Generically mantra refers to sacred words or syllables used repeatedly in religious and ceremonial rituals. The term “mantra” is derived from Sanskrit man, “mind,” and tra, “to deliver.”
Generally the mantra is considered a holy or divine name, word, or syllable by the one that says or thinks it. The mantra is believed to help one to achieve his goal which may be a mission, or an objective, or the attainment of something desired. For example, in Hinduism the mantra, which holds the essence of a guru’s teaching, helps the initiate along his spiritual path.
Likewise, in Buddhism mantra may be a syllable or syllables which represent the cosmic forces, aspects of Buddhas, or the name of Buddha. The mantra is repeated during meditation, and in Vajrayana Buddhism this is accompanied by visualizations and body postures.
Mantras, frequently common in Hinduism and Buddhism, also are found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. the name of God was always considered powerful mantras. (See: Law of Names) In Catholicism there are the prayers such as the Our Father (Pater noster) and Hail Mary, (Ave Maria) especially when prayed as the Rosary, which might be considered mantras in essence. Even Protestantism embodies the “Our Father.”
The Old Testament renders a mantric characteristic to the personal name of God, Yahweh which is known as the Tetragrammation. It was so awesome that in ancient times it was just pronounced by the high priests only on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement which is the most sacred Jewish religious holiday. Often “Adonai” and “Elohim” were substituted for Yahweh.
Mantras are thought to be charged with vibration power. Chanting or meditating silently on mantras helps one to attain an altered state of consciousness. In such a state it is believed possible to perceive the true nature of the mind; “the unity of mind with Mind.”
“Lama Anagarika Govinda defined a mantra as a ‘tool for thinking,’ a ‘thing which creates a mental picture.'” (Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, 1969) Govinda continued. “The mantra…is knowledge, the truth beyond right and wrong, real being beyond thinking and reflecting. What the mantra expresses in sound exists and comes to pass.”
Mantras can be used in three ways: verbal, semiverbal, and silent. Verbal repetition of mantras so anyone can hear them is the lowest form of their usage while silent repetition is the highest. While others, such as the Krishna sect, feel that verbal chanting is more powerful. The semiverbal form is when the vocal chords vibrate but no sound is uttered.
Some stress methods in the use of mantras. The correct pronunciation and intonement of mantras is extremely important. This creates strong vibrations that effect every vibration of every universal thing including the deities and lower spirits.
Also, the mantra is thought to be a manifestation of shabda, or sacred sound that can be controlled either to create or destroy. Such a concept also is discovered in the ancient Grecian theory of music, “in which the keynote of a particular organism, body, or substance can be used to cause it to disintegrate.”
Yogis and fakirs use mantric power to perform psychokinetic feats such as controlling the weather, teleportation, apports, and levitation. It is said the Tibetan yogi Milarepa used mantras to create a hail storm to destroy family enemies. For using a sacred power for an evil purpose Milarepa served several years of penance.
Presently many mantras are repeatedly chanted. The chanting is usually done in association of dancing to drum or other instrumental music to achieve an altered state of consciousness and/or a rising of power. Such ceremonial rituals are performed in Neo-pagan witchcraft. For incident, many witches and Neo- pagans use chants to raise power to enhance the performance of their magic spells. Words of these chants may be names of the Goddess or Horned God. Also chants may consist of rhymes, alliterative phrases, or charms which are created or taken from other sources such as books or poetry.
The following is the refrain from The Witches’ Rune‘ written by Doreen Valiente, which is thought to be a common power-raising chant:
Eko, Eko Azarak
Eko, Eko Zomelak
Eko, Eko Cermunnos
Eko, Eko Ardia
Chants, or mantras, of shamans, which are power songs, have been passed down through the generations. Their rhythms and melodies empower the shaman to reach an altered state of conscious and summon his power animal or guardian spirit. A.G.H.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, New York: Facts On File, 1989, pP. 55-56
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, New York: HarperCollins, 19911, pp. 341-343