Shake It – Sistrums Are The New Sage

Fine, I am being facetious. But to the extent that trends – even in magic – are tidal, I’m predicting a new wave of interest in sistra – aka the rattles that the Ancient Egyptians and others used magically.

It’s natural to step up one’s housewitchery practice when the hyperflux is full-on and so why not a sistrum? I recently got one and it’s unreal – as in amazing. I’ll explain why in a moment but first – what is a sistrum*?

It’s a handheld rattle that could be called a percussion instrument but it’s core purpose was to stir up vitality and scare off low-life entities, ghosts, mood and what-not. 

In one description, it’s described as  facilitating the opening of the ways between the mundane and sacred worlds. While most often associated with Hathor, the sistrum is also a favored accessory of the goddesses Sekhmet, Ubasti, Isis and Seshat.

They’re traditionally wound with copper – the Venusian/Hathor metal – and feature the goddess herself, big cats, snakes and well, they’re are many variations. This one at the Metropolitan museum has an enscription that says it belonged to “the chantress Tapenu” and others have referred to “prophetesses of Hathor.”

How do you use one? Intuitively. There are no ‘instructions’ as such. However, Coptic churches still use them to this day and they shake into each cardinal direction and FYI, a historic account described a procession for the goddess Isis in which the priestesses went with a sistrum rhythm of three beats then a pause.

But if you get one, you’ll find they’re surprisingly cool to wield and that you’ll find your own rhythm. Sistra – the plural of ‘sistrum’ – are also extraordinarily powerful. Unlike incense or even sage, which you can just leave to do its own thing, working a sistrum is an active practice – you’re either striding around with it shaking things up or nothing is going on.

It makes a distinct, strangely satisfying, sound and I can attest to it’s stir-things-up effect. The first thing it will shake off is your torpor or any mental impasse – it’s a great inspo tool at the very least – but the stir is real. Sistrums – sistra – are energizing, not calming – as such.

They’re sold in all sorts of places and I don’t know enough about them to recommend any particular style or quality check. But I just got mine from Sacred Sources, who seem to make everything from Nebra Sky Disc replicas to Hecate fridge magnets, and I love it.

Etsy has more artisanal options that you would be able to get customized and if you were time/cash rich, you could pick up an ancient antique version from Sothebys or similar but bear in mind, it would probably have been taken from the spell-bound tomb of a woman well-schooled in magic – I wouldn’t.

So if you have a sistrum already, how do you find it?

*Sistrum is the Latin word for it and it comes from the Greek seistron – that which is shaken. But the Egyptians called it sesheshet – which relates to papyrus reeds, writing, magic, knowledge and the scribe goddess Seshat.

“The sistrum makes it clear that all things in existence need to be shaken, or rattled about, and never to cease from motion but, as it were, to be waked up and agitated when they grow drowsy and torpid. They say that they avert and repel Typhon by means of the sistrums, indicating thereby that when destruction constricts and checks Nature, generation releases and arouses it by means of motion.”

– Plutarch, Moralia, Book 5, “On Isis & Osiris”
Circa the 11th Century.

Note: I’m moving away from using images of the original ancient Egyptian/Kemetic art as so much of it comes from opened tombs and so forth. They are archeologically significant and fascinating, of course, but energetically I am uncomfortable with posting them.

47 thoughts on “Shake It – Sistrums Are The New Sage”

  1. I have long used a little nut rattle I bought sometime, somewhere to clear space and infuse my magic. I came up with this practice intuitively; maybe a past life using a sistrum? I can attest that the practice works, though I’ve never used this exact instrument.

  2. Helpful & sacred post. Lots of great tips in the comments. I had wanted a sistrum but had trouble finding one, but that is nature of topor, innit? It’s so pervasive! Am about to make one with beer bottle tops, it’s the only way out of this stagnation, but I will have to encourage my beloved to drink more. The argument that he should drink more as beer was sacred to Nephthys will have no truck with him, but I am allergic to the stuff.

  3. Off topic but the Earth’s inner core has stopped spinning which apparently happens every 70 years and then reverses direction. I wonder what corresponds with this ‘turning’ astrologically every 70 years? Last time was in 1952. Maybe Mystic knows?

      1. I think so too. I’d love to know what influences are around to coincide with this phenom. 70 years ago the Koreans signed a peace treaty, the USSR dropped a hydrogen bomb, Edmund Hilary and Tensing Norgay climbed Mt Everest, the polio vaccine was invented. Queen Elizabeth was coronated and the helix structure of the human DNA was discovered. Watch this space. They may even find a cure for cancer!

      2. So… Pluto Leo era and the NN moving into Aquarius – if we’re being literal on the 70 year count.

        Plastic started really taking off in use and that could be one to watch. Good little list you produced.

        I wonder what the souls born during or around the last earth’s core station will be up to?

      3. I know some. One in particular. Their lives are turning around. new relationships at an older age. Knowing what you want and making the most of the time you have left. Life altering (in a good way) surgery. Let’s see what ensues…

  4. My daughter lives in NYC so when I’m visiting, the Met is a frequent stop. I’ve been mesmerized by these ancient talismans and devices, and usually spend most of my time in the Mesopotamia/Egypt/Persian rooms with all their rattles and devices. I was born and raised in the Seattle suburbs to all white Protestants and no exposure to anything outside that claustrophobic environment, then rode my bike with all the quadruple Scorp intensity I had to the bookstores and libraries to read up on astrology and divination.. Undoubtedly a witch burned at the stake in a former life. Thank you Mystic with your site I’ve found my people.

