How and Why Music is Used in Shamanistic Rituals

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Words: 1778 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Words: 1778|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Mar 14, 2019

Music has been the staple of many cultures because of the effects it has in the forms of song and dance. Several communities including the Shamans and Native Americans use music as a way of tribute, prayer, healing, and as a representation of feelings. When music is used in the form of a dance, it is typically sacred and the dances are different in each tribe but they are also different in relevance to men and women. Many dances are performed as healing rituals and the people who perform these dances put their mind and soul into them. It is truly considered a healing experience physically, mentally, and spiritually. They integrate the community and enhance group solidarity allowing them to really get in touch with the depths of their mind while embarking on a truly holistic experience. Songs in Shamanistic healing rituals often feature Shamanic drumming which is a centerpiece of many of the rituals. There are many people trying to keep the Shaman culture still alive even in our modern day society, these healing techniques are being applied in combination with some more modern techniques. Musical healing is a very good technique to use and the Shamans are some of the best people at using music to clear the mind of all thoughts. Music is a significant part of the in Shamanism while playing a huge role in healing the minds and spirits of those who have faith in the Shaman rituals.

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Many Shamans and other cultures use singing and dancing as a healing technique when people encounter supernaturally caused illnesses, which has proven to be effective in their own culture. The musical healing rituals are most often used when spirit possession occurs in an individual. The music is an integral part of the healing process as it helps with trance induction. According to Dr. Joseph Moreno, “Music facilitates the shaman’s travels to the spirit world to establish those connections that will be of benefit to the patient”(329). It allows the Shamans to interact with the supernatural powers with repetitive music that alters the patient’s state of consciousness. When the patient’s state of consciousness is more open it allows the music to really tap into the core of their mind to rid the patient of the demons or possession that is occurring. Shamanic music differentiates itself from Western cultural music because rather than the goal being to let our mind wander amongst our thoughts, the goal is to let go of what we are thinking so that our mind creates new conceptual boundaries.

Music Therapy is a treatment that Shamans across the globe participate in, and it is only effective when the healer and the patient are synchronized and dedicated to the process. Patients must be willing to participate or the treatment will not be as effective because the patient is not giving their entire mind to the task at hand. Music serves as the healing power of the practitioner, meaning that without the music the practitioner does not have the healing power. The patient also has power as well to block their minds that does not allow them to be healed. Not only are the patient and healer directly correlated for the process to work but the healer also acts as a guide to the patient to make sure they reach a state of deep relaxation while traveling into their unconscious and the spirit world. Moreno refers to the process of also allowing the healer to distract the left hemisphere of their brain from “immediate temporal distractions thereby liberating the right hemisphere to attend to the conceptualized world of the spirits”(Moreno 330). This is a way of understanding that the healer and patient can only work together when they are synchronized in their mindset. They must both be clear of outside distraction so that they can focus because that focus on the process is one of the most important aspects of healing.

The healers are granted an extreme amount of power considering that the music that they want to use is what sends the patient on a journey in their minds to their deepest thoughts. One of the most important aspects of healing with music therapy are the types of instruments being used and what types of rituals are being performed in combination with the instruments. There are tons of variations to the music that is used because it all depends on the healers’ process, some may prefer dancing or singing rituals in comparison to instruments. It is so open to interpretation that there is not just one-way to go about healing as long as the patient and healer are on the same page psychologically. The common instrument that is usually found in almost all Shamanic healing rituals is the drum, which typically involves Shamanic drumming which is an essential part to the healing process.

