Chanting, reciting, or savoring incantations is an invitation to connect with spirits of the Divine, while also charging our being with motion. As such, genuine incantations are fluid with participation. They may begin with words or gestures that had been used in the past, or that had been given to us as a conduit or source of connection. Each encounter with Presence may flow out of that genesis with variations. One may improvise, like a musician, in the interplay of an encounter with the power or source that is the aim of the incantation.
Incantations are like prayer, that is, prayer as process. The goal is not – as in some forms of prayer – to simply make an egotistic request, solicitation, or to barter and petition. Incantations involve the seeking of guidance, devotion, soulful mood, or coming into accord with the intention of the incantation. The depth of connection may depend somewhat on circumstance (time, place, external aids or distractions). Connection can also build with practice – the evolution between yourself, helpful spirits, and the integration of intentions within your soul.
In any case, whether your incantation is borrowed (as is) or involves improvisation, incantations require an element of spontaneity, like you are connecting with Source for the first time. Otherwise they are rote and serve another order (such as faith-based initiative – or even positive distraction). Incantations remind me of poetry, except that poetry is generally fixed on the page. Granted, a good poetry reading can bring a poem to life. But there is unlikely to be a creative interplay beyond the written word, unless the reader can put down the page and allow the words to become a springboard into his or her own personal associations and potential depth with the intersection provided by the poem.
Let me provide an example. Psalm 23 is both prayer and poetry, and functions as such quite adequately. In other words, the prayer stands by itself. But the prayer also has the potential to become an incantation through depth discovery or repetition. Repetition alone can function like a heartbeat. But incantations can also deepen through interplay and personal association – bringing the prayer home by allowing yourself to improvise on the basic structure of the prayer (provided by the words) and deepening their personal meaning and connection. Each incantation will be a unique living experience. Thus:
The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
The Path is my Light, I practice non-attachment.
The two statements become linked, personalized angles explored from a single source.
Here’s Psalm 23 in its entirety.
The lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Now, here’s Psalm 23 as a personal incantation derived from this moment in time. You may refer back to the original, as I had done line by line as I spontaneously improvised on what I perceived to be the source of the words.
The Way is my Guidance, I do not want for anything more.
It leads me into peaceful sanctuaries
where the mind is calm and the Presence is healing.
The Way brings me into Potential, for the sake of my connection to Soul.
It’s true, in my daily life danger and death lurk like shadows.
But this does not concern me, as the Way is fulfilling and an end unto itself.
I take comfort in the reflected resonance I can feel as I walk.
I break bread with dissonance, listen to the polarities that exist around me,
and make toasts to the potential wholeness within a circle.
There is fullness in a universe that seeks expansion.
Because I seek connection with the Sacred –
compassion and intention are possible,
and they will follow me down the street and into a room,
until time becomes timeless.
This is only one set of words improvised on a sacred theme. When engaged in incantations based on a sacred theme, it is not important whether or not each line is recited or improvised. The lines of sacred text that are important at the time of incantation will likely surface. The next time I improvise on this theme, the words will likely be different. The same may be true for you. Hopefully, on the inside – where words do not carry absolute meaning – we will feel connection.
In the next blog, I plan to share a shamanic poem, and contrast it with the notion of incantation.