The Significance of Native American Medicine Rattles

The Significance of Native American Medicine Rattles

  • October 16,2020
  • tachini

Native American rattles are essential tools, revered for their gentle, soothing noises, ceremonial and spiritual uses, and their potent powers of purification. The significance of Native American medicine rattles is immense. Simple and beautiful instruments at first glance, they play a crucial and heavily symbolic role in Native culture.

What They’re Made Of

Rattles can be made from a variety of different materials, depending on the preferences of both the individual and the tribe. Ceremonial rattles tend to be made of turtle shell and stuffed with either cherry pits or bones. The Navajo are known for heavily utilizing this type of rattle. Shakers and rattles can also be made from hollowed gourds, deer hooves, horns, and more, but the traditional rawhide rattle is one that’s used consistently across all tribes.

The interior of a rattle is crucial. Small seeds, stones, shells, or corn are typically used as fillings. This is what makes the noise. A shaker’s handle is traditionally fashioned from wood. Both cedar and willow are common and meaningful choices.

Rattles are usually painted with tribe-specific symbols and decorated with feathers, beadwork, and fringe, though many prefer to leave their instruments unadorned. The decorations used on rattles vary from tribe to tribe and are a proud display of both their heritage and long-standing beliefs.

Highly Symbolic Instruments

In Native culture, rattles signify independence. They carry raw, powerful elemental energy and embody water, fire, earth, and air. Their construction celebrates the three kingdoms, or nations, of animals, minerals, and plants. Animals are represented by the rattle’s container, or the feathers used to decorate it. The rocks and other materials used to create the rattle’s rain-like sound, or the paint used to decorate its exterior, are references to the mineral kingdom. The plants are represented by the rattle’s wooden (or bone) handle, or by the container if a gourd is being used.

A Wide Range of Uses

The significance of Native American medicine rattles is evident in the way they’re used. They’re considered a cherished tool for storytelling and the purification of soul, body, and mind.

Rattles are common at festive and spiritual gatherings alike and frequently used as an accompaniment to tribal dances and ceremonies. They help maintain the music’s rhythm and complement the beat of both handheld and multi-user powwow drums.

Rattles are believed to have potent healing properties. Native Americans believe that spiritual energy stems partially from the trancelike state we enter when exposed to music. The rattle’s cleansing sound can unblock unwelcome energies and heal the body of troubling ailments. It helps open the mind and can positively shift people’s moods. Often, though not always, rattles are used to expel the mind of worries prior to prayer.

For those interested in owning your own medicine rattle, consider purchasing from a talented Native artist. Our Native American rawhide rattles for sale are masterfully handcrafted and fully authentic.

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