Different cultures use different tools for healing: everything from herbs to incense to rhythm, including song. As with all shamanic practice, individuals use the tools they were taught to use and what they feel works for them and their clients. Today I am focusing on the use of the drum and the rattle for healing.

I always start the healing process with drumming because it clears the area of all energies so you can start fresh. Then, still drumming, I invite helpful spirits to join in the healing, especially my healing guide and any healing spirits the client prefers. But the drumming does more than simply clear the space. In his book The Way of the Shaman. Michael Harner notes a study done by Andrew Neher in 1961. Harner quotes (page 66), “The rhythmic [drumming] stimulation affects electrical activity in ‘many sensory and motor areas of the brain, not ordinarily affected, through their connections with the area being stimulated.’ This appears to be due in part  to the fact that the single beat of the drum contains many sound frequencies, and accordingly it simultaneously transmits impulses along a variety of nerve pathways to the brain.” The use of the drum affects the person leading the healing as well as the client. Client friends and family have told me drumming has a powerful effect on them as well.

The beat of the rattle is the same speed as the beat of the drum. It supplements the drum’s healing effect. Again quoting Michael Harner’s book (pages 61 and 62), “The shaking of the shaman’s rattle provides stimulation to higher frequency pathways in the brain than does the drum, reinforcing the drum beats and further heightening the total sonic effect.” Some of my clients have told me they feel a new energy when the rattling begins. There is also a belief among some indigenous peoples that the rhythm of the rattle ‘breaks up’ negative energies in the body and sends healing energy to the area that needs healing.

“The Shaman’s Well”, an online website, carried an article about rattling  in October of 2011, The Shaman’s Rattle. It discusses the various uses for the rattle, including attracting helpful spirits, activating magical properties of special objects, setting up a protective barrier and healing. “The rattle is excellent for doing diagnostic work, for opening up areas where energy is blocked, for re-establishing energy flow, and for helping remove inappropriate energy.”

Whether using the drum or rattle, it is the rhythmic beat, three to seven beats per minute, that leads the brain to that realm of the spirit world where the healing takes place. Using both together can produce an entire spectrum of  healing vibration.