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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

New shamanic drum with Fox medicine

Some drums seem to paint themselves.  I wrote earlier in a Journey Oracle blog about how this drum might belong to Coyote, but Wolf's little brother is who came through the raw earth pigments and naturally patterned deer skin.
Bobby Lake-Thom writes that Fox is a good power and guardian who can bring warning of danger and sickness approaching.  He says that "Fox is clever, intelligent, a good hunter and a wise friend.  He also represents pride, regality, and loyalty."

On closer look the somewhat ominous glance becomes more playful, like a good companion ready for a romp in the meadows beside the trail during a shamanic journey.

The nine pointed Star of the Muse is a symbol of inspiration, of breathing in the powers of speech and poetry.  This originally female symbol is a balance to the male symbol of the hunter and guardian.

And yet, something beautiful to hold on to does not lessen the certainty that something wild is coming with us on this journey into Mystery.  Listen to this Fox Medicine drum to begin your journey.

Fox Medicine Drum
17 " BC Spruce wood frame
Cortes Island Blacktail deer hide
cedar fittings
Double holdfast of Star-of-the-Muse interlacement pattern
with smoke-tan leather hitching


If this is your drum contact Kristen at

Friday, September 20, 2013

Coyote's favorite drum

I am working on a new shaman drum, and although I don't usually like to show my shamanic art before it is finished, I just couldn't wait to share what I'm making and seeing.  This interlacement pattern is called the Star of the Muses and is a triple trinity created from three interlaced triangles.  But unlike a true interlacement pattern that is made from a continuous line, this one is in three parts.  And here is where Coyote came in.

In a way I will probably not be able to replicate again, I found that if I also wrapped the hoop at the same time that I wrapped the pattern, I could keep making the triangles with one thong.  I have been reading the books of Bobby Lake-Thom and in Spirits of the Earth, he shares many coyote stories in which this most ancient creator and trickster animal is full of magic, special powers and teachings.

 Also very powerful is the Mannaz symbol formed by wrapping the intersecting lines.  This is a runic sign of creation that joins the male and female principles together, therefore standing for the "togetherness" of humanity. 

My favorite discovery was seeing Coyote himself in the face of this new journey drum.  I find this quite amazing as I have not yet begun to paint the hide and yet there he is, his face looking straight out from the upper center of the drum, with the long curve of his neck to the left, as if he were just looking back over his shoulder at me, to see if I was following the path of magic he was revealing.  Can you see Coyote?

If this is your drum
contact Kristen at

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Meaning of animals painted on drums

I have recently been reading the books of Bobby Lake-Thom, and enjoying looking at the meaning of animals painted on my journey drums from the view of his teaching. Since I both paint a drum for a specific person who has already purchased the frame drum, and also paint unsold drums when a creature shows itself, I realize that my drums are signs and symbols carrying messages in an ancient language for the folks that are attracted to them.

This drum, painted for a young woman asking to recenter her life in her family more than in her schooling, is perhaps working with the vulture's skill at warning of interruptions or problems forthcoming in order to make more clear and confident decisions.  

This quite amazing drum painting called "water sister" was painted by enhancing with a few marks of color the figure and fish already strongly in the drum skin.  Water is the symbol of the West and is the sign of our physical aspect.  These fish are abundant and varied and are a sign of physical plenty. In fact, the man who purchased this drum also bought a second one!

The fox in this drum painting is both a good power and a bad sign according to Lake-Thom.  The fox is clever, intelligent and a wise friend whose power and spirit can be used to reverse the message of danger and sickness it brings.  

I wonder if the seal is an animal power whose spirit is related to the otter, dolphin and porpoise. These other water creatures bring wealth, playfulness and happiness.  Certainly the seal adds a love of community and time spent just 'hanging out' with family and friends.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Drum for Shaman training

Before I began painting this journey drum for the woman who ordered it, she asked where she might find shamanic training.  I suggested we look to the drum first; and this is who appeared.  To my understanding, this image is a beautifully articulate answer.

I see that we are to bring the child eyes of engaged curiosity and old wisdom to our search for shamanic training.  We are to see clearly what is offered, as well as gaze beyond the personalities and conditions we find to the larger truth of the training for the well-being of all. 

