Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Getting started with chanting!

I love chanting....but I really didn't know much about it until my friends at Wyld Garden introduced me to chants around five years ago.  I have always loved songs and poetry...and I enjoy singing, so it's a perfect mix for me.

But I also know it can be very intimidating for a lot of people!  Especially if you don't feel comfortable singing or are worried about messing up the words.

That first night, I knew no chants.  I don't think I'd even heard "We all come from the Goddess."  And there I was, with my friends, but there were only four of us (or possibly 6, I can't remember exactly who was there, but it was a very small group, I know that).  I knew none of the words, I just had to jump in and follow along.

In the time since then, I have chanted in small groups and larger groups.  I have chanted as part of big rituals, in small social gatherings...and of course in the shower (which totally confused my hubby one day, because I was doing the high and low parts of a chant and he couldn't figure out how I had gotten a radio in the bathroom)! 

And let me reassure all that time, no one has EVER commented when I flubbed words, did the wrong line or cracked my voice trying to hit notes I probably shouldn't.  Even when there were only a couple of us, and I was sharing a new chant...and completely forgot the words!  We just looked them up and started over.

It is actually easier in a larger group, because the more people you have the less one voice stands out. 
And even better if you have someone on a drum or other musical instrument....or have a recording of the chant to play and sing along with.

There are a ton of beautiful chants out there that are really easy to learn.  The majority of the chants I know are in a voice range that is accessible to most people...whether you think you are a good singer or not!  There is a huge selection of chants that are between 4-6 lines, so not a lot to remember.

I also keep a chant has pretty much every chant that I've come across that I like or want to learn.  I often take it with me to rituals or to gatherings where I think there might be chanting.  If I feel rusty on a chant, I can pull out my book and follow along until I am comfortable.  I can also share my book with people who might not know a chant at all!

I learned a lot of my first chants from people....we would do a chant, and I'd jot it down to practice on my own.  But I have also looked up a lot of chants online.  While many chant sites list the words, I like to find ones that also have audio clips so I can hear the tune.  Here are a couple links to sites I really like.

Ky's Pagan Chant Library   (the name is coincidental!)  This has a lot of the more common chants, with both lyrics and audio for most.  It also includes additional notes and info on some of them, which can be neat to read.

Panpipe's Pagan Chants  This one has a lot of unique chants, with both lyrics and audio.  I really enjoy a lot of these chants, they range from very simple to more complex.

The Singing Witches  I just found this one recently, but it has some lovely chants, with lyrics and audio.

I have also just browsed on YouTube.  I often do this for chants that I have lyrics but no audio for.  Often you can find a chant by typing in part of the first line (or I Google it first to see if the chant has a name)

I think chanting is an amazing tool, both for personal use and for group work.  It is really fun to chant with a group, and adds a lot to rituals.  We've used chanting as part of the meat of a ritual, to raise power or otherwise direct the energy.  We've also used chanting to create appropriate ambiance...chanting while we entered circle or while other things were going on to create atmosphere.  We also often chant after ritual or when just hanging out!

So how do you get started?  Well of course, you can always learn chants on your own.  I have playlists of chants on my computer to listen to.  When I am first learning a chant, I like to put it on loop for a while (especially while I'm doing stuff like housecleaning...then I can chant along and practice).  Writing it out not only helps me learn the chant (copying stuff by hand helps your brain retain the information better), but as I keep my chants all in a nice little book, it makes it handy to brush up on chants when I need a reminder. 

You can also suggest chanting as a group project!  If you have a group that meets regularly, everyone can find one chant they really like, and teach it to the group (you can spread them out too, adding just one new chant each time you meet to help people feel more comfortable with it).  For a group, it can be helpful to share the chant ahead of time, that way everyone can hear it and write out the lyrics if they want.  Or, if you don't know ahead of time who will be there, print out copies of the words and have a recording of the chant to play. 

I would definitely recommend learning 'We all come from the Goddess'.  Not only is it probably one of the most well known chants, it also has several verse variants, though the basic verse is the most often used.  And it's basic rhythm and tune are shared by a lot of other chants.  So once you are familiar with this one chant, it makes it easier to learn a lot of other chants as well.

And never be afraid to create your own chants!  You can pick a chant you like the tune to and make new words.  Or you can find a bit of song that you like and that fits your need and use it as a chant.  You can adapt poems or bits of poems as a chant.

I highly recommend giving chanting a go!  Try it on your own, and try it in a group (really not trying to go all Seuss on you  There is a different feel to chanting by yourself in different environments.  If I am outside, chanting by myself, I feel very connected to nature.  If I am in the shower, chanting by myself, it feels more divinity oriented.  If I am chanting as part of my prayers or personal rituals it brings different flavors of power.  Chanting in a group can be haunting or celebratory, depending on the chant!  The same chant, done in different places or with different people can feel completely different, which is sort of amazing!


  1. Before I moved into the country I belonged to a drumming group that chanted twice a week, I loved it. It really brings the energy into your surroundings, we did the purple flame and called the angels, I could only remember some of the chants I always had to read them off a paper. Share I would love to print out some to use out here in the woods.