Singing to Survive, and Singing to Thrive

I'm a passionate person.  I have always cared deeply about people, about my world, and what I do in the world.  So naturally, when I take note of all the problems in my community and the world at large, it's really easy to get spun up, upset, and overwhelmed.  The full force of these feelings hit me hard as a kid, and when they hit, my breathing would get rapid and shallow, and I would begin to cry.  If my mom tried to get me to take deep breaths to calm down, I would fly into a rage.  She quickly figured out that the best way to get me to calm down was to get me to sing a song.  When we sang together, I was able to pull myself together, and we got to have some bonding time.

Music has pervaded my household since before I was born.  Both my parents play instruments, and met in their church choir.  My mom sang with a women's ensemble called the Vanderbelles when she was pregnant with me, and she knew she could always calm herself and me by listening to the opera Carmen.  Early cassette recordings of me showed an uncanny vocal facility; my early cooings as a baby could be downright operatic.  As a kid, I sang at the drop of a hat.  I made up songs about everything.  Growing up the weird kid, it was a pressure release valve for my feelings that kept me from harming myself.  In high school, as a closeted queer kid in a military town, singing in Concert Choir, Madrigal Singers, and Barbershop Chorus and Quartet was a lifeline.  I credit singing with my surviving to adulthood.

There is actually sound science behind this phenomenon, and since I'm every bit as much of a scientist as I am a mystic, it behooves me to share it. Singing can increase our resilience for dealing with the world and with our own life stuff.  When you sing a phrase, your body naturally releases a long, drawn-out exhale.  This turns off the fight or flight response in your nervous system, and turns on the rest and digest response.  The vibration in your vocal cords stimulates the ventral vagus nerve which bolsters your emotion regulation and immunity, increases resilience, and lowers your risk for heart attack.  In short, singing is good for your health.

Magically speaking, singing is an excellent way to focus your intentions and give your invocations an extra oomph.  I employ singing quite often in my Priestessing, as I find it creates a powerful lens to focus my intention and my actions.  You don't have to be a classically trained singer to do it.  You don't even have to carry a tune.  Your focus and intention and heart is what is most important.  Singing with a group has a way of connecting all that focused energy into something that is far greater than the sum of our parts, creating a ripple effect through the group and out into the world.  Singing with a group is also a profound reminder that we are not alone.

In the wake of the domestic terrorist attack in Orlando, and the shooting at the vigil in Oakland last night, we really need our resilience more than ever.  Coming together in song by itself won't change the world, but if we raise our voices in song together and use it to galvanize our intentions for action, we can be a powerful force for change.

So let me ask you this:  What are you grateful for this past moon cycle?  What do you wish to manifest in the coming moon cycle?  During this upcoming Singing Moon, we have a potent opportunity to transform our wishes into focused song, and use that energy for healing and change.

Blessed Be.

Ravensong Phoenixfire, Wildflower Initiate 

May Court Interview with Lady Yeshe Rabbit and Merry May! Song from CAYA Coven

Each May at the Festival of Bliss & Blessings, CAYA bids farewell to our Winter Court and welcomes our new May Court.  This year, as we crowned Rúndaingne Ash, Quetzal and Melissa Ra Karit to our 8th annual May Court, we asked High Priestess Lady Yeshe Rabbit to talk a little about the tradition of the May Court within CAYA and the role that the Court plays in our Coven.

Can you talk a little about the history of the May Court in CAYA, and share any memorable moments or stories?

The idea of a May King and Queen is not unique to CAYA, and different Pagan communities handle this sort of thing in their own ways, but in CAYA I originally envisioned the May and Winter Courts as being emblematic of our community’s well-being...that if we, as a Coven, honored and uplifted these individuals, it would be a blessing for us all. Our first May Court was named in 2008, I believe, with Greywolf and Ladybug presiding, and we have had many courts since then, obviously. One magical thing to note is that in the years we have been doing this, several of our May Queens conceived much-desired children during their tenure.

What roles do the May King and Queen fulfill within CAYA?

They symbolize our collective hopes and efforts toward growth and abundance in health, wealth, and love, and represent the spirit of Spring and possibility. On a more practical level, they prepare and deliver messages from their own personal stores of wisdom at each CAYA Sabbat ritual for the community to contemplate.

This year, we have added a new May Court role, the May Nymph. Can you tell us a little about that role and why it is important at this time?

As our community shifts with the changing tides of society, it has become increasingly important in CAYA that we hold spaces for those who destabilize the gender binary. King and Queen in CAYA have never been tethered to gender, and we have had female Kings, though no male Queens in the Court yet. I suspect that is simply because there are probably 3 women to every man in CAYA! But, regardless, the King and Queen roles are not limited to men and women respectively...anyone of any gender identity can be a May King or Queen. However, the titles of King and Queen are still rooted in a binary construct. Therefore, the new designation of Nymph represents our commitment to specifically creating space to honor those who transcend binary gender identities, who inhabit the magical spaces of being betwixt and between, who are committed to sharing their own beauty with the world, and who have liberated themselves to express their unique gender and sexuality, not confined by traditional or stereotypical roles. Though mythologically the word “nymph” is frequently associated with the feminine, in this context it suggests the transcendent, magical, ethereal, ephemeral quality that those who like to play with gender expression often bring to our circles in terms of beauty, art, adornment, and creativity.

What special qualities, attributes, knowledge, skills, etc., do we look for when choosing a May King, Queen, and Nymph?

Creativity, abundance, celebration of life, ability to rejoice and find/manifest goodness, lightness of heart, willingness to bring forth new ideas, and delight are key to these roles, but sometimes we might even crown someone who struggles with one of these things as a way to help support them in finding that joy or that lightness of heart or whatever it is that seems hard at the time.

Do you have any particular advice or words of wisdom for this year's May Court as they don their crowns?

“Let the beauty you love be what you do.” - Rumi

To celebrate the Festival of Biss & Blessings and the crowning of our May Court, CAYA Choir performs the song "Hail the May King & Queen!*, written by CAYA High Priestess Lady Yeshe Rabbit and members of the 2008 CAYA Beltane Committee for the crowning of our first May Court.


* Note: This song was written before the addition of the May Nymph, perhaps next year CAYA Choir will have another song to sing!