In ancient Egypt, priestesses used a sacred rattle-like instrument called a sistrum. Similar rattles were also used ceremonially in Africa and by shamans of various cultures. I learned about sistra when reading Karen Tate’s book Walking an Ancient Path. She refers to using a sistrum as a modern-day priestess to cast a circle, to invoke the four directions, and to cleanse houses and sacred spaces. I was immediately intrigued and did a little online research. My eye was immediately caught by a primitive style of sistrum made using a forked cedar stick and I became obsessed with making one of my own. Last weekend, Mark and I went out into the woods where we’d cut down some cedar trees earlier this year and we found piles of perfect forked sticks to use. First we peeled all the bark off which took several hours. Mark discovered that underneath the bark, his stick had been “carved by nature” (i.e. bugs!) in very, very cool patterns.
We drilled holes in either side of the forked branches and poked wire through on which we strung a variety of beads, charms, and stones.
They weren’t satisfyingly jingly enough, so Mark cut out some circles out of a sheet of brass and drilled holes through the middle. That was the perfect touch!
I was ridiculously pleased with my results. I absolutely love it!
This was a fabulously fun and enriching project! I highly recommend it. Coincidentally, or cosmically, we collected 12 extra forked cedar sticks in the woods and I think that is just perfect for making these at our fall women’s retreat. We just randomly collected them until we felt done and I said, “I probably need about twelve of these if we’re going to make these at our retreat.” We counted them and…amazingly…there were exactly twelve of them! So, I think it is meant to be