old magician, ancient sage, took an ax, took a carving knife, walked in the Northland woods, strode through the ancient forest. Birds chattered, creatures scattered.
Said Vainamoinen, “Now I’ll make something never seen before— a kantele for age-old Louhi, a five-string instrument for Northland.”
He found an alder. He asked, “Is a kantele within you?”
The alder answered, “My wood is rotten, my timber infested. No kantele is within me.”
He found a pine. “Is a kantele within you?”
The pine answered, “My wood is gnarled, my timber knotty. No kantele is within me.”
He found a birch. “Is a kantele within you?”
The birch answered, “My wood is sound, my timber clear. A fine kantele is within me.”
Vainamoinen felled the birch, cut a section from the log. He carved the body of a kantele, whittled the frame of the instrument. Tuning pegs came from an oak branch, strings from his own long beard.
The kantele was ready. He took it to the river’s edge, sat himself on a rock, set the instrument on his lap. His fingers stroked the strings, his thumbs caressed them. The forest grew still, the river quiet. Never was such sweet music heard, such lovely melody given life.
Vainamoinen played and the forest animals gathered. Squirrels rested in the branches above, rabbits and foxes at his feet. The elk stood at his side, the bear and the wolf sat among the rest.
Vainamoinen played and the river fish assembled. Pike and salmon swam in close, carp and perch and whitefish mingled in the reeds.
Vainamoinen played and the birds flocked to listen. The hawk and the eagle perched in the trees, swans and geese floated on the river. Buntings, larks, and chaffinches landed everywhere, settled on his shoulders.
Vainamoinen played and all things wanted to hear. The reeds leaned forward, the trees bent over. The river slowed to catch the tune, the rocks hastened to learn the rhythm. Even the sun turned an ear, straining to hear the rising tones.
The old man wept for joy. The kantele resounded.
In the world of the ancient Celts there were three types of song: those for merriment, those for grieving, and those for dreaming. Little need be said of the first two types of song... surely we have each experienced songs that brought joy and songs that brought tears. But the songs of dreams... those are the threads that lead us down the twisting paths of the Greenwood...
Music has been used to open human consciousness to the harmony of the wider whole since its very inception. Simple songs and primitive instruments such as shakers, drums, flutes, and lyre-like strings have roots in people groups the world over for much of our existence. Far more than entertainment and therapy, music also invites humans into and sustains deep communion with the more-than-human world. These primal forms of music bypass the rational mind, activate the right side of the brain and invite an opening of creative and holistic consciousness. In this state of consciousness, the voice of personal story and ego take the background, as the mind awakens to the interconnected web of life beyond the solely human realm. Shamans, Seers, Bards, and other creative Visionaries have long harnessed the power of music to expand consciousness, connect to specific animals and natural beings, and to access the beauty and wisdom of the wild.
All is vibration, so the Scientists, Mystics, and Lunatics say. If that be true, all is also then... song. Indeed, musicologists have found that the entire audial landscape of an ecosystem vibrates as one harmonic orchestra. In a healthy ecosystem, each being fills a particular audial niche, playing their own distinct part in a harmonic, co-evolved whole. Human music, Anthropologists are finding, arose in mimicry of the wider ecosystem as well, serving to connect humans to and co-create with the harmony of the wider whole.
In many languages around the world, the words for song, spirit, and magic are linked. The old German word, galdr, meaning magical spell derives from the word for singing and birdsong. The same word is used to describe both song and spirit amongst the Klamath Indians of North America, and the English word enchantment derives from chant.
As we go about the world, each singing our unique songs within the wider web... there lies great opportunity and responsibility in the songs we choose to sing... within and without. How will you sing to the world? Will you sing yourself alive?