Tink About It

June, 2016

The Making of… Mr. & Mrs. Deer

A few years ago after a full moon celebration with friends we were drumming and talking about making our own drums. Most of us had never done that before, but together we shared some experience. We decided then and there to get this show on the road! We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into though…. We prepared the best way we could and started fresh. We couldn’t find a lot of info on the www, except for some video’s on YouTube. I decided to document the process in pictures, for ourselves and for others that might be interested. Here’s the ultra-short version:










We wanted to make everything from scratch where possible. I decided to use the frame of my first bodhrán (of which the skin was ripped). Ron (my husband) wanted to make a 13-sided drum. We chose birch (my frame was birch too) and started searching. We found a local entrepreneur that has a sawmill for hobby. He knew exactly where the wood came from, he cut the tree down himself. The planks were beautiful but rough. Ron sawed them smaller and into pieces. I made calculations to see what edge to saw. To make a 13-sided drum we needed a 13.8 degree edge; 13 pieces of 13 by 9 cm made a drum with a diameter of approximately 54 cm (21.26 inch). That’s big, but Ron is tall and strong. Because we knew we would often use the drums outside in all kinds of weather we decided (even though it’s not natural) to lacquer the frames with a special weatherproof yacht varnish.

We got the skins for the drums from a butcher. They were ‘leftovers’ that otherwise would have been destroyed. We did a ritual to honour and thank the animals for the skins (and the tree for the wood). The deer were hunted by professionals with permission for population control. The skins weren’t very clean; we had to cut quite some flesh away. That was hard work of which Ron did the major part. He used the back of a double-handed curved cheese knife (a tip from one of the many YouTube-video’s he watched). I did the finer work with a smaller very sharp knife. We rinsed the skins a few times to clean them. Ron stitched a hole with a suture needle and thread.

The other people used parachute cord to tighten the skin to the frame. Ron and I wanted to use only natural material. Ron made the lacing out of the leftover skin, I used tvinningsbennen (or lucet) to make a cord of light and dark (real) sinew. We watched a lot of YouTube-video’s to find the best way to stretch and tighten the skin around the frame. We used a hole punching tool to make the holes, because that gave less risk of tearing the skin. We tightened the skin wet (both skin and lacing). The drying took quite some time. After a few weeks we gave the lacing an extra layer to tighten it even more. In the meantime we had made beaters from leftover birch wood and leather.

We wanted the drums to have the complete skin with hair, but they were too thick for a good sound. So we shaved the skins with a hair trimmer, a little bit each time until we were satisfied with the sound. During the process I had nicknamed our drums Mr. & Mrs. Deer with the intention to find a real name later. The names suited the drums remarkably well though, so we kept it at that.

It was a long process (months), but it was very worthwhile and rewarding. Perhaps we’ll make more drums in the future but I don’t think we’ll make more drums from scratch as we did this time, because that was very time- and energy-consuming. You could use ready-made frames and prepared skins; you put your own energy and time in it to make the drum your own.

The drums feel so good, they sound wonderful together. Mr. Deer has a deep and healing sound, and Mrs. Deer definitely has her own charm and slightly higher sound. The spirits of the deer connect with our energies and that works out amazingly well. We’ve been using them for quite some time now. Outside we sometimes have to tighten the skins by keeping them near a fire, but most of the time they sound great. When they aren’t used they hang on display in our hall, so they are never far and easy to grab for a drum session. 


Ask Your Mama

June, 2011

Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more.

*Ask Your Mama

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spirituality and Didn’t Know Who to Ask™


©Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

A Question of Ritual as Service

Dear Mama Donna.

I work with a group here in Cleveland who cook and feed close to 200 men at a homeless shelter every Thursday. It is a big commitment. The shelter is run by the Salvation Army, and the people who run the shelter are open to programming. As we have come to know these men, they are opening to us, and I feel it’s an opportunity to do some spiritual work. It occurred to me that I might start a drumming circle. I wanted to ask if you have ever worked with this particular population. They are really down and out, and I need some ideas about how to approach them and how to structure a circle.

Reaching Out in Ohio

Dear Reaching Out,

Wow! A spirit circle in Cleveland, my hometown. Who’d have thunk?

I actually do have a great deal of experience with populations of disenfranchised, dis-spirited folk. As an urban shaman, I move in all sorts of society and my constituency includes everyone. We are all equals in the eye of spirit.

Over the years I have done drumming circles with drugged and deranged women in a shelter, with very young single homeless mothers and their babies at a half-way house, with HIV-ill women at a treatment center, with inmates at several women’s jails and adolescent detention facilities, with the criminally insane at a state forensic psychiatric center, and dozens of other snake-pit venues for the down and out.

