Drum and Rattle: Do I have to use these to be a Shaman?

Shamanic essentials? Or can you get away without using these seemingly necessary tools? 

by Sarah Petruno, Shamana

I don’t use a drum or a rattle in my shamanic practice.

In fact, I never did.

Early on, I’ll admit I tried it. I listened to traditional drumming with rattle accompaniment.

But I could never get on board. This type of meditation didn’t resonate with me, and I found it to be distracting.

This is my own personal preference, and actually, the idea that all shamans use drums and rattles in their practice is a myth.

Some do, especially many shamans and shamanic practitioners in the western hemisphere. But some don’t, and I’m one of those who don’t.

Shamanic essentials? Or can you get away without using these seemingly necessary tools? 

Reasons for use

1. Sacred Tradition

The creation and use of drums and rattles is considered a sacred, intentional act. When used in a healing and meditative ceremony, this intention can be carried into the session to amplify the strength of the healing.

2. Functional Meditative Use

But beyond tradition, they have functional uses. These instruments are tools used to help the mind and body get into and stay in the state needed for meditation, and eventually, shamanic journeying. (Read more about what a journey is, here). A meditative, trance-like state is required for shamanic practice, also known as the alpha brainwave state. The sound from these tools can aid the brain in getting there and staying there for prolonged periods.

3. Sound for Healing

Sound itself is a powerful tool that can be used to help the mind transition into not only a meditative state, but it can also be used to heal. Sound can be used to move and transform energy into a state of healing. Read more about that here.

Reasons for non-use

1. Other Sacred Traditions

The creation of a drum and rattle is just one example of a sacred act involved in Shamanism. All parts of shamanic practice are considered sacred, from start to finish. Read more about what the process may look like here.

2. Meditation with Focused Quietude

There are other ways to achieve the meditative state required for shamanic practice that do not involve sound or drum accompaniment.

If there wasn’t, no one besides drum using shamans would be able to meditate or enact healing on a spiritual and an energetic level.

The brain and body can be trained to achieve the state needed for shamanic practice (meditative state) with no sound whatsoever, and some people prefer it that way. Focused quietude is another great way to reach and sustain a meditative state.

3. Healing Technique without Sound

Sound healing through the use of drums or other instruments is just one type of energy healing.  There are many ways to move and transform energy to enact a healing - without using drums or any sound at all. Most shamans are trained to be able to move, manipulate, and transform energy by using their own Spirit and Helping Spirits to guide and direct healing energy, among other ways.

You can be a shaman and not use a drum.

You can be a shaman and use a drum.

It’s a matter of personal preference, cultural and shamanic lineage, and integration with your own style of healing.

If drumming doesn’t work for you or doesn’t appeal to you, try not to get hung up on it. It won’t hold you back from being a shaman.

Let it go and try something else that does work.

Want to know more about what it means to be a shaman? Check out this article

With love on your journey,


LAST UPDATED: May 18, 2015

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