Category Archives: Make Your Own Shamanic Gear

A Man With a Lightning Stick, And How To Find and Use Your Own

andy with lightning stick
UK friend and fellow seeker Andy poses with his Lightning Stick.

Every year or so good friend Andy over in the United Kingdom sends along a photo to let us know how he’s doing. This time he is displaying the Lightning Stick he obtained a few years ago. I remember it well, as it came from a farm where I used to live, and where one night I happened to see a wide arc of lightning hit a cherry tree on the hill behind my house. Next day I gathered the energized sticks and added them to the bundle which I carried for years. Most of those wonderful sticks are now in the hands of healers here and there around the globe.

If you know of a lightning-struck tree where you live, perhaps you could make a Lightning Stick of your own. I sure encourage you to explore this idea.

First, go to the tree and sense whether you feel drawn to one of the precious sticks that has fallen from it. If so, smudge around the tree, if you are familiar with that ceremony, then pick up the stick and be with it a while. Sit next to or lean against the tree and still your mind. Then, holding the stick, close your eyes and open your senses to any sensations. (This could take some time, or even perhaps a few more visits.)

If, at some point, you sense an energy in the stick, chances are that you are at the edge of a path which may open for you and on which you may discover some latent healing gifts. Perhaps you can take the stick along with you, after asking for the tree’s permission. But whether you recover the stick or not, be sure to leave a gift for the the tree in return, a pinch of tobacco, some bird seed, herbs, something of value to you and the Earth. From there, you can learn to shape and use the healing ally stick in many ways.

Now, I know that this may all sound rather obtuse if you aren’t familiar with shamanism, but if nothing else, it is sure a wonderful exercise in connecting with Nature in a unique, deep and reverent way. I am certain too that you won’t look at lightning-struck trees the same after that, either.

To help understand a bit more about this, I’ve written a short e-Book about Lightning Sticks, which you can download for free. Look for the link on this page of the Thunder Valley Drums Website. You can read even more by poking around the site a little, as I’m discovering more and more, largely from many anthropological books written in the 1920’s and since about how the ancient peoples relied on lightning tools, beginning with the shamanic cultures in North Asia (Siberia, Mongolia, and such), and spreading down into Celtic lands and into North America, among others. I’ll be adding more to the site and probably to the book over time, including a bibliography. Even if you are an accomplished healer, I think you’ll be surprised how knowledge of this kind can open new ways to enhance your practice…and your connection with Spirit.

Meanwhile I want to thank Andy for the photo. Good to see you again, my friend!

Aho & Namaste,

Shamanic Rattling and Drumming and the “Schumann Frequency”

How to make a shamanic rattle
A rattle I made for someone.

Shamanic rattle, shaker, noise maker— no matter its moniker, this sacred tool is a valuable ally in a shaman healer’s intention of service through sacred rhythm. Like a shaman’s drum, the rattle is used to aid in achieving the “altered state of consciousness,” (ASC), that brainwave frequency measured between 7-8 Hz which is the threshold to journey work, reportedly in the Theta/Alpha range. That is roughly the same as the Earth’s natural frequency, known as part of the “Schumann Frequency” range that I’ve written about before. The lowest in the range, according to Wikipedia, is 7.83 Hz.

But here’s something new to add.

I know this is tangential to my subject, but it’s so cool. You can actually hear Mother Earth’s heartbeat. There are a lot of amateur radio buffs who monitor the Schumann Frequency range, which results from lightning strikes around the planet.  Once on the site, you can choose to listen to lightning strikes from many places. Associated Websites are also listed so you can learn more.

You can also see near real time lightning strikes on a map from this monitoring site at the University of Washington. (An updated real-time map here, too.)

Estimates are that lightning strikes the earth about 100 times a second from an average of around 2,000 thunder storms occurring on the planet at any one time. That translates into more than 8 million strikes a day! And that is what helps produce the Earth’s measurable heartbeat at 7.83HZ, the same frequency you need to enter into the altered state. But don’t worry, you won’t need quite that many beats on a drum per second to do so!

Thunder Valley Drums rattle with Mary Marvel
From a May, 2014, post here on the blog

In fact, no one knows the perfect number of drum or rattle beats per minute (bpm) needed to entrain the brain to hone in on the altered state of consciousness and thus to lock in to Mother Earth’s frequency, as estimates vary widely from 200 to more than 300 bpm. After many years of journey drumming and rattling, though, it seems to me that as long as you maintain a rapid beat for anything over 10 minutes, you will at least begin to flirt with the ASC. Some people require more or less time, of course, so you will have to experiment to find your optimum.

