The power of Native song is felt not only in how it is sung but most importantly in it’s origins. Hearing someone sing Amazing Grace can be riveting and moving experience. The reasons for this are found in the circumstance in which that song was composed like many old church hymns, Amazing Grace was written under conditions of great duress and emotional intensity. When one hears such songs it actually invokes the spirits involved and the flavor of the moment that imbues the song with real magic. This can be seen as evident in a very pragmatic and scientific way.
A song of any kind represents a connecting link to a time and place of it’s origins. This takes place the way that electricity follows the current of a long copper wire. It is simple to determine if a song carries power, what feelings does it evoke? In our numb domestic culture it has become increasingly hard for people to sense the spiritual beings because they come as feelings. In a domesticated world where most people aren’t even in touch with their own feelings, sensing the feelings in the wind like a wild animal does is quite unlikely. Every so often you may sense a spirit without knowing what’s really happening.
Let’s say you’re going through some old boxes and you handle an old hairbrush. You look at it’s color or design and put it somewhere else thinking nothing of it. Later around dusk you get a peculiar sensation reminding you of the smell of soap that was in your grandmother’s bathroom during your childhood. This scenario represents the visitation of a spirit. As humans we may link the sensation we had of spirits in our grandmother’s bathroom with the smell of her soap. This is one reason why aromatic smudge herbs are used in any ritual in any culture.
Most people would think nothing of these kinds of feelings and would call them “memories”. In a similar way one could get feelings handling a personal item that belonged to someone else’s family. One may get an odd sensation or deja vu without realizing that they are sensing a spirit’s presence. One too may assume, from the explanation, that the spirits sensed are ghosts, like the sensation of the grandmother. What these sensations are, are elemental beings that follow an ancestral lineage like the water spirits sensed by the child in the grandmother’s bathroom. Using this story as an analogy one may say that the smell of the soap or the handling of the hairbrush are like the songs in the act of calling the spirits. Singing Amazing Grace in an all night Tipi Meeting you can feel the energy, or the flavor of the moment, dramatically shift. Although the song is still within spiritual content it is still totally different in it’s origins and the mood from which it was born.
In the sweat lodge when someone sings a European based pseudo Indian camp song it feels like the generated momentum of the lodge is all of a sudden flushed away leaving the strange barbaric feeling of Spanish Conquistadors or the lineages of other early settlers. The spirits in this case follow the families, the languages and other European influences, as well as the line of the song. What I mean by the line of the song is it’s history. Like an electric wire this line has the means of transmission.
There’s another aspects of songs where the concept of the “line of the spirits” is concerned. Let’s say you made up a song with the intention of attracting a spirit. Within the “flavor of the moment” that characterizes the spirits presence, you sing your song, and with it calling attention to yourself with this song. You then have created a direct line to that specific spirit. (Although this works do not assume that the spirits will behave the way you want or expect). One could use a fragrance in the same way there is a connection between memory of smells with emotions. In invoking spirits we are invoking memories, feelings. The spirits are these feelings directly.When you have a certain feeling of any kind you are actually embodying a spirit. So by all this one can see that for a domestic human to summon the spirits of the wild, without a direct spiritual line of connection, is nearly impossible. That is another one of our reasons for protecting and sharing these sacred ancient songs. They can be of immeasurable aid to the future population of nerds that our culture is creating. At a time when intelligence eclipses intuition altogether there can still be the hope of the spirits possible intervention.
Taking a close analytical analysis of primordial spiritual songs we can find some very interesting points. First of all, ancient spiritual traditions of the world use what is known as the pentatonic scale. It is based upon the number five and it predates the harmonic scale. Pentatonic scale is used exclusively for spiritual applications even in cultures predominated by the harmonic scales. The pentatonic scale flourishes in American culture through Blues and Gospel music which have African roots. In all indigenous cultures when invoking the spirits, a falsetto is employed. This clearly illustrates an emotional relationship between man and spirit and it shows that some spirits are attuned to crying.
Another marked difference in primordial spiritual music is the beat. Domestic music uses a beat that is to the time of the song that is how children in industrialized cultures are taught to clap hands in school. Native American music, like African and other aboriginal societies, utilizes the opposite. Professional drummers from modernized cultures have to unlearn the tendency to clap to time, finding the heartbeat in the background of the song.
In all Lakota spiritual songs and Native American spiritual music the songs start out high and end up low following the natural laws of gravity. In hearing song birds in nature even when a bird’s song goes high it is always followed by a radical plummet back down again. Even when the Catholic Church banned the pentatonic scale they still used it along with falsetto and the high to low intonations for Latin prayer recitations.
It is obvious that the difference in native dance music and others is that the volume is louder and the range is further breaking through the yodel all the way to the other side. Anyone can do this with practice by building the muscles of the larynx and learning how to relax other muscles at the same time. Lakota song, like it’s language, are toned from the center of the head rather than from the soft palate This gives it a resonant nasal quality. This is lacking in English where all the sounds are projected out of the mouth with the front of the mouth, unlike primordial languages. In domestic society we have found changes in human language, our thoughts as well as our habits. An interesting change that has occurred is that the male alto voice types are becoming rarer. This may be due to hormonal changes related to domestication.
The most important difference in aboriginal music are the origins of the songs. A song is a gift from the spirits. A person receives a vision with a gift of the song for the people. Most all of the native songs have come about in this way and not from regular composition. This is illustrated by the lyrics which are in first personfrom the spirit’s standpoint. This is a very important point to remember because it too defines authentic aboriginal song and is totally absent in industrialized cultures. A Lot of people find our blog site looking for English sweat lodge songs. There is no such thing as an English sweat lodge song nor is there such a thing as a Spanish sweat lodge song. None of the Spanish and English so called Indian songs were gifted by the spirits, these songs were all composed. None of these contemporary songs are in first person from the spirits point of view. None of them use falsetto, pentatonic scale, have a back beat or go from high to low. So if you hear someone singing a song claim to have been a Native American spiritual song yet it is in a harmonic scale do not take them serious.
To recognize a fraudulent song, as you can see, is very simple. But there are other things that define domestic compositions. “We all fly like eagles, high above the earth, circling the universe, with wings of pure light”. The example begins not only with a fantasy statement but also completely untrue in every way. It expresses the need to be greater out of a low self esteem which is a distinct character trait of this modern culture. It is common in the Lakota songs to hear this statement “I am a common man” or “a common man is saying this”. The most prevalent phrase in Lakota songs is“pity me” (have compassion). Secondly is “help me” as well as ”God I am suffering”. This is reflected by most spiritual songs of any traditions regardless of age or culture.
The purpose in making distinctions in spiritual and non spiritual songs is to defend true spirituality without allowing fraudulent mystics to damage the authentic power. Even if it is done innocently and inadvertently, measures need to be taken to safe keep the ancient traditions of the earth. In the same way there should never be a drive thru or email confessionals in the church, there should never be bogus Indian songs as part of any sweat lodge. the reason for this preservation is not to stop the evolution of a native path but to stop the domestication of it. That de-claws it making it an obedient pet rather than a fierce panther that inspires reverence and change. It controls the spirit by denying it access to the people, it transforms the medicine power into a badge of honor rather than as a spiritual gift.