How do the Elders and Indigenous medicine peoples utilize sound in their shamanic work?
~~Zacciah Blackburn, PhD
Picture the elder hovering over the sick body, rattle in hand, chanting incantations of profound wisdom and alliance with the medicine realms and its many allies. Imagine the buffalo dancers embodying the spirit of their totems, as the drummers and singers invoke the ancestors and medicine clans. Medicine cultures the world over incorporate profound understanding of the integral use of voice, sound instruments, awareness, and intention, to create their healing methodologies. Cultures have utilized sound, throughout human history, coupled with explicit states of consciousness, or awareness & intent, for healing, for connecting to, aligning with, for channeling, and embodying, that which they hold as Sacred, or Divine, as well as to use sound in direct healing incantations, to journey into other worlds, to awaken ecstatic states of awareness and innate well-being, to illuminate one’s authentic essence, and empower one’s inner knowing.
The modern concepts of shamanism understand these principals, but often do not encompass the broad use of sound & awareness which ancient and contemporary medicine peoples of most traditional indigenous societies always have utilized. This, of course, includes the connection of self to the other worlds, as a Divine Art, and, as a part of it, the Living Cosmos. But, also, to become an intermediary, through voice and intention, often with drum, rattle, or bell, etc., coupled with other-world awareness, to draw through, or bridge to, the 'other side' of intelligent life, which resides in the subtle worlds, or 'other world' realities, in higher states of realized being. The voice has an exquisite ability to couple awareness of the other worlds with our subtle intents, and to create an extraordinary catalyst for healing, transformation, and visionary experiences. In most cultures, it is understood that the coupling of human consciousness and feeling states, when voiced, is the most powerful tool of creation we possess. “Because I say it, it is so,” is a mantra known worldwide in the mystical traditions, from the Americas, to India, to the Aramaic cultures, who phrased it in a way we all have played with, “Abra Cadabra!” (Literally, Aramaic for ‘because I say it, it is so.’)
The Tibetans, whose culture is steeply based in the shamanic Bon traditions, still utilize the ancient tools of instruments, voice, and awareness drawn from their Bon heritage. They later blended the Bon understanding with Buddhism, and daily call upon at least one aspect of the 'other worlds,' the Sambhogakaya, for which one interpretation is, "the Pure Realms of Light and Sound, where the Holy Beings dwell." Here, in those ‘upper worlds,’ we might meet those holy guides and teachers residing there, to engage in “Self Generation” practices for self realization, a high tantric medicine tool. This is, also, is a ‘dimensional state,’ where an aspect of our realized being resides. This is where we discover our “Rainbow Body” in its full luminous form, and easily experienced through simple sound and awareness practices. These are not unlike the practices to engage our luminous body taught by the great prophet, “the Pale One,” of our Cherokee lineages. Traditional peoples of the Americas, Mongolia, and most regions of the world, equally utilize sound as a catalyst to enter or enhance these ‘pure’ altered states, peer into those other worlds, ally with their medicine powers, and so much more. The elder uses not just a drum or rattle, but his or her voice is integral to their approach to the Medicine, coupled with intent knowing of the Other Worlds, and a relationship with the Allies in those realms, as well as his or her inner way of seeing what is, and what needs to be done for the healing of the people.
It is through access of these sacred states of consciousness, and the "pure realms," in relation to his or her own awakened states, that the shaman draws his or her magic and power. It is in connection to the Divine nature of All Life, in relation to one's own waking or realized self, one’s inherent wisdom and knowing, that we develop and integrate this authentic power. By recognizing this wisdom and power, which resides not just in our self, but in All Life, and arises from the source of Creation, we realize we each are a part, and feel the wholeness of life, and can more easily enter relationship with the living consciousness of all things. The Q’ero, high wisdom keepers of Peru, state that it is through entering harmonious relationship with the Living Consciousness of all things, that will be the catalyst for our collective awakening in this prophesied time of “Taripay Pacha,”, or, “The Time of Meeting Ourselves Again!”