Making Gourd Rattles

Harvest time, including Lammas is a great time to collect gourds and dry them to make rattles for the next year.  Most gourds will take a good amount of time to dry out and be ready for use. However, if you haven’t harvested them in previous years, you can always buy a dried and fairly ready online gourd to turn into a rattle.

Gourds are often used in making many musical instruments from rattles to drums, and even stringed instruments.  They are wonderful receptacles for boxes, drinking vessels, objects d’arte, or other fun projects; an online search of gourd projects will yield amazing results from the very simple to quite complex.

Rattles are wonderful tools for a spiritual path whether you are using Witchcraft or not.  They work to break up negative energy and raise the vibrational frequency of the area you are shaking them in.  They are great for trance work, cleansing your spiritual tools, clearing a house or room, and even cleansing your crystals and altar.

Gourd rattles are pretty simple to make, but can easily become a complex project so they are great for a wide range of ages and skill levels.  Rattles can be on a stick, drilling or cutting holes in the rattles to empty, clean and refill, you can use them whole with the dried seeds inside as your sound makers, or they can be a combinations of things.  Rattles can be left in their natural forms or have sticks, horns, or other adornments added to them. Some rattles are painted, burned, stained or even carved to create a wide variety of decorative effects.  One of the great things about making gourd rattles is that many shapes will work wonderfully from very small to quite large.  The tradition of making and using rattles from gourd is ancient and quite rewarding when you hear the sound and feel the energy of the rattle you created.

Getting Started:

As with any project, I like to collect all of my materials and tools as well as create a space for the project if I don’t finish it and cleanse everything spiritually.  You can do this with strong intent and smudging, drumming over the materials, using symbols and sigils or other means you know of.  The idea is that you are keeping a clear intent in making this spiritual tool.  You want only positive energy and your intent of purpose going into this project.

Once you have done that you want to scrub the outside of your gourd very well with hot water, a mild dish soap and a metal scrubby getting all of the mold and discolored skin off.  You can use something to gently scrap and peel any sections that seem particularly stubborn.

Next make a bleach solution with water of 1:8 ration, (one part bleach to 8 parts of water,)  to kill of any remaining mold spores or other bacterial that potential can make you sick or destroy and decompose your gourd. You are going to dip and soak the gourd just a minute your gourd and then let it air dry.

So now regardless on what you are planning to do with your gourd, leave it whole, or cut into it and empty it you can begin sanding. While sanding you want to start with a rougher sand paper or foam block and sand off any bumps or imperfections you don’t want.

If you are going to use your gourd whole, once the sanding is done you can decorate it however you like.  You can carve it, paint it, stain it, add fun additional items, whatever you like until it is the way you like it. Varnish the finished decorated gourd before you add things like feathers or threads, beading etc, to protect the surface.  Once the varnish is dry and your gourd is decorated it is complete and you have your rattle.

Gourds that you are cutting into:

If you are going to empty it and attach some kind of a handle then you will want to cut a small hole similar to the same size of the handle you are going to use around on the bottom of the gourd.  If your handle plans are to have the handle go all the way through the gourd, then you will also want to cut a matching hole at the top of the gourd as well.  If you are just making a shaker type of rattle, then only cut a hole in the bottom.  You can fill and soak your gourd for about a half an hour in hot water and then carefully scrape out the insides. The inside of seeds and membranes should be softened by the hot water and easier to get out.  You can use chopsticks, spoons, or anything that will get in there and get the job done.

Once your gourd interior is totally clean, let your gourd dry over night.

Now you can add something to the inside of your gourd to make it rattle. Beans or small stones are commonly used, seeds or other items, test out the different sounds that various objects make and see what you like and how the energy feels.  We always used turquoise chips to add to the protective qualities of the rattles, but you can use anything you like.

Once the gourd is filled, you can insert the handle and secure it with some glue at the top and at the bottom holes so it won’t move and the contents won’t spill out.  Now you can decorate your gourd as instructed above in the whole gourd section.

If you are making a shaker type of a rattle rather than one on a stick, you’ll want to fill your gourd and then put a snug fitting cork in the hole and secure it with a bit of glue so it doesn’t come loose.  You can then decorate your gourd in the same way you would a whole gourd rattle as outlined above.

That’s it, you gourd rattle is complete.  It can take anywhere from a couple of hours to days or weeks depending on what your plans are and the size of the gourd.  Large or intricately carved gourds, and gourds with elaborate paints and stains can take up to a month or more to create.  It is all up to you. I hope that you try to make a gourd rattle at least once in your life.  It’s a fun project to do with kids or a group of friends.  It can be a great spiritual tool and very effective in cleansing your spiritual sacred spaces.

2016 copyright by Katie Pifer

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2 thoughts on “Making Gourd Rattles

  1. Pingback: Making Gourd Rattles | GrannyMoon's Morning Feast

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