Artist Statement

Rattles have captured my imagination for years, and this interest culminated in extensive research after I inherited a Bear Rattle from a highly respected Shaman of the Huichol and Inka tradition. I began studying societies and their traditions worldwide, and I was consistently drawn to anthropology: behavioral patterns, cultures, archaeology, and ethnography. The more I researched rattles, their origins and their purpose the more evident it became to me that they are utilitarian: tools for deep connection to the land and self-transformation based on collective spiritual practices.

Bear Rattle inherited from Huichol and Inka Shaman

          Rattles are percussion instruments that have existed for thousands of years: from pre-history to today people the world over use rattles for sacred ceremonies and rituals. Rattles have been found in Celtic burial mounds, early Iron Age graves and Egyptian tombs: they are universal, archetypal objects created by virtually all cultures and representative of the collective unconscious. Precise placement of funerary rattles logically indicated that they were utilized for protection and regeneration in the afterlife. Rattles have been historically made from clay, shells, bones, gourds, wood, basketry and leather. Throughout history and cross-culturally, rattle makers have shared commonalities: they utilize the available resources found in their environment and incorporate them as a sign of respect for the land. This has been and will remain a constant theme.

Carl Jung proposed that the collective unconscious is a layer of our unconscious mind we come into this world containing, that connects each one of us to the history of thoughts and behaviors of all of mankind.

The desire to understand the rattle and its purpose led me down an unexpected path that resulted in the research of Shamanism. I quickly realized that Shamanism was once an organic global practice, but this spiritual practice was disappearing or being commercially diluted. What was once a dignified collective practice had dwindled to a dying cultural memory performed by select authentic groups. Few of the sacred tools associated with this ancient practice remained aside from museum pieces, so my natural course of curiosity and artistic creation set out to create one. Through trial and error, I created a hand-painted Raven rattle mounted on a caribou antler that I found while hiking in Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains. The rattle head was shaped out of an old caribou hide and I trimmed the rattle shaft with red fox fur. It was rustic, clumsy, asymmetrical, yet surprisingly appealing and stout. I now had my rattle.

Sunrise Raven, my first handmade rattle (Soul Shine Rattle artwork from personal collection).

I thought I had satisfied my desire with this physical manifestation, but the idea of making another rattle and improving upon my prototype would not leave me. I ended up gifting Sunrise Raven to a close friend who did me an enormous favor. There was now no excuse for not making another rattle, and another, and another.

Through study and practical application, I discovered that Shamanism was a dignified practice deserving of respect. Educating myself on the subject of Shamanism, including my family lineage and heritage, allowed me to connect with and understand the collective message that drove this passion initially.

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