Thursday, May 3, 2012

Storyteller shamans

I have always thought that the telling of stories was one of the most important things for a strong society to bond into a people. Not the news, not documentaries, not the neighborhood gossip sort of stories, but the ones of legendary proportions. The ones where the villain looks to be larger than life and invincible, the heros reluctant to step to the plate, the magic hidden in plain sight. These are the stories that truly matter. They used to be told in the flickering light of a fire at night when the creatures of night stalked their shadows. The Shaman or storyteller would have everyone huddled around scarce to breathe for missing a nuance of tone as the story came to life. Sometimes the fire would help with a dramatic pop and shower of sparks. These were the days when tribes were small.

Our tribes are much larger now, but stories are still a major bonding thread through our cultures. It's not likely that we are going to huddle around a fire ( although that still sounds fun) but we all at one point find ourselves scrunched down in a movie theater chair or a sofa in our living room waiting to be told a story. When we really look at it the storyteller has to jump through many more sacred hoops to tell their tale, but the beginnings of the storytelling process remains the same. The storyteller turns inward and flies up into a realm of ethers that he or she has been invited into. Literally it is a new world with rules, heros and villains all of it's own.

Like the past, these stories link tribes of a culture together regardless of what part of the world the story travels. All who hear and love the story become kith and kin, welcomed into the world with a common understanding of humanity even if the language is different. These stories not only bind cultures together, they can act as a guide in the dark shadowed night of the soul. Often times when we are listening/ watching/ reading these stories, we end up empathizing with a specific character in the saga. During times of demon dancing it becomes helpful to look to these figures and those around them for wisdom and guidance while you dance your own shadow dance. The wisdom revealed may not be a direct application to your own motion, but rather a sudden flash of realization and inspiration. This is a true aspect of shamanism: the application of the shaman's vision to the realm we walk in whether it be a large outer world project or a personal quest.

Shamanism is not a dwindling practice, it is alive and well. It has evolved, shifted to suit the medium, the people, the largeness of the world's tribe. Maybe the traditional means and methods of training have been passed quietly around to certain keepers of these secrets, but lost they are not. There are those out there who continue the traditional practices in secret with a small group of people in clusters all over the world and sometimes in places most unexpected. Often times these Shamans, if you will, do not share their adventures believing them to be irrelevant to the outer world or useful to anyone but themselves. Sometimes what is revealed, the shaman feels should be kept secret for a time until it is the correct place in time to reveal the mystery for further unfolding. Sometimes the shaman never reveals the story because the battle is their personal dance.

Every once in a while, I fall upon a movie, book or painting that reveals to me that the art of the storytelling shaman is still alive and well. These people may not recognize what it is they are doing, but I do. If there is any doubt, ask the story teller this:" how real are your characters and their world to you?" Most of them will tell you something like this:" my characters talk to me and have a running commentary on my life." These storytellers may not have been trained in traditional manners or be keepers of traditional secrets, but they have tapped into something larger than themselves and come back with a legend to pass to their perceived tribe. Some of these modern legends have swayed the thinking and understanding of real people in this realm, possibly shifting this world in a very real manner. If that's not shamanism, I don't know what the hex is.

I believe society needs these story tellers to help make sense of our world and lives. I believe that these stories make us stronger as both a society and individual. Think carefully, who are your storyteller shamans? How have they affected your universe? What untold stories have you been invited to dance within and have you the courage to tell them?


  1. I think stories are very powerful, particularly when they become a way of life.

  2. I agree with you, storyteller is a beautiful way to keep the past and wisdom of the ancients alive. I do believe tho that is a dying art and not done so much anymore. Unfortunately however, I've never been privledged enough to meet a true Shaman...only those that "think" they are or are "pretending" to be but actually no's disheartening. Great share and one of my favorite movies is Avatar. I never get tired of watching it :)

  3. Magic is alive! Nice post. I enjoy watching movies like that and hearing stories. Camp fire stories or bond fire, whatever we call them. I enjoy the bonding time with others during these "rituals" This simple acts of human interaction are what is worth living for. :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts.