Who will sing me across the river?

Who will sing me across the river?
Who will sing me from my home?

Who will sing my rememberings?
Who will sing me from my home?
Who will sing me across the river?

Who will sing me skyward bound?
Where the stars beyond the crown
Show a wrinkle in the wind.

Mother spun the cradle
Sang light and darkness in
Round I swing behind the crown
Outward further
Sisters calling

Who will sing me across the river?
Who will sing me from my home?
Who will sing me home?

- Christiana Aro-Harle 31.07.2022

How to make a Staff

Hello Elias – you asked this on the About- page

I wrote a long post and managed to press a button and off it went – somewhere. Trying again. And I replied – and am learning about blogs.

That is a long question. There are many responses, many experiences. Gleaning, I find a few.

First, I ask from Spirit(s) – my helping ones – I ask from the Land. Very simply, to the point, for a staff. If I am on the Land, in a place where I can be in nature (city parks and fields have offered staves) – I give a small gift to the spirits of the Land, my kin, my kith. Could be tobacco, turquoise, a pc of fish or delicious food morsel, return a crystal, a coin, pc of jewellery, etc. 

And I wait. I walk. 

I might decide to go on a walk for this. Start from a specific place and end in a specific place. And let Spirits guide me on the walk. Using shamanic eyes, liminal eyes- how you want to call this? I just say keeping my eyes open nowadays. And spirit helpers along, Life along, intention…. and walk, meander. 

The question is do I take from a living tree or what we say, dead-fall: wood that has fallen from the living tree. Here, it is not allowed to take from a living tree. Because here in Finland, the trees are “kept”, owned by someone for different reasons. Could be that they are protecting their trees so they can grow normally without human interference; or it is for clear-cutting or thinning or or or the place is part of the commune (county?) or village…. But what I was taught in Tuva was that one never cuts a living tree down, takes from a living tree because if one does, they kill one of their children (in their village, or family circle, country). Literally, kill through disease or straight-out death. So we would collect wood for winter from dead-fall, those storm-fallen, flood-ripped, and even old-age trees. Thinking about that on a macrocosmos-microcosmos manner arises the way humans are now….

Which reminds of a story which I have permission to tell. So, I and another are holding a week long drum-birthing workshop in North Karelia years back. Could have been yesterday! And one of the participants, she who now works with me on this workshop, heads out to her sit-spot, her power place, her special spot in the forest. And she has asked Spirits for a staff, a piece of wood. 

Crouching in the bush amongst the fir trees and gathering up connection and advice, she is. Kind of near a small car track (narrow, thru the forest-type). There she is, minding her own affairs and along comes a small car with two older folk. She can see the approach – so if she can see, could it not be so that they can see her also? HA! 

There she is with mosquito hat on, forest coloured clothes, her rattle amongst the bush. And comes the Oh Shit! they have a chainsaw with them! They are thinning the trees. She watches them move along. And then realises they are coming her way! What to do? Just sit there amongst the trees and wait til they stumble upon her? Can she be invisible? Don’t want to scare them – I mean, we are in the forest with no one supposed to be around! Should she just “pop out” of the bushes like some little menninkäinen- troll- fairy-? Will they get a heart attack from shock? How embarrassing this is, she feels. She don’t want interference! What a predicament! 

Gathering up her strength, her courage, her gumption she decides to reveal herself. Better that then have them drop their chainsaw on her! So she stands from her crouching and steps out to be visible. Well, a bit of shock. Now if you see her, know her, and could see her costume, her little specs on her nose, and a mosquito hat with netting covering her face, you’d be rolling on the floor with laughter. And she says: Good day!

And that couple! What do they do? Neat as a hat, just cool as cucumbers on a spit-hot day, return the greeting: Good day!

“I see you are thinning the trees,”, she says. I mean that is very obvious, but one must abide by some courtesies. Finns are not intrusive. Generations (of trauma too) of “doing things on one’s own- story.

“Yes, we need to take care of our little road. Easier to see when moose and animals come out of the bush”, says the man with the chainsaw. “What are you up to?”

“Oh I am just enjoying being here in the forest. Is this your forest? (Yes) and I am in a workshop nearby. I am out here looking for a staff”, she says in all truthfulness. For she is probably the most honest persons I know. 

“Oh, what kind? We have this chainsaw – how long do you need it, you know what kind of tree you need for this staff? How long?”

Well, one of her advices that she heard was, rowan, the world tree for her, and straight as a straight can be. And that is what she tells the man with the chainsaw.

He goes over to a rowan – not a big one, straighter than straight and whizzes that saw – and the wife goes over and holds it – and he cuts that rowan to the perfect height to her shoulder.

My friend says thank you many times. The old couple act as if embarrassed by this praise and say thank you back to her – no problem and all continue their way.

My friend, she says that the lesson of that day was not just about the staff, and getting her staff, but about being seen and following where courage called, becoming visible when everything in her body was saying make yourself small, disappear into the earth, be embarrassed because those were her sore spots. It was for her: asking for help, which is something that does not run in her parents, nor relatives. One must always do everything by oneself. That old couple came around to the workshop site later to see what we were all up to and have a chat, check in with my friend and her new staff. Such it is out in the countryside.

Another way is to dream the staff. Dream through a dream, as in when asleep. Or dream through a shamanic journey. Spirit helpers along- always. Those guiding relatives who may be another form than two-legged – those ones or one who know the ways of the spirit(s) world(s).

My staves came through a dream. I was invited over to BC, Canada to do some shamanic work, ceremony, teaching. I asked at home before dreaming what needs to go with me for this journey – and they said what needed to go along AND also said, you don’t take your drum. I almost always work with drum and song. Shock! My status, my personal being! My special friend left home alone??? 

So I left for Squamish without my drum. They said you going to find your staves. Staves? That is more than one. I arrived and went off to one island off of Vancouver Island for a visit to a friend. They own a plot of land there. And I asked, that if perchance, some pieces of wood, some staff wants to come with me, may I take – from ground or living or neither. And they said: help yourself to any and all.

I was in their hut – and made a shamanic journey (intention simple, a couple of spirit helpers along, singing and rattling, sending a part of me out and about, find answer, return, and follow-through). I asked what they -shehe should look like, what to keep in mind, what offerings to bring, how to care for when I get them back to the hut). A very clear journey and a very clear vision. Leaving the hut, taking the offerings along I began to walk with eyes wide open. I wandered through the woods and wetlands looking to see who called- or rather who was answering. For in the journey I saw two beings – one with new growth wrapped around old growth and and vittu or crook- like a diamond-ish shape at the top with the other one a straight arm-thick staff. I trust the journey and the spirits yet to be honest I really was not sure – how could I find such an old-growth new growth branch or tree? And singing out there, I came upon one that called and said “me”. 

This was the straight one. A dead branch attached to a mighty cedar mother. Offerings, double-checking that this was alright to do, in that taking-receiving the “dead branch” – I also received a gash in the head, pride squashed and a black out. Humbled greatly, I walked with the thought only to return to the hut, for my head was bleeding and needed tending. Such a twat I was. How harsh my tongue to myself. Still am! I strolled under cedar branches, mother trees, small trees, talking all the time with them – and there just like in the journey – sticking out from a cedar on one side of one cedar was the branch – new growth wrapped around old forming at the end an opening – a diamond-like crook. And this one, after learning from the previous – I just asked: if you want to come with me, come. Listen! Listen! Listen and watch and wait. So I sat and waited. And then I stood and touched the branch, and we knew that this one could come. With the permission of the land owner, with the permission of the tree, with much food offering, some vodka, some remembering words, I sawed the branch off in a spot where new growth was sure to follow. Ahh, some guilt, much “I hope I gave enough, I hope I balanced enough” went through my head.

I travelled to England once. Needed a staff for a long ceremony as I will not bring my staves any longer through airports. My dear friend Annie and I go off for a walk through the back streets of Bath, off up to some fields. We walk a few minutes. I noticed a buzzard above me. Circling tight circles above me. This was welcome. A hello from that land. And I passed on the news about on the look-out for a staff for this ceremony. Buzzard flies off. We walk along, cross the hillside grassfield – you know, the British kind: trees only line the edges. And there in the middle of this field is a long, shoulder-height wrist-thick stick. We stand there looking around – no humans around, trees are very far away, no dogs (this is not throwing stick- more like a javelin, although we do know one dog in BC who would think this was a fantastic throw stick, that is another story)….like did Buzzard just drop one into the middle of the field? Fairy folk? WHO KNOWS! So thank you gifts in return, check-in for ok to pick up, and now to create a relationship with this staff.

A few ways to make a staff? Nature makes them. 

Shoulder height – or up to your head. Your world tree.

You do not need to decorate it. For why have something that stands out that others can notice and pinpoint and desire? In the archaic exists the sacred used. And only those who use or are privy to the teachings, or participated in the ceremony where this “item” has been, truly know the beauty and the energy, the power and threads tied to Sacred and Spirit. 

You may have more than one staff – one for public use, one private use perhaps. They are just like a shaman’s drum, or other “instrument” – they become your friend, they are sacred, they have Spirit, they are Spirit, they gather and swell, dream and dwell in this world and others; they hold and take in and spread, sending out. 

An afterthought when I remembered the original post.

Make a walking journey- where you have an entrance to nature. This might be some sort of natural threshold, gateway, gate, between two trees, over a natural waterway. Stillness, nature talking not humans. It can be a known route or one you make your self, for instance. Taking your spirit helper(s) along, make clear your reason for this walk, step through this Nature-made doorway and seek out your staff. Keep in mind the “fallen” or “living” from above and follow as your helpers guide you. When you find your staff, ask, give thanks, gifts, and return the same way as best as you can. The whole walk is part of the story, there can be little lessons along the way about the staff and your relationship with staff.

Staff- simple walking stick – or not.

The Thing with Ceremony

The Thing with Ceremony

Why am I special?

I am not.

What is real ceremony?

You are in the center

You are the one giving

A place of honour

A place of sacrifice

You always have a payment

There is a cost for being

In the centre of ceremony

To being the main dancer

To be the main story teller

To be the main healer

To be the main singer

To be the main musician

There is alway a payment

There is always a balance

To be maintained

You give as good as you “get”

Getting is the sacrifice

You be honoured by being

In the sidelines 

Be in the circle of singers

Be in amongst the drummers

Be in as the village 

Be in as an auntie or uncle

The one in the centre 

Carries the cost

And the balancing happens 

In their circle

To them

To the ones to the things near

Unless all the ones around

Give – gift generously

With word and action and deed

With gifts to other, to land 

To Spirit

That is why extractive consumer starseeder, often white human, ceremonies are dead

No one gives

One sits there in envy

Jealous heart

Of the one one in the centre

But one doesn’t understand 

To be in the centre

Is not about glory.

Literal sacrifice

they say in some sacred ceremonies

The one in the centre loses some years off their life

Each time they hold the ceremony, and that is not often

They say in some sacred ceremonies

That the ones in the center

That is all they do all year long

Is getting ready for one ceremony

Which lasts five days or one

Am I ready for that?

Do the folk who gather

For that ceremony

Are they prepared

To give to Spirit

Or to the Spirits

To keep the ceremonialists safe

To dance and sing again

If the ceremonialist is constantly

Giving to Sprit, they know that

It will cost them

Even their life

Balance balance

Keep the balance

Be at peace with 

“Sitting in the third row”*

– Christiana Aro-Harle

Written while thinking about ceremony and preparing for Awakening and dancing Mother Bear.

*quite sure this was a line heard from a podcast by Nordic Animism & Tyson Yunkaporta.

Raven Song I

Sometimes the Ravens come out of my drum

Talking and squawking and chirping and telling me things.

Making fun of my serious life, showing me that

I am still here and they too. Sometimes they

fly out of my drum in a small group of

one after the other just pop out of my drum.

and open their lips, those beaks, those throats and begin to sound.

I see them here telling me things in only a language we know.

There voices a comfort, a solace, a laughter

Of joy.

My stomach sings and smiles

My hear lifts ups and out Reaching for them

pulling them in. Joining in their raucous

On the way on their sound my heart

leaps. I, we are friends.

– Christiana Aro-Harle, 03/2020


Hiki. Hiki. Hiki. Valuu

Märkää hiukset

Vesi valuu otsalta



J o k a  i k i s e s t ä solusta

Nyt heti 

Ei huomenna ja ei eiliseltä

Lantio, kädet, pää, sormet, reidät, jalat, selkä, takkumik, olkapäät, niska, huulet, 

Ilot, surut, ekstaasi, rakkaus, yhteisö, yksin ja yhdessä, lämmin, kuuma, täydellinen, ydin

Sydän hakkaa 

Hengitys on Elämä ja Kuolema

Tässä ja nyt

Rukoile ja tanssi

Tanssini on rukoukset

Kehoni on tanssi

Hiki ja hiki ja ihana hiki

Hymyleni niin että aurinko syntyy 

Nauroin että kohtuni saa siivet

Lennänyt auringoille

Ihanaa hiki.

– Christiana Aro-Harle, 2016

A Questionnaire of Sacred Places

Questionnaires are interesting! Just a short wandering…

On the one hand, collecting the stories and practices and place sites may keep the stories alive, maybe practices alive; give light to the human and non-human (Spirit, and non-two-leggeds) mapping of a place, region. More folk may tell those stories. More folk may cooperate with such places, keep them clean, safe. This keeps sacred places alive. And us also. This makes for us two-legged a connection to the land, to the roots wandering below ground, to the mycelium, to the birds which need so many different landscapes, to the stones that have been there for-ever-so-long. Very simple. Dangerous also to fall into…

…the other hand. These places have been used also by authoritarian states, by military, by religions, by business and capitalistic ventures in controlling and destroying. Or by making a product out of a sacred place (don’t get me started on North Karelia’s get the gods and goddesses out to the tourist public-project). So many places overrun with busloads. Look at Lapland. Look at Greece.

I recently went with a few folk to a spring near a highly popular ski resort city in Lapland. I was asked if I could lead a ceremony with them with the spring. We heard stories about the spring: of the travellers, the ones who used this spring from hundreds of years. The place was along the route to get from south to north through this small “dry” gap between mountains. The local Lion’s Club have built up a small platform so one can stand above the spring, step down, and also go across into the jänkhä. Contacting the mistress spirit of this spring led to giving instructions on how to care for it. We gave gifts, made prayers, drummed and listened. But this did not include how to increase traffic to the spring. And that seems to be the “product” which is now going to be offered by one of the participants. My eyes were not open to this. And I regret partially. Teachings about this place and honouring Spirit from myself, the hostesses stories about this place were just a rehearsal for part of a tour package, it seems. Let’s see how this goes. Maybe some also take with them something of prayer and spirit and water. Water is Life.

My dear friend Annie lives in Bath. An ancient place of springs, hot springs, healing waters surrounded by seven hills. An ancient sacred water place with River Avon flowing through the hills. Full of people. Full of tourists flocking to the shops, the Baths, Jane Austens’ house, the Georgian architecture, museums, the Abbey. The Baths are built up, covered, parts visible in the ruins – under thick glass with walking bridges over them. A gaze into the past. A museum. A shop. Many shops selling tourist items related to the seven hills, the stories, the Baths. Most made of plastic and epoxies and from far-away-mass-production-human rights’/environmental violators lands. But being who Annie is and knowing a thing or two, there are ways to honour the springs in the area and tell their very ancient pre-Roman stories when the springs were in woodlands. Rehydrating one’s connection to Life and keeping the sacred alive in those tourist Baths through those stories and gifting to the springs and river.

“Until we make connection with the earth we will continue to do the same (destroying, depleting, over-foresting/fishing/grazing etc)…. bring gifts continually” – Annie Spencer

A few words from her opening ceremony at Sacred Activism‘s Co-Creating the Emerging World: Heart, Soul, Faith and Unity

On my neighbour’s hand, which I gladly accept to use in formulating my theories and wanderings, this questionnaire’s information may help save places from mining, deforestation and other human interference (read destruction and ecocide).

honouring sacred place three generations of Mongush present. C. A-H

Victoria Peemot (click and you can hear the 52 min presentation), a Tyvan-Finn, completing her post-doc gave a story recently about her clan in Tyva collecting the stories of their place where an industry site is being planned. They are able to delay its arrival so far because of being able to prove that they had inhabited that region for ages: each tree, rock, outcrop, valley, hill, waterway has a place in their nomadism – in their livelihood.

For Tyvan people human-nonhuman kinship includes land, pastoralist communities and nonhuman animals; and they support each other to keep more-than-human memories and when facing the common threats to their relationship, for instance, mining projects. – Victoria Peemot

personal correspondence for permission to touch the story of her clan

My time in Tyva in June 94 – winter 95 brought this alive. Every boundary between khozuuns / counties/territories brought about gifts to the land before passing through. Every ova (cairn-like offering site) and sacred tree brought stories of the Master and Mistress Spirits of the place. Every song sung by a shaman brought forth places, nonhuman animals and human-like forth. The places remain current, alive, connected to ancestors and to the ones arriving. Well, that is subject for a another major wandering for another day.

Re-covering an old sacred site, Tyva. Big ceremony. Remains of our fire which burned all night- and we drummed and sang our algyshes from mid-day all night and til next morning. 1994

As long as a (sacred) place’s story is kept alive, we have connection to our roots, to the roots of the place, the people, the history. And it matters not if we are born there or move there. The land “will open up to us”, says Annie, if we are true to being present with Her.

Go out onto your land, in your local area. Find again, if lost or not, the sacred places just in your local area. Give gifts to trees, to the rivers, the swamps, the lakes, the grand-rocks and cliffs. Give small things – give beautiful words in song and speech, question the place about the stories held there. Listen to stories of the neighbours. And Pass them on. Keep them alive. Give gifts.

The questionnaire –

The questionnaire is run by an Estonian-Finnish research project. Available in English, Finnish and Estonian.

Osallistu tutkimukseen pyhien luonnonpaikkojen käytöstä ja merkityksestä! Tämän suomalais-virolaisena tutkimuksen tarkoituksena on tuoda myös arkeologien ja kulttuuriperinnön kanssa työskentelevien tietoon erilaiset pyhiin luonnonpaikkoihin liittyvät merkitykset ja tavat käyttää niitä.

Kyselyyn vastaamisessa kestää noin 15-30 minuuttia. Takaraja vastaamiselle on 22.12.2021. Viestiä saa mielellään välittää asiasta mahdollisesti kiinnostuneille.

Linkki kyselyyn: https://link.webropolsurveys.com/S/D475BC457F0BB5AF
Voit olla kyselyyn liittyen yhteydessä Tiina Äikkääseen (Arkeologia, Oulun yliopisto, tiina.aikas[at]oulu.fi)

Participate in research into the use and significance of sacred natural sites! The purpose of this Finnish-Estonian study is also to bring to the attention of archaeologists and those working with cultural heritage the different meanings associated with sacred natural sites and the ways in which they are used.

It takes about 15-30 minutes to complete the survey. The deadline for replying is December 22, 2021. You are welcome to forward this message to anyone who may be interested.

Link to the survey: & nbsp; https://link.webropolsurveys.com/S/D475BC457F0BB5
You can be in connection with the survey in connection with Tiina Äikkää (Archeology, University of Oulu), tiina.aikas [at] oulu.fi )

Preseli Mtns Blue Stone close up. C.A-H.

Healing Song: Mother

My song begins. A healing for my relationship with my mother. A low, weaving murmur calling out to those who dwell around me. At once, I look out at the forest. Sloping down to the small field on the edge of the forest grow great aspens. Some the girth of my large rounded thighs. I look at the forest and Aspen with one great branch reaching out to the northwest. I am sitting upon the branch trying to saw the branch off with me sitting on it! 

“You can’t cut the branch from the tree from where you are from” they say. And we are off. I am seeing myself on that branch. I am singing a song with no words which carry me back into the room from whence I began. My drum calling me forward and to the inside outside. Spirit of Song, spirit of drum, all the keepers of knowledge that call to me as I call to them. All at once in many places.

And then a trickling, a pouring in begins. All these women are gathering under me, below my feet. All the mothers of me. All the ones who came before me. Strictly, mothers who birthed me. I see them as though through a watery glass-like ceiling yet it is the floor, for me. 

My feet, I am amazed! Are standing on a pair of shoulders. They are not my mother’s but her mother. My mother is still alive. I stand on this grandma’s shoulders, grey hair curled. This is not my grandmother I knew but the biological mother of my mother. I recognise her from a photo I have seen. Under her, another mother, then another mother, and another and another and another. Some mother’s are dressed in bright clothes, some are dressed in scrumpy clothes. Some are wearing pants, pantaloons, skirts, pant-skirts, vests, shirt-blouses, on and on. 

The call has been put out and they come running- there way below me. I am on the lingonberry coloured wood floor and they go thru the floor. Down, down, down, down. One woman- so small- in a light blue silky puffy pants and white blouse comes running in from the northeast to join in. She is waving her hands above her head, as if signalling, “Wait for me! Wait for me!” She is very young and brown skinned. Which draws me into peering at them more closely.

We are amongst many scenes at once. From below, the gathering. From the sides, the coming in. From the sides travelling towards many lands. Colours of landscapes, colours of clothes, colours skies, colours faces and hands, shoes and feet! Flooded with this deluge of women. I see them coming in from Canada, from England, from Wales, from Scotland, from Finland, from Eurasia, mainland Europe, from further east and south. Ah, Persia! I notice. Oh! How did she slip in from Peru? No one tells stories of this. Some are short, some are tall, some are thin and gaunt. Some are wide and round. The tall and short is fascinating to watch how they all, how we all stack upon one another! Like a matryoshka doll! Like the golden woman. Like the three headed gold piece – one face upon another, with hair hanging down. 

I yell out to them, this teetering tottering tall standing stack of mothers my question, a healing for my relationship with my mother. Who is not yet standing under my feet. And they “yell” up to me or vibrate – for not sure how to convey this coming through of the words: COMPASSION for your sisters!”.

Plaque showing winged female diety. 7th or 8thc. Cast bronze in openwork; 15.7 x 7.5 cm. From the settlement of Kurgan, Cherdyn district, Perm region. Inv. No 1927/1. 
From: The Animal Style of Perm, 1988, The Historical Museum, Moscow.

Visceral, multi-sensorial overwhelming on the everylittletinymolecularcelllevel I feel this weight. This strength. I am one with this tower of mothers. Anchored feet to shoulders. I feel sadness. Grief. That this all ends with me. I have no daughters. I apologise to them and to my mother. I feel grief that I have no daughters for I so did want them also. I know a stillborn was a daughter. I see her other half, I see my fathers part that travel beyond, just aside of this veil. They say you show the same things to them and the others as if they were your daughter- adopted daughters. While saying this we see all of life, all of the teachings, all of experiences, all adventures. I feel the links the attachments to all these – there are so many of us. These I can pass on even without my own daughter. My, my. Visceral.

This goes on for a long time – for ages – for so much song. Which is keening and full of tremolos, full of winding, weaving, trilling. Feeling this connection under my feet on their shoulders! Ah it is also so entertaining this standing on so many shoulders. Ahhhh the beauty! Weeping at the beauty of them, of the length of time, of all their stories of wellness, illness, suffering, greatness, just existing, short lives, young lives, old lives, twisted lives, rapes, old men, young men impregnating them…. My core is struck with all their shoulders and feet.

Then we are on the branch. Travelling back in time. The song singing me. I am in the east, now going south, now east again and going south. Sometimes we jump north, one time we went so west as to be in a place full of humidity and jungle. Why did no one talk about her? 

I ask about my mother and healing – The picture of the empty boat! Ah! Why did she paint it? What was her message? What I remember was she painted it when she was down – days in depression about Dad, about them, their story, and her deep within, small winding, ultra-thin strand of dislike. Hate? No. Anger? yes. Grief? yes. Injustice real or imagined? yes. Why did she give that energy to me in this painting? Why did she do this? What was she trying to convey to me? What to do? Signed “Mom”! 

Then we are in the sea, Pacific Ocean we swim and dive. There she is amongst the tall growing forest of kelp and asking this same question and about now. Now! Learn how to paint with your mother. Go to her and paint beside her. Ahhhh I am afraid of their religion, their extremism, their hidden whiteness and colonialist hallelujah. I have lived thru their demeaning, their denial, their badgering and holier than thou because we believe in the one true god. How do I get thru that? Will you be with me there? And I carry my disdain also.

Colours and multi-layered veils flowing around the entry hall. We travel, I am praying. Bending at the hips, up and down, up and down, back and forth back and forth. The motion, the way of being. Drum continuous rhythm. I cannot pray any harder and cannot stop the movement. Forever praying forever praying and travelling over lands.

Grasslands, drylands, desert lands, snake lands, tufts of grass lands, rolling hill lands, mountainous lands. On horse I ride. Warrior lands. All the ancestors, the mothers, all fighting, all warriors in the blood sense. In the scimitar and sword sense, The bow and arrow rising from my arms on horseback, a funny peaked cap upon my head, curled toe’ed boots in the straps. Persian, Assyrian. My heart is weeping, my tears are streaming. Oh, the grief, the longing, the suffering, the fierceness, the survival. All there, all being – in Canada, going back going back, slipping in those who we just cover over, in East Europe, more south, in Persia, in southern siberia, a maid, long pants. Long lives short lives, so many so many…. The visions swirl and swirl and the landscapes roll under this tall stack of mothers. All their stories.

These are just fighting cultures! Why? The source the source, where does this end? – Ahhhhh, a book arises, a dark blue cover of a book 1001 arabian nights! My mother reading. My mother’s desire to be a traveller, to go, to be elsewhere than here. I feel this in her. I am in her. Her favourite book, reading aloud to me. Me reading in the night skies. 

Fire draws my attention. No, I do not burn the painting of the row boat on water, two oars dipping into the water. One oar visible, the other just showing the tip. A fishing rod with a line out into the water. There is no human in the boat. The name of the picture is “Dad gone fishing”. The flat water reaches the sky – there seems no distance between them- on the horizon a trace of yellow-gold-  and purple, perhaps mountains. Perhaps not.

Dad is waiting for her. Put them in the same boat. I see their spirit animals/guardians in the boat together. Paint them in- draw them in with a felt-tipped pen. Their spirit beings or stick figures, no matter! One day.

Then we move onward seeking out peace. Bowing and bowing and bowing some more. Arising of ecstasy feeling all those shoulders and feet and hearts and wombs in-between. Seeking peace. All this fighting all this whore-mongering, war-mongering. Looking for the Goddess? Not in the Glastonbury sense, I laugh aloud. Where is the one who contains all life and death, who just is the Giver – for there is no taking – just giving – the one who was before we were on horses and scimitars flying. Ahh, must say that it was exhilarating! The fierceness of wind, thud of hooves flying over the grasslands, the dry lands.

And before is a wall of stone – stone work, square chiseled blocks of stone- somewhere in India I feel – for this is where a few mothers came from it seems. This great wall I stand close to. Humid air, thick forest air. The wailing wall? No. A temple wall? Maybe. Tree branches, tree roots around parts. Old old stone. Somewhere up that wall is a figure. The drum beating, the song murmuring, and we are trying to find peace- looking for the Goddess cause not all this war like riders- or fighters -something must have been before, all the mothers says there was is… further and further digging out the one who was taken over by the warriors in this stack of mother upon mother upon mother. There she is. The last of her kind and we were fertile. The one on the edge of the change to these war-makers, conquerors, putting down peoples. And my mothers were part of this – split beings.

And I asked once more for a healing the relationship with my mother and she (the goddess, or the mother of mother’s) gushed out a river from the branch of the tree where I sat and I understood Paint with Mother and snorted and laughed, pointless/funny to try and cut the branch – from the tree, the source. The water will stop flowing from the tree, the source of life. And that we do not want. 

Täkänä. Reversible woven cloth- mirror image and colours on the other side. Date unknown. Maker unknown. Personal. Photo: Christiana Aro-Harle
Täkänä. Photo: C. A-H.


Follow-up after this song. Checking in with the painter. Grief. Their favourite boat, a fold-up to be placed on top of their trailer. They had such good times in that row boat and now he is no longer in the boat. He is gone. He has left this world. The line out into the water, still fishing. The sorrow of loss. Of good times, strong memories of a fold-up rowboat, adventures, water, fishing, being together at peace. And in the distance, fog – with the sunlight still further on the horizon, coming through. Travelling to a land that is through the mist of fog. If you have ever seen the fog rolling in over mountains and hills, you know that feeling, sensation. If you have seen the sunlight seeping through fog, “burning it off”, they say, then you know the feeling. If you have no eyes to see, you have felt all this on your skin, your hair, perhaps a sharpness or coolness or clearness or shimmering on your face. 

So we shall wait before we paint. For the be-ing time, I shall place that dear painting on the ancestral altar. And re-member and rehydrate all those standing under my feet. And as for my mother, I shall call her on zoom.

Painting by Mom, 2016ish. All rights reserved to my mother. Photo: C. A-H.


This means events and happenings over what we call Time which are in a fractal process of Creatrixion – of learning. And the “western” (read consumptionist) of any colour or religion or political stance has much to re-learn. Not impossible.

Indigenous: people of the Land they live on, that they maintained in community and communally. Many think this as only specific groups as being indigenous. EU states that Sámi are the only indigenous in EU. I think that there are more indigenous peoples within in the EU, however that is not the point of todays thoughts.

Indigenous People may be and are ones who stay on the land and waters of their birth. Indigenous People are seemingly the ones who have their lands cut-up, redrawn borders, resized to small patches of “reservations”, and moved because of imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, communism and rape-war-womb stealing. Shit! in the city could be called gang-wars? Block parties? No.

Or they may be physically displaced because of imperialism, colonialism, capitalism, rape-war-womb mongering, etc., yet despite this trauma, they come to a deep knowing of their new homeLAND.

Indigenous is Knowing the plants, the waters, the flow of where rains travel and how; what grows where and how much; who walks and swims and borrows where; where are the springs and how do they flow? Where are the berries, the mushrooms and in which seasons do they arrive and leave? The birds migration – knowing how and when and where. The revere of the wolf and bear or raven. Yet it is not a book-knowing!

Indigenous may mean that one who sits on the land – everyday. The one who speaks with elders, listens to their stories about what happened where and when and how and with whom (all Kin). Maybe the one who speaks with all the kin around them. Maybe one who walks or even rides their bike all over the land and observes, listens, questions not the books yet goes out and understands the inter-connectedness and how reliant each are to the other.

I participated in an online talk recently, given by Grandmother and Knowledge Keeper Sophia Rabliauskas as part of Indigenous Climate Action learning (see end of quote for a video). Several phrases – or rather sentences struck me. Forgive me for not being able to directly quote, but with essence:

Why do we have to validate our being here for 6 000 – 7 000 yrs to a white anthropologist? In order to have the lands we have lived on all that time to be accepted? All our stories tell us so that we have lived there!… who better to know how to care for our land? We managed all this time…

Grandmother and Knowledge Keeper Sophia Rabliauskas on her involvement in Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Site https://pimaki.ca

Indigenous stories – learning the stories of the land. The land where you live. Right outside your door. Nature. Greenery or desert or mountain or waterways or valley; forest, field, swamps, oasis. Not the landscape of the city or village.

How are we to know what is best for a place except by listening to those who live alongside and with the land? Biodiversity and the well-being of ALL KIN in that area needs to be considered. Do the human-kin know how fragile this Kymi River region is, for example? From observing the way forest “management” in the region (all of Finland), this is highly unlikely. I was told when I enquired about the plans for forest management near me that old birches were going to be taken out. The first cuttings have appeared – and now we are left with mono-culture once more: only left standing in the forest are same-sized birches – ready for culling in twenty years. And so the old school cycle repeats.

The bracken (sananjalka- suom) now has more room for spreading, and it is spreading rapidly (what a mess we shall have in the next generation!). The ground is churned up by the forest machinery so that one cannot walk there without twisting an ankle or wrenching a back muscle. The Finnish Every (hu)man’s right- law is violated because no one can walk there any more to pick berries or mushrooms or take children out on the land to explore or just to be. And we, the indigenous people of this village are to be grateful that they did not take everything down!

Indigenous knowledge of how the land and river cooperate with all kin in the region is ignored for various reasons. The “I deserve” and “my right” and “gotta make a living” all reflect non-indigenous thinking. Long-term – many grandchildren time – generations is moving towards indigenous thought. Making plantings in a clear-cut area is not long-term because the biodiversity is lost. Period. I am not saying we should not plant trees! AND they intend to repeat the cycle of cutting it all down. All of this is agricultural society behaviour and we have to go behind that.

The plans for culling forest in this watershed area are vast. The watersheds those places that feed water (silt, bugs, animals, birds, fauna also) are being clearcut continually. Small and larger patches. One cannot sit in the forest and see old-growth without seeing clear-cutting, machine tracks, same age trees. Outside our backdoor is now under threat. The birds, four-legged, butterflies, bees and other pollinators all rely on the biodiversity of this river forest. I think that if the owners of these places actually came out for a day to sit on the land, to listen, smell, feel, observe they would change how they approached living with land and water (and air). Maybe I or we could convince them to take the long-view, to step outside the forever eating itself cannibalism (and still taking selfies), self-masturbation consumption-ism. Only satisfies for a moment (be that first-quarter, second-quarter, annual or 5 yr).

Thinking with this rattling ball-thing on our shoulders is not enough. Sitting in meditation is not enough. Counting the money in the bank is not anywhere near the point. Succumbing to political and industrial pressure is very old school and definitely not enough. Thinking with how to make share-holders more rich or keep the machines in business is not enough. We must all become indigenous once again and Know our land and re-member long-viewing.

Key Findings of Territories of Life: 2021 Report

  1. Indigenous peoples and local communities play an outsized role in the governance, conservation and sustainable use of the world’s biodiversity and nature. They actively protect and conserve an astounding diversity of globally relevant species, habitats and ecosystems, providing the basis for clean water and air, healthy food and livelihoods for people far beyond their boundaries.
  2. Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ extensive contributions to a healthy planet are rooted in their cultures and collective lands and territories – in essence, the deep relationships between their identities, governance systems and the other species and spiritual beings with whom they co-exist. Thus, they are also contributing significantly to the world’s cultural, linguistic and tangible and intangible heritage.
  3. The global spatial analysis shows that Indigenous peoples and local communities are the de factocustodians of many state and privately governed protected and conserved areas, and they are also conserving a significant proportion of lands and nature outside of such areas. However, the mainstream conservation sector has a historical and continuing legacy of contestation for Indigenous peoples and local communities, depending on the extent to which their rights, governance systems and ways of life are recognised and respected. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity for future directions of local-to-global conservation efforts.
  4. Indigenous peoples and local communities are on the frontlines of resisting the main industrial drivers of global biodiversity loss and climate breakdown, and they often face retribution and violence for doing so. Along with other challenges, these multiple stressors can have cumulative and compounded effects on Indigenous peoples and local communities, which in turn pose longer-term threats to their lives, cultures and resilience. However, they continue to resist and respond to these threats in diverse ways.
  5. Even in the face of immense threats, Indigenous peoples and local communities have extraordinary resilience and determination to maintain their dignity and the integrity of their territories and areas. They are adapting to rapidly changing contexts and using diverse strategies to secure their rights and collective lands and territories of life. Although not without setbacks, they have made key advances and continue to persist in pursuit of self-determination, self-governance, peace and sustainability. https://report.territoriesoflife.org/executive-summary/

There is really nothing in the Finnish forest or waters that is dangerous. We bring that with us

Yesterday a walk through forest to river. This forest lies between our place and the river.  I was looking for a remoter place by the water for ceremony work. I know Ahlström Family/Ltd had been around in the area thinning, yet, well, how do four-leggeds get through this? 

If we have ”every ones rights” to be in the forest- to pick berries and mushrooms, walk, wonder etc. then What IS THIS? 

This ground is just centimetres above the river flow. Is there a coming storm of machines? What are the plans? How long do we have and the forest and water dwellers have?

While walking I mused. I was imagining Ahlström gently clearing out all the trimmed trees (risut), folk coming in and collecting wood for their own use…Letting the land be. Imagining them and the village folk making it part of the nature walk here (#Kukuljärvi). 

Because of their mess- it means almost 99% sure they are getting ready to clear-cut the forest. Finnish forest industry #Metsä Liitto, #UPM, #StoraEnso, #MetsäGroup #Tornator and their minions (sub-contractors) know of only one method: all down- a few ”seed trees”, maybe a few bug trees… a thin stand along the bank of the river for aesthetics. The ground torn up, bugs and pollinator homes destroyed, bird habitat demolished, plants and fungi and mosses destroyed. I wonder if they will research who and what lives in this biodiversity? I saw one print of the planning commission when we bought our place of making most of the waterways here in #Ruotsinpyhtää #Stromförs #Kymenjoki #Kymenlaakso part of #Natura programme. Very typical to come in and do clearing of forests (money) before status granted. The “big owners” in North Karelia did the same with the Koli region.

