Imagine you’re riding home in the car after a long day. You turn on the radio, and you hear it: The first few notes of a song you love. The artist starts to sing and you know every word. You’re instantly revived. You turn up the volume and forget about your troubles for a moment because it’s time to sing and dance in your seat until the next red light. You’re not just sitting in your car doing the same boring thing for the hundredth time. Suddenly, your heart speeds up, the rhythm catches you and you feel great!
Music as a magical medium is nothing new. Witches have long turned to music to not only set the mood but also as part of their craft. Because although candles and incense do a great job of making a ritual feel witchy, music is different. Some say music and the physical effect it has on us is magic unto itself. Not a difficult concept to accept, especially when you think about your favorite song and how it has the ability to make you remember, make you feel, make you get up and dance. This is the spell music casts on all of us.
Every culture and civilization in the world today creates music, and scientists study music’s effect on our cultures and brains to understand human evolution itself. Understanding music gives insight into prehistoric cultures’ beliefs, language development, and ancient migratory paths and interactions between humans in and out of Africa. Creating and listening to music isn’t just something people do for fun; it’s beneficial to us in many ways. Studies have shown music soothes our nerves and reduces tension. Singing as a group builds bonds between people. Music is interwoven in human biology.
Scientists will tell us that music enchants us in many different ways. Music is now being studied as a method to help patients heal and improve the quality of life for patients in hospice and the elderly in group homes. In 2017, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine produced a study which showed patients recovering from spinal surgery actually reported decreased pain when music was used as part of their therapy. Beyond medicine, studies have shown that listening to happy music increased creativity and encouraged better solutions when faced with problems. Science also shows a link between music and positive emotions and memories, but I’m sure most of us could have told them that.
If you have any doubt about the power of music, think of how often the powers that be have tried to ban it. Rock and roll was the devil’s music that conservative leaders fretted had the power to turn the youth into degenerate criminals. Fast, pounding rhythms, wild guitar riffs, and of course the uninhibited dancing that accompanied this music obviously harkened back to pagan rituals that organized religion feared and tried to stamp out. Apparently, certain music had the power to turn listeners away from Christian values and was a threat to the establishment. Plus, it was loud. So intertwined is music with witchcraft and free-thinking individuals, it’s no wonder attempts were made to demonize it by organizations that rely on conformity.
Recognizing the power of music comes naturally to practitioners of witchcraft, though. Music is not a threat to magical practice — it is an important tool to enhance the craft. A 2004 survey of witches in the UK showed that only 3% of respondents did not use any kind of music in their practice. The vast majority of witches relied on music before, during, and after rituals, usually to enhance the mood but also to add potency to their spells and improve concentration. Witches cited simple drumming — which built in intensity like a racing heart — in particular as a powerful means to refine and strengthen their casting. Another important use for music was calling spirits with particular chants and songs. Participants reported that repeating a chant would help focus and subdue the conscious mind and let the subconscious mind open up, revealing hidden thoughts and powers. It also aided in absorbing new ideas.
No discussion of magic in music can pass without acknowledging voodoo and its musical influence. Music is essential to voodoo ceremonies. Possession, or being overtaken with a divine spirit (a loa), is facilitated by music. During slavery, white people feared the power of African religions (both in and of themselves, and their potential to unite) and sought to suppress voodoo ceremonies, even creating a law which made the use of drums and other instruments by slaves illegal in 1740. African practitioners of voodoo, who melded their religion with Christian denominations in America, brought their beliefs about the importance of music in worship to the church. Voodoo’s musical style, rhythms, and beats survived and thrived in black congregations and have become hugely influential in American music through gospel, rock, and soul.
Enhancing Your Magic With Music
So how can modern practitioners of witchcraft harness the power of music? Pretty simply, it turns out. Some may find the idea of learning to play an instrument daunting, and it can be. Music, as an art, is not as forgiving as other mediums. The eye may accept imperfect or wildly subjective art as aesthetically pleasing, but the ear is much more discerning. We don’t mind if a photograph is a little overexposed but play the wrong note — even a melody we’ve never heard before — and it sticks out like a sore thumb. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a musical prodigy to use music in your spellwork.
Using An Instrument
To begin, your choice of instrument is important. Instruments belong to different “families.” These are generally woodwind, brass, percussion, strings, and keyboard. Some people have tried to make these families neatly align with things such as the elements. Indeed, some analogies between instruments and other things can be intuited. For instance, the crisp sound of violin strings makes me think of winter or water. Percussion feels earthy. Brass is loud and bright — like a shining sun and blooming flower in spring. Woodwind feels light, full of life and breezy renewal. These connections are naturally subjective. Finding these symbolic connections, however, will help you choose an instrument which gives more meaning to your magical tunes.
Once you have chosen an instrument, it’s time to play! If you’re just starting out creating music and musical spells, keep it simple and don’t be overwhelmed by the possibilities. Let the notes speak to you. Your ear is an innate music lover, so trust it. If you’re noodling around on a guitar or drum, or even a music app (some can offer a whole digital orchestra), and you hear a couple of notes that sound right together, chances are you’ve stumbled upon a chord.
Of course, choosing to study music will help you find these more easily, in addition to scales, etc. You can create many tunes and melodies with just a few chords and you’ll be able to start making a soundtrack to your spellwork. When you create your tune, try simple ways to embellish it, like moving it up or down a key to change the pitch. A lower pitch can set a whole new mood, bringing solemnity and resonance, and moving up a key will brighten it up, both of which can better reflect a spell’s purpose. Even if you just work with a few notes, their combination and rhythmic possibilities can be endless. Since drumming and rhythm can have such a powerful effect on the mind, you may also choose to just pick up a makeshift mallet and start pounding out a beat. The thing to remember is the intent behind your playing and whatever magic you’re performing. As always, this is what’s important. Put thought and feeling into your creations. While they may not be musical masterpieces yet, they are still capable of enhancing your spellwork.
You may choose to forego instruments altogether and just sing or chant. Even if you’re not gifted with the best voice, a simple, repetitive chant will help hone your mind and put more energy into your intention when you cast. Science has shown that singing releases chemicals in the brain which make us feel good, lower stress, and induce calm. In other words, exactly the state of mind you want to be in when focusing intention and performing a spell!
One option is to sing or chant your intention. Start softly and then build volume (like the drumbeat mentioned above), to build strength in your spell. Another option is to find a poem or lyric which you think fits with your intention and sing that. You may just want to add a song or chant at the beginning and end of your spell or ritual that makes you feel good. It’ll put you in the right mindset and focus your energy. If you feel like it, move and dance around to the music. Adding that little extra physical element is a powerful way to use your own body to channel that music magic.
Adding music to your witchcraft can be as simple as putting on your headphones or quietly chanting, or as complicated as learning a whole new skill. However you choose to incorporate it, music will guide your magic to powerful new places and make you part of a fabulous tradition of witches who rock!