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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Sound and Silence

The real in us is silent; the acquired is talkative.” – Kahlil Gibran

In my first post here, “An Introduction to Creating an Element-Based Spirituality”, I pointed out that Native American tribes, in addition to the four elements, also include in a fifth element of Sacred Sound. Shortly after I published that, it occurred to me that this was something I might want to verify.

I had remembered reading (or hearing) it some time ago in what I had believed to be a reliable source but now I can’t even remember where I read it or, by extension, just how reliable it may have been. Nor have I even been able to find any references or information online regarding any such specific belief.

Naturally, I know that sound is indeed sacred and powerful in Native American tribes and culture, as is illustrated by its use for healing (among many other spiritual contexts) via flutes and drums. I know that the Thunderbirds are sacred and dwell in the watery quarter of the West. I know that many vocables and wordless chants were also used for multiple purposes.

However, I’m no longer so sure that there actually was believed to be a fifth element of sound, per se, as far as any Native Americans were concerned. This served as a reminder to me of just how much modern, “New Age” and “Neopagan” information and enthusiasm regarding Native American spirituality, while usually well intentioned, is often simply completely erroneous.

I am loath to spread misinformation or fall victim to misappropriation (these days often unfortunately confused with the relatively less harmful and seemingly inevitable term and action of “appropriation”), so unless anyone can comment and maybe enlighten me as to where I may have heard/read this or if it actually has any basis in truth, I will have to clarify that, while a nice idea, it may not be contextually accurate.

That being said, Sound is still a very powerful and sacred force and my search to correct myself led me to reflect on it and realize that maybe it can still be considered a sort of element. On the same token then, so too is Silence.

Many creation stories have to do with sound, a word or words being used to create realms and life. Or to destroy them. In the Finnish epic poem, Kalevala, the main hero is called a wizard and a minstrel, and his famous singing of legendary songs leads a young rival from the North to challenge him to a fantastic, mountain-crumbling, ocean-heaving duel of magical songs and chants that have power of their own.

Sound is vibration, more technically defined as pressure change, particle displacement, and simply the changing motion of molecules through matter. So, sound has the power to influence or create, but sound itself is the result of something else that already exists and that is moving and vibrating, thus putting out compression waves. Creating sound is a great power. In all our different practices we all know about names, words of power, of sacred songs, chants, mantras, etc.

We also know, at least on some level, that even all of our everyday words have power. Yet this seems to be something easily forgotten, particularly in an age where communication is made faster and easier all the time, yet ironically leads to more communications breakdowns and misunderstandings. “Raise your vibrations” is first accomplished by raising your standards of both behavior and speech, both of which put out and define your vibe.

How often do even the most intuitive, learned and “enlightened” of us still say things we don’t mean, things that hurt others, or that attract energy we’d rather not want? Probably far more than a lot of us realize. Perhaps you’ve known someone who simply loves to hear the sound of their own voice, someone who will carry on and on talking about everything they (think they) know, everything this god told them or that they read in that book or this UPG or that thing that so-and-so claims that is actually bullshit, so on and so forth? Or have you simply had your heart broken or your world turned upside-down by hateful or false words?

Well, ‘tis the season to be silent. Literally. We’re coming into Winter now, a time when life slows down (in theory, natural life anyway), much life even ceases, blankets of snow muffle the Earth and fluid, babbling water freezes up into her solid, silent form.




Water is a very relevant element this time of year. It is the only element – pretty much the only thing – that exists in three different states: solid, liquid and gaseous. What if we would truly “be like water”? What if we allowed ourselves to shift and adapt more naturally, to really mirror the energy of the season, to know when to flow and when to freeze? When to speak and when to be silent? There is such power in sound and speech, and there is just as much power in silence; in knowing when not to speak or make sound.

When was the last time you sat in complete silence for an extended period of time? I realize I might be putting the question to the wrong crowd, albeit rhetorical, assuming that many of you do indeed meditate in silence regularly, or otherwise spend significant time not talking, not typing away texts or emails, not blaring music or a show in the background. However, I think we could always use even more silence.

