My own early years were filled with an incredible array of tools, as my family elders were very creative. My mother and my great uncle expressed their talents in traditional paintings and drawings, but most of the others built structures, made household goods, and created what they needed to make their lives work. For them, tools were a part of solving the challenges of everyday life.
As the eldest child, I was often the designated helper for my father. Like others in my ancestral line, he was a creative man gifted with his hands. Along with being an amazing automobile mechanic who designed and built cars from the ground up, he was very talented at welding, carpentry, and numerous other forms of craftsmanship. His tool chests were filled with a variety of wrenches, pliers, saws, calipers, and other highly unique implements designed for very specific tasks. Through observing him at work, I quickly learned that these tools functioned like extensions of his hands. They assisted him in get- ting a job done.
On the other hand, while in art school I met highly skilled artists who could use a common ballpoint pen to create a masterpiece. Learning this lesson was equally important as I realized that while the right tool makes a task easier, it is critical to develop the skills to use each one first. Without the knowledge to wield them, tools are no more than fancy paperweights.
I have found the same to be true of shamanic implements. Finding the right drum will not make you a shaman. However, any drum in the hands of a skilled shamanic practitioner can be an object of power. It becomes inspirited—alive—and capable of assisting in the spirit walker's work. It provides the heart- beat of your journey, a way to accompany your spirit songs, a portal through which you can travel, and is capable of many other roles in your practice. The same may be said for all the other objects used by a true spirit walker. Each of them has a purpose and has been enlivened to become active partners in the shaman's work.
It is my belief that an extra dimension of power opens up when you craft your own tools. Working with the separate elements that will become the implement and the spirits in those elements deepens the spirit walker's connections to the final product. I also like knowing exactly what separate elements went into my tools. For instance, I know that the tiny pebbles in my favorite rattle came from the local riverbank, the handle is wood harvested from a lightning-struck maple in my yard, and the rawhide was once part of a Maine black bear hunted by a native friend for food. My having an intimate connection to all the spirits that came together in my rattle gives it a deeper meaning and power.
Of course, this is not to say that you have to make every- thing that you use in your shamanic practice! I use several shamanic tools that were either purchased or given to me by one of my indigenous teachers. If any project in this book seems too difficult, you may choose to purchase the implement discussed and then use the empowerment instructions to enliven your new power object. Once empowered, any tool will become a living partner in your work.
This book is designed to support those of you who are actively journeying to gather what you require to effectively and powerfully engage with the spirits. I believe that those of us following the shamanic path are the best hope for returning our human culture into wholeness. Spirit walkers know that everything is alive and sentient. We understand that all beings are precious and that we must consider their needs by staying in mutually beneficial relationships with them to maintain harmony. Through our journeys and with guidance from our loving tutelary spirits, we are helping to shape a more positive and healthy world.