Monday, May 26, 2008

Our Ritual Journey to Sage Canyon

This weekend we headed for California for our bi-annual sage gathering expedition. It was a fun trip and I remembered to bring the camera to share some photos.

If you check out our blogs from June of 2007, I discussed smudging ceremonies and sacred herbs. Everyone finds the herb(s) that is the most pleasing and effective for them for cleaning and purifying. Our personal “herb of choice” is White Sage (Salvia apiana). We lovingly call it “California White” (sounds like pot doesn’t it… smells somewhat like it too). White sage is the preference of many due to sweeter aroma it has and that it burns well. We also like the fact that it will go out when its job is complete.

Over the years on our treks to Southern California, we have found that white sage grows wild in the south side of the mountains there. As we have sought it out, we found a lovely canyon where we return every couple of years to gather what we need for ceremonial purposes.

The sage is usually mature in mid to late May. After that is tends to get dry and spindly. This year we were right on time. The plants had completed their bloom and were full and sweet.

We always begin by finding the Grandmother plant in the area and asking permission to gather. (Here is a Grandmother plant in the area I was gathering.) When asking permission, we give an offering to the plant. Offerings can be many things, but Gary smokes a pipe so we always have tobacco at hand (the traditional masculine offering) and I carry a bag of blue corn meal (traditional female offering) when we are out visiting Mother Nature. Once that permission is given, we begin to “tune in” to the plants and ask who would like to join us. There is usually a lot of clatter as many of the plants are excited about participating with us for ceremonial purposes. Some plants are excited and happy to give. Others are grumpy or stingy. We just thank the grumpy ones and move on. As we choose and break off the stems we may again give an offering to that particular plant of simply thank it for its gift. This is fun and exciting as the plants are so happy and excited to have us there and to be acknowledged and chosen to full fill their agreement as sacred herbs.

In our gathering we take only what we need for ceremony and give-away over the next two years. And, as we ceremonially gather these sacred plants we are careful not to take too much from each plant, being aware of it’s health and life force. Sometimes plant will want to participate that are not mature enough. We thank them and acknowledge them anyway and ask them to wait until we return.

Once we had determined we had what we needed we began our trip back to the truck. This part is the most fun. All along the way, the sage plants begin calling to us, telling us they want to go too. Sometimes they just yell the “Hey You – Over here!”. If we try to ignore them on our walk they can get pretty loud with the “Hey stupid – I’m talking to you” type thing. Sometimes we will simply acknowledge and thank the plant for wanting to participate, especially if they are up a hillside somewhere. I don’t do mountain goat :) Other times we will stop and take a stalk or two from the plant to add to our sack. I actually had one plant this time almost reach out and grab my ankle as I walked past. I stumbled and returned to the plant to accept its offering.
Here we stopped for one of the "Excited Ones". I gladly collected the offering.
Gary caught my best side as usual!!
We finally made it to the truck and packed our treasure into a tub in the back of the truck and headed for warmer climes in Phoenix, leaving an odorous trail of sage behind us.

From home base, the work/play began. We wrapped each branch of sage with red cotton thread to gather and form it while it drys. After about three hours of wrapping we had a lovely stash of sage bundles. We are fortunate here as our garage has a full attic. Today we laid it all out to dry. It won’t take long with our summer approaching. The attic gets very hot and with the low humidity we have dried sage in no time.

So, our ritual is complete for the next two years when we return to “Sage Canyon” to full fill our promise to the plants that were too small to gather from on this journey.

Until next time –

Mitakuye Oyasin ( A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related),
Debbie & Gary

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Drum making from Tales from Echo Canyon

Welcome to the Shaman's Blog.

Back in April, we facilitated another drum making playshop. This time Gary's sister, Eileen, was in attendance. Besides being our shamanic teacher, she is also a writer, photographer, homeopath and astorloger. Yes -- she wears many hats :)

So, besides birthing her drum, she took many pictures and added this wonderful blog to her blog at Tales from Echo Canyon. You may want to check out some of her photography - lots of great nature pics!

