Native American Drum Rattle
Rattles are used for ceremonial purposes by many cultures, including Native Americans. With these simple instructions you can make your own.
Steeped in the mystery of ceremonial use, the rattle dates back to the Egyptians when the sistrum was used in the worship of the Egyptian Great Goddess Isis. The sounds made by the sistrum were said to dispel evil spirits in the same way that church bells were later said to work in medieval Europe. The sistrum or sacred rattle was decorated with various designs and the curved top was attributed to the orbit of the moon. Rattles in sets of four represented the four elements and their sound represented the mingling of these elements in the process of creation. Rattles were and still are used in much the same way for ceremonial purposes by many cultures, including Native Americans.
To make your own rattle, begin with a dried gourd. Size is not important but be sure to find one that feels comfortable with your hand wrapped around the handle. Give it a few shakes to ensure the gourd can be easily held. Gourds can usually be purchased around November of each year when Thanksgiving decorations are being sold. Before you begin working on your rattle, it is important to ensure that the gourd you have chosen is completely clean and dried on the inside. Clean the outside with a damp, soft cloth and then drill a small hole in the center of the crown or top of the gourd. Drill a second hole at the base of the handle. Place the gourd in direct sunlight for a week. Do not extract the seeds. They will dry inside the gourd and enhance the sound of the rattle.
While the gourd is drying, gather long strings of leather, feathers, 1\4 cup tiny pebbles, paints, beads, glue, fine grain sand paper, lacquer, wood putty, thin pieces of turquoise or any other materials you might use to decorate your rattle. Using wood putty, seal the hole at the base of the gourd. With a small funnel, pour the pebbles in through the hole at the crown. Seal the crown hole with wood putty. When the putty is dry, sand both areas until smooth. Decorate the rattle in the manner you would like and then lacquer the entire gourd. Once this has dried, attach feathers, using glue or waxed string, to leather strips. Tie around the handle of your rattle and allow to dry for 24 hours before using.
The items you use to decorate your rattle can be purchased or personal items you have found in nature for this purpose. According to ceremonial tradition you should focus on the purpose for which you will use the rattle while making it.