The drums used in shamanism are usually hand drums which are reasonably light and can be held in one hand. They have wooden frames with animal skin stretched tightly over one or both sides of it depending on the style of drum.
The back of the drum is often laced with sinew or hide to form a web of eight strips representing the Cardinal and Non Cardinal directions, the eight spokes of the medicine wheel, the eight legs of the mythical horse Sleipner which carried the Norse Shaman Odin to Otherworld and the eight legs of the spider. The middle of the lacing is tied to form a handle and this takes the shape of a cross.
The skin can be left plain or decorated in order to reflect the personal medicine of the person it is working with. Anything that is added to a drum brings in the energy or medicine of that which it represents incorporating its energy into the drum. For example the surface of a drum may be painted with an animal, often a power or totem animal or spirit guide, or symbols that have meaning for the person, feathers may be tied to the lacing or the drum stick, crystals, stones or a medicine pouch may be attached to the drum. Therefore a drum with a frame of cedar, covered in deerskin, painted with a wolf and with eagle feathers tied to the lacing would contain the energy or medicine of all of these.
The drum is a powerful tool for healing, just sitting and playing a drum can heal us for the beat of a drum is recognised by our beings for it is the closest sound to our own heartbeat. Drumming with a steady, regular beat can be great for relieving stress and when we are ungrounded sitting on our own and drumming in a regular rhythm can help to ground us. Drumming also has a powerful effect on our emotions and feelings, it can relieve anger, help us find courage and clam and centre us. If we drum over our heart it can help heal and release emotions of the heart whereas drumming over or next to the solar plexus is excellent for releasing fear.
A lovely way to drum for yourself is to carry out a Rainbow Drumming where we drum the organs of the body and also much of our endocrine system or the areas of our body that hold our energy centres or chakras if that is within our belief system.
To do this:
Begin by holding the drum at the front of your body, low down in the space where your legs meet your torso, drum for as long as feels right.
Move the drum up around your naval and again drum for as long as feels right.
Move the drum up to your solar plexus and repeat
Move the drum to your heart and repeat
Move the drum to your throat and repeat
Move the drum to your forehead, to the space between your eyebrows and repeat
Finally move the drum and hold it over your crown and again drum for as long as feels right.
You may find that the beat and tone of the drum will change as you move positions. This is good as it is responding to your energy, emotions and needs.