Chanting – A large proportion of the ritual repertoire and performance of shamans in many cultures involves chanting. Both as ritualists leading ceremonies for their communities and as healers conducting healing rituals, shamans may use repetitive phonemes, intelligible phrases, or epic poems. These are sometimes combined with other forms of rhythmic repetition, such as drumming (perhaps intended primarily to induce and maintain altered or shamanic states of consciousness) but may take place alone and form the central creative or transformative act of shamans. Guilherme Werlang’s discussion (and accompanying recorded extract) of the Amazonian Marubo people’s “myth-chants” is a rich evocation of the “musical aspect of Marubo myth . . . or the mythical aspect of Marubo music.” He demonstrates that myth and music, words and rhythm, message and melody are inseparable. The shaman chants words and notes that both, at once, mean and achieve the same transformative result: world-creation and people-creation. In this case, and in many others, chanting mediates between a particular moment of performance and both past, creative times and recurrent, cyclical re-creation.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007


Related Articles

Drums and drumming

Drums and drumming – Rhythmic sounds and movements are commonplace in shamanic performance. In Mircea Eliade’s construction of shamanism as “the techniques of ecstasy,” the…

Alleluia Shamanism

Alleluia Shamanism – An evolution of Amazonian shamanism (particularly in the eastern highlands) influenced by Christian missionary discourse (e.g., prophetic promises of a new life,…


Rhythm – Shamans in many cultures make use of rhythmic music, songs, chants, dances, and movements. Instruments as varied as drums, rattles, and bells are…


Music – In addition to the making of rhythmic sound aided by drums, rattles, bells, and other instruments, shamans in many cultures sing or chant…