Sorrow, Comfort, & Joy 
    Healing Powers in World Music

Faery music is almost a sine qua non 
for the Celts to journey into the sidhe, 
the Hollow Hills, and other regions 
of the Celtic Otherworld. 
-- Tom Cowan, Fire in the Head

There is in Irish folklore, a story about the three sacred strains of music. The three strains are known as the goltrai -- song of sorrow, the suantrai – song of comfort, and the gentrai – song of joy (Walton). The Dagda Mor, (the good god) is the leader of the Tuatha De Dannan, (the Fairy Folk - who are gods themselves), and it is his harp, Uaithne, that has the magical ability to bring listeners to tears, to put them to sleep, or to cause them to dance. 

As a storyteller, none of the written versions of this tale was to my liking, so I wrote a story based on the three songs of the Dagda Mor, which centered around a fictitious character, Padraig O’Connaill, who lived during the turn of the nineteenth century, and traveled to the sidhe, the land of fairy, to learn the healing magic of music (Schermer). The story, Sorrow, Comfort, & Joy, was published in a journal in 1994. I have performed this story to several audiences, and have written subsequent stories based on the same character, and his employment of the magical songs of the Dagda Mor

The research presented in this paper was initiated by my desire to bring Padraig O’Connaill to India in a new sequel, to renew his faltering faith in music’s magical powers. I was intrigued by the importance of a raga’s rasa, or mood, and was especially interested in learning more about Indian beliefs about music’s magical powers for use in healing arts, since the songs of the Dagda Mor are used in my story for healing. I found that it is not only in India that music is believed to have magical power, but also all over the world. And in many cases, that power is the power to heal, through the expression of sorrow (lament), comfort (lullaby), and joy (ecstasy). 

Although instrumental music, and in particular, drumming, is used in the mystical applications of music for healing in many cultures, my focus is on the use of the voice – because the voice is the one instrument that is universal to all cultures: the voice is built into human anatomy. My research shows that the sung expression of the emotions, sorrow, comfort, and joy, is used for healing by many world cultures, and that its universality can be explained by the universality of human physiology. Next Page

© Copyright 1997 Verlene Schermer
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