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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Tom Tom drum on fire-hardened cedar wood

This drum has a voice and inspires a rhythm that can join heaven and earth. It is not only oracle cards that call old wisdom. The art of divination may allow us to glimpse the will of the gods, but this drum allows us to dance with them.

The design of this tom tom or kettle drum is thought to be Native American or Asian in origin.

The two drum heads are goat skin.  A hide which is remarkable for its strength and thinness, giving a percussive, "bright" sound.

The shoulder strap and braided thongs are made of elk skin.  Elk is one of the keepers of old wisdom in my family.  My father was a skilled and respectful hunter of elk in the forests around my childhood home on the Oregon coast.  When he died, his grave was located along the edge of woods where he often hunted.  For years the elk would come out of the dense stands of trees along the border of the cemetery, and paw the grass off the top of his grave.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of this drum to call old wisdom is the cedar wood shell.  Like oracle cards whose history travels back into the mists of time, the process for making  fire-hardened wood is ancient.

The bark is tied onto the outside of the log to prevent the shell from being scratched.  Then the inside is hollowed out with a long handled chisel until the thickness of the rim is twice what the finished drum base will be.  And then the really exciting part of the process happens.  The inner wood chips and strips are put back inside the log and set on fire.  The drum shell is rolled continuously for several hours to keep the fire constantly moving so the inner rim is evenly burned.  The outside of the bark-covered log is regularly sprayed with water to prevent "hot spots" from burning too far into the wooden rim.

When the drum shell is cooled and the charcoal is chiseled away from the inside of the rim, a spirit hole is burned into the wood so there is a doorway between this world and that one.  This becomes the threshold where the drummer and the gods may connect without connecting, as the drum's voice is the translator that is always in between.

You can hear this tom tom drum being played by the talented hands of Immanuel McKenty of the Merry McKentys family band, by clicking on this youtube link:  This drum is available for purchase in my Etsy webstore, or you can contact Kristen at