Don’t go banging for the sake of it: simple tips for shamanic drum guardianship

Selection of Taz power objectsTHERE’S something really special about drums…. they contain some kind of magical energy that makes everyone want to pick them up and start making some noise.

Bongos, djembes, frame drums, damroos, bodhrans, full five piece kits… they all seem to have the same effect. They draw people to them, wide eyed and grinning, eager to start beating a rhythm. Or trying to ;).

It’s wonderful to see how simple percussion instruments can bring people together, raise the vibration, breed happiness… but sometimes, just sometimes, people can be a little too eager. 

Medicine drums

When it comes to shamanism, the rules are a little different. Shamanic drums are medicine pieces. Often, their owners (or guardians… one can never really OWN a medicine object!) have spent time connecting with the spirit of the drum, and that drum will have a specific purpose. In shamanic terms, the drum is probably the most important tool – it helps us to access the other realms, yet acts as a physical anchor to consensus reality; we ‘ride’ the beat of the drum into the dreamtime – that’s why the drum is sometimes referred to as the Shaman’s Horse.

Your shamanic drum holds powerful medicine – you should always treat it with respect and work in harmony with its energy.

It’s important to understand that medicine pieces should never be touched without the guardian’s consent, and it’s not about ‘ownership’ or ego, it’s about energy. Sometimes it’s okay to add your energy to the mix, and sometimes the energy of a medicine piece needs to be kept as pure and untouched as possible, which is why you should always check before grabbing – no matter how strong the pull – and always respect the answer you’re given.

Drums are no different… which can present a few problems when unwitting muggles (thank you J K Rowling) lunge enthusiastically towards your precious instrument with the intent of banging away with gusto!

Calling Spirit

As a general rule, shamanic drums are used to call in our spirit helpers; they’ve often been used specifically for this purpose, so when the drum beat starts, our allies from beyond the veil will probably start coming to the fore. Imagine their surprise when they arrive, only to find little Johnny from down the road with his sticky fingers all over your drumstick!

My elk skin 'wolf' drum... lessons learned after letting my neighbour's friend handle it.

My elk skin ‘wolf’ drum… lessons learned after letting my neighbour’s friend handle it.

I experienced this myself a few years ago when my then next door neighbour asked if I’d bring my elk skin shamanic drum over to show his friends. My neighbour was actually quite open to other worldly goings on and always interested to hear about all things shamanic, so I foolishly anticipated that his pals would have a similar mindset. I still kick myself to this day about allowing one of them to hold my drum when they asked so politely… I certainly didn’t expect him to start banging away with gusto whilst bellowing some bizarre pseudo-tribal chant interspersed with the odd snippet of laughter. Oh, how proud he seemed to be as he puffed out his chest and unwittingly belittled the energy of my medicine drum! It took an awful lot of smudging, humility and journey work to get the energies back where they needed to be after that but, luckily, I have pretty understanding spirit helpers!

The lesson, of course, is to always treat your shamanic drum with the utmost respect, as you would any other sacred medicine object. My neighbour’s friend didn’t know any better – he meant no harm and, I’m sure, would be mortified if he’d realised how insulting his actions could have been. His ignorance, though, was no excuse – the buck lay, quite firmly, with me. As guardian of my medicine drum, it was up to me to ensure ‘she’ was respected and cared for, and it was up to me to choose who was allowed to handle her. I’ve never made the same mistake since!

So, here’s some basic advice for guardians of medicine drums… if you have any advice of your own to add, please do leave me a post at the end of this blog.

  1. Get to know the spirit of your drum, find out what it needs from you – some need ‘feeding’ (sometimes with milk, or even a drop of blood), some need to be wrapped in cloth, some need oiling regularly, some like to be played often, others not.
  2. Ask “what can I do for you?” and be willing to hear the answer.
  3. Always treat your drum with love, care and deep respect.
  4. Never place your drum face down.
  5. Never beat your drum in anger.
  6. Never ‘jam’ with your drum outside of ceremony or the dreamtime (unless it’s asked that of you). Rocking along to MTV isn’t usually an appropriate activity for shamanic drums!
  7. Cleanse your drum regularly – smudging is perfect for this. It may sound obvious, but don’t be tempted to wash your drum in water – particularly if it has a rawhide head!
  8. Keep your drum in a safe, dry space. Skin drums can suffer and lose resonance if their home is too damp, or split if too hot.
  9. Remember, at the heart of shamanism is animism – everything is alive, everything has an energy, and your drum is one of your truest companions.