Today, we're plagerizing her blog to send you all the great photos. I've added a couple comments in purple. Thanks Sis for doing all the work for me today -- although I had to upload all the pics to the blog anyway. Thought I'd just get by with cut and paste. Hah - I didn't get any pictures that way! So, I still had to work for it.

For a detailed description of the drum birthing process, see our blog "Birthing the Sacred Drum" from 4/23/07.

It was a wonderful day for April. The nature gods cooperated fully with us that day. It was below 90 and no gusty winds which we get so much of here in the spring.

So, enjoy the photo essay and until next time.

Mitakuye Oyasin ( A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related),


Hi Everyone,

My brother Gary Gent and his wife Debbie teach people how to make a sacred drum. I got to finally go to his class (he lives down in Phoenix, Arizona, but travels the world teaching this class--and many other classes). I went down with my good friends, Yolande Grille, Debbie Noah and Linda Haggard. Here's a running commentary on drum making, should you be interested. It was a great way to spend a day from 10am to 5pm. The fun we had, the laughter, the work, was all wonderful.
Here are some of the participants in the Drum Making Class that I was in. We are listening to Gary and Debbie give an introduction to drum making--what it is and is not.

Here is Debbie Gent, who is Gary's wife and partner. They make a dynamic team and are great teachers. They also have fantastic sense of humor and so we were laughing often.

Here Gary is explaining the cedar wooden 'round' that is where the rawhide Elk skin is placed over it.

Here, Gary is showing what a finished hand made elk rawhide drum looks like. This is what we call a four direction tie. The lace is gathered in four groups and tied off, representing the four cardinal directions.

Here, Gary is showing us
a drum that has 'died.' You can see the cracks in it. He said every drum eventually will give out. The life span of a sacred drum can be very long or very short. Gary's cat drum you see here has been with him for many years. I recently brithed a bear drum and it split on me last weekend. I have yet to journey and find out what the purpose of such a short life was.

Gary and Debbie gathered us out under a nice, shady tent. Here, we chose the elk skin we wanted to create our drum out of. The "Mother Drum" that Gary is playing is for the purpose of us journeying to see if there was trauma to the elk hide. And if there was, to ask for a healing of it before we cut out our circle to create our drum.

Here, Gary is showing all of us how to use a metal device (leather punch) to hammer holes into the wet hide.

Eileen is holding up the circle of elk skin she just cut with a pair of scissors. It is kept wet with water so that it is pliable and holes can be made into the skin.

And here is Linda Haggard cutting a piece of cow rawhide to make the 'string' for her drum. Fun! Everyone had to do it. This group had the lovely experience of cutting their own lace thanks to a fubar by our lace supplier. No one will fess up to who needed this experience, but they were all good sports and made it fun.

Here is Yolande Grill watching as Gary shows her how to wrap and make a handle out of the rawhide to her drum

Here Debbie Noah is allowing Myron to help her with the twenty foot of rawhide 'string' and getting it laced into the holes.

Debbie Gent is leaning down to help Linda and Eric Haggard with their drums. Thanks Sis - you always get my best side :)

Gary is showing Debbie Noah's sister from Texas how to create a handle for her drum.

Here is Anthony and Eric and Linda Haggard in the process of stuffing their beater head with cotton balls. Eventually,this will become a drum beater.

And here I am with my new beater and drum. What a great day and so much fun!

And here's the happy crew with their newly birthed drums and beaters.

And here's Gary proudly beaming at us and showing us a drum that he had made. His cougar shield is behind him.

For those who are interested in Gary and Debbie coming to create a drum making workshop for you, just contact them at:

And be sure to visit their website at:

This is a wonderful family affair, too. Anyone who loves a drum, young or old, male or female, can make one. And Debbie and Gary are wonderful teachers. We sure had a lot of fun on that day :-)

In Spirit, Eileen

--Posted By Eileen Nauman to Tales from Echo Canyon at 5/03/2008 08:08:00 PM