The land here is wet, not quite bog- think old lake bed. In the 50s animals were given free roam. One man who was on the Kukuljärvi path and passing through while we were sawing a storm-felled tree said he remembers sheep and running between here and the river. Well, that would be wonderful and welcome – a different type of biodiversity. Not just torn up earth and disaster area for more than a generation (I count 33 years). There are many different tree, bushes, mosses, flowers, birds, -it is teaming with Life! Before the small dam was put up (about 6km as the crow flies) this branch of the Kymen river was the land of rocks and rapids to the sea. There are some local historians who have collected photos and stories of those times. Very, very interesting.

Ahlström went around and bought up many strategically placed independent sawmills, electric production or ironworks along rapids in Finland. He (they) bought large tracts of land around these places. They also broke them, sold parts off, closed them down almost immediately. Villages died; mills, ironworks, own energy – workers and families all lost their livelihoods. They still own great tracks of land. This village is enveloped by and on their lands. They are one of the oldest families still carrying on since the days of Swedish rule. Interesting family tree – all the marriages between upper class, family holdings yet the founder of this 150 yr old dynasty was fortunate, smart, not highly educated, married well and in the writings appear humble. However, how he was able to buy up whole sawmills/ironworks/villages/homesteads is beyond me. Where on earth did he get the funding back in the 1800s? Anyway, back to the forest back-yard.

And coming upon All of the human history: our abandoned row-boats (no problem if wood- this one ain’t), weirs, docks, sheds…maybe diring the time when Ruotsinpyhtää was its own commune, before it joined Loviisa. Maybe the former decision-makers of Ruotsinpyhtää and current Loviisa decision makers can come and clean this up? I say decision makers because they were the ones to give orders… well, the ones who did were doing “ their job”. Ruotsinpyhtää fused with Loviisa. 

As for Ahlstöm, I dont know where to begin. I have heard a few stories- not much to my liking. The village is literally – a great portion is on their land. We are beholden. Even if we own our own bit. We need cooperation. We need methods and means of keeping ever reducing natural habits from disappearing. 

Winter cutting of trees, with lumberjacks and old horse drawn sledge vs a harvester john deere (a big employer here in Finland) coming in and tearing up the land. A village project with school- museum cooperation? Buying the land off through the Luonnonperintösäätiö (Finnish Natural Heritage Foundation) or  Luonnonsuojelun Säätiö? 

And if they chop that down how will it effect the water levels on our plot? We already have a small willow-filled pond here- the water level is same as the river.

In the end I found some nice spots but access is so difficult and dangerous. Dangerous to walk through the woods because of humans. There is really nothing in the Finnish forest or waters that is dangerous. We bring that with us and our own stupidity and short-sightedness, our dominion over-mentality, and a Mother-less heart married with a Father-wounded heart.

Birthing a shamanic healing drum

A drum is alive and has a spirit. When I make a drum I am responsible for this being and this being is responsible for me. My own drum is a physical piece of evidence of my own sacred marriage with spirit. She – my drum – helps me to make divination, heal, unmake, release, bind, separate. Together the spirits and I create and destroy. In Tuva they say a shaman is nothing without a drum. 

Not all drums are meant for shamanic healing. Drums have many roles in many different hands. In my understanding of shamanhood if you hold and use a drum it is for shamanic healing. One has a sacred contract with the spirits which you are showing to the world by your use of the drum.

For the past twenty-two years, I undertake a process with people which I call ‘drum birthing’. This process is about bringing that which is Spirit as instructed or guided by our spirit helpers into this reality. For this, I use natural materials of timber and animal skin; the Land; midwives; community; shamanic journeying; an animist belief that All is alive and has a Spirit and all is connected. Drum-birthing is about doing the best we can to bring into being a healing drum which is as individual and beautiful as the person birthing. The drum is awakened and blessed when brought into the world.

My relationship with drum began soon after I participated in a Shaman’s journey- basic workshop with Jonathan Horowitz and Heimo Lappalainen in 1991. These two were, at that time, teaching for Foundation for Shamanic Studies in Scandinavia/Finland. They were my introduction to shamanic journeying and my first drumming experience with them is still strong in my heart. It set my feet straight on the shamanic/animistic path I still walk; but, that is a whole other story for another time. Back then Remo synthetic drums were very much in use in Finland: no matter if -30C or +30C, they sounded. 

My Remo drum was sweet to play; sweet to listen too, sweet to sing with, and sweet to work with. This was the drum which travelled to Tuva (Tyva) in 1994 when I made my first visit there to return Heimo’s ashes and attempt to continue a joint project there with some of the Xam/Xamnar (shamans) and stone carvers. This journey also became the turning point for my walk with Spirit and an.initiation into Tuvan worldview and healing through song and drum. 

There I learned about drums, shamanic healing (for lack of a better word) from my Tuvan teachers. I deepened into how a drum is alive, has a spirit, and the relationship between Shaman and drum being an active and intimate relationship, such as a marriage between two persons.

When one of my Tuvan Xamnar teachers Tözhü Teshit Lopsanovna (1912-1999) took my Remo drum and covered it with a white gauze clothe so that our spirit helpers would not get mixed up or transfer to each other I understood on a completely new level the respect and honouring of Spirit of the Drum.

I felt I was home. For Singing has always been present in my life since childhood. ut the drum took me – and my song – to a new, much deeper place. So, I learned to work with my drum, and my voice and they spread like a swollen river into my healing work and daily life. 

In Tuva I heard stories about as well as witnessed the power of drums through use: power to create and destroy; power to cause harm and heal; to chase away illness; to bring in blessings through the power of voice and the drum combined. My judaeo-christian, holy-roller, esoteric, classical voice and music therapy, church-singing upbringing moved aside willingly! 

I have heard lots of stories about shamans and their drums and read old stories, recorded by anthropologists and ethnographers. Many of these spoke of shaman’s drums falling from the sky, or of them being made by the shaman’s community. Sometimes a drum was found in the forest; sometimes it took years to be made  – each part being collected, or made, over a shaman’s whole apprenticeship which may take years.

Carrying a healing drum is a responsibility. It is as if you have a child to raise, yet you are also the child yourself and the drum is your parent. It is a responsibility, a commitment, one which is ‘until death do you part.’

Traditionally, in Tuva, a shaman would have only one drum and they would use it for their whole lifetime. I do not have many shaman drums: one is my partner, another is for others to use. It is much work to keep them fed and alive.

In the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm there are some old Sámi shaman’s drums, and if you look closely at them, you will see some of them have been repaired: a few stitches to close a tear here, a small patch of reindeer skin to cover a hole there. I project perhaps in assuming they were cared for and loved! In Tuva it was the same: one drum to one shaman.

There is a rich tradition of making shamanic healing drums and our consumer-led/immediate gratification traditions simply lack such. The journey to reclaim part of the Finnish tradition is when our drum-birthing began in Finland.


   It was back in the 1990s that my dear friend Jaana Kouri and I were given a similar dream: helping people make their own drums (handcraft) and birthing their own drums with sacred Spirit.

   Our inspiration came during a workshop which I had organised on behalf of Annette Høst. Her teachings were of the Nordic Seiđr (2) focusing on women’s cycles and renewing old earth wisdom.

Jaana and I both received a teaching from the spirits of the land about reclaiming past knowledge and re-inspiring our own culture. We both realised that language, stories and the ways of drum making were the paths we should tread to bring this vision forwards. 

