Category Archives: Shaman Drums & Other Helpers

Articles about shaman drums and related shamanic helpers

Smiles And Joy For Her New Thunder Drum

karen with her new thunder drum from thunder valley drums

Here’s wonderful customer-turned-friend Karen with her new Thunder Drum! This delightful Pennsylvanian will be journeying and also joining a drum circle this month now that she has her own drum ally.

She loves the drum, and so do I! I had never before used a color scheme that Karen had suggested, and it turned out that both of us were pleased!

It’s a good thing to know if you are considering purchasing such a drum. I am not rigid! Always open to ideas, and I want to assure that you get the drum you hold in your imagination. You are in the lead. I always ask a customer for a suggested color range then try to implement it. In Karen’s case, I ordered new lacing in colors never tried here before, including periwinkle, soft purple hues and deep greens.

hoop drums flipbook from thunder valley drums

I loved it so much that I chose it for the cover of the new Thunder Valley Drums Flipbook, “Some Drum Love” in the previous post.

Then came a surprise!

Here’s our most recent email exchange…

April 29, 2017:
“Here’s the picture I promised, Bob. I love my drum. What I didn’t tell you earlier is that purple is my favorite color – you can tell by my hair color. That color wasn’t on my color pallet but you chose it anyway. Remarkable!

My Reply:
Wonderful, Karen! Wow! I will be so proud to place the photo on my sites sometime this week. It is always such a thrill to see a drum with its rightful owner!

Many, many thanks to you.

And I’m so happy that you love your drum. Yes, the purple just somehow seemed right for your drum! It highlighted the other colors, which were similar to the color palette you outlined, and I am sure I was influenced by your very strong connection to the drum on the day it was born. Wonderful how that works sometimes!

Thanks again, my friend.

I must repeat myself– I absolutely love to make drums for a LOT of reasons, but chief among them is the joy of coming to know the people who share a desire for service and heart expression…and who love drums, drumming and drummers!

a closeup of a thunder drum owner by a Pennsylvania customer

Thank you, Karen!

And thanks to you, too, my friend.

Aho & Namaste,


NEW! Flipping for Drums!

I am so happy to bring you an experiment. Just discovered a very cool site that turns files into a FLIPBOOK, so here goes… “Some Drum Love”!

(Simply press the “Click to read” button below)

You can see many Thunder Valley Drums photos that I don’t have room for on the website, as well as learn a little more about where the drums are and what they’re doing with healers around the world. Fun!

This started as an experiment for me, but you can bet I’ll be using it again! You can do it too, and share with family and friends just like I’m doing here. (Best of all, the basic service is offered for free!)


Aho & Namaste,

A Thunder Drum Customer From Norway Shines Light On The “Dark Time”

stian a drum customer of thunder valley drum lives in norway
Stian and his Thunder Drum painted by Glenn Lewis.

I am the most fortunate individual on Earth, for practically every time an order for a drum comes in, it signals the start of a new friendship. We swap a few emails, discover our common interests, and share a common goal. Then, by the time the drum is born a few weeks later, we — customer, drum maker and drum—are all friends.

That’s why you are looking at Stian, a resident of Norway, and his drum, pictured here. He ordered the drum a few months ago, but it did not take long for a friendship to take root. After all, theories abound about how shamanism started in Siberia and soon spread in all directions, down into the Scandinavian countries and around the world, so I was interested in its influence in Stian’s Norway. I began to ask questions about life in the far north, and Stian indulged my curiosity with wonderful email replies. Our dialog continues even now, as that recent photo (above) and an earlier one he sent (below) reveals.  Here’s his latest email (reprinted with his permission).

“Hello. Hope it goes well in Kentucky. Here in Norway goes just fine. The days spent on shopping for Christmas gifts to make clear for Christmas. We’ve got some snow. I hope the snow for Christmas.

northern lights in norway
Northern Lights near where Stian lives. (Photographer unknown)

“Since we live north of the Arctic Circle, the sun gone from the sky. The sun does not come back until January. We call it dark time. When the sun comes back in January, we tend to have sunshine party. When we celebrate the sun is back in the sky. We have lots of Northern Lights in the sky, there is one lovely light.

