Yael illah is a devotional musician, liturgist, emerging Kohenet / Hebrew priestess and lover of love. She is committed to the ancient power of art to transform and shape our lives. She sings and prays in multiple spiritual traditions and offers healing music to individuals and communities. She also crafts drums and leads drum-birthing ceremonies. Inspired by the gifts and challenges of her Orthodox Jewish upbringing, Yael is dedicated to cultivating spiritual community and practice that is dynamic, embodied, feminist, earth reverent and counter-oppressive. She supports spiritual seekers in cultivating relationship with themselves, life and the Divine. Yael lives in Ohlone Territory, known as the SF Bay Area where she priestesses at the intersections of spirit, art, healing and ancestral memory. Yael has a Bachelors in Social Work from New York University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Divinity at Starr King School for the Ministry, a multi-religious progressive theological seminary at the GTU.
Skin And Tree
Drumming is an ancient cross-cultural technology used to connect with the unseen, clear the mind, reorient the spirit and awaken the heart. The drum connects us with our origins and to the primordial heartbeat of life. Drums have been used since time immemorial to move energy, bring community together and to pray. These drums are created as an offering from and to Spirit, with prayerful intent. The resonance is profound and the sound invokes deep healing.
I make these drums in the way passed to me by my teacher, Master Drum Maker Yolanda Martinez*, who has been making drums for more than thirty years. The design and process of creating these sacred tools has been channeled through her. I offer this craft with Yolanda's guidance and blessing. It brings me great joy to share these drums with you.
Order a drum
Drums can be ordered from current stock or created to order. For drums in stock allow 1-2 weeks for delivery in the United States. For special orders, allow 3-4 weeks for plus 1-2 weeks for delivery. Drums can be hand delivered to California Bay Area locations for an additional fee. All drums come with a hand-made beater. For special requests, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
14" Elk - $165
16" Elk- $225
18" Elk- $260
*Buffalo available upon request for extra $20
Yael is available to facilitate private drum birthing ceremonies for individuals and small groups. This is a special opportunity to co-create your own drum!
Everything is provided for in the drum-making workshop including hide, hoop, sinew leather and a beater. Contribution for a drum-birthing is the price of the drum plus $100 per person. Drum-making is generally a two day process. Day 1 includes wrapping and opening ritual (3-4 hours). After the drum dries overnight, Day 2 is the drum-birthing ceremony when we welcome your drum into the world and hear it's voice for the first time! (up to 1 hour)
Also, Yolanda are Yael are available to co-facilitate drum-making workshops for large groups with several month advance request.
For more information or to schedule a drum birthing ceremony contact Yael.
In acknowledgement of the ongoing legacy of colonization, a portion of all drum purchases / drum birthing ceremonies goes to the Shuumi Land Tax which supports the The Sogorea Te Land Trust, "an urban Indigenous women-led community organization that facilitates the return of Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone lands in the San Francisco Bay Area to Indigenous stewardship."
"Our whole being is music: our mind and our body, the nature in which we live, the nature that has made us, all that is beneath and around us, it is all music."
-Hazrat Inayat Khan-
Intuitive Sounding Sessions:
"Every atom confesses by its tone, "my sole origin is sound."
Everything is vibration.
We can attune to vibrations and frequencies that support healing and connection with the consciousness within and all around us. Through sound, we can awaken the memory of our inherent dignity and belonging to life. We are each instruments in the orchestra of creation.
"There is a way between voice and presence where information flows"
Each session is unique and intuitively guided. Sessions may include: Interactive sounding exercises; conscious sounding with voice and breath; instruments; gentle touch/hands on energy work.
Some benefits of intuitive sounding work may be: feelings of peace, calm, centeredness, increased self-awareness, relief of physical pain, emotional release, energetic balance, increased capacity and resilience to be with challenge or struggle.
