'Bring a rattle' - really? A beginner's guide to finding or making a rattle.
Feel the power
Feel the power
Feel the power
If I do not
Feel the power
Then I rattle
One of the more unusual requests on my 'what to bring' list for those attending an introductory workshop is 'A Rattle'. For some people this makes complete sense, maybe having read about shamanism or knowing someone who is well versed in its powers. For others, it may seem rather alarming! In case you fall into the latter category - or are somewhere between the two - here follows a short guide on what sort of rattle to bring and why!
Firstly, the WHAT-to-bring.
Finding Your Own Rattle
I recommend, whole-heartedly, not rushing out to buy a rattle. You may have one, somewhere, lurking around the back of a drawer, or in a toy cupboard, which may be just the thing. When there's no one around to wonder if you've gone crazy or are having a weird return to babyhood (or if you're the brave sort, just do this anyway!) - pick it up, hold it close to your heart, take a deep breath and feel yourself standing on the ground. Just relax and allow the Universe to flow through you (if this is still too weird, just relax instead!).
Now give it a good, hearty shake for a few seconds. Do you like the sound? Do you like the feel? Maybe you feel something inside you 'shift' a little. Maybe you feel it calling to your spirits. Maybe you don't. Either is fine. If it feels good in some way, then that's fine. You've found 'your' rattle - at least a good enough fit for you to bring along to your first workshop or drumming session. If you're enjoying yourself, continue to rattle for a short while, asking for help with your day (more on this in the 'why' section below). Maybe the spirit of the rattle speaks to you, maybe it doesn't. Either is perfect. If not, or if you like all the above apart from the fact it's says 'baby's first rattle' on it, then maybe making your own is a wonderful alternative.
Making Your Own Rattle
This is incredibly easy! Anything that makes a rattling sound, goes. The simplest way is to find a small jar, or tub, that fits snugly in your hand. It can be plastic, glass, wood - whatever is handy or appeals. You can take off any labels, if you wish. Then fill it with something simple - dried rice, small stones, lentils - experiment and see what you like the sound of. I quite like dried rice for a sort of 'shushy' sound, and the rice holds up to some fairly vigorous rattling - at least, in the short term! Or dried corn (maize) which makes a firmer sound. To try it, hold the rattle you've made close to you, take a deep breath in and out and feel yourself standing on the earth (or on the floor in a building which stands on the earth) and let the Universe flow through you - if this bit is tricky, just relax instead.
Now rattle a few times. Does it feel good? Does it sound good? If not good, is it good enough (perfection is something we over-complicate all too often and in fact more often than not it will be perfect!)? If so, then you have created your first rattle to bring along to the workshop. If not, then try a different amount of filling, a different filling or a different container. Experiment! If you have young children you could do this with them - either way, allow the session to be fun and not too serious.
Once you've settle on a rattle, you may wish to decorate it in some way - just follow your heart and doodle, stick or weave something on it in any way that appeals to you. There will be no rattle parade or competition at the workshop! It is a private object for you to learn to work with. If you enjoy the sound, play with it a little, rattle a little more and ask the Universe for help with your day whilst you do so. Again, maybe you feel the spirit of the rattle in some way - or maybe not - either is fine, just notice what happens and maybe write it down in your journal (also on the list of what to bring!) if you do.
There are other ways to make rattles such as using gourds or animal hide. Sometimes I run workshops to do this in a way that allows us to develop a relationship with a rattle, or to make one for a specific purpose. Or I can recommend a book or two. Just ask at the session or workshop for more information on how to make a rattle if you would like to have a go.
Why bring a rattle?
There will be much more about this at the workshop, drumming group or session in a fabulously experiential way, but here's a short introduction to get you started! Rattles have been used for centuries by some shamanic cultures as a means of communicating with spirit, especially First Nation, Native American and Andean cultures. They can be used to call to 'the directions' - 4, 6 or 7 depending on the culture, but typically east, south, west, north, below, above and sometimes the centre. Rattles can be used to call in specific helpers - I have specific rattles I use for specific tasks, such as calling in my main spirit helpers, or calling in healing spirits, depending on my intention and the relationship I have with each rattle.
I call in my spirit helpers in many different ways, but a rattle is a very direct and clear way to do this. In fact, I would feel there was something missing if I did not have it to hand. In one workshop I worked with a Russian quantum physicist who used all sorts of electronic equipment devised by colleagues to help him to alter his state of consciousness in order to connect with the spirit world. After a long discussion he reluctantly agreed to take all this paraphernalia off his body. I rattled around the circle - a way of calling in the spirits to a group session - and he was amazed to find that the experience of being with the rattle was similar to the electronic equipment, only much more powerful!
Rattles seem to amplify the calling in of the spirits, they seem able to move and shift energy around, and they can be used to 'diagnose' problems in spirit healing work. Rattles can be used rhythmically to journey with, as well as or instead of using the sound of the drum or song. Each rattle has or is it's own unique spirit, and getting to know the rattle intimately will allow you to develop a relationship with your own rattle that you can trust.
During the workshop or session you will have a chance to experience the rattle, and to learn ways to work with it. You will learn how to use it to bring in help or healing, to help you to connect with your own spirit helpers, to assist you in bringing about more harmony in your life. I wish you many, many happy hours with your rattle to come - whatever its wonderful shape, size and sound.