Pagan Studies

Learn how Classical Music harbors subliminal and not-so subliminal Pagan messages.

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Pagan Singer's Dilemma

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

So, I'm pagan, I'm a classical singer, and on this blog I've detailed a couple of ways that those things work together.

Problem is, how does a classical singer get their start? By singing in churches.  Yea. Today I went to a church, willingly, to sing music there and try to get my start. 

I listened to the sermons and readings and looked at the sculptures on the altar, and I thought to myself, "Wow. I've learned so much about abrahamic religions since the last time I've been in church, I could tell you where these customs come from, and even what parts of this ritual are roman.." et cetera et cetera.  The layout of the church reminds me of the reconstructed Parthenon in Nashville, complete with gold-leafed sculpture of the Goddess.  The altar facing the sculpture would have been outside in Rome, rather than inside, and the people would gather for public rites on the steps rather than inside.  

And when it came time for the group recitations and responses, I found myself speaking along, just as I had been taught to do in catholic grade school. I was scared. Was I continuing a brainwashment?  Could I lay it down to respecting someone else's path by observing the right behaviors?  This is the religion that not only pagans but many people in general rail against.  I changed my maiden name to my husband's name because it reflected that religion too much. 

And I said to myself, "Can I do this?  Why do I not try to sing for Pagan services instead?" I could do that.  After being in a Pagan Choir for three years, I certainly know enough songs.  I've even written a few of my own.  Should I decide to sing for other groups, I know that I may miss out on my group's activities.  I won't be paid, though.  I don't know how to even start with that part of things.  

Whereas, if I sing for a church, I'll get a weekly exercise in a space designed for singing, and can take the weekends off that I need to in order to go with my group.   I can recruit other singing gigs from this vantage point. Weddings, Funerals, parties, other choirs and paying opportunities will open up for me.

Then, at the end of the service,  my contact at that church, the accompanist, offered to let me sing the 'offertory'.  Score! I won't have to take communion, I can just stand up there and sing and no one will take notice that i didn't join them!  Even better, I'll be singing a song in French, "Les Berceaux", which is a really cynical turn of the century  Faure piece.   This begs the question: Is it ethical to sing cynical songs in church if you really do feel cynical about the whole operation?


There is one thing that comforts me: that since I began singing in a professional capacity again, the Athena chant that I wrote always comes to mind before I enter a church.   And if I can have a moment of purely pagan inspiration to keep me going through the day, it's worth it. 

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Amarfa has been studying the occult, wicca, and paganism for 17 years and counting.  She has been a musician since age 5, studying first guitar, then accordion for 10 years, placing 2nd in her division in the 1995 ATARI/ATAM New England Regional Competition,  and has been studying voice for 9. She has directed small early music ensembles, performed publicly, and starred in local theatre works, particularly the World Premiere of Nightsong, a musical theatre piece with direction and book by Jon Brennan and music by Kari Tieger and Kevin Campbell, as well as composing a musical of her own and writing music in her spare time.


  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer Sunday, 17 February 2013

    I've been working a bit with that issue as well, although in a more secular context. After much thought, I chose to devote my choral work this year to a particular (non-Abrahamic) deity. I sing in an oratorio choir, so, while we're not affiliated with any religious organization, we do sing quite a lot of music written for the Christian church. How does my religious dedication jibe with singing "Credo in unum deum"?

    Everyone will have a different answer. For some, it would probably be not to sing that genre of music at all. I decided that it is the intent that counts. I sing this music with the fervor it requires, and with faith, but not necessarily to the target that the original composer had in mind. Maybe that's trying too hard to have it both ways. Thoughts?

  • Amarfa
    Amarfa Friday, 12 April 2013

    I do much the same, though it's hard for me. I too sing a lot of oratorio, and it's extremely difficult to sing well without putting energy into it. My researches into the composers help greatly with this: Beethoven was an agnostic, and referred to multiple gods in a supportive letter to a little girl, (I have since not been able to find it!!!!) and I am getting closer to thinking of Brahms as a fellow Pagan/Occultist as well. I think that many original composers may have had a target more in our favor than we've been taught to think. We grow up on the idea that Mozart and Beethoven and Bach were dusty old fogies. This is so not true! Henry Purcell wrote an Elizabethan fart song for crying out loud! I just wish that our art could be more flexible in its expression and find some adventure, instead of sticking to the same worn out path.

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