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In ritual, the repetition of sacred or magical
words, names and phrases to alter consciousness and
raise psychic power. Chanting, done in conjunction with
dancing, drumming, visualization and body movements
and postures, is one of the oldest and most universal
techniques to align human consciousness with the
realms of spirits and the gods.
The principle behind chanting is expressed in the
Eastern mystical concept of the mantra, sacred words or
the names of God/Goddess, which are chanted verbally
or silently. The term mantra means “to protect,” especially
the mind. The mantra harnesses the power of the
vibration of shabda, sacred sound. The repetition of mantras
unleashes certain cosmic forces that drive deep into
the consciousness, down to the level of the cells. When
a name of God/Goddess is chanted or repeated, for example,
a person thus aligns every cell in his or her being
with the highest divine consciousness possible, imbuing
that consciousness into his or her being. The alignment
of consciousness raises a tremendous psychic power for
creating change.
In magic, this power is utilized in spellcraft. When
the power is raised, the spell (a desired goal or outcome)
is chanted forcefully. The energy sent out into the spiritual
realm thus works to manifest change in the physical
Chanting has been an important part of magical rituals
since ancient times. In ancient Greece, female sorcerers
were said to howl their magical chants. Early and medieval
sorcerers and magicians also chanted their incantations
in forceful voices, a practice carried into modern
times. Folk witches chanted their charms and spells.
The chants of contemporary Witches and Pagans may
be names of Goddess or Horned God, rhymes, charms, allierative
phrases, or sacred words or runes (chant-songs)
derived from various spiritual traditions. In Wicca,
chanting may be done during a ring dance that accelerates
in tempo (thus contributing to the raising of power),
or while working with cords.
The Witches’ Rune, composed by English Witch Doreen
Valiente, is a traditional power-raising chant, the
refrain of which is:
Eko Eko Azarak
Eko Eko Zomelak
Eko Eko Cernunnos
Eko Eko Aradia
In shamanic traditions, shamans chant power songs
that follow rhythms and melodies that have been passed
down through generations. The words vary according to
the individual. Power songs help a shaman achieve an altered
state of consciousness for healing or divining. The
chanted songs are monotonous, short refrains, and have
different purposes. Every shaman has at least one chant
to summon his power animal or guardian spirit, which
provides the source of his shamanic powers.
Native Americans have chants for the undertaking of
many activities, such as hunts, battles and weather control,
and funeral rites and initiations. Curing chants are
important in Navaho ceremonies. The chants are long
texts in which are entwined myths about how the chants
were performed for the first time by deities or supernatural
beings. The chanters must chant the texts perfectly, or
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else the cures are nullified. Incorrectly rendered chants
also will strike the chanter with the illness they are supposed
to cure. The chants may go on for days and nights.
A chanter is assisted by helpers, all of whom are paid for
their work. If a chanter of great repute does not err yet
fails to cure an illness, he usually blames witchcraft as
the reason. If sickness has been caused by a witch’s spell,
only Evil Way chants will be effective. Navaho chanters
take care not to perform the same chant more than three
times a year, lest they suffer the illness they cure