Every time I tell a story, I feel as if I’m crossing a bridge to a place of wonder where I’m welcomed by people with open hearts and minds. Viewing storytelling as akin to crossing a bridge to new worlds illustrates the diverse and transformative nature of this traditional art.
During the month of November, I’d like to explore the seven places these storytelling bridges might take us.
A Bridge To The Past and the Ancestors:
Telling stories paves the way to the past, taking us on a journey into history, where we explore the events, cultures, and traditions of bygone eras. It allows us to bridge the gap between generations, preserving and sharing the wisdom of the past.
Before commencing a storytelling session, I make it a point to summon or invite the ancestors to be present. Neither my parents nor my grandparents lived long enough to attend one of my storytelling sessions, but that doesn’t hinder me from inviting them in spirit.
Other times, it might be a long-lost comrade or a more recently deceased friend. I encourage my audience, should they wish to partake, to summon their own ancestors and spirits.
The presence of these spirits during a storytelling session instills me with confidence, knowing that I’m held within the Great Circle, or what Richard Wagamese referred to as the “One Soul.” Whether living or deceased, we are all part of the human collective. Regardless of our cultural, ethnic, racial, or faith tradition, we are all part of “the One”.
It was during a workshop with the indigenous storyteller and psychiatrist, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, that he reminded me of how much the ancestors love to hear stories. He also informed me that if I forgot what came next in my story, I should look up to the ancestors and ask for their help.
This advice echoed a similar piece of wisdom from a teaching colleague at the Rudolf Steiner School in Edinburgh, who encouraged me to look up to the angels for inspiration and guidance before entering the classroom.
“They’ll be just above the lintel of the door frame,” she said. When I asked Lewis where I should look, he smiled and said, “About ten feet up and to your right… or sometimes to the left… at least, that’s…