Our Native Americans have used rattles as instruments to call rainfall, to represent the heartbeat, and imitate the life process of breathing. IT is a way for them to connect with their spirit as is the pipe, tobacco and smoke.
To hear the pleasant sound of rattling is peaceful and settling. It allows us to travel into a meditative journey where the imagination and subconscious have a chance to become active. Why not make a rattle and try?
Small round gourds work well for rattles. To start, find the right gourd that you like. Thanksgiving is the time to have a large variety of gourds. When I find one I like, I visualize it as a rattle. What follows is a description, step by step, to make a rattle.
First, you will need to drill two holes. One hole goes where the stem was attached, and the second on the opposite side. The stem opening is critical. It has to be wide enough to insert a handle, a snug fit and not loose. Use this hole to remove the seeds and stringy pulp. This step is the most difficult to do. I start with a flat head screwdriver and try to pull out seeds and stringy pulp all the while careful not to enlarge the hole. It takes time to try to scrape the pulp from the shell. The sound is affected by the thickness of the shell.
Eventually, when you’re satisfied that you’ve cleared out the interior, it’s time to allow the gourd to dry. Evaporation will take place very slowly for water to evaporate. I put the gourd on a radiator and left it there. It took two months for it to dry completely.
Next, I selected a stick wide enough to just fit into the big hole. I used a cutting knife to cut away excess wood so as to have as close a fit as possible. Once the stick fits properly, the next step is to fit the tip of the stick into the smaller hole. Once this is done, the stick is stable and will hold in place. Sometimes a circular file helps to shape the hole. You must guard against cracking the gourd. The point of attachment of the gourd to the stem is very strong. Undue force may crack the shell.
Now it is time to “load” the gourd with objects that when shook will make the rattle sound. I like popcorn. I add popcorn kernels to the gourd though the large hole and shake until I get the sound I want. This may be 35 kernals. Don’t overfill because the sound will be muffled. Many other tiny objects can be used instead of popcorn such as glass beads, small pebbles, or buck shot.
To finish the project, put some glue at the juncture of the stick with big hole and small hole. From here on out, all you need to do is decorate your rattle. Paint, ribbons, feathers, carving, wood burning, or just leave the stick with its bark.
Now it’s time to try your rattle. Try various rhythms and volume. Can you hear your breath? Your heart beat? Can you start a journey to another place? Will you use it for a friend who needs to calm down?