During shamanic training we are being asked to listen to the voice of Nature, to the songs of the other than human creatures and forces.  This painted drum is showing that we are not to value only the "big" energies of the animal and bird chiefs, but that every creature has its unique way of singing that will become a gift of wisdom when we bring a child-like innocence and listen with a prayerful attitude.
This upturned gesture is a way that some indigenous people hold their hands when praying--to show that there is no blood from incorrect action staining their skin. 

What does it mean to "hold our tongue?"  I see this gesture as one of humility.  When we receive shamanic training from nature, we are not to use that understanding to show off or claim the insights make us more important or valuable than others.

During our shamanic training, even while our feet are moving forward on our path, we are firmly attached to the ground.  At every step we are asking, "Does this teaching grow corn?  Does this way of learning create healing to feed the Holy?"

I have been making shamanic drums since 1986, but rarely have I experienced a drum be such a clear Oracle for life's journey into the Shaman's realm.  Thanks, Mary Lou.   

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A drum for mystery

I have made more than one hundred drums, and very rarely a drum is for mystery more than for humans.  This drum began as an custom order for a First Nations woman who occasionally was a guest performer with M’Girl.   She preferred an antler handle to the crossed-stick holder at the back and so the drum came home to me. 

This spirit animal and eagle came to the drum’s face when I first painted the hide.   Although I have never been in a place of uncertainty with who I am painting and how—this creature would not take an ordinary reality form, but continued to shift between a bear and a wolf.  

After the drum was returned I decided to redo the image and discovered I could not remove it from the deerskin—the earth pigment had become a tattoo.  This deer was old; its skin crossed with scars and patterns of scratches.  The strange creature and its bird companion began to look like some of the oracle cards I have painted for the Journey Oracle deck: shadowy figures shifting in and out of recognition.

The drum went out again to a new person who respected it deeply but found she could not live with it.  It started on the wall in the bedroom—which is a great place to store a drum because of the quiet energy and lower temperature—but soon the drum was down the stairs into the living room and then out by the door in the entry way.  Each time the woman could still feel the drum’s energy moving, as if in a continual shape shifting.   And so the drum came home to me.

The painting continues to alter its appearance as if in continual patterns of light and shadow.  I continue to feel unsettled about the creatures, wanting to re-establish the painting but not ever quite doing so.  The drum’s voice is deep and rich, as old deer skins often are, and yet I do not consider it one of the “good horses” in my shamanic drumming herd.  If you think this might be your drum, it might be wise to reconsider.

If you would like further conversation about this drum
email Kristen at

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to paint a shamanic frame drum

When I paint a shamanic frame drum, the first thing I do is not have a plan for what to paint.  I let the drum skin show me, by gazing while in a light trance into its dried surface, looking for the eyes of something from the other side looking back at me.

My painting on deer skin is done with raw earth pigments. This is because these natural earth powders stain the skin in subtle hues without covering up the variations of color and pattern in the hide.  When I first began painting drums I used pigments from Lee Valley Tools and also raw potter's glazes, but now I use pigments from The Earth Pigment Company in Cortaro, Arizona.

Next in my painting on the rawhide drum, I try not to paint the creatures who are showing themselves to me, but instead to paint the background.  This feels like creating a shadow painting of colored dust behind the human and other than human beings.  With the exception of the eyes, I only indicate shapes and lines in the interior of figures in the most minimal way.  In this way they mostly present themselves.

The most challenging skill for me when painting a shamanic image on a frame drum is to not determine the arrangement and the relationship of the creatures.  This beautiful new drum is a perfect example.  For many days the large bird was clear, but what was beneath its outstretched wing?  When I finally saw the foal I first thought, "Oh no, this is a predator of the horse; who would want to have this drum?"  But I kept watching, and slowly the image of the bird's claws appeared.  I realized, "the bird is showing me it cannot hurt the baby horse, who is resting upon its talons. So this giant bird is a help to this newly born power creature."

What a subtle and powerful image.  I could never have been this clever.  This is why I let the spirits create the painting--I am only the artist's apprentice.

