Chanting is common in many religions from Buddhism, to saying the Rosary in Catholism, to the Native American rituals, and of course in many pagan practices. Words are spoken or sung to rhythm, sometimes alone, in groups, or joined with drums, rattles, bells, or other instruments.
Its simple to do, by learning the words and using the proper inflection. Most chants are simple and easy to remember, often learned in circles by others at the spur of the moment.
But why chant? There are a few reasons why people use chant;
To help focus the mind. Speaking the words in rhythm (or singing) helps still the mind of the mischief and mundane thoughts that tend to pop into our rituals. Using words and rhythm help still the ‘monkey mind’, and allows you to focus on the goal at hand. To many pagans, the ‘ground and center’ technique is used to help focus the mind.
To help us learn. Certainly the chants are often simple and direct, but they provide the best lessons, while also enabling the chanter to contemplate while chanting the meaning of each word. I hope those who chant take the time to understand the words, meaning, and sounds. Even the Goddess chant (Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna) covers many faces of the goddess, which you should learn each one to better understand Her.
Element chants also provide an easy way to learn the symbolism.
“Air moves us, Fire transforms us, Water shapes us, Earth heals us-
and the balance of the wheel goes round and round, and the balance of the wheel goes round”
To invoke spirit and deities. Chants are sometimes perceived as a form of prayer, so chanting the Goddess’ names, or calling to the spirits, invoked them to your circle.
To build power. While chanting in circle, you can use chant to build up to a crescendo and release the energy to where ever you need. Amplifying and strengthening your voice as you build up the cone of power offers a powerful experience.
To invoke magic(k). You can find a number of chants that work well in spellwork, or make your own. Adding words of power also help give the spell an extra magical kick.
The best chants are ones you make yourself, but you can a number of them also on the web;
A huge chant list– words only
Blessed Be page of music– includes words and mp3 files where you can listen to chants/songs.
Witches’ Cauldron chant page– includes words and a link to download sound files.
Pagan Chant of the Month– lots of text and mp3 files.
As a side note, I find some of the pagan chants worked great for singing to my son when he was a baby. When I was exhausted, the chants were easy to sing without even thinking, and my son enjoyed them. You can also pat the baby gently in rhythm to the chant.