We do know from history written in stone and upon
clay tablets that chanting, as well as written poetry – to be uttered
by spoken word – descends into the shadows of pre-civilization.
Ancient texts reveal ceremonial prayers uttered by
priests and priestesses of the "Houses of Life" – temples and
universities – of the early Egyptian Mystery Schools as well as
utterances of magic and many standardized poems found hidden within the
vaults, or buried beneath, the great temples of Sumeria and Akkad.
Some of these, according to current theories of
dating, go back almost 6000 years. Although, as we all know,
these dates continue to be stretched ever farther backward in
time. We can only imagine how beautifully spoken were these
texts. More than likely they were "en-chanted" or sung in
repetition. In fact, beautifully drawn and painted hieroglyphic
texts reveal musicians and singers performing at banquets and other
cultural functions. Could these be the carried forward traditions of
our Neanderthal and early human ancestors?
Coming forward in time to perhaps the past two
hundred years – during the age of the Anthropologists – many studies
have been done of indigenous peoples around the world that have
revealed chanting in one form or another as a regular feature of their
magical and religious practices.
Of course, today, most of the world's great
religions include chanting in their devotionals and ceremonies.
Even, and perhaps most especially in the United States, the independent
charismatic Christian churches delve deeply into the altered states of
consciousness found in trance and chanting.
One wonderful example of group participant chanting
is the call and response Hindu folk tradition of Kirtan. I have
attended many of these, and the way that they were presented is this: a
band of perhaps four stringed and or other musical instruments, such as
a pump organ called a harmonium, as well as two or three percussionists
accompany a lead chanter/singer along with two or three harmony
vocalists, filled the stage, or area, behind a beautiful devotional
altar stretched out across the floor. The lead singer offers
lines of devotion to the great Hindu Goddesses and Gods, by calling out
their names along with simple praises in the ancient Sanskrit tongue.
This is followed by the audience participants chanting or singing
their response in like kind. All is done to the beautifully
performed strands of Hindu folk music. What a fabulous sound
these create! Usually each en-chant-ment begins quietly and
slowly with reverence, but by the end of each song the
intensity has grown to a peak of fervor, and perhaps, revelation.
The calling of the names of these ancient and powerful Gods and
Goddesses fills the air with a static tension, but then at the end of
each the pace and intensity slow to a peaceful reverence, and then
quietly ends. Take a deep breath everyone and relax... By
the end of each evenings' Kirtan I have felt physically and spiritually
I live in Nashville, Tennessee, and here, there is a beautiful Kirtan group called Samavaya,
who perform on a regular basis. If you live within a reasonable
proximity of Nashville, do come and check them out! Or, watch for
their performances in nearby cities.
George Harrison and Ravi Shankar produced a Kirtan album, called “Chants Of India
”. I have heard it and thought it was wonderful. You may want to check it out as well.
There are many books of chants from around the world
that you can buy, including songs of Shamans. These are inspiring
to read and then to learn and practice. You can also compose some
recommend that everyone keep a written journal of their visions,
dreams, wishes and experiences. In your personal journal – or
Book of Shadows – you can keep a record of your own chants, poetry and
expressions of feelings or devotion. These may be well thought
out and rhymed short versus or seemingly non-sensible words that have
come to you through meditation or in your dreams.
Try this: spread an old blanket, a piece of cloth
from an old worn out but beloved dress or jacket and jeans, or your
grandmother's quilt, etc. – or a new one you have bought just for this
purpose – upon the floor in your favorite room, or in your garden or
yard, perhaps beneath a tree or any other place where you feel safe and
unbothered by other things or people. This will then becomes
your "Sacred Space", Shaman's blanket or prayer rug. You will
notice after some time and some practice that this very blanket or
piece of cloth becomes a holy thing, like a Temple, a Church, a Grove
or an Altar... In other words it becomes indwelled with great
energy. And it is yours alone.
Next, place a large plate upon the blanket in front
of where you will sit. Then, put a white – or any other color
that you choose – candle upon it. See any of Scott Cunningham’s
Candle Magic books for info. on the meaning of traditional
colors. Then simply light the candle and gaze at the flame.
All the while you are doing this breathe regularly and deeply -
in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do not
exaggerate your breathing, just use regular comfortable breaths.
As a note; fire and flame gazing probably dates back to those
Neanderthal and early human ancestors of ours… The gazing and
breathing in combination will relax you and give your conscious mind
something to focus on as you subtly shift into the realm of the Great
Unconscious, where all thought is primordial knowing and connected to
the great All. Now with that part of your conscious mind that is
still active – and indeed it is always still active as you are
alive – remind yourself that you are here at this time to receive
are a writer, have your journal with you and perhaps you may receive
the blessing of being the recipient of automatic writing.
However, if you are not so inclined, just listen. Don't be
shy. The "Voices" will sing to you. They are always
there, it is simply a matter of how receptive you are to their
breathing and don't become frustrated. This will happen even if
it is a matter that the only words coming to you at first are "Please
give me the words to chant." Or "Oh why will the words not come?"
Here is the key… You could chant
"Give me the words to chant, oh-la-la, la-lay, la-lee, the words to chant... give me."
why will the words not come to me? Oh why, oh way, oh
wee... Oh yes the words they come to me, oh-why, oh-way,
Or some such thing. Then allow the words
to mutate and evolve. It's all good and will set you on the
magical road to chanting. Your body and your consciousness
will tell you when it is time to end for this day. Listen
There are some chants on my "Book of Shadows
" CD and many others in my novel, "Voices of the Stars
". Here is one of them…
And for those of my friends who are Wiccan or pagan, these words can be added, if you wish...
I hope that these suggestions will help set you on
the healing and enlightening path to the world of chant and connection
with the Ancestors...
God Speed & Goddess Bless,
Rowena of the Glen