Updated: Mar 31, 2018
There has recently been some interesting debate on a couple of #shamanic social media groups about the ethics of using natural hides to make #drums. Anyone who has been to one of my drum making #workshops will already be aware of how I source the hides and the shamanic perspective from which I work. Nevertheless it's always a good idea to have the opportunity to expand and explore topics further so with that in mind I'll share some thoughts and insights. The views expressed here are entirely my own and I'd recommend anyone considering the prospect of having a shamanic drum to spend time contemplating what this means for them. Let's get one thing out there from the start. The sourcing of hides for shamanic drums has nothing to do with the animal cruelty rife within the intensive farming and dairy industries. It is not sacred to treat animals with such cruelty and I totally understand and accept the deep passion regarding animal cruelty, but that is another topic and another blog for another time.
Over the years I have considered the ethical questions that are raised relating to making and working with natural hide drums. These are mainly regarding the killing of an animal for its hide. I currently work with stag hides and these are all sourced from wild culled stag and are not killed specifically for their hide to make your drum. Whilst culling isn't an ideal scenario, without the apex predators of wolf and bear the rest of the ecosystem needs to be managed. Arguably a clean shot from a gun is far less grisly than a slow painful mauling and death from wolves or bears. Whilst the venison meat may be consumed, the majority of hides are often discarded. From a shamanic perspective we honour the spirit of the animal by not wasting any part of its body - it is given new life as a sacred medicine tool. Shamanism is fundamentally an animistic approach, deeply connected with the cycles of Nature, viewing death as part of life. In the medicine wheel the lessons learned from the cardinal points show us the eternal cycle of birth in spring, blossoming in summer, decay in autumn and death in winter. This natural rhythm of Gaia provides for us all - everything is energy and recycled and is therefore sacred. In this continuous cycle, deer takes from the plants to feed itself and the tree takes from the air and soil too, showing us that the wood for the hoop is equally as sacred from a shamanic perspective - a felled tree is also a life sacrificed. As humans we too are also part of this eternal cycle of life and death. Our indigenous ancestors and tribal peoples understood and accepted these natural cycles. They prayed to Spirit for sustenance prior to the hunt, which was sacred and undertaken with awareness, gratitude and acknowledgement that without death we cannot have life. Whether you have a plant-based or meat-based diet, death of whatever you're eating has taken place in order to provide you with life. In my workshops we spend time contemplating every element - we connect with the specific tree species and we journey to thank the stag. To make a shamanic drum is to stand in sacredness and it is filled with the highest intention.
I know that many people use synthetic drums on ethical or eco-friendly grounds, where the drum head is made out of plastic or even, I believe, a plant-based material rather than animal hide. Whilst these drums can have certain practical advantages such as being able to be played in the rain, they cannot claim to be entirely eco-friendly or from ethically sourced materials. If they have a plastic drum-head, they are often a by-product of the fossil-fuel or plastic industries which, as we know, is now one of the biggest global challenges we face. I believe there are now some drums available that are using a plant-based drum head. I do not know the particular ingredients or indeed what this material may be mixed with in order to retain a useable drum surface. Anyone contemplating such a drum needs to do their homework on exactly what they are buying and how/where the materials are sourced.
On ethical grounds I therefore use animal hide for all my drums. To book your place on my next workshop click on this link https://www.thelifewhisperer.co.uk/events/drum-birthing-workshop-2