That title makes my weekend sound much kinkier than it actually was.
No, as my last post indicated, my weekend was all about crafting rattles. And yesterday, after completing a custom order, I paid some attention to my own rattles, who required a few replacement rattling parts, some new stringing, and refinishing the wood. The excellent thing about making one’s own ritual tools as well as others, is that when it does come to these things, I know how they come apart, go back together, what can change, and what can’t, and I have everything I need on hand to do so. And as I’ve said previously, they have always allowed me to experiment with new ideas. No matter how many times I do so though, stripping back my own ritual tools is always an odd experience. I spend a lot of time, anointing them, and using them in my ritual space, taking scissors and sand paper to them always leaves me feeling a little like I’m doing something somehow naughty!
Crafting of this nature is always at the very least a meditative experience. Putting various materials and items together to become one single entity for use in my, and other’s, ritual and sacred space, is not simply about shoving parts together. I have found, and the last rattle I made was no different, you simple can’t shove things together, and the nature of each thing has to be respected, forget it, and you could end up with a situation of them not going together at all! That has been something that requires a bit of that experimentation as well, and my rattles have always been that place.
In this instance, having acquired a few new tools recently, I wanted to make my own beads from wood off-cuts I have kept, smoothing down and shaping She-Oak nuts, and using some larger gum nuts. Until one has these things all together, it’s hard to tell what sound they will produce. And, really, I couldn’t be happier.
The She-oak nuts, once smooth, make a fuller sound, and on the left, finish the strings off beautifully with their diamond shaped designs much more evident. The gum nuts are lovely and low and hollow, and the pieces of Huon Pine on the rattle on the right, have a soft, light clack, and all help buffer some of the shell parts that sound magical against each other, against the harder wood of the rattle handle.
On both of them, prior, there were other things, feathers, beads, adornments, that are pretty, and come from places that I know, friends, broken necklaces, etc. But as I picked them up, it was not these things that felt finished to me. As I took up the rattle on the left, dedicated tool to my Dísir, it was the handle itself, the familiar sound of shells that others might look past on the beach, of a sort that my Grandmother loved, on the South Coast of NSW, we walked and she picked up the slight, almost transparent oyster shells in all their oranges and pinks. The handle is light, threads of rot run through it, I chose it for the ease of working with it when I first decided to make a rattle for myself, a sister piece from the same species, same stand of trees, same stretch of bush in the south of Hobart as my Stav is made from, the same tinge of green streaks it, stained by nature and ground and time.
The other, on the right, I added the skeleton key my nephew chose for me last I saw him a few years ago. The wood is strong, very strong, and is stained with the sap of the Silver Wattle it comes from. That stands behind my back fence. I remember a few months backed when council wanted to cut a big chunk of it down, being split down the trunk as it is. I prevented them, I know he thought I was weird. I wished at the time I could explain to him how I knew it was not a hazard. This bit of wood was a dead branch, and when I took it, I first went to put it for sale online. It lasted there a short time, I couldn’t part with this first piece of wood from my tree. I could not part from what the council took either, and made him throw it over the fence so I could have it. If my tree was going to get a trim, then his wood would most certainly find new ways to be strong and beautiful. I couldn’t explain that to the council guy either.
As I looked at the collection of adornments on the bench, I knew I would need to make myself a new ritual necklace, because my rattles were finished.
As I photographed them this afternoon I was reminded of a conversation I had last week, with a lovely woman regarding a specific project I’m working on. I’m crafting specifically for this event (news to be announced soon!) and it’s all about the land we live on, bioregional animism, about knowing where things come from, sustainability, conservation, about the story of things, the narratives we chose to participate with, the spirit of things, where we live. This is part of what is so exciting about the whole thing for me, why I wanted to do it. When you get to that place, that unspoken place of communion, “bling” means very little, if not something much nastier than we might want to participate with. I salvage and upcycle a lot of beads, crystals, and have been gifted with things like this over the years, but I no longer buy crystals and precious metals, not unless I know exactly where they come from. I wonder whether the “special energy” of something that required a 13 year old being paid a dollar a week in South America to pull out of the ground that used to be ancient rainforest, or strip-mined in Eastern Europe, or Africa, or Asia, is really something I need in my Craft, or life. We spoke about that, and learned she used to be a jeweller, who gave the craft up for these very reasons. I respected that, and the fact she has found expression for her craft again, now centred on locally sourced materials, and in line with her ethical considerations.
No, adornment becomes something else. There was something about hollowing the gum nuts, roasting them, polishing them and fixing them to my rattle that meant something. A gift, from my dear friend in Victoria, from her garden, gathered just for me. Sanding the little bits of Huon Pine I would not throw away and too small for any other purpose, being so happy I could incorporate it into my rattle. These things do not need adornments, in fact, when I use them, when I hold them in my hand, I am the one adorned.