Friday, July 8, 2011

Time, music, and the planets (and the shaman connects all three)

In the previous post, we discussed a theory for the origins of the multiple celestial "skies" or worlds belonging to the seven planets, or the nine planets when the pseudoplanetary nodes of the moon are included (the "draconitic points").

We pointed out that the journey of Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the very ancient Gilgamesh texts appears to represent a journey through each of these successive worlds in their quest for the central tree representing the world-axis. This same celestial pilgrimage also appears to have been encoded in the ascension of the ancient step pyramids or ziggurats, many of which had seven stages as well.

In Hamlet's Mill, authors Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend argue that the ascension of the shaman in many cultures (through either seven or nine worlds) appears to follow the same pattern of ascending through the celestial spheres by means of a mystical tree, saying: "The shaman climbing the 'stairs' or notches of his post or tree, pretending that his soul ascends at the same time to the highest sky, does the very same thing as the Mesopotamian priest did when mounting to the top of his seven-storied pyramid, the ziqqurat, representing the planetary spheres" (123).

Citing the seminal study of Laszlo Vajda, de Santillana and von Dechend explain that shamans around the world appear to manifest very consistent patterns:
To put it in a few words, a shaman is elected by spirits, meaning that he cannot choose his profession. Epileptics and mentally unhinged persons are obvious privileged candidates. Once elected, the future shaman goes to "school." Older shamans teach him his trade, and only after the concluding ceremony of his education is he accepted. This is, so to speak, the visible part of his education. The real shamanistic initiation of the soul happens in the world of spirits -- while his body lies unconscious in his tent for days -- who dismember the candidate in the most thorough and drastic manner and sew him together afterwards with iron wire, or reforge him, so that he becomes a new being capable of feats which go beyond the human. The duties of a shaman are to heal diseases which are caused by hostile spirits who have entered the body of the patient, or which occur because the soul has left the body and cannot find the way back. Often the shaman is responsible for guiding the souls of the deceased to the abode of the dead, as he also escorts the souls of sacrificed animals to the sky. His help is needed, too, when the hunting season is bad; he must find out where the game is. In order to find out all the things which he is expected to know, the shaman has to ascend to the highest sky to get the information from his god -- or go into the underworld. On his way he has to fight hostile spirits, and/or rival shamans, and tremendous duels are fought. Both combatants have with them their helping spirits in animal form, and much shape-shifting takes place. In fact, these fantastic duels form the bulk of shamanistic stories. The last echoes are the so-called "magic-flights" in fairy tales. The shaman's soul ascends to the sky when he is in a state of ecstasy; in order to get into this state, he needs his drum which serves him as a "horse," the drumstick as a "whip." 122.
The authors point out the cover of the drum, which in some ancient cultures had to come from a black bull which represented Taurus in heaven, and observe that "The striking of the drum covered with that specific bull hide was meant as a contact with heaven at its most significant point" (125).

It is also significant that drumming can create a state of ecstasy -- this is not only true for shamans but to some degree for all humans. While they don't make the connection explicitly, de Santillana and von Dechend point out that the motions of the planets (including the motion of earth itself) very much are time, or give us the concept of time. We can perceive this when we think about the way that the twenty-four hours in the day are linked directly to the rotation of the earth, or the way in which the months are related to the orbit of the moon. De Santillana and von Dechend quote the Neoplatonist philosopher Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius who said that "Saturn is the originator of the times" (Saturnus ipse, qui auctor est temporum) (133-134).

Elsewhere, in their discussion of the identification of the five mysterious rivers of the underworld with the planets, they state that "By identifying the rivers with the world-ages, he emphasizes the identity of the rivers with Time" (page 197, this time speaking of Dante, whom they show to have picked up important ancient clues as to the true celestial meanings of these rivers).

The point of connection with the shaman is the fact that shamans around the world are noted for their use of the drum as well as their ascension through the celestial worlds (and the underworlds), and the drum is an instrument that is explicitly connected with time. Drums give time to music, and if you ever wonder how important time is to music, just try listening to one of your favorite songs on a CD that skips: even if the skip is extremely short, barely long enough to be noticeable, it will disrupt the time of the song, and ruin it.

Thus, it is extremely interesting that the shaman makes "contact with heaven" through the striking of the drum, because the motions of the planets are explicitly connected with giving Time to the cosmos, and the shaman touches them or makes contact with them through the use of an instrument that gives time as well. It is not only the hide of the bull associated with Taurus that connects the drum to the celestial spheres, but Time as well.

The connection between time and music, and between both of them and our brains is very mysterious, even though it is quite obvious and well-known to all of us. Why are music and movement connected? Studies have shown that even infants respond to music and rhythm with movement, as if the connection is wired deep in our brains. The connection of rhythmic dance and a state of ecstasy is something we intuitively understand as well.

However, if you think about it dispassionately, there does not seem to be anything inherently connected between hearing the beat of a drum and nodding your head in time, or tapping your foot, let alone with spinning your entire body to the sound. And yet, not only are they clearly connected, but they are connected in some way with the motions of the planets as well, as the experience of the shaman seems to make clear.

This is a deep matter with much room for further exploration.