My last article on Galdor Without Runes brought to mind a number of magical experiences I have had that have involved singing and, as a further inducement to my reader to explore the magical art form of singing, I have decided to share a few of these experiences.
1) Galdor Made Me Into Road Runner
One day some years ago I was attempting to make my way to a friend’s home. It was a hot summer’s day and the train system had broken down, leaving me in the unenviable position of having to walk from Central Station to Stanmore (Sydney-siders will know what that means; the distance involved is about five kilometres). Oh, and I had something like twenty minutes to get there in time.
Despite the fact that normally I might have just called and cancelled, I felt it important at the time to connect with my friend, who had experienced a recent break up. One of my Odinnic poems came unbidden to my lips as I steeled myself to run the distance, knowing that I certainly was not fit enough to make the distance in the time available, particularly since I had a backpack with me.
As I began to chant the poem over and over, its rhythm taking a hold of me, I began to be filled with a stern vehemence. It was like a kind of berserkergang keyed to movement rather than violence. Swept up in my own roaring chant, I fairly flew the distance.
Strangely, I didn’t actually run, I just walked, albeit at a cracking pace, reciting my poem over and over. I covered the distance in exactly the time available, and not only that, but I was overflowing with energy when I arrived: not in the least bit tired. A totally bizarre display of physical power. I really should try to tap into that trick more often.
Less dramatically, I have found that I can get more energy to walk faster by simply increasing the tempo of my singing when I am out and about. Not exactly a new discovery – music has been used to synchronise rowers and marching soldiers for thousands of years – but I hadn’t realised that I could manipulate my own body into a swifter mode of action just by varying the tempo of my song.
2) Galdor on Stage
Things often get pretty intense when my band Ironwood performs: here is a photo from a gig – you can see the incredible proliferation of spirit orbs attracted by our magical music! Of course, a big part of our mojo is our vocals.
I often get possessed when I am on stage – in fact I think we all do – and my singing tends to take on a life of its own. Prior to our first gig, I had never been able to sing “extreme” vocals – the screeches, bellows, howls, and roars typical of extreme metal music. That was generally fine because mostly I sing “clean” in Ironwood, but sometimes I wished could add just that extra layer of intensity to our performances.
On our first gig, after a while, I noticed a tremendous roaring voice coming back at me through the monitors. It seemed to sweep up the entire room and certainly drove me into total ecstasy. Then I realised: the voice was me! Presented with the immediacy and risk of performing for an audience had unleashed a wild and powerful new range of vocal expression for me, one that established a positive feedback loop with my trance states.
In recording settings I struggle to replicate these vocals, though my efforts for the next Ironwood album came out quite well in the end.
I think the magic of that first (and subsequent) gigs came from the fact that I didn’t recognise my own voice, and that dissociation sent me into a whirl of trances and altered states. Since then I’ve experimented a lot with exploring unorthodox ways of vocalising, and they can indeed send you into a huge range of worlds. Sometimes this practice will get me shivering spontaneously – classic Jan Fries-style seidh.
3) Galdor Duets
Apart from my time spent chanting within the Illawarra circle of the Jerrahi Sufis, in which I experienced an incredible array of magical states (not least because so many members of the circle were musicians and we’d really explore tonal chaos in our chanting), I’ve also spent a lot of time chanting with Donovan (which inspired this article from a while back). Donovan and I don’t get to do this together as much as we like, but it is always awesome.
I’d particularly like to share a recent, and quite bizarre, experience I had while rehearsing Ironwood vocals with my band mate Matthew. Matt and I were practicing a particularly beautiful but tricky duet passage that will be featured on the next Ironwood album. It is only a short span of music so we’d just sing it over and over again.
Something strange began to happen. I felt an intense sensation of electricity or energy moving up and down my limbs, through my body, my head, etc. It was like a powerful energetic vibration streaming through my body.
Then I had this intense impression that there was a third person in the room, forming the third point of a triangle with Matt and I, watching us as we sang. This presence seemed shadowy, hard to pin down, but benevolent. It was the most uncanny thing to be sitting there, singing with Matt, consumed by strange energetic sensations, watched by some ineffable but intense presence.
We stopped for a minute and I told Matt what I was experiencing.
First, he tells me that he is experiencing exactly the same energy sensation or whatever it was.
Then he tells me that he also can perceive the third person watching us…and that it is him! Matt’s perception, thanks to our singing, somehow has expanded beyond his body, and incredibly, I could sense the presence of his consciousness without any prompting or clue!
Neither of us can make any sense of the experience, but it was very empowering for us both. I chalk it up to the power of shared singing, the beauty of galdor and vocal-induced seidh-like consciousness. I am curious to see if we can replicate the experience: I wonder where it might lead?
Convinced yet that singing should be an essential part of most any magical practice? If not, give it a go and persevere. You’ll thank yourself for the effort.