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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Making a Joyful Noise: Drumming & Chanting

There are many ways to celebrate your spiritual path, whatever that may be. But virtually every society has used some form of music as a part of their communion with deity, from Buddhist chants to hymns sung in church. For Pagans and witches, making a joyful noise and sending it out into the universe often involves chanting or drums or both.

My group Blue Moon Circle often integrates one or the other of these into our rituals, although not always in the same way. Drumming is usually used to build energy, which is then channeled as extra power into a spell or magickal working. Chanting might be used as we cast or dismiss the circle, or as part of the ritual itself. On the last full moon, we simply stood out underneath that glorious bright light and sent our song up to the goddess in praise of Her beauty and grace.

When done as a group, drumming or chanting can bring the individuals together and form them into one voice, one beat, one song. When done by yourself, the sound can connect you to the world outside yourself—to all those who came before who sang or beat a drum and to the gods themselves.

Drumming is associated with spiritual practices in so many cultures because it can be done in a rhythm that mimics the human heartbeat. It is easy to learn, and you can create a drum from scratch if you can’t afford to buy one. (Ask anyone with a toddler—all you need is something to bang on that makes a cool noise, and maybe a stick to hit it with.) You don’t have to be a talented musician, and while it is nice if you can keep a beat, even that is optional.

In the same way, you don’t have to have a great voice to sing or chant. The gods don’t care that you would never win American Idol. They hear the true spirit in your voice and that is enough. If you have a hard time memorizing long complicated chants, you can print them out on a piece of paper, or use ones that are short and simple.

Here is the one that Blue Moon Circle is using the most of late:
Earth my body, Water my blood, Air my breath and Fire my spirit

It doesn’t get much simpler than that, and yet when sung from the heart it can be tremendously powerful. There are times in circle when the sound is so deep and strong and true, it gives me goose bumps. You can find all kinds of chants on You Tube, too.

One of the women in the group told me recently that she had a tough time getting into the drumming. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do it—in fact, she spent years playing snare drum in a bagpipe band, marching in parades in front of large crowds. But that was something very different. In professional music, the emphasis is on perfection and control. Spiritual music, though, is all about NOT worrying about perfection—about whether the rhythm is steady or the song sung exactly in tune. Letting go and embracing your own music in all its glory, perfect or not.

Making a joyful noise is really just that: taking the joy (or sorrow) you feel and sending it out into the universe. Drumming in thanks or praise or celebration, singing from the heart and soul. You can drum by yourself to get into a meditative state, or chant in the shower to start your day off right. Either way, the gods don’t need you to be perfect. They only want you to be present, in your own life, and in the world. The vibrations that move through the air on a beat or a breath are just another way to connect with your own inner voices, or send your energy out to connect with the rest of the world. And that’s enough.


  1. So, maybe one more Llewellyn book, one about drumming and chanting? :D

    Very nice article. Thanks.