What a weekend! a soul combusting, mytho-poetic rampage through the underside of our deeper imaginings-and with a soundtrack!-thanks to Wildcat Dave, Jonny, Christine and others that turned up with sizzling music in frothing mugs of guts and humour. I'm not sure how attractive that actually sounds, but trust me, it was great.
I am referring, of course, to our 'COYOTE MAN AND THE FOX WOMAN' weekend, just past.
The School of Myth Christmas bash/tribal gathering is on Sat 12th Dec up a Tree on Dartmoor (thats not a metaphor), If you are coming write today as places are really limited, being a tree and all.
here's some thoughts on storytelling. The general gist is a push towards an awareness of the deeper undertows possible in myth-telling. That myth is not confined in clipped translations, the ailing memory of a teller, or content to exist as only entertainment. It is not to denegrate the many other textures and approaches to storytelling, but to lay some libation at the feet of the folk i respect-from Wallace Black Elk, to Marion Woodman, to Daniel Deardorff. It pushes story as potentially more than a 'tale well spun' into some great tree growing from the soul of the world. And on that rather overblown note, i will wish you good night.
##It also looks back at the Cunning Man or Woman; an old european term for medicine men or women who used story as a device for psychic healing.
Varients of Teller
"Broadly speaking, in all post-hunter-gatherer cultures, two distinct storytelling traditions have always existed side by side: parallel yet mutually supportive. The first has become known as the ‘fireside’tradition and the second, the ‘professional’ tradition. The fireside tradition refers to the unpaid, informal social telling of tales in the home, in the pub, as a hobby and to shorten the road. This tradition is ‘amateur’ in the original, non-judgemental sense of the word – i.e. it is done with an enthusiasm born of love. It could also be called the folk tradition.
In Europe the professional tradition once had formal titles associated with it, such as Bard, Scop, Skald, Trouvere, Minnesinger, etc. To this day,beyond the borders of Europe (and outside of the Eurocentric ‘box’),terms such as Ashik, Akyn and Griot come into play. This tradition refers to the telling of tales in formal contexts, by (trained) professional artists: entertainers and orators, who receive financial remuneration for their expertise, repertoire and the conscious skill of their craft." Ben Haggerty 14
We see from the storyteller Ben Haggarty a useful discernment between strands of the art form, that distinctions can and should be made. I would suggest that there is a third element that can be present in both traditions that is to do with the interiority of the practice, the animistic tradition of the storyteller, a position far more complex than something defined by financial gain or professional standing. The above description is an informed clarifier, but loses some magical connotation. This emphasis is referring story back to its oldest origins; its relationship to Shamanism.
Haggerty’s associations are valid, and to build on them I would have to suggest a more porous, Tricksterish quality to the Storyteller: to allow the medium of Soul-Teacher into its description.
Stories in their earliest form were vehicles to express localised cosmologies, but also touched beyond the limits of tribal life, and in doing so, created a connection between wider perceptions of community, a community that incorporated nature and certain intense, spiritual energies that abided in it. Folk-lore was a mediation between shared, societal values and electrifying and often very strange information accessed through initiation rites and solitude in the forests, deserts and tundra. The storyteller held that information, and passed knowledge of herbalism, dreams and ritual through the images contained.
With the breakdown of cohesive rites-of-passage, this prophetic connotation has largely left our associations of storytelling. If the teller has not been exposed to the velocity, or even concept of this function, then how could they honestly embody it?
I would wish to mention at this point that the forest and tundra explorations I mentioned (in the twenty first century) could also be seen as profound knowledge of the tangles of ones own psyche, and not entirely literalised. The great psychologist Marion Woodman is an eminent example of this kind of carrier of story.
But still, something lurks out there on the tundra that is nothing to do with our intellect or emotional life, that still seeks relationship. With the climate challenges we face, what could be more important then restablishing that dialogue?
Wild image carries hope, genius and healing in a way statistics never will.
Men and Women of this resonance have the ability to walk between feasting hall and campfire, indeed embody the quality of the Seanchai. I think that the few that are awake in this way are the ones that deserve distinction, far more than whether you sit by a fire or prowl a theatre set ‘projecting one presence’, those are merely gear-changes; the real barometer is the level of interior relationship to the images invoked in the air. Repertoire and location are secondary functions.
The Pastoral and the Prophetic
Without this push to the edge of our understanding, the storyteller merely recites the pastoral; tales over-polished to assure and titillate the human community, lacking a Blake-ian edge to allow the truly visionary to push at the boundaries. The pastoral offers a salve, an affirmation of old, shared values, a reiteration of the power of the herd. The prophetic almost always brings some conflict with it- it disarms, awakens, challenges and deepens. It is far less to do with ‘enchantment’ and much more to do with ‘waking up’.
The prophetic engages the intelligence of the adult, is suffused in paradox, carries perceptive weight from unusual angles, is not designed to reassure. The prophetic is rarely the guest at the children’s birthday party, but by its very nature moves swiftly from group to group. Communities rarely grow around its rain soaked words. It is not designed purely for stability, but for growth. It seeks not to destroy old forms for the sake of it, but rather to reanimate their propensity for holy thought. In this regard, Trickster is truly its totem.
When the emphasis is too pastoral, otherness is not touched, and myth becomes merely a defensive cluster of societal anecdotes. To allow precedent for the anthropocentric is to deny the contrary tensions of the truly bardic. This very crossroads is the highest gift that story can offer, and implicit in its performance is incantation, a kind of efficacious opening, something only possible by an interior awakening in the myth-teller. One could argue it is the difference between a craft and an art.