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What musical instrument and vocal sounds did the Ancient Egyptians use to heal and why?

I am very excited and honored to have studied with John Stuart Reid. John Stuart Reid is an English acoustics engineer, scientist, and inventor. He has studied the world of sound for over 30 years and speaks extensively about his research findings to audiences throughout the United States and the United Kingdom. Inventor of the CymaScope Pro, John's work is inspired by acoustic pioneers, Ernst Chladni, Mary D. Waller, and Hans Jenny and has taken their findings to a new level. His primary interests lie in investigating sound as a formative force and discovering why sound heals. 

Today I want to tell you about this unusual instrument and its amazing benefits. Along with why the Ancient Egyptians chanted vowel sounds and how you can reap the benefits from doing the same.

The Egyptian music healers used conventional musical instruments such as the drum, harp, flute, lyre, and tambourine, but ‘sistra,’ were also employed. The sistra, Sistrum, or Systrum, is a type of rattle with metal discs that emit significant levels of healing ultrasound in the 40 to 60 kHz range, John Stuart Reid measured these. At the Festival of Opet, sistrum instruments were used to stimulate the nostrils:* “Receive the sistra presented to your nostril that he may give rejuvenating breath…” a statement suggesting that the ancient Egyptians were aware that sistra emitted a specific quality of sound that caused a rejuvenating effect on the sinus cavities. Specifically the increased production of nitric oxide. They couldn’t have known it emitted ultrasonic frequencies but they knew it was healing.

* Manniche, L. Music and Musicians in Ancient Egypt. p72. British Museum Press, 1991. ISBN: 0-7141-0949-5

There is some evidence that the ancient Egyptians employed vowel sound chant (as distinct from singing) for therapeutic effect, just as today humming and chanting are known to stimulate nitric oxide production and to stimulate the vagus nerve.

** Nitric oxide production is essential for overall health because it allows blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel to every part of your body effectively and efficiently.

The vagus nerve is stimulated via ‘sonopuncture’, particularly via the ears and voice, thus regulating internal organ functions, including digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate, as well as promoting vasomotor activity and anti-inflammatory effects. Specific very low (sub-audible) frequencies may also be applied by full-ear headphones, combined with music.

“Vowel sounds were held sacred in Egypt, so much so that their written hieroglyphic language contains no vowel symbols, making it challenging for Egyptologists to correctly decipher Egyptian texts. Priests sang vowel sounds to their gods, and just as Medieval Cathedrals were designed to exhibit high levels of reverberation because the atmosphere created by sonic reflections provides a stronger sense of spiritual connection, so too, the ancient Egyptian architects designed their sacred spaces to be highly reverberative. In modern homes, our bathrooms create the nearest equivalent soundscapes, so I invite you to practice this simple vowel sound chant in your bathroom. First though, perhaps close the window if you have nearby neighbors who may misinterpret your practice!

In the English language, if you say the word “why” very, very slowly, you will enunciate all the vowel sounds that it is possible to make. To begin, purse your lips as if to make an “oo” sound, which is the first part of the word “why”. Take a very deep breath and very, very slowly enunciate the word “why” until you end with a long “ee” sound. Some people think that this practice provides the answer to the Cosmic question: why? But most importantly, all those beautiful vowel sounds will create copious amounts of healing nitric oxide in your body, dilating the myriad of capillaries, and bringing healing oxygen to all parts. I do hope you have fun with these two simple but profound exercises.”

-John Stuart Reid-


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