(Note: Sample material is taken from uncorrected
proofs. Changes may be made prior to publication.)
is a type of sung speech that is used to quiet the mind and body
or to aid in memorization. The book-focused religions of Christianity,
Judaism, and Islam include chanting as part of worship, but the
practice is more heavily used in animistic and Eastern religions,
is the repetitive use of names, words, and syllables, including
nonsensical ones. However, employing the name of a god or gods
is almost universally considered to make the strongest chants.
Chanting is typically done in accompaniment to drumming, hand
clapping, rattling, and other musical noises that are believed
to enhance emotional excitation. When chanting is used in meditation,
it is frequently accompanied by the use of rosary beads. Material
learned by chanting is cognitively processed as songs are and
recalled in the same easy manner. For this reason, chanting is
preferred by many religions as the best method for rote memorization.
Chanting may have been one of the first types of religious communication.
Prehistoric peoples relied upon shamans to mediate between the
visible and spirit worlds. Shamans, who could be male or female,
chanted to enter a mystical state. The first record of chanting
for religious purposes comes from ancient Greece, where women
shamans howled chants in an effort to use strong vibrations to
increase their magical powers. Neopagans and Wiccans continue
this ancient tradition by chanting names of deities. The objective
of these chants is to achieve an altered state of consciousness
and create psychic energy. Like the ancient pagans, modern-day
pagans occasionally use chants for magical purposes.
Contemporary religions that rely upon shamans, such as Native
American belief systems, use chanting for the same purposes as
the ancients. Chants are an integral part of such activities and
ceremonies as healing, hunting, battles, controlling weather,
rites of initiation, and funerals. The Navajos put great emphasis
on curative chants, which are interwoven with myths telling how
supernatural beings first performed the chants. The chanters must
chant the prescribed texts correctly, in the original manner,
or else they will be stricken with the disease that the chant
was to nullify. Navajo chants can continue for many days. If a
chanter of great esteem makes no mistakes but fails to cure the
diseased person or persons, then witchcraft is usually blamed.
Buddhism, reflecting its ancient roots, has incorporated chanting
into everyday religious practice more so than modern religions.
Worshippers may sit on the floor barefoot while facing an image
of Buddha and chanting. They will listen to monks chanting from
religious texts, perhaps accompanied by instruments, and take
part in prayers. Buddhists typically repeat the word Om,
which represents the Buddha. To Buddhists, chanting is the expression
of the harmony of the community within the community. The sound
is more important than any intellectual meaning because sound
unites voices from many mouths, thereby joining the community
in one voice. Chanting is as much speech as it is an encouragement
to listen closely to other Buddhists.
of Islam also use chanting, typically as a method of learning
the Koran or as a way to become infused with religious spirit.
Followers of Islam chant the ninety-nine names of Allah, called
"the Beautiful Names." Sufis or Rifa'im, a fraternity
of Muslim mystics from Egypt, Syria, and Turkey who are commonly
known as Howling or Whirling Dervishes in the West, chant as a
main technique for approaching melboos, a mystical state
of ecstasy. Using rhythmical timing, they chant "Al-lab"
until each of the participants begins to chant the name of Allah.
This ritual prayer, known as dhikr, is followed with a
frantic dance, during which the Sufis howl in a unison rhythm
while using hot implements to engage in self-mortification.
employ the practice of chanting. According to the Vedic scriptures,
the chanting of the name of the Lord is the one way to increase
spiritual progress in the Kali Yuga age of quarrel and hypocrisy
that began five thousand years ago and that is supposed to continue
for thousands of years into the future. Evangelical Hindus, commonly
known as Hare Krishnas, believe that chanting will awaken the
soul. To supplant the material consciousness with an awareness
of God, they believe that a person needs only to prayerfully and
frequently chant the name of Krishna. Devotees perform sixteen
rounds of sankirtana (the chanting of "Hare Krishna")
on a 108-bead rosary that is given to each member upon initiation.
in the West
The most familiar Christian chant is the Gregorian chant. The
traditional music of the Catholic Church, it has its roots in
the medieval Frankish kingdom of Charlemagne. This plainsong repertory
is known as "Old Roman," and it is believed to be related
to the Roman tradition from which cantors in the Frankish kingdom
learned the Roman chant. This "Old Roman" version continued
to be used in Rome for some centuries before being replaced by
the "Frankish-Roman" or "Gregorian" version.
The Frankish chant is thought to have received the name "Gregorian"
after Pope Gregory, in order to give it greater authority and
to ease its reception in the Frankish Kingdom. In Gregorian chants,
the individual note and the individual word are of little importance.
Only the whole sentence with its cadence makes a musical unit.
have also developed plainsong chants. Like the Protestant Church,
Protestant chant has its roots in Rome. Over the long period of
its development from the fifteenth century, Anglican chant changed
from the Latin rite into its present form. The evangelical wing
of the Church of England supported congregational chanting as
part of a program to encourage a greater congregational role in
a liturgy made more accessible, both technically and musically,
to the ordinary layperson. Many of the Episcopal chants are now
sung by trained choirs, who harmonize several texts of the liturgy
in four vocal parts with or without organ accompaniment.
is universally revered as a method of religious communication.
It encourages devotion by bringing people closer to one another
and to their god or gods of choice.
Gade, A. M. (2004). Perfection makes practice: Learning, emotion,
and the recited Qur'an in Indonesia<. Honolulu: University
of Hawai'i Press.
Association. Retrieved December 22, 2004, from http://www.beaufort.demon.co.uk/chant.htm#Latin
(2003). Gregorian chant intonations and the role of rhetoric.
Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press.
F. (1961). Nambudir Veda recitation. The Hague, Netherlands:
Mouton de Gruyter.
C. (1984). Beyond "formal" and "informal"
education: Uses of psychoanalytic theory in anthropological research.
Ethos, 2(3), 195-222.
M. (1996). Anglican chant and chanting in England, Scotland,
and America 1660 to 1820. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
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