Lightning Drum in a knothole
A Lightning Drum in a huge knothole formed in a beautiful tree here in Kentucky.

I’ve found my preferred beat, and you can download it here if you like. I made the recording while playing my Lightning-Struck drum.

But it is a fact that the rattle, like a drum, works to help your brain tune in to this frequency range while playing it rapidly.

You can use a rattle for many different purposes, too. For example, a Hopi healer teacher taught me that she uses her rattle to summon powerful spiritual allies while simultaneously warding off negative energies that can’t tolerate her rattle’s sound (frequency). A logical extension of that is where healers will also use their rattles to cleanse an area and the people within that area during ceremony.

To many modern day people, this may all sound rather strange. But if you are willing to try it, I think you will find a whole new experience of awareness awaits you. (You should, of course, provide yourself and the immediate area and people around you with loving intention and a smudge protection before you start any such ceremony.)

ancient rattle
World’s Oldest Rattle? See article cited below

I’ve often wondered if humankind has always known the value of rattles, but only recently has forgotten their spiritual value in modern times. Like, why do we automatically buy a rattle for a new baby? Oh, sure, modern psychology suggests it’s good for helping the baby learn about sight, sound and tactile experiences, but humans have been making rattles for their babies for a LONG time, long before psychology developed, by knowing the instruments hold the power to provide comfort and contentment. A baby rattle was discovered in an Indus Valley town that dates back to 3,300 BC. In those times, the shamanic tradition was all that existed to help people heal, so the rattle was also a sacred instrument. Giving one to a baby, then, had to hold extra significance.

Whatever the case, you should hear a rattle before buying it, as you definitely need one that is pleasing to your ear. That will help you find a comfort level and open the way to your own connection with the heartbeat of All That Is.

Aho & Namaste,

Links to ancient rattle info:

  1. Article link to Rattle shown in above photo
  2. 2500-year-old baby rattle (another article)
  3.  2010 article
  4.  Rattle photos on Pinterest

Final Note: Even better than buying a rattle is making a rattle! There is nothing better than making your own sacred shamanic tools. Look in the column on the right for an eBook about how to make your own rattle, and even how to get it free with the purchase of a Rattle Making Kit from Thunder Valley Drums!

Sound file and content, Copyright 2015, Thunder Valley Drums; All Rights Reserved

How To Make Your Own Miniature Totem Pole

picture progress
Cover of the original comic book published in 1955

Who says comic books don’t have educational value? As a public service, reprinted here are instructions for how to make your own miniature totem pole from clay, originally appearing in a 1955 comic, Picture Progress (circa 1955) and featured on the ComicBook Plus Website.

It’s a great project for making some of your own shaman gear. (In addition to the image directly below, there are larger images and instructions further down in this post that you may find helpful, should you wish to take on the project.)

The book attempts to feature an overview of Alaska, which wasn’t a U.S. state until four years after it was published. This isn’t to say that all of the material in the book itself is all that accurate, timely, topical or unbiased for our day and age. You will see many stereotypes appearing in it, a reflection of the mindset at the time. Regrettably, some of those stereotypes persist to this day!

make your own totem pole

Totems are very special spiritual helpers or family icons, so a totem pole reflects the likeness of such helpers in your life. (In some places, a totem is often referred to synonymously with a power animal, though the former more often than not reflects broader meanings and symbols in the context of totem poles.) Obviously, these instructions are a bit over-simplified, but they serve as a good guideline. Also, more modern materials may be substituted. And, of course, you may wish to draw your own design with your own totems instead of the ones shown here.

Here’s a larger image, with instructions reprinted below it.



1. Shape a piece of non-hardening clay until it has three sides. The piece of clay should be five inches long. It should be one and one-half inches wide on each side.  (See diagram)

totem pole detail
Totem Pole Detail

2. Trace the whole totem pole design on the left on a piece of paper. Cut it out around the outside edge.
3. Fold the totem pole design down the center, along the dotted line. The design should be on the outside of the fold.
4. Place the design flat against the piece of clay.
5. With a pencil, trace the design through the paper onto the clay.
6. Remove the paper from the clay.
7. Cut away the clay where the design is shaded. This should leave only the outline of the faces.
8. Go over all the lines in the clay with a pencil until they are smooth and deep.
9. Paint it any colors you wish.

Once you finish the pole, you can also carve a triangular space about 1 1/2″ to a side in a good block of lightning-struck wood to serve as a base in which to place your new totem pole. The block should be about 5 or 6″ square and a few inches deep. Of course, if you don’t have a piece of such wood lying around, any will serve the purpose. Or use more clay or other material to form such a base.

