Do you ever contemplate how the land, animals and water miss our voices?
The Earth holds memories of a time when humans traded their songs, poetry, and dance under the stars, among the towering trees, and alongside the banks of long, winding rivers. Our ancestors voiced their prayers to the land in hopes for an abundant harvest at the end of the season. After a hunt, a prayer of gratitude was offered to the deer as he took his final breath.
Offerings of song and story were given to the rising of the sun, to the tall guardians of the mountains, and to the varying landscapes our ancestors called home.
And the Earth sings back, in the euphony of the morning birdsong, in the rhythmic rain on treetops, and in the howl of the wolves under the moon’s glow. The Earth speaks in four-legged and winged messengers that crossed one’s path, in waking life and in dreams.
Our ancestors understood this was a reciprocal relationship and that all of life was connected and in constant communication. They were curious about the world and were open to receiving messages from the elder beings that called the Earth home alongside them.
This participatory, mutual relationship of singing can be described as the art of enchantment.
The earliest roots of the word enchantment can be traced back to the 12th century Latin word incantare, a combination of in and cantare: “to sing” (etymoline.com). Through this lens, we can view enchantment as the practice, the art form of life singing unto life.
In The Enchanted Life, Sharon Blackie describes the art of enchantment as has having four major components:
“1. It is founded upon a sense of fully participating in a living world – a feeling of belonging rather than separation.
2. It incorporates feelings of wonder, and curiosity. To be enchanted is to be comfortable with the fact that not everything can be explained; to tolerate, even welcome, the presence of mystery.
3. Enchantment is not all in the head, it is very much a function of our lived, embodied experience in the world.
4. Enchantment is an emanation of the mythic imagination, and is founded on an acknowledgement of myth and story as living principles in the world.”
We can begin or deepen our enchantment with the world by using our voices to connect our plant, animal, land, and water relatives. Here are few suggestions:
- “Start close in” as poet David Whyte says. You can start by thanking the water in your home and the food you’re about to eat. These are organic beings that existed in the natural world, and they likely had a complicated journey to your home. Consider this journey, remembering all those involved in bringing these gifts to you. Thank the water and food for nourishing you.
- Greet non-human kin when you feel called. This can help you establish a deeper relationship with these beings with a sense of acknowledgement. This practice says, “I see you. You see me.” And much in the same way of human-to-human relationships, this can open the door for further communication.
- If you are in nature and find yourself inspired to sing a song or tell a story, I encourage you to try as you feel comfortable. Your words can be spontaneous or can be a favorite piece you’ve memorized.
- Practice active listening which is the other side of the mutual relationship of enchantment. Next time you find in yourself in nature, listen. Really listen – try to hear the different birdsongs, the rustling of the leaves, and the subtle creaks and groans of branches swaying in the wind. Feel yourself become an integral member of the natural symphony that exists all around you.
Remember, you are a part of nature, and nature is a part of you. There is no separation.
Further reading and resources:
- The Enchanted Life by Sharon Blackie, PhD
- The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram, PhD
- “Word Magic” a discussion by David Abram and Sharon Blackie on this topic of enchantment, singing, and the power of words
- “Declaration of Enchantment” by Craig Chalquist, PhD
“We Americans are reluctant to learn a foreign language of our own species, let alone another species. But imagine the possibilities. Imagine the access we would have to different perspectives, the things we might see through other eyes, the wisdom that surrounds us. We don’t have to figure out everything by ourselves: there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us. Imagine how much less lonely the world would be.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, PhD
Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
Featured photo: KAL VISUALS, Unsplash