“Otherwise I must say att it’s gorgeous sound of the drum. Love it.

Wish you all well.
Your friend Stian”

Norway drum owner's hometown
Stian used his phone to capture this shot of his hometown.

My reply.

“Hello, Stian. Wondrous to hear from you, my friend, and to read about the ‘dark time.’ It is so refreshing to know that your people embrace the land and its seasons in such a joyful way. I can imagine the wonderment of living a few months in a place without sun, and of how special it must be when the sun returns. It is like a time of incubation before being born. Amazing…and mysterious.

“And I am so happy that your drum is adjusting to your environment and sounding good!

“So very delightful to hear from you. All best wishes to you and to all of those around you in the land of the long night.

Aho & Namaste,

I wish to thank Stian for his emails, photos…and friendship from a faraway place!

stians painted thunder drum
Stian’s drum. (TVD Photo)

A drum in the Artic Circle is so perfectly symbolic. It’s only natural, too, as the drum is both a circle in shape and in representation of the greater circle of friendship that can and should include all of us in this world.


And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. —Black Elk (quote)


Aho & Namaste, Friends Everywhere

UPDATE 12/11/16:

Here is Stian’s wonderful and informative email follow-up to this post:

12/11/16: “That was a beautiful article. Really liked it. Did you know that shamanism is religion in Norway?

“As the first country in the world Norway accepted shamanism in 2013 as a religion in the country. Sjamanistisk Forbund (” Shamanistic Association”) can now perform weddings and other rites in public. The Norwegian government also gives money to support this. Denmark and Sweden are following this and has started the same associations in their countries.

“That’s my religion.

Your friend, Stian”


Thank you, Stian!

Survivor Drum’s Story

survivor drum on its drum stand

Thanks to all of you who have written, called, posted and otherwise commented on the Survivor Drum following its debut a week ago. You have touched my heart, and based on your expressions, this lovely drum and its hard-earned right to exist touched your hearts. Several asked that I post the story I read in the audio file on the site, so here it is, edited and shortened a bit.

Reflections On The Survivor Drum

What? What is this mysterious thing called life? That we often despise but fight mightily to hold on to? That we disregard so easily but embrace so passionately? That we generally identify as existing only in flesh, devoid of spirit or soulful connection? Oh, we know, we know the answer.

We know.

This Lightning Drum is a quintessential symbol of shamanism and of defiance against the odds. Of hope when there is none. Of beauty where it counts.

It is well known, though not necessarily universal, that people called to shamanism walk a tortured path. Fires of adversity forge healers. Suffering spurs awakening. A shaman is known to be a “wounded healer.”

It is sometimes true of shamanic drums, too.

This drum typifies it all, beginning with its apparent death from a powerful lightning bolt, but ending with its birth as a sacred healer. The transformation was not easy – they seldom are—as it once believed itself to be one thing, but found its true identity after a fiery initiation.

By the time I discovered the ragged remains of the hickory tree blasted by lightning, it had suffered years of assault from ice storms, insects, worms and birds that had cracked, scratched and eaten away some of its pitching bark and pithy wood. There were no branches or smaller limbs on the ground, a sure sign they had already crumbled back into the earth on that wind and weather scarred West Virginia mountaintop that was a part of my family’s farm.

My friend Eddie, a veteran logger and tree trimmer for over 30 years, and I could easily tell what had happened as we saw it sagging in a small clearing in the forest. I knew he had questions about why I had asked him along to look at a ruined tree, and then particularly why I had asked him to hold back while I went ahead to be alone with it. After a few minutes I waved him forward and he dutifully yanked his chainsaw to life and downed the skeletal hickory with one swift buzzing cut and a series of quick slices to make a few dozen cookies. That’s what wood turners call cross sections cut from trees, often used to make bowls and other beautiful implements.

