Listen with Mother and Jackanory are just two examples of storytelling from childhood memories. Snuggling down alongside my Mum to listen to the radio or that quiet time listening and watching the latest story on Jackanory before tea time still resonates today. Both forms of storytelling held me enraptured and captivated by the words being spoken and the images created in my young mind. The story allowed me as a young child to go into another world, to come away from the present and lose myself in the narrative of the theme. For a child, storytelling whether through books, television or radio brought comfort, soothing, excitement and a tinge of fear and unknowingly an understanding of our world and a part within it.
Storytelling is an art form that has been in existence since mankind first inhabited this earth. It was a way to share learning, to pass on crucial information and to evoke a sense of belonging. Whilst in Namibia and visiting the oldest desert in the world, storytelling was in evidence in the form of rock art which were over 5000 year old, telling the story to the next reader of the type of game that could be found, where water was located and how to reach it.
Every culture has it ways to recount stories from one generation to another. Storytelling is a link to our ancestors and their past knowledge but each story, retold over generations, fits its own modern paradigm. Fairy stories illustrated this beautifully as they are redesigned each time with its own unique meaning to connect with contemporary culture. Little Red Riding Hood was recreated by the Brothers Grimm to highlight the dangers of straying away from the path, the norm or the conventional. It was thought that this story originated in 17th Century and known as Red Cap, often ended with the wolf and girl ending up in bed together!
Telling stories needn’t just be verbal, they can be drawn, written, sung and danced. They can be in the form of riddles, fables, ballads and sayings. Whatever the form, the key to the power of stories is the connection between speaker and listener – a connection from soul to soul with the receiver being an equal part of the process. Each individual listener will perceive their own unique understanding of the underlining message within the folds of the story. The listener needs to be ready to receive with open ears and heart and allow meaning to resonate within themselves. How they absorb and embrace the meaning will be relevant to them at that current moment in time. Great story tellers have that connection to their audience that engenders a curiosity to seek further understanding.
Maybe the art of storytelling has become diluted in the Western World, we have lost the respect of our elders and are so bombarded with constant information that the power of a single saying, theme or sentence gets lost before it can be heard and assimilated. However, within Shamanic practice storytelling is crucial for the connection with our ancestors, our understanding of the past, present and future and integral to personal growth. So let us revere the Shaman’s skills at imparting knowledge and understanding through the ancient art of storytelling.