In Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, the rhythmic repetition of sounds or words to induce an altered mental state and produce a magickal effect. Some call chanting a primitive way of altering the consciousness and raising psychic power or energy. Others claim it connects them with the Divine. The derived psychical powers may be used for purposes of magick, exorcism and healing.
Chanting, which is an ancient and universal practice, is usually done in accompaniment of dance, drumming, hand-clapping, rattles and sometimes the use of other musical instruments. Such activity provide the emotional excitation to increase psychic power to a very intense level. This is especially true when chanting is done within a group. Sometimes the excitement builds so high that frenzied states of consciousness occur.
The practice is recorded to have occurred in ancient Greece. Female sorcerers are said to have howled their chants. Like others they believed strong vibrations enhanced the power of their chants (see VIBRATORY MAGICK).
This belief was continued by early and medieval sorcerers and magicians who sang their chants in very forceful voices. The belief was continued into the 20th Century by men like Aleister Crowley who believed the chanting sound can profoundly affect both man and the universe.
When chanting is used in meditation is frequently accompanied by the use of rosary beads or similiar 'aids' which are employed in Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity.
Chants are composed of names, words and syllables, including non-sensical ones.
The name of God, and the gods, are almost universally considered to make the strongest chants. This was true among the Hebrew mystics and magicians who used the secret names of God such as Yahweh, Adonai and Elohim (see NAMES OF POWER). According to the Vedic scriptures the chanting of the name of the Lord is the one way to increase spiritual progress in the Kali-Yuga age of quarrel and hypocrisy that begun 5000 years ago and is suppose to continue for 432,000 years.
Various chants in Hinduism and Buddhism use Om, which represent the Brahman. Followers of Islam chant the 99 names of Allah called "the Beautiful Names."
Diadochus of Photice recommended the chanting of the name of Jesus in prayer for Christians during the 5th Century. John Climacus followed this in the 7th Century. Their contributions became the "Jesus Prayer," or "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me."
Included in Christian chants are four Western forms, the Gregorian, Gallican, Mozarabic, and Ambrosian; three Eastern forms, the Byzantine, Syrian, and Armenian; and the Coptic and Ethiopian chants of northern Africa. Jewish chants are composed of Biblical texts.
Chants or Mantras are greatly revered in shamanism.
Native Americans also observe chanting in preparation for activities and ceremonies such as healing, hunting, battles, controlling weather, rites of initiation and funerals.
The Navajos put great emphasis on curative chants which are interwoven with myths telling how the deities or supernatural beings first performed the chants which exemplify how the chants still should be performed. The chanters must chant the prescribed texts correctly, else they will be stricken will the disease which the chant was to nullify. Chants can continue for many days. A chanter is assisted by helpers who are paid for their work.
If a chanter of reputation makes no mistakes, but fails to cure the diseased person or persons, then witchcraft is usually blamed. The disease is said to have been caused be a Witch's spell, and only the Evil Way chants can eliminate it. Also the Navajo chanter are careful not to use any chant more than three times a year, or they might get the illness which they cure.
Chants of modern Witches and Neo-Pagans consist names of the Goddess and Horned God plus names of other Pagan deities (see NAMES OF POWER). The objective of these chants is to achieved an altered state of consciousness and create psychic energy as in the cone of power. Chants also are done for magical purposes.
Ritual Dance and Chanting is an important part of any traditional
Wiccan Coven's Magickal and
see also: MANTRA; ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS; VIBRATORY MAGICK; NAMES OF POWER
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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