Sprinkle some herbs and tobacco around the completed piece once you place it on your altar or a sacred place in your home. It would be good to say a prayer of gratitude to your helpers, to Spirit, to All That Is while you are doing so.

I would love to see a photo of your creation once it’s complete, should you wish to share.

Aho & Namaste,

PS: Many thanks to Comic Book Plus for preserving digital copies of so many priceless comic books. So much of the modern day comic book culture has its roots in these old books, some of which were written and illustrated by authors and artists of note. It’s a terrific site, and a wonderful way to take a trip down memory lane.


Copyright 2007-2014 Thunder Valley Drums. All Rights Reserved.

The Joy of Making Your Own Gourd Rattle

graphic for joy of making your own gourd rattle
Happy gourd rattle makers!

There is nothing like making your own sacred helper instruments. I’ve said this countless times here on the blog and on the Thunder Valley Drums Website. But until you see proof of
it, you could remain skeptical.

Well, behold the proof!

Katherine (left) and Rosemary set aside a special day to make rattles for their shamanic practice, then shared this wonderful photo of their success.

Katherine writes, “Thought you might enjoy seeing this photo of Rosemary and me. We made our rattles this past Sunday and I think we were both pleased to have shared in making our first sacred tool together Your manual was very helpful in terms of helping me know what to gather for the rattle and how to see the whole process as sacred.”

Katherine said they are waiting to complete decorating their rattles (even though I think the rattles are beautiful now–along with their makers, of course!) until they find inspiration during their next shamanism class out in nature in New York state. A wise choice, indeed.

There are other benefits, too, to making your own gourd rattle. For example, you end up with a handful of gourd seeds, so you can grow more gourd rattles for life and to share! But next to having a special healing tool that you make yourself, the best benefit is obvious in the photo— and is guaranteed when you make your own rattle— and that is the smiles. One can’t help but smile at such an accomplishment, and in knowing that such joy forms the basis of helping others during sacred ceremony.

Thanks, Katherine and Rosemary!

Aho & Namaste,


Copyright 2007-2014 Thunder Valley Drums. All Rights Reserved.

Randy’s Gourd Rattle (Made From A TVD Kit)


rattle in motion
Randy’s rattle

It’s always so great to see what other seekers can do with a rattle kit from Thunder Valley Drums. This comes from Randy, a Floridian, who purchased the kit a few months ago. He chose a natural approach to leave the gourd unpainted and to show its own beautiful patina. He even made it so that he could loosen the handle in order to change sounders, thus changing the rattle’s voice whenever he wants, a very neat idea! I’ll let him explain
more (excerpts from two separate emails):

“Greetings Shaman Bob,

“I finished the ‘Owl Rattle’ and attached a couple pictures. I kind of did my own thing though. Sounders are fossil sharks teeth (found in the Peace River), one turquoise nugget, one emerald chip, some gourd seeds and a bit of whole leaf sage. Wonderful entrancing sound. The cross pieces are bamboo and are removable so the handle can come out and the sounders could be replaced with a different mix if need be. There is a thin hemp line running from one cross piece to the other which are strung with turquoise and “cheerios” found in the Peace River. ‘Cheerios’ are natural bone or pebbles with a hole in them. They are believed to have been worn by local Native American tribes over the ages. On top of the rattle are two bigger ‘cheerios’ bound by leather lacing. There are two feathers placed in bamboo twigs and strung on hemp line with turquoise, bone Owl totem beads, turquoise Butterfly totem bead, bone Turtle totem bead, and a hand rolled Pipestone bead.

“I enjoyed the process. No birds were harmed as they had passed on to the other world. Ceremony was performed to honor their gifts to this world. Purely to honor them and their spirit.


He mentions the “Cheerios” on his rattle, which were believed to be worn by Native Americans like beads. The same beliefs can be found here in Kentucky, where there are lots of such fossils in local streams. I believe their scientific name is “crinoids,” which the University of Kentucky (link to article will open in new window) says are also called “sea lilies.” Some still grow in the world’s oceans, according to the U of K.

Great job, Randy, you made a beautiful and sacred gourd rattle. Thanks so much for sharing your photo! (I added the special effects to the photo, by the way, that seemed to put the rattle in motion.)

Aho & Namaste,


TVD's gourd rattle kit
You can learn more about the Thunder Valley Drums “Gourd Rattle Kit” here.

When you buy a kit, you automatically receive a FREE eBook to help you make the rattle.