The Sound of The Shaman – Sounds of The Four Directions

Jeff Oxford

The power of music to integrate and cure. . . is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest non-chemical medication. – Oliver Sacks, Awakenings

Once, heartbroken after leaving a long-term relationship, I took up playing the guitar. Little did I know then that holding and playing an instrument which created a vibration so close to my heart would help me move through my tears of grief and ultimately make my heart sing. Intuitively or unconsciously I knew that vibration heals, and the vibration of a string instrument in particular, was healing my emotional distress. And lucky for me, my instructor insisted if I was going to learn to play and wanted to sing along, better for me to learn both at the same time. I didn’t know then that singing heals on a soul level.

All is Vibration

One of the principles of Hermetic philosophy is “Nothing rests, everything moves and everything vibrates.” Shamans know this. In the teachings of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition Cross-Cultural Shamanism originated by don Oscar Miro-Quesada, each of the five directions of the Pachakuti mesa are associated with animal allies, colors, elements, and types of healing energy for specific dis-ease. There is also a musical instrument/sound correspondence to each of the directions. The use of music or sonics are techniques a shaman may employ to intensify the healing energy delivery to a person.

Sacred Earth Drum –  South

In the South, the direction associated with earth, serpents and crawling creatures, the human body and physical healing, a percussion instrument is used to increase the delivery of healing energy for corporeal ailments. The instrument commonly used is a beating drum much like the sound associated with the human heartbeat. With a drum, sound is created from the vibration of a skin or membrane hit by a striker or drumstick. The drum is included in the classification of membranophones and also covers simple instruments like a comb and wax paper or a kazoo.

Heart Strings –  West

The West direction is associated with water, swimming whales and dolphins, and emotional healing energy. The vibrations which help to heighten healing energy delivery come from an instrument in which strings are plucked, struck or bowed. Remember my healing guitar? West’s music comes from the sounds of guitars, harps, violins, and dulcimer. Classified as chordophones, this category also includes lyre, zither, dulcimer, clavichord, harpsicord and piano. You’ve heard of heart strings, which according to Merriam Webster were once “used to refer to a nerve believed to sustain the heart.” So there was a once-held belief that a string was actually attached to the heart!

Wind Song Spirit –  North

Like being enveloped on a warm day, a hug from a delightfully cool breeze: ah, the North, associated with the powers of air, wind, creatures that soar through the heavens, like condor and eagle, and spiritual healing. The delivery of its healing energy is strengthened by the sound of instruments vibrating the air. Think of wind instruments such as panpipes, trumpets, whistles, and flutes. This aerophone grouping of instruments also includes recorders, bagpipes, and two traditional Peruvian instruments, the zampoña and queña.

Fire Song –  East

Ever gaze into a burning fire and get lost in your thoughts? Associated with the healing energy for mental distress are the element fire, the sun, the dawn of day, birth of life in the East direction. Fire’s music plays on idiophonic instruments, such as cymbals, chimes, bells, gongs, and singing bowls. Technically a rattle is considered here because it lacks a vibrating membrane, although some put it in the percussion category.

Sweet Soul Music –  Heart Center

The place of ether and quintessence, the center of the mesa, corresponds to the sacred energy of soul healing. Its musical instrument is that of the embodied human voice, the vibration of vocal cords contained within the sound box of our bodies. This includes chanting, mantralizing and humming, generated from deep within us.

“The more elevated our vibration, the closer we get to the highest vibration of all–our own divine nature,”

says Donna Quesada, gifted teacher, healer and author, in her Spirit Voyage blog entitled “10 Reasons to Chant: On the Benefits of Mantra Meditation.”

Good Vibrations

To incorporate musical sounds during a healing session, a practitioner is encouraged to use the energy of the appropriate instrument to create healing vibrations during the delivery of the specific healing energy. The addition of sonic vibrations to the session works to elevate the mood of the moment as well as heighten the healing energy delivery. Recalling the words of one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: “ ‘Ah, music,’ he said, wiping his eyes. ‘A magic beyond all we do here!’ ”