How could we in this day and age of cultural appropriation, consumerism and competition be välittäjä? As välittäjä we are the brokers, the bargainer, the negotiator between Spirit and the people; the go-betweens and ultimately the ones who help facilitate the physical act of creating and birthing shamanic healing drums as guided by direct intervention with one’s own spirit teachers?

A few years ago Jaana returned the word of academia (Spirit-led!) to focus on her university path whilst I continued with the drum-birthing process. Tanja Kangas co-leads now for she was apprenticed to this work (Jaana and myself) for twelve years. One day I will stop doing this, stop being a midwife in the ‘birthing’ of drums and for now Tanja and I work with people together.


To reclaim and re-inspire Jaana and I made journeys to our spirit teachers, we sat with Mother Earth, the Sea, Lakes, ponds asking for vision and guidance. Our mutual interest in language, stories, songs, handcraft and a living connection with spirit helpers brought in the vision. 

Giving birth speaks of being pregnant – you can’t give birth without a pregnancy first. It speaks of fecundity, of being fertile, and of bringing ‘that which is hidden’ into being.

Think of the process of making a baby: a seed, semen, and a receptacle – the womb – are required.

With the making of physical babies, we all have a fairly clear vision of what each of those things are, yes? But even then, we do not know really what we are birthing; what kind of being, what child will arrive? We may have our dreams and expectations, but we also have uncertainty.

All birth is like this, whether it is a physical baby, a painting, a piece of music, a new business or a healing drum.

It all begins with that seed, a dream, a desire, a passion for a voice to communicate with.

For some this is a dream of a drum for healing others, for others it is a different dream. Some people go away at the end of the process with a drum that has a totally different intention than doing healing work for other people or places – perhaps the drum is about them healing themselves.

A person will be pregnant with their drum and this forms a link to a central part way to honour our past traditions in Finland: the tradition of sauna.

Sauna is found all over the world by different names and with varying customs and physical forms. Sweatlodges of the First Nations of Turtle Island seem to be the most known form borrowed by other peoples. In Finland they have been a sacred central part of the culture for a very, very long time.

It is said that sauna is the first building (made of logs/ turf/ peat/ holes in the earth/ skins) constructed when arriving to a place. It was the first living quarters whilst building a house. Sauna was the place for giving birth and even up until the 1970s there were still people being born in them. It is the place for doing healing, for doing magical charm work, for bathing and also washing the dead. It is a holy place, with its own sacred rules, and has many different guardian-like spirits.

This is the place where transformation and alchemy are visible within fire heating stones and water poured on them to create steam. Sauna is the place where we climb the ‘hill of pain,’ it is the place for our prayers to be given and also answered; the place for our physical healing to be resolved; for our hurt hearts to be soothed; for purification; celebration; initiation and weeping the pain of change. It is, for us, a womb.

In Finnish, we also speak of the seppä  – the smith – who is found in the old rune-songs and stories of Karelia (1). Seppä is the transformer, working with stone and metal, fire, heat, steam, water and air. They get “hot” from which some traditions speak of as what the “tietäjä”, Finnish for “one who Knows” does when going between the worlds. 

So having our sauna womb available during the birthing we are able to honour our ancestors. We reclaimed the seppä and getting hot into our work. We reclaimed its use in our drum birthing.


We speak of ‘birthing’ because it is about being in the borderlands between ‘spirit and matter,’ it is about being on the edge – having one foot in each realm.

People need to generate a connection between their own spirit helpers, and the spirits of nature in order to bring forth a healing drum. How can we connect, and receive guidance from our helpers, and bring this information into this reality?

We are the välittäjä; the go-between, the hollow-bone, the conduit for the spirits to work through us when doing healing work. We immerse ourselves in the energy of Creator-Luoja: creation and destruction, cooperating with spirits of nature-Luonto, our own nature-luonto, spirit helpers, and with one another, to take creative seeds and plant them continuously in our womb-kohtu (any human!) weaving knots of our new fate-kohtalo and meet ourselves-kohdata into this new path. This is sacrum of birthing a sacred healing drum.

For a full week we guide a small group given over to birthing a shamanic healing drum. This was our compromise with tradition and modern life.

At the beginning, Tanja and I set up an altar in the centre of our work space created from our first journey to the spirits. We make that journey to learn about the coming week together, to learn about our time and journey with the other people gathered.

We ask for strength and for power for the week ahead, we give thanks for those arriving, we seek vision of what is coming forward and for blessing – and all this is then laid out on the altar as a reminder to us. This gives birth to our red thread for the week. 


Having people gather in circle for an extended period of time allows us to guide each person into a deep connection with the spirits of nature, the spirits of elements, and with their own spirit helpers. Their spirits guide every aspect of putting the drum together.

There are many teaching stories about places of power and the the World Tree or Centre of the World. People would go to find their ‘power place’ in nature for the birthing process. This is a place where they feel a connection to the ‘World Tree,’ the sacred ‘centre of everything’.

The idea of the World Tree is found all over the world, and is often seen in paintings on the front of a shaman’s drum; as well as sometimes being found represented on the inside of a drum – the part that faces the shaman, the spirit or god side.  

Sometimes they will get instructions that the world tree needs to be brought into their drum physically. Perhaps it is the part they hold, or woven in or drawn in. 

This connecting power place is where each person will constantly. Sometimes it is the place they will spend a night sitting out with nature to seek an answer (3).

We have sacred practises for each part of the drums construction: the frame, the skin, the lacings and the finished drum’s decoration.

There are sacred ways to choose the skin and the wood board which will become the frame, as there are for bending that board, and for joining the head and tail of the board to make the round drum frame, and also for attaching the skin.

All of these are done with the constant contact of a person’s spirit helpers, with song, and with their partner kätilö or midwife, and if needed Tanja or myself – and all with contact with their power place, out in nature, 

When people come and ask how or what to do, we ask them if they have asked their helpers. The mantra of the week is “Go ask your spirit helpers before you come to us.” 

We have different practises to help people in this, help them be in contact with their spirit helpers. In that way, people learn to walk in this physical world and in the spirit world actively – both at the same time – weaving the two worlds together to aid the birthing process. Nothing is ever pre-ordained! Birthers learn to follow the clues their helpers give and this is key to birthing a healing shaman’s drum. Often one of the most difficult teachings for some is just allowing this red thread to form and following it. We do our best to support and assist so that the visions are brought into this reality.

We give examples of this sacred weaving in language and story – both from Finland and Tuva – as a way to help explain the different parts of the drum and the basic way all the parts are put together. A central part is connecting to our mother Earth and the energy of the cauldron, the iron pot full of possibility, full of flame, full of creation energy. This is where the raw energy arises and it is not from the arms! Physically, we refer to it as vitun voima and reclaim the old meaning in Finnish: the energy from the hips, womb, cervix, the hundreds of ligaments and muscles in and around the female genitalia. Yes, men can connect with this energy also and perhaps this is where “ergi” actually originates (4). Some folk try and use their arm strength with no connection to their womb space and the results are torn skins, frames that crack when they wouldn’t have, even getting more tired and frustrated. This is the region of birthing power. 

We speak of ‘bones’ – the drum’s frame; and of ‘skin;’ and of ‘laces’. These are all parts of our fate and we are tied to our fate by our laces, and all of these come forth from water. 

As I said before, ‘the birth is of water and fire,’ but first of all, people have to ‘find the bones.’ when we were born we all swam in the birth waters of our mothers, and we swim in the birth waters once again as part of the birthing process of our drums.