It is my experience that people are pretty much just people. In these special groups there is the same mix of helpful, open, clear, disruptive, hostile, sad, closed, and needy souls as I see in my open-to-anyone circles and celebrations. If you approach the situation as normal, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how normal it will be. Sanity, stability, centeredness is the continuum that we all travel on our journey toward our best selves.

Once I did a May Day/Beltane tree planting ceremony in Loring Lake Park in Minneapolis with a group of students from the College of and Design there. As it turned out, this park was a hangout place for intoxicated Native Americans. During our ritual, a bunch of fairly far-gone guys wove over to join us. They were drunk, but not rowdy. They instinctively understood the sanctity of what we were doing and were mightily drawn to be part of our circle.

At one point in the ceremony, one of the men stepped forward. He identified himself as Sioux, then announced, “I have no right to do this” and proceeded to offer a chant. While he was all-too-aware that he was ceremonially unclean and spiritually unprepared for such a righteous task, he also knew enough to realize that somebody had to sing this tree into the ground, and he happened to know the words. It was powerful magic that day: for him as he was tranceformed in grace, for me as an awed witness to true reverence, and for the tree, which I am sure is still thriving.

Another time, I did a big public celebration for the Fall Equinox at Pershing Square in Los Angeles. During the event, the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs came by the park to check on me because he was worried for my safety in this “dangerous” junkie/wino infested plaza.

Of course, it was these very men, drunk and high though they might have been, who actually got involved. They climbed ladders, helped me to hang my peace chants banners, and brought me coffee. And when the police came to arrest me later that day (despite my official status) for Inciting Littering (of all things) it was these same outcast men who tried to protect me.

After hundreds of similar situations, I have come to understand that if you enter a ritual situation with an open heart, people will recognize your sincerity and share themselves in return. Don’t worry. Your drum circles will be great. And you are dear for doing them.

Great good luck to you. This is a grand project.

xxMama Donna

Dear Mama Donna,

Thanks so much for your response. I want to work with these people in a spiritual way, and hope to start a small circle in the upcoming months. I think your point of treating the men in this shelter as normal is a good one. I have no fear, and believe some soul-level support and treatment is greatly needed. For about six years, I worked at Rosary Hall, a treatment center here. I learned that there is a yearning for something more in all of us, and I saw that the spiritual program was the strongest part of recovery. I’ll keep you posted, and again thanks for your feedback.

Peace and love,

Reaching Out

Dear Reaching,

May you drum up a beat of connection, a rhythm of pleasure and joy, a sacred circle of support.

xxMama Donna

*Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more. Send your questions about seasons, cycles, and celebrations to Mama Donna at citshaman@aol.com


Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, ritual expert, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader whose joyful celebrations of celestial events have introduced ancient traditional rituals and contemporary ceremonies to millions of people in more than 100 cities since 1972. She has published four books, a CD, an acclaimed Ezine and writes for The Huffington Post and UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum. Mama Donna, as she is affectionately called, maintains a ceremonial center, spirit shop, ritual practice and consultancy in Exotic Brooklyn, NY where she works with individuals, groups, institutions, municipalities and corporations to create meaningful ceremonies for every imaginable occasion.





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CD Review

April, 2006

Dreams, Drums, & Green Thumbs
ist: Bonnie Lockhart 1032 Winsor Avenue, Oakland, CA. 94610
Year 2002

Intially, this cd held nothing for me as the first song In My Family’s House
reminded me kind of the something I would hear on the Beverly
Hillbillies…and I mean no disrespect by that. It just was not of my taste.
Who Were The Witches was a very amazing and powerful song and I believe my
favorite on this cd. I decided that perhaps since I was 38, that I needed a
childrens opinion. I borrowed my neighbors kids who are ages 2 and 7 years
of age. Some of the songs caught their attention as they were upbeat and fun
while others were sung quite like slow ballads and I noticed that the kids
didn’t respond as well. Perhaps as background music in a day care this would
be good, or perhaps for a homeschool mom but just to pop this cd in and
expecting the kids to be entertained…I don’t see it happening.


author bio:

My name is Katrina Stiles and I am a born and raised Pagan. I am a wife,
mother to two natural children, my daughter age 17, my son 19. We have 3
furbabies and 1 furgrandbaby. Yes, a full house and yes, some days, I think
I am going to go crazy! I own and operate a business from my home called
DreadfullyYours. I make dread wraps, bandanas and fabric bags. I also own a
wire wrapping gemstone jewelry business called Standing Stones Designs. I
also read alot. I find that when I need quiet time, I dive into a book and
disappear for awhile…it’s the best medicine! If you ever have any
questions, drop an email to me at jstiles3@tampabay.rr.com