My approach to this work is informed by my ongoing spiritual studies as well what I continue to glean from my personal journey with chronic Lyme disease. I am inspired by/draw upon multiple spiritual traditions, healing cosmologies and modalities that all share a common threads of: earth reverence, mysticism, connection with benevolent spirits, guides and ancestors, attention to vibration, somatic awareness, utilizing sound as a tool for healing and communing with consciousness, ritual/ceremony.
I offer private sessions at a sanctuary in El Cerrito in the East Bay, CA and I am available to facilitate group sound circles and workshops.
And there She Is,
Creating and destroying since forever all notions of the many and the one.
Call Her by her many names
Invoke Her essence
She is alive in plant, river and stone.
Offer to Her of first fruits, sensuous scents, of pleasure and pain.
Beloved friend of the house-less and hungry, 1 It is said that it is She who possesses the sick.
In this here moment
Beyond the binary of sick and well,
Attune to consciousness dancing cells
Pulsing vibrating to the rhythm of no time.
This is now.
And fear can be lay to rest and all is forgiven.
All separation baptized in the bloody waters of Her primordial flame.
Vows upon vows
I long to offer to Thee,
If only to taste the sweet nectar of seeing and being seen.
This is the honey that heals empires.
It has long been time to throw myself into the fire of “rigorous self-honesty”
Where “complacency and vanity”2
May be alchemized into a tender sanity and an irreparably broken living heart.
I have been reckless, forgetful and comfortable.
Caught up in self-created drama, I have turned away from suffering and abandoned my kin.
It has long been time to throw myself into the fire
(That is, if She would have me).
Is it too late to ask for forgiveness?
I will risk it being so, in the name of the rose and in the name of silence and laughter. I am on my knees, Beloved,
Begging to be accountable to the force of sacred reciprocity
In the name of the children yet to come.
What is the name again, for the path of all paths and of no path at all?
In the top left chamber of my heart, I sit at the feet of all religions, chanting Divine names, blessing all truth-bearing lineages and tenders of the sacred spark.
Next door, in the top right side chamber, my sisters and I dance circles ecstatically around the golden calf, rejecting doctrine and receiving revelation at the foot of the breasted mountain.
Praise be to the mystics, walking casually through the streets, lifting veils- drunk on communion.
1 Huyler, Stephen P. Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion . New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1999. Print. 2 Huyler, Stephen P. Meeting God: Elements of Hindu Devotion . New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1999. Print.
I offer this prayer from the heart
On this ground that many have known as holy
I offer respect to the First Nation peoples of this land, the Coast Miwok and to all those whose bodies are this land.
I acknowledge the many beings that inhabit here, including the Elk, the redwood, oak, the stones and birds.
I humbly call upon on the blessings of my wise and loving ancestors and the truth-speaking energy and love of my teacher Ibrahim Baba (may his secret be sanctified).
(Written at Dillon Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore)
Breathing with you
Bismillah ir rahman ir Rahim
Mystery that animates
The interconnected web of all being
Love that permeates all
I left the city this morning
Spun out and aching
For the ocean
From the excess
And waste cycle that corrodes
Joints and fatigues neurons
Fuck the caffeine addicted
Staring at a screen
I remember ancient spiraling joy
I am a wellspring
Of creative possibility
When I finally arrive at the water
This place was (is) so sacred
Neutralizes my system
Replenishes my cells
Quiver on stolen land
Parched for salty waters
Appropriately broken again
By the news of another unarmed Black man killed by police today
In his own backyard
I say his name aloud
Twenty-two years old
She beckons me
Yemanjá, Mãe das Águas
I breathe in air so deep
Water body crawling towards water body
“Don’t come any closer”
“Take off your shoes”
I do as my ancestors say
“For the place upon which you stand is holy ground”
It was holy before I got here
It will be holy when I leave
I strip naked and dive into the waves
My tears merging with Mah’s tears
Brucha at Yah Shechinah
Emoteinu Ruach Haolam
Asher Kidshatnu B’Mitzvoteha Vtzivatnu
Blessed Are You Shechinah
Our Mother the Spirit of the World
Who has sanctified us with the ritual of immersion
Draped in remembrance
Shrouded in mystery
A ladybug rests on my naked belly
A seagull spreads its wings
The sea roars and the wind kisses my skin
The waves keep coming and going
The ocean is breathing
I am wrapping a prayer around all of the scared, trembling parts of myself
Within Baba’s radiant reflection
Filled with the resilience of my benevolent ancestors
Being courted out of
The trance of isolation
The fog of amnesia
Hungry ghost stricken
That I am
A blessedly inextricable part of everything
Entangled in global ecology
Woven in a tapestry of story
I have never been separate from
The web of all being
What a profound and terrifying
What a fierce and humbling
I will no longer apologize for
Or hide from
Being humble does not mean being small
Organic pathways of living and dying
Give away what is had in excess
That sparks imagination
Make love how I want to make love
Learn ancestral languages
Free my mind from
Free this body
And corporate grind
Bones sing memories of the days that my ancestors drank from clean desert springs. Crushed olives between their toes. In my bones, my grandmothers tend fires under a blanket of stars.
