PaganSquare


PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Silence

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 harmless 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

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Let It Mean Something

Visiting my mom in the old folk’s home is a lot like going on retreat. On retreat, the days can be long, as I sit, eat, and walk in a silence punctuated with my own restless thoughts. On my visits to my mom, we too sit, eat, and walk in a silence punctuated by her restless, repetitive questions (“Why did you come? Are you my guest? Why am I here?”) and my repetitive answers. Just as on retreat, there are moments of peace, stretches of boredom and periods of head-nodding semi-sleep, both of us upright in our chairs. For the days I’m there, nothing new is happening. Nothing much is being accomplished. It’s the same thing, over and over.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you for this beautiful reminder, Archer. I used to wonder what was wrong with me, that I always seemed drawn to form relati
  • Tyger
    Tyger says #
    Thank you for bringing this to us.
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Archer, this story breaks my heart -- in the best possible way. Thank you for sharing it with us. Peace to you, your mother, and a
  • Archer
    Archer says #
    Thank you for these words Anne.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mudra of Mystery

It's the hand-sign that, in the language of the Mysteries, means: Mystery.

The ritual has just reached its high point. The Mystery has been revealed.

How do you communicate: What you have just seen is a mystery, not for revelation elsewhere?

You can't simply say, Don't talk about this.

Then you'd be talking about what shouldn't be talked about.

No. Instead, you give the gesture. You say it with signs.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
To Keep Silent - Listening and Remembering

It's mid-day. The air is crisp and cool. The fog is clinging to the tops of the redwood trees, wetting the forest floor with something not quite rain yet more than mist. Sunlight makes it's way, through leaves and branches to the duff below and highlights patches on the ground. I can see spectacular rays of sunlight, filtered and spreading out like fingers, illuminating stumps and bright green lawns of moss.

I'm standing still. The air and I are both still. There's no birdsong, just now, not even the distant croaks of the sentinel ravens, roosting high above me. It's as quiet as a forest can be. Practically silent, in fact. I take in one long breath and let it out with an even longer "ahh!". It is the only sound I'll utter for the next few hours as I wander about this oh so familiar spot in the woods.

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

I live in a landscape of liminal spaces. This past Samhain I have been hovering, neither truly in this world nor out of it. Partly this has to do with pondering mortality and how we may live out our last days.  I am not dying (well, not that I know of at any rate), but there are others close who have been taken to that edge physically, mentally and spiritually.  2015 was a challenging and exhausting year, with many highs and some gutting lows for me and those close to me.  I have had to pause, hibernate and dip into the no-words place before I could break surface.

Winter has a stillness that I truly value. I am grateful for the ice that hems us in. I am grateful for the wood that snaps in our log burner and the candle that glows with my many special intentions. I sit and knit little squares that will eventually become a blanket for a refugee or migrant and I am grateful for the meditative space between the click of the needle and the flick of the loop.

...
Last modified on

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Momentary Silence

By candlelight we sat together on the king-sized bed as a family engaged in something we rarely do in our home or our nation.  With the power out and our bellies full of grocery store deli food, my partner, children, and a few of our cats, sat or wriggled about as I read a short story about a clever feline who saved a town. My partner, daughter, and I each selected a book we thought appropriate and let the toddler decided which of the three to read from.

Town Cats by Lloyd Alexander, Dada's selection. My daughter groaned because she wanted Percy Jackson.

I read the first story, candles flickering, and little fingers playing with the corners of the pages. I held the hand light over the book, and smiled when my daughter laughed at the funny parts.  I waited patiently each time my son interrupted with his Rarity plushie or demands the cat move out of his way.

Once the story ended and the call to give the little one milk came from his little lips, we ran back to our bed and snuggled until he fell to sleep. When I stood up to head back to my partner's room to talk, I paused in the hall and felt how clean and pure the sensation to be in the house in near dark with no electric noises on. The hum of the refrigerator. The almost imperceptible buzz of the computers and monitors, my partner's clock radio droning on about news or playing jazz, the J-Pop coming through my daughter's earbuds another room away.

Their absence left me feeling calm, whole, at peace.

We live in the woods and outages happen often, but usually in winter, when we can't appreciate the stillness because we're working hard to stay warm and the additional layers are uncomfortable.

But the outages in warm months are rare and beautiful.  I seem to be the only one in the house who takes pleasure in them. I don't mind being temporarily deprived of the stove or the computer, because when we don't have these constant distractions and electronic noises that only I notice, we're a kinder family, and we do more to connect.

It's not a new sentiment: to feel joy when relieved of our technological burdens. To escape into nature. But it was Saturday night, as I lay in bed, and a cool breeze brought in the honeysuckle and muddled plum fragrance of summer's farewell.

...
Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Raven J. Demers
    Raven J. Demers says #
    Molly, I find myself torn between such disappointment of losing the Ilene and joy at reconnecting with the mundane world. After al
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    "Some would say this world has lost its magic, but it's here, all around us. Most cannot sense it because our senses are overwhel
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you - what a lovely picture you paint of that quiet and sweet time.
Meditation - The Gift of Transformation

Meditation is a huge part of my spiritual life.  It is something that I try to do every single day, in various shapes and forms.  I find that sitting meditation, or zazen is the best way for my self to refocus on what’s important, to stop the chattering ego and really get deep down to the issues at hand. So much clarity is gained from simply stopping, from allowing the silence to fill your soul. In that deep pool of quiet, in that dark heart of Cerridwen’s cauldron, lies transformation.

You have to be willing to do it, though. It’s difficult, as many of us don’t really like spending time alone, much less sitting still and “wasting time”. However, I would posit that this could very well be the best use of your time, realigning you to the present moment, grounding yourself in the reality of the here and now.  We can get so carried away on our emotions, on our problems with the world, on our own sense of self that we become blinkered to the rest of existence. Life is constantly happening, all around us, and we hardly notice it.  Sitting meditation is a great way to pay attention to it, to our selves, our bodies and our minds, to see how they work, to get in touch with them once again, thereby allowing us to get in touch with the rest of the world on a much clearer, positive level.

Like a deep pool, the waters may become disturbed, but if we stop the mud will eventually settle to the bottom, the clear water rising to the top to perfectly reflect the sky above.  We can become as this pool, reflecting with clarity the present moment in all that we do, in all that we say and in all that we think.  It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it.

Last modified on

Additional information