Selected Passages From An Article:
“The Call To Be Shaman”
By David Kowalewski
Legal Stuff About the Drums More About Bob And Minutia About A Variety of Things
“Encounters with lightning or ball lightning is often important. In Mongolia and many other places, seeing a lightning-struck tree fall in front of you, having a recurrent dream of lightning, and surviving a lightning strike are all seen as spirit calls, and drums from trees struck by lightning are the most powerful.
“Among the Salish people of North Western America a spirit manifesting as lightning may come in a dream, and in South America Inca shamans are sometimes called by lightning and communicate with the spirits through it.
“The god Thor in Norse mythology wields a hammer and is associated with lightning bolts and in Haitian Vodou, lightning—struck stumps are said to become homes for spirits to live in.
“Experiences with ball lightning are especially intriguing. Some shamans see it acting with apparent intelligence in front of their eyes, or exploding right over their dwelling… There is at least one account of an Inuit shaman getting his power after being struck by what he described as ‘a ball of fire’...”
With Permission From
Sacred Hoop Magazine,
Issue 84, 2014
Aesthetically, these drums contain symbolic elements from many cultures that became familiar to me over a lifetime of exploring spirituality and of studying, learning and practicing shamanism. This profound spiritual healing practice, believed to have originated in Siberia and then spread around the ancient world, is now reemerging in Western societies.
My primary shaman teachers were of “Native American” or “Celtic” lineage, and thus their influence can be seen reflected in most, and even dominating a few, of the drums. But there are also symbols familiar to religions and science, to alchemy and metaphysics, to philosophy and mathematics, all filtered through a mind and expressed from a heart which longs for spiritual connection and union in celebration of life!
There is also deep mystery connected to the drums. Each of the lightning-struck drums was a vital part of a once living tree apparently struck down by lightning. This awesome energy force, both fearful and beautiful to behold, maintains its supremacy as both symbol and expression of primal destruction and creation. To shamans preferring a drum originating from a lightning-struck tree, or containing like parts, these twin powers of creation and destruction remain metaphorically and metaphysically present within the drum and are allied with his or her intention of confronting, transmuting and in some cases destroying powerful adversaries like illness, imbalance, disunity, and evil. The same drum, a shaman will tell you, is also capable of creating a pathway to communion with All There Is, Wakan-Tanka, Great Spirit, God, the ultimate spiritual connection.
While these concepts may seem obtuse at best to some modern people, they are not unknown to or estranged from Western medical or religious institutions. Many allopathic physicians and related healers are trending toward a desire to enlarge their interventions beyond pharmaceutical and scientific means because they know that healing often requires more. Today’s healers– allopathic on one hand, and on the other those practicing methods seen as supportive to or independent from the allopaths, including shamanism, collectively known as “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM)– coexist, separately for the most part. Yet, trending paradigm shifts will no doubt bring future health practitioners closer to “integrative medicine,” which aims to combine science and spirit in the battle against disease and suffering.
All modern religions contain mystical elements, many of which are viewed as commonplace among their worshipers. Such practices as communion, prayer, immersion, and so forth are easily recognized as containing mystical energy and power. And to avoid stepping on toes as much as possible, please know that I do not consider shamanism to be a religion or a substitute for religion. To paraphrase the late British shaman Kenneth Meadows, shamanism honors nature but does not worship it. Thus, one can maintain the freedom to follow and worship any religion while also incorporating shamanic tenets in daily life. For example, one can maintain a fervent affiliation with a preferred religion while also being an avid environmentalist who sees sanctity in all existence and life, including holding an appreciation of our planet as a living being. A case in point could be the tribal Celtic peoples who, while converting predominantly to the Christian faith, maintained their honored standing as the original tree huggers!
