Musical instruments are in many ways central to Shamanic practice – it’s worth remembering two things – first, that all instruments, bells, whistles, feathers and staffs have a respected and even venerated position in most if not all Shamanic and Pagan rituals and practice; though these are mere props in the wider picture when it comes down to it – the energies still flow without the props, so we should never feel we can’t engage in practice without them.
Having said that, the second point is that everything in the universe is based on a vibration of atoms and molecules – a frequency. Everything has a certain pitch and light, however much or little we are able to perceive such frequencies with our traditional senses.
A remote control generally works with infrared – a frequency of light we cannot perceive with just our eyes (though it can be seen through a mobile phone camera).
We cannot hear ultrasound frequencies, though with the right tools, we can harness the potential of ultrasound to see our infants gestating in the womb, or to look at potential ailments in the body. We can use the scanning processes of energy healing to see, or perceive, ailments which may not present themselves with ultrasound – and the key word here is perception.
Energy healing has been recorded at frequencies of between 7-30hz – a low frequency of seven to thirty repeats per second. We can’t hear this infrasonic or ‘ultra-low’ frequency, but we can certainly feel it during an energy healing.
To put this into perspective, a music CD has a sampling rate of 44.1 thousand cycles per second as standard – the accepted best rate to capture what can be heard by most humans between the varying audible range from infant to adult.
Vinyl records and tapes are scoffed at by some from this information, because they have a lower ‘sampling rate’; but aside from the dynamic range these formats offer which CDs lack, there is a certain ‘warmth’ – a feeling attributed to tapes and particularly vinyl records. We can ‘feel’ the perceived difference.
If we take the base principle that our bodies are approximately 3/4 water and that water is in each molecule, each cell of our DNA, and that each molecule has a resonant frequency, a vibration of atoms, it becomes apparent that sound has the ability to heal and support our wellbeing whilst raising the vibration.
This page of the website discusses the healing properties of music and sound, by exploring the instruments of both the Northern Shamanic Tradition, and other interesting artefacts of Nordic origin.
The Shamanic Drum
Whilst props aren’t essential to Shamanic practice, the Shamanic drum is a great example of the potential for musical instruments to benefit the mind, body, and spirit through the amazing frequencies they emit and their key potential for both calling in the spirits and assisting in reaching a transcendental trance state for interpreting answers to questions we may ask.
In interpreting the word ‘divine’, we usually first think of God, or angels, or the aetheric properties of the universe; and the etymological roots of the adjective come from the old French divinus: of a God – which also comes from the root Deus; however, the verb was later used thus: “to conjure, to guess,” originally “to make out by supernatural insight”. Without probing the word supernatural in too much detail, in the context of sound and feeling outlined above, it follows that, much like ultrasound cannot be heard without the proper tools, and infrared cannot be seen without intervention, the supernatural is only that which requires the right mirror to be held up to it in order to reveal its art.
The ritual of beating the Shamanic Drum opens up many possibilities by providing the required tools discussed above; and when divination is applied to this process, we need not get bogged down in a religious discussion, knowing that this tool is merely allowing us the divining rod we need to access higher energies and higher answers to our questions which support ourselves, friends, neighbours and peers.
The Sami drum used by Northern Shamanic Tradition is known to have this property: “When used for divination purposes, the drum was used together with a drum hammer and an [sic] vuorbi (index or pointer) made of brass or horn. Answers could be interpreted from where the vuorbi stopped on the membrane, and at which symbols.”
It is also interesting to note that each Shamanic drum from the most basic mass production is said to have its own spirit; in the Sami tradition, reindeer are important to the culture and in the classic Native American Indian tradition of not wasting any part of the kill, the venerated deer are part of a ritual where the spirit of the animal is met with and the meat eaten as part of the process of making the Sami drum, to more thoroughly endow the drum with the spirit of the animal.
“The use of for example shaman drum or rattle is a way for us to alter our state of mind and thereby approach power animals and spirit helpers. In shamanic practice today, here including shaman travelling, shamanic healing, ceremonies, and rituals the importance of these shamanic tools have been revived, in the effort to obtain better contact with our self, with our spirit guides and with nature around us.”
Here is a great site for bespoke and beautifully crafted U.K. produced Northern Shamanic Tradition drums and rattles, as seen in the picture below of Shamanic rattles.
The bone handle of the above Sami drum beater is symbolic of the Shamanic interpretation of energy healing – when we use energy healing, we are a conduit for the energy – it passes through us as if through a hollow bone and is directed through divination where the energy is needed.
I often pondered the purpose of rain sticks, which can be obtained cheaply from most head shops; but from starting to work with Shamanic practices, I discovered the real use for the high frequency sounds they emit.
“The shaman’s rattle is used to invoke the assistance of power animals and helping spirits. It is also possible to direct energy with rattles, (…) Healing energy can be mentally transmitted through the rattle and out into the environment (…) Prayer and intention can be broadcast to the spirit world. Moreover, you can create sacred space by describing a circle with the rattle while shaking it.”
Rattles have many roles in Shamanic practice, and although the above picture of beautifully crafted masterpieces (go on, gimme a discount!) shows instruments with great symbolic and aesthetic value, it is only the sounds we are looking for to open the channel; so a water bottle can be upcyled into a rattle by filling it with enough rice to shake, or for example I recently bought a batch of egg shakers for this purpose. This is more for the modern Shaman on the move, the Shaman about town who doesn’t want to carry their sacred artefacts everywhere they might choose to meditate. Even plastic objects carry the spirit and potency to open up the channel, so never feel like you don’t have the resources just because you left your gorgeous handmade rattle at home!
In the Finnish creation epic, the Kalevala, the first Kantele was created by the protagonist from the bones of a giant pike and strung with horsehair. This story is discussed in greater detail in the Nordic Lore page of this website.