We’ve already explored why we pass the rattle during a women’s circle, but what about how to make your own rattle…
Why use a gourd?
Gourds are natural musical instruments that have more than 10,000 years of history, spanning multiple continents and uncountable cultures. Evidence from the Smithsonian is that gourds were the first domesticated crop ever grown in the Americas, probably cultivated by women as water containers. The origination of the gourds still grown today is in Africa, where seeds were then transported to Asia and then from Asia to the Americas by Paleoindian peoples who crossed the Bering Strait and originally colonized the Americas.
I was curious to know if gourds have any specific association with ancient goddess traditions in addition to their association with modern-day women’s spirituality, but I have not been able to find specific information on the subject. However, I was inspired to read this small paragraph, suggesting that gourds represent the womb of the Earth Mother herself and that using them to create rattles, creates “intentional womb prayer vessels.”
- Clean, dry, dipper gourd in the size of your choosing (also possible: bottle gourd, pear gourd, or birdhouse gourd). Mine is about ten inches around and 13 inches long, which is quite large (even half the size would be fine).
- Thick bladed exacto knife, or other cutting implement
- Small stones, beads, beans, seeds, or other objects to fill the gourd with sound
- Wood glue (super glue also possible)
- Sharpies, paints, gourd dye/stain, wood burner, Dremel tool, or other tools for embellishment
- Draw a line around the widest part of your gourd about 1 inch down from the top. Make the line slightly curving, rather than straight, so that when the top is sliced off, it will be “keyed” to fit back together, rather than trying to match up two straight lines.
- Using a thick bladed Exacto knife, cut over your line multiple times until it starts to cut through. Do not force it. Take your time. Be very careful. It is easy to cut yourself!
- After it is separated, scrape the materials out of the inside (reserve some seeds if you’d like to put them back into the rattle, or keep them to plant).
- Color or paint along the inside edges of the cut lines (this keeps the cut from being very visible when finished).
- Glue back together with wood glue (super glue might also work).
- Embellish the outside using permanent markers, gourd dye/stain, paint, a wood burner, or a carving implement, like a Dremel tool. I, of course, drew Womanrunes all over mine as well as my own rendition of The Rattle card from Shekhinah Mountainwater’s Tarot deck.
Where to get gourds:
- Go to a gourd festival: the American Gourd Society has chapters in 25 states (including Missouri) and they often have annual festivals.
- Order online: Show Me Gourd Society
- Buy from etsy: dipper gourd – Etsy (this lot would be fun so each woman in the Red Tent could make her own personal rattle: 100 Mini Long Handle Dipper Gourds)
- Grow your own: Gourds | Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co
What’s in my own gourd rattle?
You can fill your own rattle with any shakeable, rattly material you’d like. It was important to me that mine contain consciously, intentionally collected materials for specific purposes, so that each time we pass the rattle and shake it energy and intention is brought in to support our words. So, mine contains:
- Some of the original seeds from the inside, for the seeds of new ideas and for the connection to heritage, the generations, and the earth.
- Moonstone chips, for women’s wisdom.
- Amethyst chips, for intuition and healing.
- Job’s Tears for luck and manifestation.
- Pea gravel, for a good rattly sound!
I became interested in gourd instruments in 2014 when I was figuring out different ways to make my own drum and realized that I could make a drum using a gourd, rather than having to cut, steam, and bend wood into a hoop for a drum. Mark bought me some dried gourds for my birthday from an etsy shop and we made a small gourd drum together. I decided I wanted to grow amazing gourds and make bigger drums as well as awesome rattles out of them. We ordered heirloom gourd seeds in several varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and planted them that summer. This was the year I was pregnant with Tanner, Brigid’s Grove was taking off, and I was working intensely on the Womanrunes book. The garden got neglected, but the gourds grew anyway, since they do not need much tending, supervision, or maintenance. It was oddly thrilling and empowering to watch them and to see that I could do this! As I became riper with pregnancy, the gourds ripened too. The baby was born in October and the gourds began to dry and to separate from their stems. We let them dry on the vine as long as possible and then harvested them and left them in the greenhouse all winter to finish drying. The outsides got spotty and I worried they were ruined, but we scrubbed them with vinegar water and the spots peeled off with the last bit of skin outside of the hard rind of the shell of the gourd. Almost a year passed. The baby grew and became a walking baby. The time had come for my rattle. Mark carefully cut the top off of one nicely shaped dipper gourd and we scraped out the insides. I refilled it carefully and we sealed the top back on. Finally, I had a rattle of my own creation, of my own heart, to take to the Circle. Now, when we pass the rattle at our monthly Red Tent, we are passing a creation that grew from an idea and a seed, into something can be shared hand to hand as our voices are heard.
If you’d like to explore more of the messy, beautiful real-life work of practical priestessing with me, I invite you to join me in our seven week Practical Priestessing or Red Tent Initiation courses.