So, these drums are no threat to allopathic medicine or to religious dogma, but rather are intended to serve as possible, probable, positive conduits for healing and union. It is written in the so-called “Gnostic” Gospel of Thomas (v. 77 ) that such union is possible if one merely looks for it. “Split a piece of wood, and I am there,” it says, suggesting that invitations for divine union await in even the simplest of things.
So, what are we to think when lightning splits open a tree? For my part, I seek union with it. And sometimes that act transforms into a sacred drum. That is the shaman’s way as I learned it, try to live it and attempt to express it.
These rich traditions, customs and ways of celebrating life and of being in service to each other go back to the very beginning, when the first male and female beheld the stormy dawn and its fearsome magnificence on the First Day.
Glenn W. Lewis is a lifetime fine artist, mural artist, commercial artist, writer, composer, poet, and humanitarian. Descended from the Dutch Master Abraham Jansen, Mr. Lewis incorporates timeless Renaissance elements into many of his fine art paintings (see some here on his blog). He is a master of perspective and lighting. Amazingly versatile, he is also recognized for his great skill in computer art, cartoons, and game creations.
He has brought great joy into the lives of many with his art, his mind, and his generous, compassionate heart. We are blessed that he has consented to paint images on our drums.
About the Drum Stories
Over the many months it takes to help a traumatized, lightning-struck piece of wood to become a drum, or part of a drum, I begin to truly bond with it, much I guess as any healer may become attached to a likable, recovering patient. I often journey with the would-be drum in mind, and at other times I simply concentrate deeply on it as part of its “therapy.” This generally results in the formation of a “story” about it that, while fictional in many instances (though sometimes I wonder if the drum isn’t actually dictating to me), does seem to fit its personality and even occasionally helps reveal a mystery to me. I include the stories on this site, then, not always as fact but as context to help you see them in ways familiar to a shaman. I believe it will be easy for you to tell the difference between the fictional stories and the ones which simply relate what was going through my mind while helping a particular drum reincarnate from its initial trauma as damaged tree into living drum.
About The Term “Lightning-Struck”
(See/Hear Sacred Lightning-Struck Drums) I used to live in a mountainous area in West Virginia that seemed to attract lightning. I’ve seen some real “doozies,” as we used to say back in the hills, when the bolts would scatter across the sky like wicked fingers before dashing to the ground in blistering streaks. When I was a child, a tornado and a phalanx of lightning once ripped through our farm, blasting trees and tearing the timbers and boards from the spine of our barn like vicious animals attacking weakened prey. It seemed we were always removing wild cherry trees and limbs downed by lightning and winds from the tree-lined fields where our cattle grazed, as wilting cherry leaves were poisonous to them.
On many occasions lightning found mischief to be done around my own house when I became an adult. There were several ponds around the place, and the water seemed to draw down lightning like a conjurer. Strikes happened all the time! I once lost a TV, telephone, refrigerator, answering machine, VCR recorder, an entire length of electric line extending to an exterior light in the yard, and one of the largest, most beautiful silver maple trees on the planet from one bone-jarring strike. I made drums from that tree, including my personal drum.
No use going on. The point is, I’m familiar with lightning, and I know what it can do. Specifically, I know it when I see it, and I know it by where it’s been, particularly in a tree.
Over time I’ve learned a lot about lightning and its sacred nature.
As shamanism became more and more important to me, I became more and more interested in the healing powers residing in those things around us, like lightning-struck trees. So I have come to use lightning-struck wood in nearly every shamanic tool I make.
Some downed trees and stumps I find in the woods have been there a long time before discovery, and it is often hard to tell for sure if lightning was a cause or a contributor to a tree’s demise. In the case of some, it is difficult to tell whether lightning was involved at all. There are tell-tale signs, like a long stripe of bark missing alongside the trunk, exploded tops or parts, splayed roots (in newer strikes), and so forth. And then, of course, there is usually someone with me when I scout for LS trees. One man taught me a lot about the subject, as he had spent 30 years as a lumberjack, and he knew about all there is to know of lightning in trees. So his opinion is reflected in these pages, as well. But unless I know for sure, I will describe a drum as appearing to have been part of a struck tree, and base that on long experience of observing trees I knew had been struck. When I know one to be struck, I will say so.