 If you would like me to be the artist's apprentice and paint your shamanic drum, contact Kristen at

17" frame drum of Cortes Island blacktail deer hide
spruce wood frame with cedar fittings
maple cross pieces wrapped in smoke tan leather

$350 unpainted
$450 painted

Visit to see more shamanic drums

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New frame drum: The Sunshine Drum from the Journey Oracle

I  am calling this new frame drum from the Journey Oracle, the Sunshine Drum.
It is Cortes Island blacktail deer stretched on a 14" BC Spruce wood hoop. 

The 9 pointed interlacement pattern was finished last night in yet another coastal rain shower, and I did not imagine that the sun would come today to participate in the drum's birthday portrait.

Perhaps it was the 9 Muses singing in the smoke-tanned strands of hitching that wrap the star.

Perhaps it was the clear, thin hide of the young deer whose skin created this smooth drum face.

All I know is that I stepped outside with this drum and my camera and the sun appeared, bringing a warm glow to this new sunshine drum.


14" hoop of BC Spruce wood
Cortes Island blacktail deer hide
cedar fittings
9 point Star of the Muse interlacement handfast
wrapped in smoke-tan hitching


shipping additional

If this is your drum contact

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A drum to join Heaven and Earth

This new drum from the Journey Oracle is tied with an octagon interlacement pattern.  This is the first time I have used this eight pointed design in a journey drum, and I'm discovering that the meaning of an octagon is quite special.

The combination of the circle, representing Heaven, and the square, representing Earth, are joined together as a symbol of transition to rebirth: the regeneration of new life from old.  What a perfect symbol for  a new shamanic drum made during these last days of winter as we transition into a new spring.

The smoke-tan doe skin hitching covering the octagon seemed to glow in the still cool almost spring sunshine, and the drum felt a good fit between the cedar touching heaven, and the moss  growing over our rocky earth.  


17" BC Spruce wood frame
Cortes Island blacktail deer hide
Octagon interlacement holdfast wrapped with smoke-tan hitching

shipping additional 

Receive the CD:
 Ride a Good Horse to the Spirit World
 containing shamanic journey drumming rhythms plus
instructions for learning to travel to the alternate realities
with my compliments when you purchase this drum.

If this is your drum contact Kristen at

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to hold a drum

How to hold a drum?  This was an important question when I first became a drum maker since I understood that the fastening at the drum back was in fact the drum maker's signature.  My inspiration was this cedar withe found in an old style lobster trap in Nova Scotia, when I was first thinking about making a drum.

The ring became my signature for many years, until I noticed that the space inside the ring is like a bead.  I learned from Martin Prechtel that a bead is really the hole and not the material surrounding it to show its shape and size.  So what to do with the hole that is a bead?

Fill it with something magical.

Every space is an Oracle of potential meaning, and its journey is never-ending.
Even the simplest thing ends up involving the Universe.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Drums from the Dreamtime

The meaning of drums in my dreams is children.  Just like cats are the children in my house.  When I dream of children--this is about drums.  Sometimes a small child will appear in a dream and be very round like in a puffy snow suit, with arms and legs sticking out at odd angles.  This means I am dreaming of a drum.

There are two new drums in my house this week.  This 17" frame drum has that "round child" look from my decision to tie in the voice differently with 5 thongs: to anchor the five kinds of time that Martin Prechtel writes about in his eloquent book the  "Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun."

Sometimes a child in this reality chooses a child from that dream reality.  The 14" drum I built today of Cortes Island deer hide and British Columbia Spruce wood became the dream drum of my cat Mauchica,

The first drum built is now dry enough to begin to plan how to make the hold-fast in the back that will enable the drummer to ride this good horse into the dreams of the spirit world. Perhaps this drum is the ancient heart of rhythm--it has such a long, resonant tone already--so I think I may set this heart shaped stone in the center of its cedar ring.

 Even though this drum is only a few days old--already it has an ancient face, as if it has come back from the oldest dreams, to be a child again in this world.

If this Drum at the Heart of Rhythm
The Mauchica's Drum

is your drum

contact Kristen at