Shamanic drumming is the staple of the musical healing that Shamans use on their patients. It plays a huge factor in trance induction and healers are typically experts using this percussion instrument. Siberian Shamans described the role of music and healing by saying, “The Shaman’s drum is the horse that allows him to fly to the sky to encounter the world of the spirits”(Moreno 329). This is simply stating the power that the drum alone propels the patient into a trance during the healing process. The music creates a bond between the healer and the patient, which can grow if the patient is willing to have faith in the process. It will allow them to grow at a better rate on a psychological level. They emphasize the importance of the drumming and how this craft is an integral part to healing a patient psychologically. The sacred playing of the drum when used in repetition is what puts the patient in a trance allowing them to slowly open up their mind. This is not to be mistaken for a musical performance because this is not done for the leisure of the patient or the healer. It is considered a sacred ritual that helps prevent or rid other Shamans of illness. Even currently shamanic drumming is still used as a form of treatment that seems to be very effective with people for substance abuse treatments.

According to DARTNA (Drug Assisted Recovery Therapy for Native Americans), Shamanic drumming has been an integral part of the healing process for substance abuse as recently as 2008. The drumming helps healers get in touch with the emotional and psychological side of the patient that is tougher to treat than any physical ailment. Prior to treating patients, healers must inform patients on how sacred the art of drumming is because it serves such a huge purpose in the treatment. According to Dr. Daniel Dickinson, drumming has had similarities with cognitive behavior therapy it has been known that it helps increase patients’ awareness of their behavior. Drumming and Singing is incorporated into the treatment. Also, the twelve steps of the process for Drug Assisted Recovery patients involves shamanic singing and drumming to help patients get through their tough time. Steps 1-3 involve breaking the denial while drumming and singing rituals emphasizing the spiritual dimension. Steps 4-6 use the music as a way to emphasize the emotional dimension when the patient is embracing the wellness and road to recovery. Steps 7-9 are about understanding the physical world that the patients’ live in as part of some of the first steps to physically making changes to their lifestyle. Finally, steps 10-12 include drumming and singing to make sure the person is mentally in a good place after going through some of the physical changes. It shows the impact that the Shamanic drumming has had over the centuries because although there may be variations of the practice, it all falls under the same umbrella when used for healing in many situations. The people who understand this craft have learned how to influence several others to continue to keep the Shaman culture strong and stable with the use of shamanic music.

One of the most influential teachers and writers of the impact that shamanic music has in the world is Sandra Ingerman. In several interviews and in some of her published work she emphasizes the power that music has in Shamanism and why it is such an integral part of the Shaman lifestyle. She often refers to people finding their “Shamanic Path” so that they may enhance their way of living in a positive way.

Another man who has established a very strong presence in the Shaman community is Dr. Hank Wessleman. He is a Shaman practitioner and the roots of his life emphasized a strong knowledge of Shamanism for the basis of his studies. He has worked closely with other people in the Shaman community including Sandra Ingerman. They have collaborated on several medical teachings. Dr.Wessleman has previously said that the nature of Shaman healing is correlated with mystery and magic. His findings reflect how some of the healing techniques he learned of were connected to what he heard, but few have actually experienced this hidden reality directly. Although the presence of Shaman healers and doctors is not as alive as it was decades and centuries ago, there are several people still trying to keep the Shaman practice alive with their own ways of informing their community. Some of the healing rituals may go out of date, but the presence of healing through Shamanic music can be felt throughout the Shamanic society.

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The impact of music on the Shamans from an overall perspective is extreme. It helped form their culture through musical healing that applies to the everyday life of a Shaman. Shamanic drumming serves as the centerpiece of the healing process because it connects all aspects of the process together. Shamanic healing is a craft that can only be mastered by those willing to put their mind and soul into the process. Those who do, reap the benefits of understanding their physical, mental, and emotional self more in depth. Although Shamanism is taking a decline in recent centuries, there are many people trying to keep the Shamanic healing alive by applying their own techniques where they feel necessary. It shows their dedication to their beliefs and that faith in what they do is typically what helps them because they are open to learning. Our society could not adapt such ways because we do not have the freedom of mind that the Shamans have. Their ways allow them to open their mind so that they may empty their heads that will clear their mind in the long run.

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How and Why Music is Used in Shamanistic Rituals. (2019, March 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
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