Susan Hale
from: Susan Hale
Category: Music & Archetypes

Sacred Sounds of Malta's Oracle Chamber


        Life. Death. Earth. Womb. Gateway. Return. Regeneration.These images are the matrix of our earliest memories in prehistory and resonatein the forms of the earliest temples. "On the islands of Maltaand Gozo in the Mediterranean the oldestfree-standing temples on earth exist. There are at least thirty megalithic temples, all that remain of theMaltese culture. They had huge double-walls with earth packed in the spacesbetween the inner and outer walls. The temple stones "...as the bones ofthe earth, the pelvic walls of caverns...give off a profound vibration ofresonance -- both subhuman and supernatural."1   At the Hagr Qim temple in Malta a modernday pilgrim had the urge to lie down on a rock slab. She describes,"...the peace of being within the Mother -- my mother, all mothers, andthe Earth Mother...I am experiencing a brief return to the womb, intimate andperfect."2


            Built between 3,500 - 3,800 B.C., 6,000 years ago, thetemples occur in pairs, one smaller than the other, forming a mother-daughterpair, that could also symbolize death and rebirth, winter and spring.


            One of these temples, the Hypogeum in the Hal Saflienidistrict of Paola is a three story underground tomb, one complete carving, withthe bones of 7,000 people resting in the egg-like chambers hewn out of solidlimestone with tools made of flint and antler. Researchers believe that thelarval-like chambers were carved for their resonant properties.                             


            Sjoo and Mor believe that "...acousticconjuring"3 was practiced here. "The priestess' disembodied voice, from her little chamber hiddenin the thick walls, reverberated through the vaults via clay pipes and moldings-- seeming the voice of the earth itself."4 It was believed that theHypogeum was not only a place for the dead, but a place where pilgrims wouldcome for healing, counsel and knowledge. People came to sleep in the temple toreceive dreams and healing. The famous Sleeping Woman of Malta was found here,her ample shape echoed in the shape of this and other Maltese Temples.


Altered States and Oracles


            Sound, song and music have been used throughout time tofacilitate altered states of awareness. There is an overlap in the auditory andvisual centers in the brain and is part of the phenomenon known as synesthesia.When we hear music we often see visions. This is a form of magic. The originalmeaning of the Latin word cantare means both to sing and to work magic. InLatin and many other languages as well "...the words for 'poet,' 'singer,'and 'magician' go back to the same linguistic root."4


            A predominate sound on the island of Maltais the buzzing of bees. There were Bee Priestesses. Did they imitate the droneof bees in the temples to create zzzzzzzz's in the dreamers, creating trancestates through sound? Nor Hall in her book The Moon and the Virgin says that," ...bee attendance portends the gift of honeyed speech, a golden tongue,a promise of nourishing words. "6 


Jennifer'sPilgrimage


            Jennifer Berezan, a singer from California, sang inside the Hypogeum in theOracle Chamber. She led a pilgrimage to Malta and was allowed to bring thewomen in to sing. Jennifer carried the experience of the Hypogeum within her.She knew she had to return and record her experience to share with others. Shebelieves the Hypogeum is a finely tuned acoustic instrument.


             Jennifer came backto Maltawith a chant and received permission to record Returning. Her CD begins with adrone. The chamber echoes and lengthens the tone, creating a space perfect fordreaming. She was left alone for three days with two other singers and herrecording engineer. For three days she sang "...incredible tones that werecreated from the way the structure was built."7  She sat in song and silence, listening to theemptiness within the Chamber, tracing red ocher spirals on the ceiling, leavesfrom the Tree of Life, with her voice. She stood or leaned into the cavernscarved into the walls and sang. She discovered that "...when the humanvoice is intoned through a special aperture, the Hypogeum resonates like asensitive instrument."8  I haveexperienced something like this myself, singing into rock crevices andhearing/feeling the stones pulse.


Shesang for three days and blended her voice with the other


singers where dreamers dreamed6,000 years ago. "What struck me is that the silence around the sound isthe place...I feel the place in the silence that exists around the sound...youcan hear the sound, but  you can actuallyfeel and experience the place around it...space and deep silence has a qualityall it's own."9


            On her first visit to the Hypogeum she discovered thenote 'A' had the most resonance. The frequency of this note is 110 Hz, the sameas that found by Princeton University to be the most dominant in the burialmounds of mainland Britainand Ireland.She wrote a chant in the key of A, "Returning, returning to the Mother ofus all." She whispered the names of the goddesses, over and over, hundredsof names evoked in a chamber under the earth, the whispered names of the Goddess...Isis...Anat..Akewa...Anu...Hathor...Demeter...Danu...sung over a bed of


drones and harmonies. As shelistened to the recording she heard water dropping from the ceiling to thestone floor. At first she was concerned, afraid this would interfere with therecording, but then began to hear the magic within the water's music. "Inthe water drops you can hear the space...the water comes out of thesilence...the music of the stones comes through."10


            Jennifer said that singing in the Oracle Chamber was likestepping back 6,000 years ago cellularly. She felt a physical vibrational linkto the past. She felt her heart open. Perhaps this is why we are drawn to theseplaces. Through listening to Jennifer's recording we too may enter the OracleChamber to unearth a message.


            Jennifer told me she is not usually a person prone tovisions and tends to distrust them when they come. When singing at the HypogeumJennifer said she saw Priestesses with bowls, offering whatever was needed, adifferent bowl offered to the needs of each person. Listening now to"Returning" I can feel the bowl offered to me, a bowl offered throughthe sound, through the Oracle Chamber, helping me find words to speak of whatis essentially unspeakable, unknowable, the song within stones, within thebones of the earth.


Footnotes to Chapter


1. Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor,The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, Harper SanFrancisco, New York, 1987, p. 110.


2 Ibid, p. 98 - 99.


3. Ibid, p. 113.


4. Jo Carson, "Dancingwith Gaia and Seeking an Oracle," in a book edited by Leila Castle,Earthwalking Sky Dancers, Frog Ltd., Berkeley, California, 1996, p. 59.


5. Joachim-Ernst Berendt, NadaBrahma-The World is Sound: Music and the Landscape of Consciousness, DestinyBooks, Rochester, Vermont, 1987, p. 53.


6. Nor Hall, The Moon and theVirgin: Reflections on the Archetypal Feminine, Harper and Row, New York, 1980, p.26.


7. Jennifer Berezan,"Returning, Returning, Returning to the Mother of Us All," inGoddessing,


1999, p. 10.


8. Jennifer Berezan, linernotes, "Returning," Edge of Wonder Records, Albany, CA., 2000.


9. Jennifer Berezan, interview.


10. Jennifer Berezan,"Returning, Returning, Returning to the Mother of Us All," inGoddessing, 1999. p. 10.


Suggested Listening


Jennifer Berezan, Returning,Edge of Wonder Records, available at www.edgeofwonder.com

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