Spirit voice: shamanic singing


”Songs are thoughts, sung out with the breath when people are moved by great forces and ordinary speech no longer suffices” Orpingalik, Netsilik Inuit.

Song and chanting has been a dimension in shamanic practice always and everywhere. Also today, Song will show up all by it self for anyone who starts out on the path of shamanism. For many years, Song has taught me a lot about spirit, power and transformation.

Song is one of the forces of Nature, like wind, thunder and the warmth of the sun. One of the verses in the beginning of Kalevala expresses beautifully where the magic songs live, where the source of the song-power is found: (please excuse my homemade translation)

“The Cold offered me Lays out there
The Rain sent me often Songs
Other Ballads the Wind brought me
The Waves carried them to the Shore
Birds shapes Words into Tones
Talking sounded from the Crowns of Trees.”

As this verse so clearly says, the shaman’s songs or chants are not composed or contructed. Rather, they are found, heard, gotten, when we are inspired. They arrive, arise, unfold. And then they burst from me, when I am full, full and cannot contain them any longer.

The songs have their own purpose and willpower. They visit us, inhabit us. Sometimes they stay with us for generations, sometimes they leave after five minutes. Sometimes they have words, and thus we experience the root of all poetry, and sometimes they have sounds, that only the spirits understand.

Magic chanting has been highly developed in the whole Nordic and Baltic culture area for thousands of years. Kalevala expresses the rich Finnish tradition on many levels. Then there is the Joik of the Sami people. My own deep interest is the early Nordic magic-shamanic tradition of Seidr. In Seidr it is the chanting, not drumming, that carries you of on the soul journey, while the Galdr is a western Nordic way of sung spells and incantations, following the general traits of shamanic singing, and closely related to Rune-singing. In these old traditions is stored a wealth of magic knowledge and timeless quality.

On the courses I teach on shamanic singing, we work with Song as a tool in our shamanic practise, as well as Song as a source of power in itself. The important traits of shamanic singing are essential to all shamanic work, and therefore the song training also serves very well as general shamanic training.

On the course we will explore Song’s ability to open the doors between the worlds, to call power and joy, to heal and transform. We will be introduced to the seiðr. And we will use the old ways of song as inspiration, and to know the kinship of our own shamanic singing with magic-ritual chanting of other cultures and times.

In shamanic singing, you sing from a source that is bigger than yourself and let that power flow through you as song. Shamanic chanting often goes hand in hand with a shamanic state of awareness, a focused trance. When we start to sing that way, we often experience an effortless shift in the power of our voices and our breathing: The song sings us! Shamanic singing does not conform to the rules of acceptable singing of our culture. Therefore shamanic singing also welcomes those people who were told that they “cannot sing”.

Annette Høst