I recently returned from our annual gathering of the tribes and have spent the bulk of my day in a very inspired place. There were two key events for me this year at Pantheacon: The first was encountering Patrick McCollum’s world peace violin and the subsequent talk we had about shaping the world by doing what others say is impossible, and imbuing our lives with meaning through symbolic action.
The other was lending vocal and drum support for the Morrigan devotional and then going right into my own performance with Pandemonaeon immediately afterward, still very much ignited by the fire of the ritual. This made for a potent experience, and got me thinking on song and magic. Both of these stories are worth telling, and I will tell each of them, but today I am going to focus on this latter.
The Morrigan devotional was beautiful and powerful. Kinship and sovereignty are both ideas that have been dear to my heart for many years. Also I have an affinity for the Morrigan. But more than that, this ritual really worked as a large clan ritual. Not all ritual themes are suited for large groups, but strengthening the bonds of kinship is among the best uses of large ritual, as far as I am concerned, and that was the key focus here. Also – magic happened, and these gates were still very much open in me when I took the stage.
Singing with the kiss of a God on one’s brow is powerful indeed, and has had me thinking all day today about song and magic, and how central to the practice of magic singing seems to have been to our forebears, based on what writings we have been able to find. It is said trained bards had the ability to raise boils on the face of an enemy, to raise one up to the ranks of the heroic with poetic praise, or to shatter a reputation with satire and scorn. There are tales of mythic creatures and witches alike who sing their hapless victims into an enchanted slumber, and tales of songs used to excite one to battle frenzy. Scandinavian and Germanic people have song magic in the form of galdr, wherein they sing the runes of their language as an invocation of magical will. Outside my own ancestral traditions, history and lore are rife with tales of drumming for possessory trance, for healing, and for traveling between worlds.
Yet, for all the references to the magical power of singing, there is very little written on techniques for how to develop this. As with most of ancient Pagan tradition, we are left to rebuild with what few shards we can find. But after all, tapping the creative forces underlying the manifest world and wielding them to create something new is what we do as magic workers. We test and try, envision, experiment, and keep what works.
There is a Gaelic phrase, Oran Mor, which translates to “the Great Music”. This is the closest thing to a Celtic creation myth that I have come across, and tells of the mighty song of creation, singing the world into existence in perpetuity, always changing but never dying out. This idea is not unique to the Celts, of course – many cultures have similar stories. This concept gives us a place to start when contemplating how we can use song as a magical force. If we think of magic as the creative force underlying all life, emanating first as a primordial consciousness and then taking various forms and shapes as individual qualities coalesce, we can easily see that tapping this great primordial music and giving it shape via Will and skillful projection of voice would be a potent act. If we seek to wield magic of a specific quality, such as the essence of a tree, we can sit with that tree, open ourselves to it in meditation, and let its song pour through us. If we do this often enough we begin to take on a harmonic resonance with the tree - or rune, or Deity – and we begin to master wielding that specific force.
We can gain skill via traditional magical practices such as meditation, visualization, and concentration. Meditation is key, in that we must learn to get our thinking minds out of the way in order to perceive the essence of something outside ourselves well enough to really know it.
In song magic, we’d need to add the practice of training the voice, so that we can shape our sounds to resonate with the character of the force we seek to wield. There is a concept called “synchronism” where 2 or more sound-making objects oscillating at similar or harmonic rates will synch up and begin oscillating in unison. Most of us have probably seen how ringing a bell can cause another bell in close proximity to begin chiming. Here is an example of how it works with metronomes -
We can apply this same principle to song magic, by listening for the “song” of a thing, and striving to bring ourselves into synchronization with it through creating a harmonic resonance with our voices.
This is what I experienced Saturday night at Pantheacon. After the Morrigan devotional, I was open and attuned to her, and the sound that came through me was…more than myself. I had access to immense energy. I was riding a current that I don’t usually tap when performing, and was likewise feeding it with sound. The tone had been set in the room already, so that pitching my voice in harmony with a current that I already feel an affinity for came quite naturally, and made for an experience that felt (at least to me) like touching the epic.
This isn’t a new experience, per say – I always go into performance having taken a moment to get centered and present, so that I can bring as much of myself as possible to an audience. And I always aspire to hold windows open to the Divine. But it isn’t often that I go into performance from a place of possessory trance. It was very different and quite powerful. It has got me thinking that a more thorough and ritualistic invocation of intent before performances would be a good practice to adopt. This is not always possible of course, but acknowledging its value can help in planning for it. Bringing an awareness of the realms of the heroic into live performance, and wielding this with voice, can only enhance the experience for all involved.
It has got me thinking about song magic and what that means – not merely bringing our full presence to a situation but tapping into the vast reservoir of beings, presences, and spaces, and bringing this through with focused application of voice. And how this can be used to heal. Or to smite one’s enemies. Or to open gates to other worlds. Or to keen for someone who is grieving and finding the burden too terrible to bear.
This is using sound as more than personal transformation, as I teach in Sonic Alchemy, wherein we shift our stuck places and gain mastery of our own energies. This is true witchcraft, wherein we ride currents beyond our own immediate energetics, and the possibilities for wielding this power for the benefit of our communities has ensnared my imagination in a most intriguing way.
I am looking forward to exploring this more thoroughly in the coming weeks, and find myself awash with gratitude that I am part of such an amazing community of people, people who are willing to envision – and act on that vision – to create a better world for all.
(I welcome sharing of this post – and all posts you find inspiring here).