A Chant I wrote eons ago for our coven’s solstice
Who will bring the sun’s light?
We will bring the sun’s light.
To tune of the round Father, I Adore you
This is directed at those of us who get charged with the duty for bringing music into ritual. Somehow you got picked because you can carry a tune in a bucket or because you went to a gathering and learned some new chants you just hope you can remember clearly. It’s time to name that tune.
Miss Kat thinks music and rhythm is a very necessary part of ritual. Music and chant raise energy. Music breaks down barriers. If we all know the same songs we can’t be that different, can we? Music lifts the soul. It makes of many one entity. Hawaiians consider singing together or for someone one of the greatest gifts you can receive. It has been used in the Christian church for centuries and it is one thing the Church does very well. Anyone who has heard “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach should know this. It is something that we pagans are going to have to recapture if we are going to continue to grow because music meets needs when nothing else does. The music you sang in ritual is sometimes all you will be able to remember of that ritual later.
Sounds like a big burden, doesn’t it? But it’s not because music will spring from us whether we like it or not. We just need to learn to use it. I’m sure there are dozens of covens that have chants that come from their hearts some night during ritual. Isn’t it time you started sharing those songs? Okay Miss Kat’s done with that soapbox for now.
There is a time and place for everything. If you want to settle a group down before you start ritual pick a song that is quiet and that most people attending will know. It doesn’t even have to be a pagan song. Those of us who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s or who went to camp and paid attention can usually come up with a Peter, Paul and Mary or John Denver song that will meet the occasion. “Blowin’ in the Wind”, anyone? A good peace song never hurt anyone. If you can, find some choose songs that go with your ritual theme. Rounds and canons are also a good choice. The key is to start weaving all those different energies together. The some obvious example would be a Yule ritual and using a few of favorite carols that have the words rewritten for the Solstice. There is nothing wrong with snagging the familiarity of a few well-loved carols with words that suit us now. And who knows it may be the second time some of them were written. A carol like “Deck the Halls” doesn’t need to be changed at all.
Invoking the elements with a chant is fun and it’s a quick and easy way to do it if you don’t have enough people to cast every quarter.
You can invoke the Goddess with a chant if that suits you. There are some lovely rounds out there. I think one of my personal favorites is one on Circle Round, a pagan children’s book by Anne Hill and Starhawk and an accompanying cd. (Even if you don’t have children this set has some fun ideas for celebrating in them.) It is for invoking Brighid and it’s quite lovely and haunting in its simplicity. I’m waiting for someone to write a “Charge of the Goddess” that’s easy to sing. Something that will stick in your mind and haunt you afterwards.
If it works, think of a song if you are doing a craft. This will help the person there who hates doing crafts something to ease them and make it go smoothly for them.
Of course, a chant or song to raise energy is needed or music from the cd player for a spiral dance. Miss Kat has a great fondness for Loreena McKennit’s All Soul’s Night on Samhain spiral dances. Not too fast and not too slow, there is no excuse for turning a good spiral dance into crack the whip. People get hurt that way and if it’s a good medium tempo more people will be able to participate and not sit it out. If you do have people with disabilities, how about going around them to include them in the spiral. Nothing is more depressing than being left out of the energy being raised. It is rather like being the last kid picked for the team in grade school and we do not want to exclude people.
And last but not least, music to close circle. “The Circle is Open” has a lovely tune that can be used for a change of pace of just reciting the words.
There is no excuse for a boring ritual just because you don’t know any chants or songs. There are metaphysical shops that have cd’s and tapes and if you don’t live near one there is LadySlipper catalogue and Amazon.com. There are many pagan or pagan friendly cd’s and there are more all the time. Checkout Libana, Robert Gass, Reclaiming and Moving Breath. GO look at your old Girl Scout songbooks. “Dona Nobis Pacem” is a lovely round and it just means “give us peace” not “Lord, give us peace” as it is sometimes translated.
My coven is very good at bastardizing Broadway show tunes. Nothing and everything is sacred. Just don’t try to publish them. Use them for the ritual you wrote them. Miss Kat is particularly fond of “Send in the Crones”.
Make sure you know those chants and songs well. It is amazing how easily you can be flustered or distracted into really fouling it up. A long time ago in galaxy far, far away Miss Kat had been picked for her first big part, (she thought) in a mixed public ritual. A closing ritual for a gathering called Harvest Moon. She was picked because they thought she knew all the words to “We are an old people, We are a new people, We are the same people stronger than before.” But an evil genie (but dear sweet man, Scott Cunningham, to be precise) chose to stand behind her and sing in her ear as she started to lead everyone into the ritual singing. Only one problem, he was singing, “We are a cold people, We are a nude people, we are the strange people, weirder than before”. And that dear readers, is exactly what she sang out loudly and proudly. After the ritual she chased him all over the park and if she’d had caught him, she would have clobbered him.
Remember, we are all richer when we sing together. When its just right and the hair on the back of your neck is standing up, you done good.
Something should be said about other things that are classed as music or chant and that is the use of other instruments. Always remember that these are to enhance the energy of Circle not control or hold back. Too often drumming is used to control the energy being raised and not to enhance or add to the raising of energy.
Drumming is wonderful for adding things like grounding to the sphere of energy raising. Sometimes people forget that it is a grounding agent to energy and it then captures and controls the release of energy. Drumming and can be a ritual all by itself and be truly amazing.
That being said, ego should never get in the way of energy. We are not meant to control what is happening in Circle we are meant to facilitate what happens in Circle.