I have no wish to further complicate matters, but there is also a category of "Hoop Drums" that are not lightning-struck, but that quite often feature lightning-struck adornments and other special components grafted onto them. The frames are made elsewhere and must meet my standards for exceptional craftsmanship and durability before I use them. You will find them to be more economical because I didn’t have to spend months locating, rehabilitating and otherwise turning them into drums.
One thing is certain, in the shamanic sense, every drum I make and offer for sale is connected with lightning, because nearly all adornments, tie-downs, carvings, and splices I use in a drum come from wood I know to have originated from a lightning-struck tree, as you will see reflected in the various descriptions. In a sense, then, every drum is lightning-struck, as sure as a graft of one tree onto another becomes unified into one, often resulting in sweeter fruit.
What really turns these into shamanic healing drums are the sparks of your intentions and a familiarity with what to do with them in a shamanic context. In addition to the many other mystical attributes a shaman may connect with lightning, in my eyes it is primarily seen as a helper that can light the way while energizing your intention to be of service when the drum is activated in ceremony. A more refined principle in action that is sometimes required during a shamanic healing session actually unites a high energy charge of one’s intention with the intrinsic awesome power of lightning into a brilliant healing laser beam. Powerful stuff.
Prices are quoted in U.S. dollars. I ask that International customers email me to inquire about prices and shipping costs before ordering.
Generally, those who have purchased drums tell me they are completely satisfied, particularly with the quality, uniqueness, craftsmanship and durability of their drums, and with the price. As I have devoted the remaining days of my life in service to others through shamanism, these drums and other items provide much needed income. The hoop drums are less costly to make and thus are less costly for you.
About the “Lids” (drum heads)
The type of rawhide I use for drum heads varies, and includes goat hide, deer hide, cowhide, elk hide, and horsehide, depending on availability and the best quality rawhide I can find when I need it. Used to be one could find a reliable source for rawhide, but nowadays in a "global" economy, it is more difficult to locate a dependable source. So when I find some rawhide that is up to my standards, I use it on the drums. Thus, they are ever changing.
Fact is, I have never had a drum head fail, no matter what animal it came from. The drum head on my personal drum is well into its second decade and sounds great. So don't worry about the drum head on your drum from TVD, unless of course you misuse it. I include a use and care sheet with each drum I sell to help the owner avoid misusing the instrument...so, no problem!
One thing is for sure: I’ll never offer synthetics –it just doesn’t seem right to use such on these precious drums. I much prefer the natural sound. And I thank the animals, the trees, lightning beings and all others for giving themselves in this way to the people. It is hard for me to imagine giving thanks to a chemical company for a synthetic drum head. An all natural drum is a part of the wheel of life.
About the Feathers
Most wild birds and their feathers are protected by some law or the other, a good idea. Anyway, I seldom attach feathers, and when I do, I use only legal feathers purchased from a couple of different companies. The feathers I purchase, according to the companies, are from non-protected domestic geese/chickens etc. and are painted by artisans to resemble those of certain other birds, like eagles, hawks, etc.
About the Stones
The company which sold the stones I use on these drums gave assurance that the stones are actual “gem quality,” and thus the use of the term in the various descriptions you’ll find on this site. However, I make no representation, direct, implied or otherwise, as to the value or even to the authenticity of these stones. I am no gem expert. The real value I see in these and other “ornamentals” is as enhancement to a drum’s appearance, and more importantly, as symbolic and tangible items capable of representing and focusing a healer’s energies and intentions with those of a greater healing force. It is akin to any healing aid a shaman uses–for example, a drum. While it may appear to be but wood and skin and ornament, it is seen by a shaman to be a trusted friend who responds with the intention of helping others. Today, countless shamans, as did many of the original Siberian shamans long ago, see their drums as horses or other conveyances capable of taking them to spiritual realms where spiritual healing can be obtained for people who suffer.