We arrange a sacred walk with that specific intention – a walk to find the bones. People set off into the forest, down wild paths, and at the end of the walk they come to the birthwaters, just like in the pregnant belly.

We almost always have a body of water for the bones – the wooden frame boards – where they float.

So, people undress, and they go into the birthwaters of the bones and find, or choose, one of the boards within them.

They swim, paddle or float with their bones, until they feel ready to arise, dress and return to the land, bringing their boards with them.

Bending the wooden board to form the drum frame is a communal event, it requires a team effort, it is not a job that is meant to be completed by oneself. Bending is when the baby first starts to be born and everyone in the circle are supporters of this. Bending is when the frame – the bones – of the shaman are joined. Shapes vary and speak to the red thread of their birth story. We have never lost a baby! 

The skin is the face we show to the world. The inside, with its fat and fascia perhaps still present, is part of the god-side: the side the shaman speaks and sings with, where the secrets are kept. We arrange the choosing of skins so it is directly connected to Spirit and their spirit helpers. Stretching the skin and attaching it to the bones is pair work between birther and midwife. 

 In Tuva, one shamanic song sings of ‘tying the laces of a shaman destiny.’ When we work with the drum’s laces – the part that ties the drum skin to the drum frame – they tie us to the World Tree, which we hold in our hand as we play the drum. When we work with our laces, we tie our fate. Singing their birth song, their power songs strengthens them during this all day and sometimes into the night, process.

I find that communal drum birthing requires learning about boundaries. Imagine ten people scattered around in a large area outdoors – some sitting close to each other, others set apart. Some are singing to their frames as they whittle, saw and smooth them, while others are quieter than quiet. Some people talk to their frames; some sit and rattle their rattles whilst holding their frame.

Some people have never held a sharp knife before, or used a hand drill which does not run on electricity.

Some people disappear, going to their power place to find out what is next in the process to work the frame.

Some people tell others to leave them alone, and some learn to ask others for help – which might be one of the hardest things for them to do. And when asked, some learn to say “No”, and remain focused on their own process – not being available to solve everyone’s problems.

And then, sometimes, when they are at almost the end of putting their drum together they come to understand – or get told by the spirits – that their drum is not for healing other people, it is for healing themselves. The spirit of the drum decides and it lets the person know.

All the shamanic journeys people make are important, and all of them reveal a side of the spirit of their drum which is important for them to understand (or begin too).

The final journey everyone makes is to meet the spirit of their drum. This is probably the part of the whole process I cannot emphasise the importance of enough. It is vitally important to know the spirit of your drum, who they are, how to honour them; how are they to be worked with; for what reason and when; what offerings do you need to give to them; can other people hold them or are they for your hands only?

They say in Tuva that if one doesn’t take care of – doesn’t honour a drum – it can turn around and bite you. What that means, is that one needs to care, co-operate and use a drum respectfully, because the drum is alive, and so, if you are not careful, it can turn around and do you harm – prevent good things happening to you. Interesting is that löylyy can do the same!

And then, finally, we come to the important task of waking up and blessing the newly made drum. We join in community – all of us in circle – and we put on our finery and we make ceremony.

Each year the ceremony differs because each year we contact our spirit helpers and ask about the blessing ceremony. As each group of people have been different, so the ceremony has been different.

We ask, “what was the ‘red thread’ during the week?” ‘What events, nature spirits or phrases around the dinner table are important for the ceremony with this circle?”; “What should it look like?”; “Who wants to be present, remembered, honoured?”

Then Tanja and I sit together and weave our answers together, and in this way, we honour our helpers, the spirits of the place where we are, the ancestors, the group and all the drum spirits.

We feel we honour the making of the drums in the best way possible, and I also think we work in quite a traditional way, considering the times we live in. A week is good, but ten days would be even better.

We need more drum carriers – we need more healing drums. All the drums people make with us are healing drums, and some – but not all – of these are shaman’s drums too.

To do shamanic healing work is to be grounded, rooted in the earth, with your hands in the heavens, and with a constant flow going between here and there and bringing it back to your people.

This flow directs your hands to create. It is one of the ways for the spirits too manifest; it is a way to bring new ways into the world, new inventions even. The sacred is present when we call it in, be aware of its presence in every action, as every act is a prayer, and every drum is a voice of prayer, when we play it.

Making a drum is a journey into the raw energy of the creative. It is the energy of passion, of joyful lust, of heat and of fire. It is a joining in with that creative spark, and keeping it smouldering so that it is ever present in our lives.

When we work and eat in community there is always much laughter and tears about how everything in drum-birthing is a reflection of life – basic, life-making and life-giving fecund sensual sexual nutrition-giving and taking LIFE!

Touching the sacred is focusing the energy of our ordinary reality time with the time continuum of our spirit helpers, mixed with a heaping of intention, so as to produce a flow which is so focused, that the time of ordinary reality disappears, and we are then enveloped in Their time.

Having a baby is a pretty proud moment; it is amazement, it is awe inspiring, it is an essence of profundity. Birthing a sacred drum is the same.

Many different folk join in and many have on their mind: to make a shaman’s drum – and some of them do, and some of them don’t for something else wanted to be born to them. Sounds like a natural pregnancy!

People often tell me afterwards that it was the hardest, and most wonderful thing, they had ever done. They tell me that they are in love with their drums.

We had a group of theatre people come and make drums once – playwrights and actors – people who wanted to make drums to help them better understand the energy of creativity involved, maybe have a drum that could be used in their performance. They were surprised at how each drum was so alive and with a spirit and some said straight: I am not to be used for performances, make another! The week time gave them a better sense of the project they were working on

One woman made a drum which was for a child. Her birth story was all about healing and working with children in the schools. Then she came along a second time and a drum was born for mourning and lamenting of her dead grandchild.

Another found out why her drum was born with five sides: the summation of the teachings she received from her helpers gave her literally a layered upon layer teaching five-sided shield of service to Land and community. And she was determined that her drum would be round when she was bending her bones! A beautiful drum to see and hear with teachings in every second of her working with her baby.

Birthing a drum is finding out that the inside is the outside, that the outside is the inside. It is about finding out who is leading whom and who is following and when. It is walking together between the worlds and bringing forth. 

1. K(C)arelia is the geographical region lying on borders of Finland and Russia and may include Fenno-Ingrians. The Karelians are an indigenous group with their own language and culture. During the second world war a great portion of Karelians, over 500,000, were refugees to Finland and the new borders forced upon Finland. Many did not leave the region and so, remain on the Russian side. The Finnish Folk Archives contain rune-songs (poetic like), charm songs, healing songs (the longest over 300 lines), laments. 

2. Visit http://shamanism.dk/closetonature.htm and also other writings on Seiđr/Staff/Song by Annette Høst. 

3. Sitting out in nature for vision: ulko-istuiminen. Old tradition. In Finnish we often say “menee metsään” or “go to the forest” because that is where the wisdom, comfort, guidance, healing happens. And then we are “metsään peitto” or “under the blanket of forest” which might mean that anything can happen so beware! One might just transform!

4. Ergi. I agree whole-heartedly with Annette on this- refer to her article above! My understanding and experience of Ergi is of ecstatic, perhaps a sexual/sensual/erotic, life-full explosion and implosion and giving into it for use in magic, healing. We need more men and women who know how to direct this energy for healing Land and community and not into sexual acts or ego-led, money-led power grabbing.

This article was first printed in Sacred Hoop, 2019 http://www.sacredhoop.org