A Wiccan of 25 years, Sage likes to put her background as a writer and teacher to use by helping people learn about this NeoPagan path.
Ritual music can help create a particularly powerful experience. If you’ve ever been to a gathering in which Panpipes filled the air through the invocations, or in which you raised energy as drummers pounded out a primal rhythm, you know what I’m talking about. Even just the voices of revelers voices weaving melodic chants of praise together can put me into a spiritual frame of mind.
I was trained in a coven that promoted spiritual consciousness and exploration through artistic and creative means—drama, poetry, dance, and music. We had live music at every ritual right in the circle. People would carry rattles and tambourines, and at least one person would be drumming throughout, some people played flutes or guitars or didgeridoos. I am spoiled by music.
One great way to incorporate music in ritual is to make a playlist. I’ve found that with proper timing, a good playlist can bring you from start to finish without distractions. A lot of Wiccans stand firmly against bringing electronic devices into ritual, but I feel the benefits outweigh any possible drawbacks.
Wiccan Music for Ritual
What Do You Say?
Pros and Cons of Electronics in the Circle
Some people feel that electronic devices and electric currents disrupt the energy in a Wiccan circle. I've heard some people go so far as to say that electronics are in danger of getting "fried" in a circle. There are those who simply feel electronics are a distraction.
By the time I heard the warnings about electronics polluting circles, I’d been casting circles around electronics for years. I lived in NYC and always lived in small apartments. The circle, more aptly described as a sphere of energy, breaks through floors and sometimes walls, surely incorporating my downstairs neighbor’s lighting fixtures or my electric wiring. I’ve cast circles with low-hanging ceiling fans, with the edge of the television or an alarm clock getting into it. For a while I even set my altar up on top of my CD/stereo cabinet, with the plugged-in radio inside. It was just a matter of working with the space I had, I didn’t honestly think about it much and it never seemed to adversely affect my workings.
Naturally I had to experiment with this, both on my own and with other Wiccans who were more experienced than I was. Many couldn't tell when an electronic device was tucked under the altar or not. Nothing ever fried. Battery powered items, in particular, seemed to be the most unobtrusive.
I began wondering if bringing electronics in were really as detrimental as some people claimed, or if perhaps they were just always going along with what they've heard. By following the 'conventional wisdom' that made sense to them, perhaps it became a matter of confirmation bias. Whatever the case, I was going to follow my own instincts. It was never a problem for me, so I wasn't going to turn it into one.
When my husband and I had to move across country and I had to leave my coven, it was like becoming a solitary again. I missed my coven so much — and one of the big things I missed was ritual music. Music enhances ritual for me. It creates a great atmosphere to work in and stimulates all the right parts of my mind.
Music has another practical use for me as well—it helps eliminate other distracting noise by drowning them out. I live in a corner ground floor unit in a complex. Chatty teens and dog walkers going by the window can be a distraction. Occasionally there will be creaks, faint footsteps, or the flushing of a toilet in the upstairs unit. My own family, milling about in other rooms, can be a distraction as well. I have more success staying focused by playing music to drown out all the other sounds.
So, for me, the benefits of music simply outweighs the drawbacks of electronics. I urge anyone interested in music in rituals to experiment for themselves. And if you find you vote for music-- consider a ritual playlist.
Add Invocations or Worship Songs in Your Playlist
Get This One
Creating a Wiccan Ritual Playlist
So I like to create a playlist that will take me from beginning to the end of ritual. Fiddling to change a CD or find a track in an Mp3 player would never do— continuous distractions like that would make it impossible to maintain the Alpha state (ritual consciousness).
To effectively use a playlist you need to have a standard ritual format. Spontaneity is great sometimes, but a playlist needs more precise timing. The more structured your rituals are, the easier it will be to create playlists.
More on ritual structure can be found by clicking here, and a ready-made structured ritual that you can use can be found by clicking here.
If there’s any part of ritual in which you feel you don’t want music playing, there’s an off button. Use music for the parts of ritual you find it beneficial, and turn it off when you don’t need it.
I keep a standard playlist for my Esbats, which have much less variation. Usually Sabbat rituals vary more so I customize them when ritual planning. That’s the beauty of Mp3s—it’s so easy to swap one song out for another.
Breaking Down Ritual Sections and Timing Them
The next thing you need to do is Break Down Your Ritual Into Sections and time them. Informally, go through each part of your ritual. This can be an actual walk-through, or you can just go over each part in your mind. Don’t rush through it or deliberately slow it down—let it run its course in true time.
