When I’m trying to get in the mood to spend time at my altar, there are so many considerations and preparations that I have to make. In my practice I work with oils, waters, stones, herbs, incense, colored candles, fabrics, statuary, dolls (you don’t?), and ritual tools.
Thankfully over the years I’ve filtered out what I like and what works, so I don’t need to recreate the wheel when I want to do a sabbat ritual or a major working that requires an overhaul of my altar elements.While scent and color and all of the other aesthetics can be helpful, how often are you bringing music into your practice? It’s something we see all of the time in other practices, so why not ours?
Beyond playing your own music in meditation, trance, or deep journey working, playing others’ can deeply enhance your work and get you to the place you need to be. I know there are some ritualists who have a hard time using electronics in sacred space, but experimenting with techniques that aren’t always done in circle, like meditation, may be a good way to try it out.
Following are a collection of go-to’s for me, new and old. A caution and a recommendation before we proceed: altered consciousness is what we’re aiming for here, so if you’re someone who doesn’t react well to that, please don’t use this in your practice. Also, you might not want to drive a car or do anything that requires a lot of your attention while listening to these tracks, they very easily pull you in.
Before you sit down and cast a circle or however you get your ritual on, listen to these tracks ahead of time. You don’t want to discover that the skittering noise that you hear at 3:42 in the track brings to mind the girl from The Ring, scrambling across your ceilings and walls. Or maybe you do want that experience. My point is to be prepared.
First up is Mark Seelig and Sam Rosenthal’s new release Journey to Aktehi. The successfully funded project on Kickstarter contains just over 45 minutes of music. Sam Rosenthal is the founding member of Black Tape for a Blue Girl and is known for his Projeckt Records label. Seelig is known for his shamanic work and his music using the north Indian a bamboo flute, called the bansuri, as well as chants. This album will feel familiar to folks who have worked with more New Age music.
Ritual and meditation isn’t easy work, and sometimes the music that you use for it should be challenging. If everything was gained just by being comfortable and happy, I’d never leave the couch.
This next piece is from Meredith Monk’s opera, Atlas. As my partner was more than happy to sarcastically point out to me while I was working on this article, “boy that’s not annoying.” Personally, I find it to be otherworldly, the cadence being disjointed makes it jarring but in so doing, becomes entrancing. I discovered it while in a very liminal state flying home for my grandmother’s funeral in January.
As a magickal life leads to more synchronicities popping up, this song’s name is, Earth Seen from Above. Every time I hear it, I’m pulled back to that space, looking down through the clouds at the ground below.
Monk’s album, Atlas, contains a version that I like better, but this one is very good.
Ambient music is my go-to for meditation and ritual. I’ve been a fan of ambient music since I was very young when I discovered my father’s Talking Heads albums where they collaborated with Brian Eno. After looking him up I found an almost unbelievable amount of new music in a genre that I couldn’t believe had been there, floating just below the surface all along.
In fact, I loved his music so much that during my son’s birth, my partner and I wanted Music for Airports to play in the background. The unintended consequence to doing that is now that album is so laden with emotion that I have a hard time listening to it. Having said that, Eno’s music, especially his earlier albums really help quiet the mind; they are meditations unto themselves.
In April I attended a weekend workshop in Orlando conducted by Christopher Penczak. It was based on his book The Mighty Dead and the teachings that he has created around working with ancestors of flesh, spirit, place, and more.
In keeping with the theme of the work, the music that he used was darker, which was a good fit for working with the dead and underworld spirits. This was one of the tracks that was used during the weekend. It’s by prolific ambient music composer Robert Rich. This track on loop will surely enhance your experience.
Also from that workshop and on the darker end of things is this track by Dark Muse, called Queen of the World Spirits. This one is haunting and potentially terrifying if you’re not ready for where it takes you.
There are also tons of composers who do cinematically-themed ambient music. These albums tell stories, reading the liner notes will give you the vision as you journey to different worlds. One that I recently came across is Randal Collier-Ford, who has created a multiple-album immersive story called The Architects. This is from his most recent work, which I believe is the concluding chapter of the story-arc Promethean. If you get something out of science fiction themes, this might be a good fit for your workings.
If all else fails and you’re just not a music in ritual type of person, consider these options: YouTube offers countless videos that are extended nature tracks. While I prefer to be meditating by a babbling stream in person the closest one is about four hours away – the Everglades ‘flows’ at a rate of a couple of inches per year.
Now, I can be sitting by stream in a temperate forest in no time, though.
Another favorite are tracks that help you get into alpha, beta, delta, gamma, etc. states of consciousness. I’ve had success but everyone’s different, so your mileage may vary.
This is only the smallest sampling of what’s available out there, but a good stepping off point for your work. Let creativity guide you, and your journeys will be boundless.
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