Singing and vocalization finds its way into so many spiritual and magical traditions that it’s hard to ignore. On the surface, it seems strange that sounds strung together in a pattern would have so much power. Yet, music has a strong presence in acts of connection to the Divine, and magical work. As an amateur musician, I find it especially intriguing.
My first foray into using sound as a magical tool was church. I loved the singing part, most of the time. As my family moved around, and I was able to experience different churches, I began to notice that some of the services had praise sessions that felt more powerful to me than others. I didn’t connect as well with older hymns, especially when sang at the slow tempo of the church my parents finally settled into. I still wonder if part of it was lyric relatability, or the congregation. It seemed to me that, sometimes, you could sing the same song with one group of people, and feel this amazing connection to God, where, sang with another group, it seemed dead and meaningless.
I think my Granny agreed. She often times told me that my parent’s church was a “dead” church, and they didn’t know how to praise. Come to think of it, she may be one of the first real driving forces that started me on my path, though she’d be rolling in her grave if she knew where I stood in life now. She leaned a little more Pentecostal with her faith. When I tell people that one could tell if she was in a good mood when she started cheerily singing in tongues, they probably think I’m joking.
She believed that God had worked miracles in her life. She claimed the Lord spoke to her, sometimes literally. She even claimed that she died once and Jesus sent her spirit to her suddenly healed body. She even told me as a child that, if I prayed hard enough and believed, God would heal my eyes so I wouldn’t need eyeglasses. While there was a clear disconnect with how things work here on Earth, coupled with religious justification of questionable behavior (like implying weaker eyesight has a correlation to levels of faith to a small child), I believe she could feel and experience things that were outside the realm of everyday perception. One of these experiences was being able to feel and identify ecstatic energy raised in a group via singing.
The human voice has a place in prayer and praise throughout much of the human experience, and it makes sense. Music moves us. It has demonstrable effect on our brains. Sound itself is vibrations in the air that our ears pick up. Sound has the ability to affect matter. Music comes naturally to most of us, whether it’s simply humming a tune, or being able to play an instrument. It even has effect on plants and animals. Why wouldn’t it affect the Astral Plane?
I remember a weekend workshop I attended with a Pomo Medicine Man, Lorin Smith. He spoke of how his father was a great Medicine Man, and how he even had a song to sober up quickly after a night of drinking. Whether his dad’s sobering song was something real, or just a tall tale about someone who already had powerful abilities, it’s an interesting concept to consider. The idea that someone could change the way that their brain was reacting to alcohol in his system through sound and otherwordly help would be an incredibly handy skill to have. Lorin emphasized that he did not have that skill, though. Instead, he shared a song with us that we sang for at least an hour. Repeating a spirit song over and over like, inducing a Theta state in the brain, was an interesting experience, for sure.
This all brings me to my Lughnasadh celebration this past Tuesday. For those of you not familiar with Lughnasadh, it’s a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. It was co-opted by Wiccans and pagans as one of their eight holidays (or, as Wiccans would call it, Sabbats). I like the eight seasonal holiday set up, as it’s closely connected to the seasons, they are all well placed through the year, have great traditions associated with them, celebrate the Earth in its journey around the sun, and I just generally think they work for me. My husband and I set up a fire outside, brought offerings in thanks for the harvest (homegrown blueberries, kale, and lemon balm), and sort of hodge podged a ceremony together that felt right.
As we stood around the fire, and spoke our piece, I felt the need to rattle a bit. As I rattled, and Josh spoke words of thanks, I felt a nudge from spirit. Use your voice, it said.
I have been working with getting comfortable using my voice in toning and song in front of people. This was our first real seasonal celebration that we had both observed. My insecurities said that I didn’t want to ruin it for him. Then, I realized I was ignoring something bigger than me, and, through that, I was potentially missing out on a powerful moment.
So, I began to sing.
After he was done, I asked if he minded me singing some Runes. He didn’t, so I did. Then, he toned some runes, while I rattled. It ended up being a powerful experience for both of us.
I guess the moral to this tale is that playing around with sound in a sacred setting is not an experience to miss. I can’t count how many times ceremony would have been less without someone being brave enough to raise their voice, and sing, or intone. If you have a situation that opening up your voice is appropriate, and it doesn’t step on anyone else’s experience, do it. Try it when it’s just you and a tree. Or a thunderstorm. Or a mountain. Play with it. If you can’t listen and find a song, find something magical that you can copy with your voice on YouTube. Or bang a drum. Shake a mason jar filled with BBs like a rattle. Get out there, and explore. Who knows what you might find.
Speaking of getting out and exploring, between an upcoming family camping trip, and a weekend excursion to CT to do some work with my teacher, Adhi, I am thinking that I won’t have the time to write a proper blog next week. So, next Friday, I will not be posting. I will continue my weekly blog a week after, on August 18th.
Be well. Enjoy the summery weather.
-The Green Mountain Mage