Time each part of your ritual and write down the number of minutes it takes. You might want to do this a few times and see if the amount of time for each given section is consistent. If it's not within a couple of minutes each time, just write "varies".
Here’s a sample of ritual timing for my Esbats:
Sample Ritual Breakdown
|Grounding and centering||4 minutes|
Cleansing and consecrating the area
Casting the circle
Invoking the Elements
Invoking the deities
Magic, spells or divination (optional, not always included)
varies too much
Great Rite/Cakes & Ale
Ritual closing (devocations, taking up the circle, etc.)
Awesome Instrumentals are Great for Background Music
Matching the Music Timing
If your Grounding and Centering is 4 minutes, your music for that section should be about 4 minutes.That's the easiest way to make a playlist.
It's always good to round up a minute or two. It gives you time to light a candle, turn the pages of your Book of Shadows, move around the circle or go get the next tool. If the song runs a little longer than you need, you can just stand there and center again and focus on your breath. If it runs short, it could potentially be more disruptive.
You can combine sections, and use one long piece of music to play over them (for example, combine your Grounding and Cleansing sections, and use a 10 minute song).
Likewise, you can take several shorter pieces of music and combine them to fill in a longer section of ritual. For example, Use two 3-minute and one 4-minute song for the ritual observance section).
It doesn't matter how you slice it up, as long as what's playing behind you at any given time is enhancing your ritual experience rather than distracting you.
Ritual Music Playlists are Ideal for Esbats
Great Power Raising Chanting for Magic
Create the Right Atmosphere
The first step in choosing songs is to, of course, begin looking for music that you like. Some people prefer Celtic-style music, some like folk-type chanting and drumming, some into recording artists like Enya or Loreena Mckennitt. Whatever works for you.
The music needs to match the mood and task. You might enjoy chanting for when you're cleansing and consecrating the area. That's great-- but that same chanting can really be annoying when you're trying to invoke your deities or recite the Charge of the Goddess. Really think about your playlist selections here and what they add to each individual part of the ritual.
For the sections in which length varies too much, fill in with long instrumentals or with silence. For example, if I choose to do a spell or divination, it can take as little as 15 minutes or more than an hour— and a lot depends on how it’s going. It’s hard to precisely estimate how long it will take you to raise energy, or how long a vision might last. One hour-long meditation instrumental is ideal, and I can just forward it when I’m done.
The other option is silence-- I can just pause my music player when I get to that section, and resume with the music when I'm done with that section.
I Love Singing Bowl Meditations Myself
Finishing Touches on your Ritual Music Playlist
Now that you know what you need, and you've found what you like, start putting it together. Download your songs (please do so legally; you can’t use music in good conscience in ritual that’s ripped off some starving Pagan artist who struggles to make ends meet). Arrange your playlist and decide how it works for you. Do a walk through of your ritual in real time with the music playing to ensure it will work.
You may need to tweak your Wiccan music playlist here and there-- if you're using a CD player, burn the disk once you're fairly certain that you're satisfied with the playlist.
You may wish to change it up a little from month to month or create a selection of Esbat and Sabbat playlists. You may take seasons into consideration-- music you feel more appropriate in the springtime might not suit you as well in the fall or winter when the ritual mood is different.
You might add guided meditations or insert pre-recorded prayers. This is up to you-- it's your ritual.
My Sample Ritual Music Playlist
|Grounding, Centering, Cleansing and Consecrating||Loreena McKennitt - Mists of Avalon; "Elemental Chant: Air I Am"||about 10 mintues|
Casting the circle, Invoking the Elements, Invoking the deities
Arabesque Flute Fun- Houston Pagan Pride Drummers
about 10 minutes
Charge of the Goddess; Charge of the God;Chant - We all Come from the Goddess
about 10 minutes
Divination/Tarot Card Reading
1 Hour Meditation Music (will forward to next track when reading is done)
Wicca: Lesson 2b - Connecting with the Goddess Guided Meditation
about 11 minutes (determined by guided med)
Great Rite/Cakes & Ale
Northsound New Age Wolf 08 Driftwood Beach; Northsound - New Age Wolf - 13 Soft Siesta (giving myself time to bask here)
About 9 minutes
Closing - devocation of Elements, devocation of deities, taking up the circle
Lisa Theil -Earth, Air, Fire, Water; Secret Garden - Prayer; Circle of Women - May the Circle Be Open
About 12 minutes
© 2014 Mackenzie Sage Wright
Mel92114 on November 17, 2014:
Wonderful information and I love the links. The singing bowls are fantastic, aren't they?