Transcript of Disc II, Chapter III: Rattles
© 2013 Max Dashu

Kimberley shaker
Ceremonial rattles are extremely ancient. This rock painting in the Kimberly of northern Australia may be the oldest depiction, tens of thousands of years old.

Motoko detail
Female shamans shake very similar rattles in Zimbabwean rock art, painted about 2000 years ago by ancient cousins of the Khoisan.

Tadrart Akakus
At the other end of Africa, Libyan women shake rattles, like healers from Kenya to Zimbabwe who still use gourd rattles in their ceremonies.

Tin Aboteka
Another Saharan mural in Algeria appears to show a woman shaking a gourd rattle.

Moche rattle
Women playing rattles in Moche ceramic art probably represent medicine women, common in Peruvian archaeology.

Maya Rattle
This Maya figure, possibly the goddess Ix Chel, holds a rattle, and is herself a ceramic rattle.

Hathor Sistrum
The Kemetic sistrum usually took the form of Hathor, goddess of music, dance, and women’s ceremony. [The other popular form was shaped like a shrine, naos in Greek.]

Auset Sistrum
Often it’s Auset who is shown shaking the sistrum, as the temple women did, an act drawing power.

Twosret with sistra
Royal women are also portrayed in ceremony with sistra. Here it is Twosret, who ruled as pharaoh at the end of the 19th dynasty.

Akhenaten’s daughters
And here, the daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. The queens’ ceremonial role waned, and then expanded again, reinvigorated by powerful Nubian royal priestesses like Amenirdis.

Pyxide, Nimrud
This Nimrud ivory may show a priestess with sistra, or she could be shaking branches

Carriazo, Spain
Phoenicians spread the sistrum all the way to Spain, where this joyous Hathor-headed Tartessian bronze adds a local touch with the waterbirds.

Urartu bronze plaque
Priestesses played the sistrum in temples all the way into Urartu, ancient Armenia, here shaken with bells, perhaps, and strands of beads. The women approach an enthroned goddess with fiery mane, who holds a cup in one hand, and streams of water in the other.

Carthage castanets
Women did ecstatic dance with clappers or castanets in Carthage and Phoenician settlements all the way to southern Spain.

Hathor clappers
Egyptian women also used ivory clappers, here in the form of hands, and the face of Hathor

Pomo clapsticks
People in California had various kinds of clapping sticks for ceremony and doctoring

Pomo elder clapsticks
The Pomo made clapping sticks out of the hollow branches of elder, a sacred tree to many peoples

Pomo cocoon or hoof rattle
They also made rattles out of cocoons or deer hooves

Vancouver medicine woman
On Vancouver island, Canada, this medicine woman in a bear headdress holds a different kind of medicine rattle.

Illinois pipestone frog pipe
A frog-shaman (who is to say, male or female) shakes a human-headed rattle in a Cahokian pipe from Illinois.

In Cameroon, a Bangwa queen dances with a rattle or bell. Priestesses officiated in ancestor ceremonies among the greater Bamileke people.

Bahia wooden relief
African priestesses, seers, and healers recreated their gourd rattles in the diaspora, here at Bahia, Brazil [Her headdress is reminiscent of the double axe Oshe Shango associated with Oya.]

Queen Mother Shekere
In a modern sculpture in classic Benin style, a Queen Mother rocks another form of gourd percussion, the beaded shekere.

Women shake and pound the shekere between their hands, making the nets of cowries or beads resound with sharp and soft rhythms.

In the Pacific, gourds like this Hawaiian ipu were used for percussion in chant and dance ceremonies, pounded on the Earth.

Takuara, stamping tubes
In the Chaco region of South America, the percussion of takuará, or stamping tubes, was a ceremonial power of women

Guarani women stamp takuará
who made them resound on the earth as they danced and chanted through the night

In the Mapuche culture of Chile, the machis shake the kaskawillas, belled straps also used by their assistants, the Ñankan.

Laud Codex 38
Mexican medicine women also sounded ceremonial bells, here in a ritual scene from the Laud Codex.

In festivals, Aztec deity impersonators danced with belled sticks, shields, and anklets.

Korean diviner
Korean mudang and diviners also used belled sticks or bell-straps in their ceremonies

So did the mikos of Japan. This shrine dancer shakes the bell-stick and waves a Gohei wand with paper streamers, used to purify and bless.

Txiab neeb
In southeast Asia, the Hmong shamans use a different kind of rattle-stick, the txiab neeb.

Txiab neeb 2
Sometimes they gaze through the circular center to look into the beyond.

Jomon Pot
Chant and incantation have been a core element of ceremony from the earliest times, here shown in an ancient Jomon pot from Japan.

Hardin County
A stone pipe carved a thousand years ago, this chanting woman was found at a cave in southern Illinois, near the Ohio river.

Arctic masks
Inuit double hand masks, in bone, seem to be chanting.

Medicine Woman
Although sacred chant is pan-cultural, ancient representations are relatively rare. This modern Inuit carving is titled “Medicine Woman.” [Carved by Kaka, Cape Dorset, Canada, 1953]

Incantation and movement – sacred dance – are at the heart of shamanizing all around the world.

In Ecuador, a woman chants in full ceremonial regalia, raising up a mask and offering vessel. [Jamacoaque culture, early centuries CE]

Visionary of the Baobab
Going out on the land to pray and seek wisdom, to make libation and offering, are time-honored customs of holy women.

Night vigil
They make night vigils, fast and cry for a vision, communing with Earth and Sky, Moon and Stars.

Utiseta sequence
The heathen Norse called this Utiseta, “sitting-out.” Sometimes the seer spent long periods in wilderness, dreaming, clearing and deepening, connecting with the Divine in Nature.  This was how the völur and seidhkonur, hamgengjur and spakonur attained their spiritual powers and understanding.

In Japan, praying under a cold waterfall was a way to reach altered states that conferred wisdom and potency. In this way, Hatsuhana succeeded in healing the disabling injuries of her husband.

In another story, the nursemaid Otsugi quests in the same way, as her young charge looks on. Many Japanese prophets, religious founders and adepts undertook these cold-water austerities.



Woman Shaman: the Ancients © 2013 Max Dashu

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