The voice is at once music, meditation and medicine.1
What is Medicine Singing?
The word medicine in Medicine Singing has two connotations. First, it is connected with healing, as we would generally use the term – something that brings us towards wellness or wholeness. Secondly, in the Native American tradition, plants and animals are said to carry medicine: this is their own unique vibration or energy signature. For example, the medicine of hummingbird is endurance and that of wolf is inner guidance. During my training as a Medicine Singer with Sarah Patterson, I came gradually to understand that each of us has a personal medicine that we can offer the world through our voice and song.
Our healing journey involves uncovering the original instinct to sing and recalling the song of the soul.2
This path has been deeply healing for me personally, as well as challenging. Like the majority of us, and women especially, I have been aggressively silenced, both figuratively and literally; as a result, I became alienated from my own voice. The instinct to be quiet, to hold my personal expression in, to take up as little space as possible, is something I have had to overcome for the voice of my soul to come forth. It is an ongoing journey.
My medicine singing training had nothing to do with classical voice technique. The more natural the voice is, the better. However, what I have learned is that the way we habitually use our voices may not be natural. I had to re-learn how to use my voice, putting it back into my body where it belongs. I had to learn that singing isn’t just about making a pretty sound, or satisfying a judgemental ear, but a means of giving form to the deepest parts of the soul. As such, everyone has the potential to be a Medicine Singer because everyone’s voice has the potential to express one’s own soul.
The other side of Medicine Singing is the songs themselves. Although all songs have their own language, some have words with recognisable linguistic meaning, but most do not.
Healing chants, ancient mantras and spirit songs previously gifted to others can be sung as Medicine Songs. Many Medicine Songs arrive at the moment that they are sung; some of these stay around, but quite often, they disappear again, back to where they came from. Even when I sit down to find a song for a specific purpose, the real Medicine Songs have a sense of autonomy about them and that’s how I know I’ve found one.
All I have to do at that point, is let the songs sing through me however they wish. For I know that they are taking us on a journey that spirals ever on, transforming us utterly, yet brings us back home more truly ourselves than before.
¹ Nakkach, Silvia and Carpenter, Valerie: Free Your Voice: Awaken to Life Through Singing, 2012
² Newham, Paul The Healing Voice: How to Use the Power of Your Voice to Bring Harmony into your Life, 1999