- Victor Hugo
The truth of Mr Hugo's words resonates with me - as likely it does with anyone who has ever found themselves waking up in the middle of the night desperate to flood their ears with beauty and escape the mundane. Music is its own universal language, a way of communicating with the deepest parts of ourselves. It can comfort, inspire, provoke and express a part of the self that day to day life and even other art forms struggle to touch.
Music plays a key part in Witchcraft, across all paths and through the ages. The witch does of course have other techniques at her disposal to access the inner parts of herself but arguably music is both one of the easiest and one of the most effective to achieve this. Music sets the scene, creates the headspace, opens the channel and enables the witch to transcend from the mundane to the magical. This transition in headspace is useful for a witch wanting to cast on the move. If changing the mental state is as simple as literally flipping the switch, albeit a switch on the radio or the ipod, this ability to call upon her core self at a moment's notice is a valuable ability for a witch to have.
The role of music in ritual is debated among magical practitioners. For some (including myself) it helps to create the mood and it creates a bridge away from the mundane world. The music I use for ritual is kept separate from the music I might listen to recreationally or on the way to work. I use music (along with other sensory stimulants like incense and candles) to set an atmosphere which will inspire me to connect with the part of myself that wishes to create magic. Changing the sights, smells and sounds of the immediate environment makes it easier to step into another world. This is particularly relevant when working with other people. Shared ritual is shared headspace and creating a space conducive to a relaxed and magically congenial atmosphere is an important step in bringing everybody into the same mental zone. Few things achieve this more effectively than the use of music.
But it would be limiting to see the use of music in the craft as nothing more than setting the scene. There are times when the music is part of the magic itself. As a variation on the traditional spoken word many witches set their spells to music and sing their intentions into the air. Writing songs instead of spells helps the witch to focus more on the actual creation of the spell itself. I have long suspected this is how the association with rhyming began - you have to think more if you want your words to rhyme - and it is the same with music. By the time you have composed a tune and set words to fit it you have invested a good deal of yourself into the working you intend to perform. This naturally adds impact to the spell you are undertaking.
Music can also be used as a memory aid for spell work. Have you ever noticed that you can sing along with all the lyrics of your favourite songs but you would struggle to recall word for word the paragraph of text you've just read? Music helps us to fashion words into the structure of melody and again this is very useful for anybody wanting to commit spells to memory. For those who would prefer not to write their spells down or to take documents into ritual music can be the key to unlocking vast acres of memory space.
The power of music for recall doesn't just have to be limited to the recall of hard facts. Many witches use music to recall an emotional state of mind. So, if you are honest do you yourself - Anybody who has ever fled a shop because "that song" has started to play will understand exactly what I mean. Normally this association is unintentional but it can be deliberately employed for specific purposes. Imagine if you could discipline yourself to feel anger when you hear one piece of music, fear when you hear another, peace with yet another. Simply by playing these pieces of music when the emotions are desired you are tapping into your own personal memory bank of emotion, triggered by the tune in which you stored that emotion. This can add significant power to the spell work of a witch.
Still working with the idea of music and memory, music can be linked to a place and then used to evoke that place for spiritual or magical purposes. This is seen most commonly in the New Age shops with their albums of whale sounds or rain music. This blend of musical notes and sounds of nature can stimulate memories of the forest or the beach and help the listener to mentally journey to those places. This can be an excellent aid for meditation, astral travel outside the body or even for a brief escape to a place of peace. Nor is this limited to witches - I doubt very much that there are enough witches in the world to explain away the huge commercial success of whale music. There is perhaps something in all of us that uses music not merely as a form of entertainment but as a means of escape.
The use of music can be a tool to facilitate dancing which is another oft used area of magical practise. Dancing can be utilised to raise energy, to connect with the earth or to perform specific actions with ritual meaning. Dancing can be employed at the start of ritual to physically shake negativity from the body and can be used in spell craft to give physical expression to the intention of a spell. If you think a spell is powerful with the spoken word - imagine recreating that spell through music and dance and using the power of those interpretative mediums to give birth to the creation of your spell.
Music can also be employed for specific magical purposes, the most obvious example being that of the lullaby. A non magical parent may rely on the gentle melody and soft words of the lullaby to send their baby to sleep but a witch will weave magic into the song and wrap the lullaby securely around the baby to keep it safe. This is not a case of music facilitating magic, in this example the music actually is the magic. (Incidentally I would also be willing to bet that there are few witches indeed who would ever sing about their baby falling out of a tree...)
Other practical uses of tune include the use of bells and singing bowls to create a sound and vibration that will harmonise frequency and cleanse a surrounding area. Melody is also associated with the element of air and may be used (for those who choose to utilise the elements in their work) to summon or welcome the spirits of the air. Whistles and flutes are often the instrument of choice for this purpose. In much the same way that a wand can be made from different woods to take on the properties of those materials, the whistles or flutes of the magical musician can be crafted from complimentary woods that enhance the nature of the chosen spell.
Music is not limited to melody - if we extend the definition to encompass beat and rhythm then the practise of Shamanic drumming becomes of interest. In much the same way that melody is used to unlock a part of the self the repetitive beats of the Shaman's drums are used to help an individual transcend into another state. The drumming is also used as part of the Shamanic healing path with the vibrations of the drums pulling the "off" vibrations of the ailing person back into their natural rhythm. This concept has been adopted in the modern world in the use of binaural beats - sounds which tune into brain waves to influence individual mental states. These have seen a surge in popularity in recent years as an age to meditation and illustrate yet another way how music, beat, tune and melody are used not only as a magical but as a spiritual aid.
I'll leave you with another musical quote - rather aptly placed for an article on music and magic.
“Music is the strongest form of magic.”
― Marilyn Manson