Stepping out of the daze of whiteness
Remembering the songs and rhythms
Of my people
Counter oppressive devotion
Making sounds that
That breaks spells of misogyny
Is me being me
Affirming inherent dignity
For the freedom that comes
And generations go
Gxd is too fucking big
For one religion
From within the gaping silence
I can still hear
The angels singing
Or are they crying
Ufros Alyenu Sukat Shelomecha
In a tapestry of Peace
The pulsing network of relationship
Beckons us home
The Earth’s song activates
Of a rainbow tomorrow
And I am not alone
Summoning now the wisdom of the well in spirit
Across time and place
I am because of you
Help me make space for all the parts
Teach me how to be accountable to a Love
That smashes expectations
And moves us towards freedom
Help us remember that
We are nothing less than
Amin. Amen. May it be so.
 Exodus 3:5
As the notion of independence collapses around me and the shell of self reliance cracks and crumbles
No me to be found
Just a tangled web of longings and dreams and ancestors and relationships, tree exhale and bacteria and song.
For some moments I feel alone, scared, vulnerable in this new.
And then there is breath and forgiveness and relief.
For so long I have been chasing
Forward. Towards cure, towards healing towards better and better and better so perhaps one day, I will finally be whole, be me, be free.
To succeed in this industrial growth society, they say, don't look back. They say, don't stay still. Don't root. Don't stray.
Keep moving towards some promise of better than. An ideal of health that never seems to come. Sell yourself back to the system that made you sick to begin with.
But I can't anymore.
The stillness beckons and I yield, softening into an intimacy that is deeper than sick and simpler and way more complex than healthy. This is not the wellness that has been taught to me- one that implies transcending the body and an ableist performance of health and "well enough" so that why? This is not the wellness that demands that I leave my body to pursue another body, a perfect body, a healed body, an aligned body, a strong body, a thin hairless body... a "real" body.
The past pulls me present and time spirals around me. Living with pain is hard. It sucks. And what's hard is the isolation. The illusion that I am alone and that I need to hide from other people's misconceptions, projections, or ideas about how I should live in my body.
I yield to the tree pushing against me. The pressure is a relief. I slow to the sun and the touch of my friends hand on my swollen knee. To the love of my ancestors. To grief and boundaries. To asking for what I need. To loving my people and leaning into webs of support and care.
Something new is arising. Or maybe, I’m finally turning towards what has always been here. Here. Sensation and experience. No need for stories now, no spiritualizing or giving meaning to it. No wrapping my pain in a bow and selling it back to capitalism and herozing it. I am no hero. Shit. Of course I want the pain to be gone. And shit. Of course I don't want the pain to be gone. Then what of becomes of this sacred complexity? This primordial dance of consciousness recognizing itself over and over again. My heart is too big, too wild, too dangerous, too tender, too changing all the time, too much of everything to condone this elusive chase any more. There is wellness in this pain too. There is pain in this health too. IAm here for all of it. The whole glorious spectrum of the eternal now.