Guarantee (or lack thereof)
How or what could one possibly guarantee about a drum made from what remains of a tree practically destroyed by lightning or by the other harsh elements of nature that assault wood, sometimes for years? To put it simply, I don’t know how long these drums will last, though I’ve yet to see a frame crack open. I do reinforce frames with internal cross hatched supports when necessary, and apply special penetrating oils as needed to help strengthen the wood’s cells, so your drum should be fine in that regard.
I’m not sure about the lifespan of the goatskin or rawhide or other natural skin drum heads, because I’ve never had one fail, with the exception of the time I was driving across the California desert in an old van with a faltering air conditioner and heard something in the back go “twi-i-i-i-n-g!” A minute or two later, an identical sound caused me to pull over to the side of the road. What relief I felt when I discovered the venerable van hadn’t suffered a mechanical failure, and rather that two pieces of rawhide lacing holding down a goatskin drum head had popped from the heat. So it wasn’t the skin, but the lacing. (Instructions for drum care are provided with each drum you buy.) So unless you drive old cars in desert heat with questionable air conditioning, or leave your drum in direct hot sun or the freezing cold for an extended period, you shouldn’t have to worry about the heads. Given that they are natural products, however, they will fail at some time in the future, no doubt about it. It is normal to need to replace drum heads, just like it is normal to need to replace tires on your car or an occasional worn out tooth or part of your own body.
While some people may like to buy a drum as an art investment, a worthy and laudable goal, these drums are also made to play…and play…and play- indoors or out- and if you are so inclined, the drum is ready to help you experience shamanic journeys and/or to be of service to others through shamanic or any other healing techniques that may rely on drumming.
But I make no guarantee, either expressly or implied, relating to these lightning-struck or hoop drums, rattles, or lightning sticks except to say and imply that they are most enjoyable to play and use. Being that I am a reasonable person, though, I can repair or replace about anything that would fail or wear out on your drum, including the frame, for a fair price, and sometimes for free (though shipping will be your responsibility), depending on the situation.
Rather than worry about your drum when you get it, just go ahead and enjoy it! It is sure ready to serve your needs!
Once again, I sincerely thank you for visiting Thunder Valley Drums.
Aho and Namaste,
All original material on this Web site, including photography, graphic images and writing are © Copyright, 2009-16, Thunder Valley Drums. Others’ work (graphics, music, etc.) appearing here is with permission and is noted when it occurs.
Each lightning-struck drum, hoop drum, lightning stick, rattle, wand and piece of jewelry is totally unique, the only one of its kind in the world. Just like you.
All information in this website is provided for educational purposes only. The ideas and information expressed here are not intended to and cannot be used to diagnose, prescribe, treat, cure or prevent any disease. None of the information contained here has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but is presented for informational purposes only. Nothing found anywhere on this website should be construed as an attempt to diagnose, prescribe or recommend any manner of treatment, cure or preventative for any health ailment or condition, although studies about drumming in particular have suggested its efficacy in promoting wellness.
Bob Legal Notes:
Me, Man's Law & Shamanism
I thank you for visiting my humble site and for your interest in viewing and learning about Thunder Valley Drums. I find myself in deep union with each drum or other item I make. Despite this, it is not always clear to me how doing that which I love and am trained to do could possibly be misinterpreted.
Nonetheless, I feel compelled to state that according to man’s law and in deference to The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, no drums or other products featured on this site, with the possible exceptions of some drum frames, are Native American in origin, although some of the Budget Drums featured here may be made by Native Americans. For sure, though, everything offered on this site is American made.
