum to the cedar withie that keeps the drum skin stable and balanced on the hoop.

Even when completely dry, the drum is not complete without the interlacement pattern I weave inside the cedar ring that becomes the hand hold for the drummer.

See the full story of how the Cloud Drum was made on facebook.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

new Cloud Drum from the Journey Oracle

I have just finished a new shamanic journey drum that appears to be made of the clouds.  The surface of the skin is a rich blend of transparent areas mixed with opaque patches--just like the clouds beginning to appear during these late August summer days.  It has hazy gold light on the edges, reminding me of the way the dust of high summer filters the sunlight into golden shafts this time of year.

Weaving the interlacement pattern into the back of the drum became quite a complicated task.  I finish each drum by creating a pattern using the same number of thongs that fasten the hide to the cedar ring--for this new drum the number is 11. Although I was able to make the pattern from a single length of thong, which is important because an interlacement is continuous so the eye travels its complexity without a pause, the resulting spaces were too narrow.  The addition of a five sided rawhide rope to pull open the shape unexpectedly created another whole level of interconnection.

In fact, the resulting pattern is so complex that I have been unable to wrap the thongs with leather hitching which is my usual way of finishing the back fastening of my drums.  And yet when I looked closely though the window-like opening in the center, I felt I was looking though to the sky with the clouds parting to show its face of eternal blue.  This airy web is just right.



17" BC spruce wood frame
Cortes Island Blacktail deer

$350.00 unpainted
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see more of my shaman drums on