Understanding the Native American Courting Flute
Throughout history, many ancient musical instruments were more than just a means of producing pleasing sounds. They often had a deeper cultural or spiritual significance that was expressed through their construction and use. Flutes have been in use in the Americas since before 4000 BCE and their uses are as varied as the nations of Native Americans that used them. However, the “courting flute” or “love flute” as it is also known, seems to be a rather common feature of the ancient Native American cultural landscape.
The Origins of the Courting Flute
There are many variations of the courting flute origin story but they all seem to tell the same basic tale. In many versions of the story, a young man is smitten by a local girl but his attempts at courtship go unnoticed. He is either too boastful or too shy to catch her eye. In his sorrow, he seeks solitude in nature only to discover (or in some cases to be gifted) a hollow branch that seems to sing with the wind through holes caused by a woodpecker.
After discovering that he can duplicate the songs of the forest by blowing into the branch, he creates beautiful music that catches the ear of his beloved. And of course, she is so moved by his song that she falls in love with him.
The Courting Flute in Daily Life
Each tribe or nation used the flute in many different ways. The Hopi for instance had “flute societies” that used flutes to perform powerful prayer ceremonies, while the Lakota used flutes for courtship or love songs. Courtship was quite formal, and something to be witnessed by the entire community in Native American cultures. As a result, flute serenades were not uncommon as young men sought the attentions of young women. Once a match had been made however, it was common for the young man to lay down his flute, perhaps to signify that his courting days were over.
Here at Archaic Roots we are preparing for 2017 with upcoming Native American Flute making retreats. These retreats will encompass a whole weekend of flute building and music making experiences. Start with a pre-drilled flute blank, and then tune and decorate your flute, once completed you will learn how to play your flute and integrate it into group music making settings. Learn more here!