What is this creature? Depends on the story I tell myself. A bird certainly. But are there not humans who appear in mythology as birds? Sort of looks like a human face in profile, but no, there is the bird again. Perhaps it is one of those vase/face dilemmas masquerading as a drum painting. When I see the one, I also see the echo of the other.
This new drum from the Journey Oracle had lots of these echoes also in the making. The frame is like an call back into my history as a drum maker. It is a re-discovered and re-finished hoop of 2″ ash wood, which I made myself for years, before discovering the excellent hoops of 3″ yellow cedar made by Cowichen Drums in Duncan, BC. This narrow frame allows a different kind of drumming because the drummer can reach the hide on the inside of the reverse with snapping fingers, a dramatic style of drumming I have heard played by M’Girl, an Aboriginal Women’s Ensemble.
The inside of this drum shows the echo of another story. This drum started as a small blacktail deer on Cortes Island, off the British Columbia coast. After its skin was cleaned to the membrane, I discovered a large dense area of scar tissue, A remarkable recovery considering the size of the wound. The white area that forms a “comma” on the above right, just off a point of the hexagram, is very thick. Ouch!
I chose to tie the 6-pointed “magic” hexagram as the interlacement pattern for the reverse handhold of this drum, because this is a powerful symbol of protection. Typically, a hexagram is formed of two triangles that are interlaced but entirely separate from each other. This “magic” version was favored by Medieval magicians because it could be made from a single unbroken line, therefore offering no “gates” (knots) through which spiritual dangers might enter. I also feel that the traumas and challenges we endure grant protection in a sort of emotional homeopathy. So thanks again to the little deer.
Typically, when I paint a drum with raw earth pigments, I paint the eyes first, of whomever I see, as this sets the energetic signature of the whole painting. Yet I have not painted the eyes of the bird/woman at all! The pattern of light and dark was already in the skin, and so I focused on the body, and especially the feet, first. It was only when I held the almost finished drum to the light that I saw this creature looking directly back at me. This has never happened before–very powerful, also a bit creepy.
Perhaps the most profound echo is the drum’s voice itself. A narrow hoop covered with a unevenly thin skin would logically not produce these layers of harmonic resonance. Listen for yourself to some night music.