Until next time, walk in truth and beauty,

All love,



PS: How do you work with your drum? We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts. Leave us a post below. 🙂

About Taz Thornton (

Speaker | writer | firewalker | empowerment coach | shamanic artist | mentor | encourager. Debut tome underway for Moon Books. Follow me on Twitter - @TazThornton and find FirechildShamanism and TazThorntonOfficial on Facebook.
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15 Responses to Don’t go banging for the sake of it: simple tips for shamanic drum guardianship

  1. Nancy Berry says:

    You know, I’ve always been avoidant of shamanic drums. Not really sure why but every time I have to play one I panic. Lovely piece to read though. xx


  2. My drum wasn’t made by me, but it was made FOR me. When I met the man who sold it to me, he didn’t even have it in stock. He got it a few weeks later, I phoned him, and we chatted for a while, until he said ‘I know which one is for you. I’ll send it to you.” Since then, it has been dedicated to healing, with about 20 other drums and rattles, at a sound workshop, and has only been used by one or two other people, always in the right setting, and in my presence. My rattles get less use, but they have only been used by me. They all live in my healing room, surrounded by my crystals, and they are all treated the same way – with respect, and very little handling by anyone else. Lovely piece, Taz, putting my thoughts into words – and much better than I would!


  3. I am blessed with a family of drums and rattles who have gifted themselves as teachers.. they may leave to go out into the world and sometimes return back to the family, or may choose to stay away. One drum has gone to a little boy who sees the world through his unique eyes (he is labelled as autistic); another to walk a path of journeying and healing. The rest stay with me for now. I have witnessed thus their willingness to allow the ‘banging’/ strong rattling to occur, as for the first time someone is guided back to their power and voice through the beat.. someone being gifted a voice when they felt voiceless, someone connecting perhaps for the first time in a very long time with the song of their heart and their soul… the drums and rattles bring people together into circle, into community and even if these people have never drummed or rattled before it never ceases to amaze me as I hear the them guide their faltering steps, literally taking them by the hand and drawing them into the beat, the song, which in turn rises and falls as each person falls into the rhythm. Then many become one and the sounds rises as one voice, one intention, one vibration. Such is the power of people gathering together in community… They offer healing by offering themselves. I am truly blessed.


  4. Aine C says:

    Reblogged this on Mystic Grove and commented:
    A great article on the sacredness of Healing/Shamanic drums versus drums for musical use.


  5. Souris Optique says:

    ” I’m sure, would be mortified if he’d realized ”

    So no one educated him? He’s still running around wreaking havoc b/c no one bothered to call him out on his atrocious behavior?


  6. I find this article a little upsetting to be honest, I really do not like the use of the word muggles! There is no need for separation and judgement in all walks of life. The very fact he played your drum means he may have got great healing from it? Then it is down to the keeper of the drum to work on the energy that was created afterwards. It is teachings and lessons for us all without the judgement, I think personally.
    We are all equals ……….


    • Firechild says:

      Thanks for your comment, Lynne – always appreciated, even when there are differences of opinion :). We absolutely are all equals and, for me, it’s about respect and education as well.

      All love xx


  7. Hi,
    I am also a drum lover and always ready to know and learn about different music instruments and their usage. I have read your blog and find it really useful for beginners as well as all drummers that how to take care of drums. 🙂 🙂


  8. Mountaingirl says:

    I recently acquired a shamanic healing drum totally by accident-through an internet auction site. I was immediately drawn to and for some reason that I cannot explain felt it was mine. I have shown it to and only allowed one person to touch it, a friend who I consider a ‘healer’ in his own rights. I have always wanted to play a drum. How can I have been called to this drum. I am still awed by this situation and don’t know how to proceed. I know I have a duty but what?


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