Glossolalia refers to speech-like utterances which are impossible to understand in any language. It is often used in religious ceremonies. It is often linked with xenoglossy, the ability of a person to speak in a language that was previously unknown and not understood by the person speaking.
Both glossolalia and xenoglossy have occurred around the world, and both practices have been well documented. Despite its popularity in certain forms of Christianity, among other religious communities, it is unknown whether glossolalia has natural, spiritual, or supernatural origins.
In Christianity, there are many references to glossolalia in the Bible. The New Testament Book of Acts, the apostles were given this gift. The Tower of Babel described in Genesis is also related to both glossolalia and xenoglossy.
Today, the Pentecostal church is best known for “speaking in tongues”. However, there were many examples of this phenomena in Christian history. From 150A.D, when Justin Martyr first described speaking in tongues as “gifts of the Spirit of God”, the church has a long tradition of glossolalia.
In the early 20th century, speaking in tongues became popular with the Pentecostal church. However, it was not only the Christians who observe to this practice.
The ancient Oracle of Delphi relied on priestesses of Apollo to provide clues to the future. The priestess would speak unintelligibly, and it was believed that the spirit of Apollo was working for her. This ancient glossolalia was then interpreted to divine the future.
Both the Romans and Egyptians wrote numerous magical texts. In both cases, unintelligible syllables and nonsense words seem to indicate that glossolalia was a common practice. Much later, glossolalia was claimed by early spiritualists as a manifestation of a spirit.
Those who “speak in tongues” often use patterns of speech that are similar to their primary language. Glossolalia sounds different, depending on whether the speaker is from Russia, South America, or the United Kingdom. The glossolalia spoken by native Russian speakers resembles the Russian language; it is, however, different from the glossolalia of a native English speaker.