Awakening the Drum
By Patrick Pinson, Cedar Mountain Drums
It is my great joy to create drums with prayer, respect and the knowledge I have learned through years on the Red Road and from twelve-step recovery from drugs and alcohol – Next year I celebrate my thirty-fifth year birthday free from alcohol.
I am a descendent of the Mingo peoples from West Virginia, and I have 35 years clean and sober using the 12 steps and the Red Road to find my way, which is following the path of balance, my heart and the drum. The way I have been told is that the spirits come in on the vibrations of the drum and our songs.
To dedicate the drum towards healing requires a Ceremony and to select a “keeper” of the drum, who is in charge of keeping the drum in good condition and wrapped in a red cloth when not being used. There are many ways to use a drum – some drums are community drums and some are dedicated for special use, often called “Medicine Drums.” When I make a drum that is someone’s “Medicine Drum,” I make sure that drum is untouched by anyone but I and I offer my prayers specifically for the person using the drum. In your drum, we have the spirit of the Elk Nation, whose medicine is stamina and endurance, and the special tree that provides the foundation for the drum – in your case, the rim is maple and the stand is cedar. The elk can help us go deep into our wounds and release the purifying tears that release the barriers to our hearts.
In finding our way back to the Red Road, the drum and our songs help us reclaim the sacred that dwells within each one of us. We are spiritual beings in a human experience. When we are abused in any way as children, we carry those wounds and the cycle of abuse that goes from generation to generation until the cycle is broken and we reclaim the sacred within. To forgive ourselves first for all the behaviors that led to incarceration and to send the shame of abuse back to the ones who abused us and to vow to break that behavior through a commitment to the Red Road.
The Red Road is a path of balance…a way of life that is free from drugs and alcohol. These addictive patterns and behaviors can be lifted from us through prayer and a willingness to go any length to change those dysfunctional patterns and to acquire those qualities we admire in our elders. The old ones teach us to live by the principles of the pipe which are helping each other, compassion for our brothers and sisters, quietness, respect for the four ridges of life (children, adolescents, adults and elders), respect – for ourselves and others, good health in mind, body, spirit and emotions and happiness.
Often an elder is brought in to do a special blessing of your drum. If no elder is available, then you can do the ceremony yourselves by sitting in circle and offering each one in the circle a chance to state their intention from their hearts. Call in the directions and honor father sky and mother earth, and be sure to call in only the highest spirits for our greater good. Often, I call in the warriors to keep away negative energy and to seal the circle. Everyone is given an opportunity to express themselves, stating what they wish to release and what they wish to bring into their lives. In our circles, we smudge ourselves and the drum with cedar or sage before sharing to remove negative energy. Once the smudging is done, we burn sweetgrass to call in healing spirits and open the circle with prayer. An offering of tobacco on the drum may be made by each who is a part of the circle – with this offering is a prayer.
The awakening of the drum is the awakening of the heart, as the drum is the heartbeat of our mother earth. It is important to work with the drum rather than on the drum. The drum is a teacher and has powerful medicine to give us when we respect and honor it. By honoring the sacred outside of ourselves, we reclaim the sacred that lies in the core of each of us. The best council I ever had from my Oglala teacher is to let go of “doing it right” and stay within your heart. When you pray from your heart, the spirit helpers show up – when we are in our heads, we tend to separate from each other with our opinions and beliefs. Ceremonies are to burn away the opinions and beliefs that separate us and get back in touch with the deep wisdom that we are all one heart.