    1. What a beautiful story! You’re more than likely gravitating toward the lost memories and even talismans of your past lives. And yes this site is an absolute diamond in cyberspace 💎

  5. Wow I just had to buy one of these been into burning Kyphi incence of late so this seems perfect. Plus Sacred Sources had perfect one with Bast handle

  6. I bought a sistrum in Egypt in 2017. It was a replica of an antique, and did not have strings or discs on it. I didn’t know what it was when I bought it, but it looked like it may have been a rattle. It had a beautiful image of Hathor on it. When I got home I googled Egyptian rattles and discovered sistrums! I found some antique looking metal discs adn used copper wire to string it.

  7. I told my freind of 30 years whos a teacher not to do it but she didn’t listen to me so ok be careful when she’s cursing and waking the dead,casting spells from YouTube/ google seeing shaman,reading cards, buying talisman etc..needless to say disassociated myself..

    1. Oh yes. I totally agree. Years ago I was reading an ebook on magik. A coworker made me so angry that I stopped in front of her door, I was always first in, and repeated a short banishment spell to relieve my stress. Several days later she was moved to another division and quite angry. I was shaken and stopped reading the book. Turns out there was a price to be paid. About a year later, I lost my job through legal sleight of hand and guess who was moved into my office! I stay away these things now. Not to be played with. Just no.

      1. Oh my. Words (spells) have energy don’t they? I hope you’re in a better place – metaphorically and literally – today!!

  8. We have moved house recently and I have noticed the energy doesn’t clear as I’d like, I’ve also been feeling the urge to set up my drum kit, perhaps a sistrum could shake things up.

  9. I bought one of these from Sacred Source a few months ago. Mine features Bastet for the handle. Yes, it does give my intention an energetic punctuation.

  10. Hmmmm. Must find that cd for native Indian/shaman . Using drums, rattles and voice. Hauntingly beautiful. Hauntingly clearing.

    Thanks Mystic.

  11. I recommend Layne Redmond’s work and music for anyone interested in ancient percussion and drumming, particularly for magic, ritual and women’s magic!

    1. Thanks P Darling. Glimpsed one of her YouTube videos.

      Caught sight of a tambourine. Remember using one in a group. I was in my element. Grounding and luscious was the experience. Scintillating expansiveness: just what this Pisces Rising needs.

      Well there is a music shop in town…….

      1. Her albums are on spotify and are gorgeous! I have been learning frame drum slowly the last couple years, once I submit my darn thesis I intend to fully immerse myself in fram drum / daf / riq / tambourine / buben.

      2. I’m an art historian writing on 14th century images of the Triumph of Death in Italy, think Grim Reaper.

      3. Interesting synchonicity. I had my own image of death.

        I went out yesterday morning and found a dead bat at the bottom on my verandah step. It was just fur, wings and Skeleton. My eyes transfixed on it’s rib cage. The feeling was amazing. Not frightening. Symbolically it was the Death Card in Tarot. Change is afoot and it is good.

        We had big rain the previous dusk and it must have flowed down the hill.

        I just got my witches broom and moved it under the house.

  12. I can attest to the active vs passive cleansing being needed for heavy, torpid energy and general bad juju. I worked at a massage/acupuncture/reiki/tarot and psychic reading/sound healing etc. salon years ago and trust me we had incense and candles burning continually. The place was sage’d, reiki’d and juju’d daily by the various practitioners.

    But once a week, the most powerful witch there would come in after hours and loudly bang a drum in every corner of every treatment room, reception, bathrooms, staff room, just everywhere and coming into the place the morning after was always bracing.

    I would definitely consider getting a sistrum or some manner of percussive tool for myself. I’m almost all water signs with a bit of earth and air so the heavy, I’d rather lay on the couch than get up and at em energy builds fast in my home. I am up and at em today though and eyeballing what I can use as a makeshift rattle or drum in the meantime!

    1. Banging saucepan lids together might be a good makeshift / lo-fi remedy 🙂 or a tambourine might be fun! Must be one lying around somewhere… And those little bells on hand holders that kindy kids use. Tie one each to each ankle and dance/stomp through the abode .

      1. You have just reminded me to buy some little bells to see on my skirts.

        Just move that bustle and ring those bells!

        💃🔔🎊

      2. There is a reason that all traditional Indian women’s ornaments make sound – bangles, anklets and even bells sewed in clothing, like you suggested Wish. Sound is a powerful thing in hands of and in service of women.

      3. HIGHLY recommended. Get cute glass multicoloured ones. I miss wearing them. Even have a few made in gold for office setting. But my heart sings upon wearing anklets. I often wear them in brief whisper of Scandinavian summer. 🙂 Harbinger of so much joy.

  13. Have to say I get very bad vibes from the one shown in the photo from Christies. I could not have it in my potion or home it’s evil.

  14. Wyrd synchronicity AGAIN!!
    ‘Ave been (house) witching it right up since the Leo FM, and feel it in my bones that it is that liminal, energy-based, timeles knowledge that will come into its own the next 20 odd years. (But then – have always felt/said that..!😅) lol – Thanks MM 🙏x

  15. Wooo I want to make one! 3 beats? Reading a lot about 3-6-9 at the moment. Energy, diets….
    quick research- the wooden stick variety seem crass but the beautiful Etsy Egyptian ones seem culturally inappropriate for me, super cool but I think I’ll make something inbetween.

    1. I had the same thought that it will be culturally inappropriate for me…which is a strange thought for a professional globalist. Ancient amulets are powerful and must be accorded the respect they deserve.

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