Singing Is a Sacred Power by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Carolyn Lee Boyd

A moss-soft ballad sung from a mountain top to the sunrise.  A parent’s lullaby to soothe a newborn to sleep. Thousands of voices rising together to banish injustice from our planet. A single wavering melody infusing inspiration into a moment of despair. Whenever we open our mouths to sing, no matter how tuneful or discordant our song, we have instant access to a well of power to transform ourselves and others.

Over the years, I’ve been amazed at how often singing denotes spiritual power in myths and stories about goddesses and holy women from across the globe and throughout time. These are just a few examples from around the world. You may know others.

The first woman, Asintmah, of the Athabascan people of Canada, wove a blanket of fireweed blossoms which she spread over the Earth as she began to sing, causing the Earth to give birth to all the animals on our planet.

The young Chinese heroines Gum Lin and Loy Yi Lung sang to mesmerize a dragon so they could unlock a gate that let waters flow down a mountain to save their village. 

The Norse prophetesses called Volva told of the future by chanting.

Japan’s Yuki-Onne eased the passing of those trapped in blizzards by singing them to sleep, then breathing cold on them until they died peacefully and painlessly.

Some singing by goddesses and holy women is more malevolent.  The Celtic Morrigan sang charms before battles to ensure victory for her side — good for her people, but not so good for her foes.  The Sirens enchanted Greek sailors by singing, luring them to their deaths. 

Of course, 21st century life is full of singing and chanting as part of religious liturgy or personal spiritual practice as well as inspiring positive societal change. I also find that many people find the greatest solace in songs that come from their religious tradition, especially if learned in childhood.  I think this speaks to the ability of music to express spiritual and socially inspirational ideas and connect us in ways that spoken words alone cannot.  I find I often sing as part of my own spiritual practice, for example, often serenading the land, or a plant or wild animal as a form of offering. 

Perhaps one reason for these stories of magical singing is the physical and emotional benefits recently confirmed by medical research. Singing causes the release of endorphins and oxytocin, which lift mood, and is related to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Older people who sing in choirs are less lonely and more engaged in life. Studies of music in general show a slew of benefits to physical, mental, and emotional functioning.  

Besides affirming that the power of singing was as robust in our past as in our present, the myths and stories teach us about the power of singing beyond its physiological and emotional effects. In our culture, in which women’s spiritual power has been demonized and devalued, it can sometimes feel difficult to grasp exactly what our inner power is and how to use it. We may even find ourselves fearing it, unconsciously or consciously.  Singing by ourselves or with others and really allowing ourselves to experience its transformative force affirms to us that our spiritual power is real, and that it is beautiful and awe-inspiring.  We can know that our spiritual power is to be embraced for making the world the paradise it is meant to be.

Singing reminds us that our spiritual power is already within us as a part of our most essential being, both physical and spiritual.  It is not outside of us or needing to be conferred by another entity, divine or human, but as much an element of our lives and ourselves as breathing in and out.

Singing reminds us that our bodies are divine and holy, that we have the power to create immense beauty through our flesh and blood. Through singing we create vibrations that are not only heard but felt in the depths of our and others’ being and connect us to the very cosmos.

Singing brings magic into the everyday world. We do not have to wait till we are in some ethereal place to hear the voices of angels — all we have to do is listen to our own singing and that of others who share our world with us. Singing is not an exalted, once in a lifetime miracle, but a joy to be shared whenever we like.

Sappho once wrote “Although they are only breath, words which I command are immortal.” Sappho’s poems were written to be sung.  Like Sappho, our singing is both an everyday and an immortal act, an expression of our sacred power that is within us and accessible to us always. When we recognize this power and use it for the benefit of ourselves, other beings, and the Earth, we can perhaps, like those ancient goddesses and holy women, help to sing new and better realities into being.

Resources: 

Patricia Monaghan, New Book of Goddesses and Heroines

Patricia Monaghan, Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines

Merlin Stone, Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood

Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard

Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer, student drummer, and herb and native plant gardener.  Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews, and poetry have been published in, among others, Feminism and Religion, Return to Mago E-Magazine, Sagewoman, The Goddess Pages, Matrifocus, and The Beltane Papers, and various anthologies. She would love for you to visit her at her website, www.goddessinateapot.com where you can find some of her free e-books to download.



Categories: Body, communication, General, Goddess Spirituality, Healing, Music, Spirituality, Women's Voices

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16 replies

  1. This is lovely. I am going to go enter this post as a resource on the divine feminine app so that it can be found again and again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Book of Exodus: The Song of Miriam
    20Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with tambourines and dancing. 21And Miriam sang back to them: “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.”…
    I have some difficulty with the words (which are also sung by Moses as part of a longer victory song), but there is some evidence that this may be one of the earliest-expressed passages in the Hebrew Bible. Who sang to whom (men and women separate? together?), and how (back and forth? call and response? harmony?), has been the subject of much discussion over the millennia.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. You’re right: there’s nothing as good as music and making music. Singing. Playing an instrument. Even listening to music is good for us. Music lifts our spirits and, as you note, also has physical effects. What a perfect post to read on a Sunday morning as the pandemic seems to be ending and we can gather again for music. Many thanks. Bright blessings!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a wonderful reminder of a beautiful way – with the power of song – to access our own spiritual center.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Singing brings magic to the everyday world.” Amen to that. I would add chanting. That vibrational essence seeps into our blood, our bones, our spirit. Thanks for an awesome post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful, thank you! My therapist told me to encourage my daughters to sing, because it would help them find their voice and set healthy boundaries! :) At the birth of the Hebrew people through the birth canal waters of the Red Sea, Miriam picks up a tambourine and sings the oldest hymn in the Bible!

    Liked by 2 people

    • How wonderful that your therapist told you to encourage your daughters to sing! I love your phrase “the birth canal waters” as well as the story of Miriam singing with her tambourine. I hadn’t thought of it when I wrote the post or realized it is the oldest hymn in the Bible!

      Like

  7. Singing is truly empowering and magical. I really miss singing with my singing circle and hearing and feeling the vibrations of our voices and the drums. We still meet and sing over Zoom, but that doesn’t cut it. Not only are we not physically present with each other, we found that only one person can sing at a time because otherwise we get garbled noise. Hopefully we will be singing in person soon. Thanks for reminding me of the power of singing, Carolyn.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The power of song! What an experience it was to see the sun rise over the mountains on the Pojoaque reservation, as a group of indigenous elders sang the sun up! I was with my daughter; we were soooo lucky!

    Liked by 1 person

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