Native American Healing, Ceremonial and Dance Rattles

NATIVE AMERICAN CEREMONIAL AND DANCE RATTLES

©  2010 Cherry Hill

Native American rattles have been and are used for many purposes including healing and other medicine uses, dancing for ceremony and celebration, commemorating birth and more. To First Nations people, shakers or rattles represent rain (for prayers of abundance and prosperity) and tears, especially those of emotional release. Tears of joy signifying when the mind, body, soul and spirit connect. Ceremonially, rattles are used in cleansing and purifying, spiritual guidance work, celebration and in thanks and respect to Ancestral Spirits.

Dragonfly Spirit Gourd Rattle by Cynthia Whitehawk, Apache

 

Rattles can be made of many materials including deer and elk hooves, rawhide, turtle shells, gourds, wood, buffalo parts (horn, hump bone, scrotum) bones, horns and antlers of all kinds, leather (cowhide, buckskin, elkskin).

Wolf Spirit Gourd Rattle by Apache Cynthia Whitehawk

 

The rattling items are either inside or outside. Rattles such as gourds might have small items inside such as beans, corn, small stones, or even the seeds native to the gourd itself.

Raven Spirit Gourd Rattle by Apache Cynthia Whitehawk

Rattles with external sound makers are adorned with pieces of metal, tinkle cones, bells, beads and more.

Lakota Horse Spirit Dance Rattle by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

 

Generally, medicine rattles are made entirely of natural materials and the sound is more muted. Dance rattles are made of almost any materials, natural and otherwise. In fact, unusual items such as pieces of scrap metal, coins and other resonating materials are used to create a loud, crisp sound. Dance rattles are often made like a coup stick, using bone or wood with a handle on the end.

Horse Spirit Dance Rattle by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

 

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