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DIY: The Talking Stick

Speak and be heard!

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The stick doesn’t talk, the person holding it does. The stick gets passed around the room and each person gets a chance to be heard without interruption. Wouldn’t that be grand? I once went to a therapist who used a pinwheel as a talking stick. I was very tempted to blow it, but I resisted.

Aside from its practical use, a talking stick can be fun to make because you can turn it into a piece of art. The process of making the stick is said to teach the subconscious mind to perceive it as something special. Be sure to use your favorite colors, unique style and choice of additional decorations. The stick, of course, will also give a greater impression when it looks good.

If picking a stick from nature, you will need to remove the bark, sand it and then base coat it with white gesso or paint before applying color. If, however, you are in a hurry to be heard, you can just buy a dowel from your local hardware store.

Supplies:

Foot-long dowel with about a one-inch diameter

Lots of colorful markers or paints

Ribbons or long shredded scraps of material

A circle of fabric at least six inches in diameter

Cotton balls or some type of poly-fill

Assorted feathers

Trinkets optional

Steps:

  1. Decorate your stick with favorite colors and motifs—anything goes!
  2. Stuff the cotton balls or poly-fill into the circle of cloth.
  3. Using a rubber band attach the stuffed fabric onto one end of the stick forming a ball.
  4. Cover the rubber band with ribbons or cloth strips as shown.
  5. Add feathers, bells, shells or other trinkets.
  6. Hold the stick and see if your partner shuts up, I mean listens

If you just appear with the stick—say in the kitchen by the stove—then the person with whom you’d like to communicate might say something like, “What’s that?”

And you’ll say, “It’s a talking stick that doesn’t talk.” This statement will either pique their attention, giving you a chance to introduce the idea or get you sent to the looney bin. Hopefully, the former. Good luck!

A bit of cultural context

The traditional Talking Stick has been used by Native American tribes for hundreds of years. Whenever a council was called, the Native Americans used a Talking Stick as a tool to allow all council members to present their Sacred Point of View within their Sacred Space of Council.

As a tool, the stick set in place the requirement for listeners to listen closely in order to avoid repeating unnecessary information or asking irrelevant questions. It was also used when teaching children, making decisions regarding disputes and engaging in a storytelling circle.

Whoever held the council was responsible for making the Talking Stick. Each tree represented and brought its own Medicine; for example, oak for strength, maple for gentleness and elm for wisdom. The person making the stick would consider which Medicine would best aide the meeting they planned to use it for. Added ornamentation also brought meaning depending on the color of the materials used—yellow for knowledge and green for harmony. Any skins, hair or hides used would add the talents, gifts and abilities of those creatures to the talking stick’s Medicine. The Medicine and qualities attributed to the materials used in the crafting of the Talking Stick varied from tribe to tribe.

According to Firstpeople.us, the Native Americans taught their children from the age of three to listen and respect another person’s viewpoint. “That is not to say that they may not disagree, but are rather bound by their personal honor to allow everyone their Sacred Point of View.”

It is this message and intention that inspired this tutorial. We can all use better listening and deeper understanding with respect to those who hold opposing viewpoints. “The Talking Stick is the tool that teaches each of us to honor the Sacred Point of View of every living creature.”

www.firstpeople.us

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