Not this tree, though. The wood wasn’t strong enough to withstand a lathe. In fact, for most purposes, it appeared useless. Dead.

Later, at the bottom of the mountain, Eddie helped me empty the small load of cookies into the barn before we sat in the old milk house for a cup of coffee. “Why cut that old dead tree, then block it?” he asked.

“I hope to help some of them turn into drums,” I answered, adding, “if they want to.”

He leaned toward me a little. “Is that why you talked to the tree before we cut it?” The tone of his voice suggested no incredulity, for he had no doubt talked with trees too in the past.

“Yes, I was asking the tree’s permission to cut it down, and when it agreed, I said a prayer for it and offered some tobacco to honor it.”

“Nice,” he said. “Nice the old tree will survive in this way.”

Months later and after they had dried, it was time for the cookies to undergo triage. I’ve written a lot about this sacred process over the years, but it’s a period during which each precious being embraces the vexing questions of existence. For me, it’s a humbling, often sad, often exhilarating exercise as they teach me about the Great Wheel while I remove rotted wood, dirt and debris from their wounded bodies.

With this collective family of a few dozen, only about six chose to serve as healing helpers, while the others preferred to be taken back to the site of their original mother tree where they could return into the Earth. Their choices inspire, either way, because they, like all of life, can continue on a while longer in their present form, or freely give their essence to the eventual rise of newness on the turning of the Great Wheel.

I’ve experienced this beautiful practice many times over the years with several trees and their offspring. But there is always a moment when I experience such great joy with the ones who remain. It’s the same as hearing of someone who narrowly escaped death and who fought against the odds, whether knowingly or through the intrinsic power of life itself. Survivors.

Though it’s been several years and my memories are no longer crystal clear, I recall making four or five drums from the bunch. But one, the sixth, somehow resisted. Its shell was too weak to become a drum, but it had such a strong spirit. It would not give up.

Later, and almost as an oversight I packed it with some other things when I moved to Kentucky. It lingered in the old box for two years, but even when I discovered it one idle day and started fiddling with it, it resisted. This occurred again and again over five or six more years. I repeatedly tried my best to help it, but I failed. A new crack would form, or the frame would fracture. And finally, when failing at one last try over a year ago, I again sat it aside for a later time when I could give it a respectable burial.

Then it happened.

Six weeks ago I was walking alongside a shelf in the shop and the drum called to me. “Ready.” Just like that.

And this time, it was ready. So we started together to mend its broken heart in a new way. Both of us simply gave up resisting anymore. We entered into a blissful union with Spirit. The scarred drum and the wounded healer were joined at last. And in no time the drum was singing.


You will note in the photographs on the TVD Site of the bottom of the drum a curious feature. While the outside bark has long fallen away, there is an interesting dark brown inner circle of hard bark-like growth circumscribing the entire drum. (I’ve drawn an arrow pointing to it in one photo.) It is as tough as nails. And that’s the key to understanding this drum, shamanism and perhaps even life itself. There is an inner core in each of us, just like

in the drum. It is as tough as steel. It is the beautiful stubbornness that each of us carries, the desire to endure. To live, despite the odds. To stand fast, to hold to life and in service to life.

This little drum holds to that like a champion. It is a survivor.


finished powwow drum
A finished drum, and a sacred ally.

Flashback to drum triage over the years…

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Aho & Namaste,

Inspirational, Dutiful, The Survivor Lightning Drum

Enter the warrior healer Survivor Drum.

a new drum from Thunder Valley Drums, the Survivor Drum

That name persisted even after I declared not in an earlier post. I am corrected.

The Survivor Lightning Drum was born from a young hickory tree struck by lightning years ago, and, indeed, its name and its story are now its mission as a warrior healer medicine drum.

Here’s a video. And if you have more interest, you can follow this link to its homepage.

Aho & Namaste,