Despite sometimes divisive and spiritually detrimental controversies about who owns rights to authentic shamanic practice and despite laws intended to lend deference to some and not to others, in truth and by a higher law, we are all One. Indeed, shamanism fundamentally recognizes that we are all indisputably related through Spirit, and that unity is the one Spiritual Reality we all have the opportunity to recognize. With enlightened unity, we have the ability to truly heal ourselves, our human family, and “all our relations”, meaning all life on the planet.
This spiritual truth does not seem to matter to some people, however. So, to put it plainly and for the record, I am not a Native American. I am of Celtic descent. It doesn't matter to me, but it may to you. The Celts, by the way, like all cultures on Earth, maintained a rich shamanic tradition in tribal settings and, evidence suggests, did so well before anyone inhabited North America.
Contrary to general opinion, shamanism is not a religion but is the world’s oldest medicine and method of spiritual communion. (This is no surprise, as the ancients knew that body and spirit are not separate from one another and today, people are beginning to relearn the truth about how spirit and energy influences the healing of the body.) As history indicates, shamanism is believed to have originated in Siberia and was inculcated into all ancient cultures over time. You may be shocked to learn that there is scholarly opinion that shamanism was also practiced in ancient Palestine, by none other than Jesus, who used healing methods intrinsic to shamanic practices that have carried forth into modern times by isolated indigenous cultures. So, then, shamanism is a world-wide and multicultural practice of healing and connection to the Greater Reality, a means of spiritually healing body and spirit, of healing the races of men and that which falsely separates them. It is not about service to self or to one’s own group, but of service to others and to all beings.
My emergence into shamanism and mystical spirituality began at a very early age. Coming from a buttoned down Republican, Methodist family, these spiritual Soul roots did not come to fruition until later in my adult life after my obligatory iterations as a business owner, a journalist-investigator and white-collar professional. Having chosen my incarnation into a Westernized, Anglican household, I overcame challenges to finding the personal truth and cosmic perspectives that are perhaps more intrinsic to other, indigenous cultures; yet, I consider this to have been useful training. It prepared me to be of service to other seekers who are entering the path of exploration, who want to be healers and to serve others, who come from similar backgrounds as my own. It is difficult for most to change from a prevalent paradigm of belief to one that goes against the grain of accepted popular opinion. Having done that myself, and having paid the price in my own life for following the path of my own destiny, I have been well-prepared to support other seekers in the cultural and spiritual adjustments that often come with the adoption of shamanism into their own, deeply spiritual expressions.
I have been blessed with many fine teachers, Hopi and otherwise, some not in the body but tangible and present throughout my life, nevertheless. Extensive learning experiences were given me, as well, in my professional life: I was able to deeply research and examine comparative religions, mysticism, various healing modalities and non-ordinary reality states, which have lent additional dimension and strength to my shamanic practice. My calling has been a gift and a responsibility that I hold dear, along with the opportunity I’ve been given to share it with others, whether as a teacher or as healer. The sacred nature of the work and my reverence for it will be evident to those who peruse these pages or support this work with a purchase because it’s all about love…and this is the ultimate healing energy that I endeavor to share with you in all that I do.
Thank you for visiting this site. May you feel at home here, as a fellow seeker and traveler on your own unique path to enlightenment and true purpose.
Aho and Namaste, my dear friend.
Shaman Bob is a drummer at heart and started offering shamanic drums and shamanic classes to the general public many years ago. His Lightning Drums are now used by healers on every continent in the world except Antarctica. He started Thunder Valley Drums with the single purpose of making drums for good medicine, good service to all of life and good fun, too. It's summed up with his personal motto: Live Free.
He lives with his family in Kentucky, where they maintain their little business, a healing and teaching center, and where Bob also likes to occasionally indulge his inner comic book and Dr. Who geek. (You'll see some outtakes from old comic book on this site and on his Blog once in a while.)
There are more details below if you're interested.
Drum Stories, The term "Lightning-Struck," Drum Heads, Prices and Guarantee