This is an overstimulating age in which so many people are competing to be heard, in which we often can’t go to any social setting and have conversations without everyone talking over and interrupting each other. There is still a general desire, even expectation, to fill everything up with sound, noise, talk, busy-ness, distractions. Much of this gives many people, or is the result of, an inflated sense of self-importance. Mankind in general has a terribly grandiose sense of self-importance and feels like it just needs to make noise because it can, like an infant shrieking while discovering its own voice.

Winter humbles us. Winter silences us. Winter wants us to go inward, to reflect, to think, to really know ourselves long before we start opening our mouths and letting all kinds of energy and noise spill forth. We need to learn our truths instead of trying to tell others what theirs are or should be, in any way. We need to know how little we know, and understand that even what we do know doesn’t have to be shouted out all the time. We need to enjoy the sound of silence.


After all, as Maurice Switzer put it, "It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool than to talk and remove all doubt of it."


Featured image: The Hermit (detail, enhanced) by Pamela Colman-Smith
"Seasons - Winter" by Erté

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
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Dorrie Joy (Somerset, UK) is a mother, grandmother and lover of the wild earth, an artist and traditional craftswoman creating sacred space for her woman and girls.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Healing from my own heart

Originally I wanted to write about the sacred mirror in Shinto for my next article. However, informational articles take some time as I have to research and make sure that all is accurate, containing the correct history and origins.

But, I felt to do a piece about some recent thoughts, an experience, and a recent dream before then. 

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  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    I want to start by saying I also really appreciate your continued posts here on PaganSquare and am very glad for the extra perspec
  • Olivia
    Olivia says #
    Thank you so much Aryós!! I deeply appreciate your kind words and support always, and I am very humbled.;; Thank you, thank you !
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    You're quite welcome, Olivia! I never thought about that bit about snakes haha. I mostly just identify with them because they hap
  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife says #
    Great post! I struggle with my own limitations and my desire to do more, and be more, than I am at any given point, too. At those
  • Olivia
    Olivia says #
    Thank you very much! Yes, I agree ;; It is so easy to get caught up in expectations of ourselves. Thank you so much for your gentl

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
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   This is the time of year that I look inward, thinking back over the year and what I have done. I meditate on how I could have done things differently, or better, or not at all. I usually find things I am disappointed about, chastising myself for everything I wanted to do but didn't. I find some few items I am pleased about, usually related to my children and their success.

   Coming toward the end of this year, I felt that my reflections were going to be different. My life and career saw so many amazing changes: I received a promotion from a job I enjoyed to a job I loved so much I genuinely looked forward to going to work every day. I went back to college, intent on pursuing a degree that would bolster my career. Beyond this, my family was happy and healthy, our finances good even in the wake of three children's fall birthdays and the looming holidays. For the first time ever, I could confidently say things were good.

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  • Solitarieone
    Solitarieone says #
    Thinking about you and your family during this Solstice season, Nicole. Remember: This, too, shall pass. That reminder has gotte

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Winter Reflections

The dark of the year.  We light it up with holiday decorations and strings of lights.  How do we light up our dark corners and determine our next steps?  If you’re in the northern hemisphere, you may be dealing with cold, snow, and inclement weather.  Mother Nature pushes indoors, pushes us to slow down, to cuddle within the protection of our shelter. 

Despite all the grumbling, winter is beautiful.  Yes, it’s cold and difficult to get through the snowy weather but if you stop and take a moment to look ever the untouched snow in the fields or the trees covered with snow (well okay and where I am right now there is none of this) there is beauty and lessons in the season.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Eyes Have It

What do you see when you look into your own eyes?  Do you take the time to stare into a mirror at your own eyes, your own face?  If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, what do your eyes say about you?

My life is busy without a doubt.  I rush off in the morning to work.  Rush through my day helping faculty, students, staff, student workers, and the public.  I'm at the center of a maelstrom of activity.  I come home to cram in an hour or so of quality time with my husband.  After he goes to bed, I might manage to take a breath and think about ME or the state of my soul.  

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
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Samhain or Halloween, the year is waning. The sun is out less and less (in the northern hemisphere).  The weather is more unpredictable (depending on where you are).  The dark of the year is coming. 

What does this mean?  What are we meant to do with the dark of the year?  It’s a time to harvest all the things you’ve been doing for the spring and summer.  It’s a time of year when you start to pull your energy into yourself to reflect on how you’ve been doing, where you are with your goals, and life in general.

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