Bean-Sidhe Drumcraft: with Fiona Dove

Things have moved forward a bit over the past couple of days – Fiona is in process of getting a 3-day workshop together for this autumn, the dates are the evening of Fri 20th October to the morning of Tue 24th. She’ll have the details up on the Bean-Sidhe website soon, I’ll give the details here and Facebook/Twitter, but if you’d like to come on it contact Fiona now as there are only 4 places and I think one of them is gone already ????. Contact Fiona at at


So now, back to what happened last week, I’d just finished us working with water …

As I said, we got up the next morning to shouts from the hide requiring us to take it out of the bath and get on with the making. We let the water drain while we sanded the hoop smooth. Then Fiona did some pyrography on the inside of the hoop and painted the relevant runes in ochre on the outside of the hoop. Hoop also wished to be painted with mead on the inside – wow! That brought up the beautiful grain of the ash wood very well, and enhanced the lovely golden colour. 

Fiona did some pyrography on the inner face of the hoop: the Helm of Awe from the Norse tradition and her maker’s mark. Her maker’s mark is made up of Uruz, Isa, Naudhiz and Ansus, and in the middle Othala – again all runes from the Norse tradition.

Fiona’s maker’s mark

Helm of Awe

This work includes the elements of both fire (pyrography) and earth through the ochre, and again fire in the mead. You probably know mead is made from honey so it involves the bees and the sun, and bees are sun-beings too. Lots of work for us to ponder and daydream on there, but we didn’t do it so much as we worked but saved it for later.

Now, we’d worked with water, fire and earth. Tomorrow, we’d be doing more earth-work as we cut the hide to size, and cut the lacing and then, as we laced the drum and brought him into tune we’d be working with air. But before anything else, after all the fire work, we needed a cup of tea and a piece of lemon drizzle cake :-).

After our snack we went out into the woods, walking the paths and animal tracks amongst the springing vegetation, budding leaves, new-laid frogspawn in the forest pools, courting blackbirds singing their hearts out, and the amazing drumming of woodpeckers. And, over and under all the other sounds was always the river and the sound of the beautiful waterfall. We were immersed in the four elements. Spring-scented soil under our feet, water all around us, the new-fire of the spring sunshine and its golden light shimmering on the damp birch and pine trunks, and the air. The air all around was soft, yet it had that new-sharp tang that comes around the spring equinox time so you know that spring has indeed sprung.

We sat by a chuckling stream in the sun, and followed it down to where it tumbled over a secret waterfall. The birds called to us and badger prints marked our path. And … and … we turned a corner round a tree and there it was!

We’d both been wondering what the drum would like as a beater, and been thinking about rib-bones as the Sami often use those. We’d actually been considering deer rib-bones, or possibly sheep, but we’d completely forgotten about the idea as we delighted in our walk and the gorgeous waterfall. Otherworld obviously hadn’t!

We rounded a tree and there, on the ground in front of us, were the bones of a dead cow … a very big cow, about the size of a Charolais! He or she had probably died at the beginning of winter, maybe six months ago, the bones were all picked clean as a whistle, white and gleaming in the afternoon sun. And there were ribs! Some of them were more than an arm-length long and we couldn’t get our hands round their wide end. To actually use them as a beater would have meant me holding the drum while Fiona beat it LOL, but we weren’t complaining. I mean, you just don’t complain when otherworld gives you a gift. We collected up several ribs and took a couple of enormous vertebrae, beautiful things that look as if they should really fly. This was complicated by the dogs, Fiona’s whippet girls, who were utterly convinced we’d discovered dog-toys, however, we had a day-sack we could put them in which kept them out of the way of delighted noses and teeth, and made it easier to carry them.

Apart from being a gift from otherworld, what was this about? Cattle, to both of us, are deeply connected to the earth through their intimate working with biodynamics. They’re also Bridey’s tylwyth (our Brythonic word for totem), and they’ve been a stalwart part of Celtic culture since the aurochs. Earth and ancestors, the bones whispered to us. OK, so we needed to daydream and sit-with the concepts of ancestors, and the Earth herself as our all-mother, the most ancient ancestor we could have.

We sat beside the waterfall again, on ancient boulders, our feet on ancient soil, surrounded by birch trees who are one of the primal trees who begin colonising earth once it grows itself out of being rock. And we were each holding the bones of a great cow. Images came, dreams and scenes and visions, different for each of us but each one pertinent to our own lives, where we were each at at that moment and where our next steps on our paths should be. Be sure we thanked the cow-bones, the waterfall and the beautiful forest for all they gave us.

We came home tired from our walk, but that exhilarating form of tiredness when your bone and your body know they’ve been used, and used well, and when your mind is also content with the use you’ve given it, the piecing together of connections you’d not fully realised before. We had supper and went to bed.

The hide was singing to us, along with the hoop, well ready for the making we be doing tomorrow …


Next instalment to follow shortly …


© Elen Sentier & Fiona Dove 2017. All rights reserved.