Images of milk white foals and enchanted swan maidens are with me on my walks these days .Mythic fables and legendary tales creep through the morning mists and tickle my toes, ruffling my hair when I step out to greet the day. Golden bears glow in the fire at night..and harpies, skinny skinny men and unicorns dance in the shadows behind the candle flame.
The land is full of such tales…any land, any place holds all the stories of its history and the jostle for space , mostly unheard as we scurry in our busy busy lives. I have been learning how to find the stories of our land, journeying in to find what lies under the turf and in the trees and rocks.
Since last Sunday I have been immersed in Stories… well truthfully, I have been immersed in many things but since a day at The west country story telling festival at Embercombe I am finding my voice as a storyteller. Tentatively, and so far just with the family, but joyfully and with such a feeling that somehow they are part of my way forward.
I have always made up stories. Stories to calm fractious children to sleep, stories to calm, stories to change direction, stories to ease a difficult time. Stories to make the hours go by on long car journeys.
When my eldest chidren were small, I lived in a little town in North Devon with hills sloping down away from the town in all directions. So coming home was always up! I had an energetic terrier at the time and every day was walk day. I had a small but reliable repertoire of tales to get Freddie’s 3 year old legs back up that final hill….’The commons Elf’, ‘Alfie and the unicorn’, ‘Anver and the wolf’,’ Billy and the giant. Little Lily slept in her sling and I puffed and panted and wove magical stories of elves and fat dwarfs and white hares as we struggled, they helped me too!
Listening to gifted storytellers and doing a shamanic story telling workshop at the festival was like entering a bright world of rich textures and images, tapestries of every colour and cloth. Inspired and energised, I memorised four of the stories I heard and have been retelling them each night, and on journeys across the severn bridge and into Wales!
Unlike reading a book aloud, which I do love, and obviously do a lot of; when I tell a story from my heart, I become part of it. I change little details each time, I add a troublesome pig, a pesky sprite, I involve the listeners, everything comes alive and somehow enters everyone more deeply.The children shake themselves and emerge smiling as if from another world when I stop.
We are in a world of the written word, we are in a culture of literacy. I’m not saying this is a bad thing but I celebrate the huge revival of oral story telling that is swirling around us now. An ancient healing art that has swept through the centuries in costumes of the brightest hue. I know kindles may be handy on a train, but nothing beats sitting round a fire and watching the flames conjure the images around your head as the story teller plies her ancient craft.