Storyteller, Mythology and the 21st Century

EXCERPT!

Storyteller, Mythology and the 21st Century

— Mary Gavan

Statues of man reading stories to wife and children.

The Story Teller
(Eugene, Oregon)

As a Celtic storyteller, my preference is for triads.  The triad I consider is storyteller – mythology - 21st Century.

Regarding the 21st Century; the media disseminates news of injustice, poverty and war that befall mankind in its search for civilization.  Much less reported are peace, progress and prosperity. Even less reported is the innate goodness of people. Where does the truth of the 21 Century lie?  Which myths are perpetuated?  What events does a storyteller highlight?

Storytellers resemble the media myth makers of the 21st Century.  We both use the same treasure chest of tales, technique and thoughtfulness.  We both carefully craft according to our agenda. The difference lies in the outcome.  In brief, the outcome is the personal story versus the product advertising.  Advertising is backed by substantial money and clout.  Paradoxically, hope for a better future in 21st Century exists where traditional storytelling prevails.

As a storyteller, my art form demands researching, crafting and sharing.  My research is to look into print resources and to listen to ordinary people. As a committed user of public transport, I acknowledge that listening in transit provides wee gems; for example, a Mexican couple recounted the repatriation and respectful burial of their compatriot, Julia Pastrana, after 153 years.

Storytellers listen.   I listen as life unfolds diverse stories afore my eyes and ears.  I listen to the foibles and frustrations of ordinary people for these are the stories I tell.  To paraphrase Chekhov, my stories witness people, not judge them. My work is to find the details necessary for truth telling and craft them into a story so that others can hear the beauty and the angst of humanity and thereby experience the range of their own humanity.

The details of Pastrana’s story came to light in a New York Times article.  In that one article, I saw two interwoven stories:  Firstly, the story of 19th Century Julia Pastrana who, in life and death, toured Europe touted as the ugliest woman until her corpse came...

[Continued in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick - Issue #42.]

Keltria Journal #42 - Storytelling 

Find out more on MagCloud)

From the Editor – Keltria Journal #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick - Issue #42

From the Editor - Tony Taylor

Tony preparing for a handfasting.

Tony preparing for a handfasting.

When I think about spring and summer all sorts of wonderful activities come to mind. Weddings, festivals, conferences, and eisteddfods all contribute to the excitement of these seasons.  The contributions of those who follow the bardic path enhance all these activities and are an important part of Keltria. For example, during Keltrian weddings and handfastings, we often practice the art of storytelling as part of the ceremony. It is great fun and enjoyed by everyone assembled. We weave the usually mundane story of couple’s meeting into a Celtic wonder tale completely blown out of proportion and peppered with innuendo. For example, the bride is the not so-helpless-princess and the groom is a knight who rescues her anyway. The “best woman” and “best man” tell the story then dissolve into an argument as to whether or not the groom is worthy of the bride and vice versa.

With hands on hips, the best man paces back and forth critically eyeing the bride while extolling and exaggerating the virtues of the groom. The groom is subjected to the same scrutiny by the best woman. Each attempts to top the other’s story. These tall tales always contain a bit of truth, as a Celtic boast should. For example, in reality the bride may have cooked a roast beef dinner for her family, but the boast might be that she single-handedly slaughtered the last aurochs when it threatened the tribe. She ate its heart, which gave her the beast’s strength and bravery. Then, she cooked the carcass in a huge cauldron, cast by her own hands, which fed her entire tribe for many days. Ultimately, the dueling duo agree they will allow the wedding to proceed and heartily shake hands.

At gatherings, and particularly at eisteddfod, there is a time and a place for the bards assembled to tell stories and enthrall the audience with their skills. We appreciate the opportunity these events provide us to hone our storytelling abilities.


Cover - Keltria Journal #42

Keltria Journal #42

The theme for this issue of Keltria Journal is storytelling. The authors come from a variety of backgrounds and share different perspectives. We begin with Jenne Micale, who, like many of us, comes from a family that did not speak of their history. She carries us along on her personal journey of discovery.

Isolde Carmondy and Chris Thompson, the Story Archaeologists, lead us through three different tales of the past demonstrating why telling the stories of places (dindshenchas) is important today. They emphasize that tales of time and place provide a connection and continuity, which explains our place in the universe.

Daphne Bishop associates the authors and film makers of today, such as J. K. Rowling, J. R .R. Tolkin, and George Lucas, with ancient storytellers. She challenges us to modernize the ancient Celtic lessons, imbuing them with relevancy to our times, thereby keeping them alive.

Mary Gavan, a professional storyteller, describes the characteristics of an effective raconteur beyond the mere telling of the tale.  If we follow our personal convictions and succeed against all odds, we become the inspiration for the storytellers of the future. However, stories are more than just the content. The successful storyteller captivates the mind, body and the spirit of the audience, creating an aura of wonder.

Finally, in the 1990’s many members of the Henge of Keltria were actively creating new mythology. Inspired by “The Power of Myth” the idea of  “MYTH” (Make Yourself The Hero) Keltrians staged “cattle raids”  at several festivals. The concept was to capture participants’ “cattle icons”, i.e., stuffed toys, by making imaginative plans and implementing them using guile and skill rather than brute force. At the evening’s campfire, tales were told of the day’s exploits in the form of the Celtic boast.

The results were marvelous. Twenty years ago, Beltaine 1993, we published “Cattle Raids”, the first of several stories from “The Book of the Valley”, as an example of how a tale can grow in the telling to become a Celtic wonder tale.  Elements of truth weave through the story but Celtic exaggeration runs rampant.  The story is clearly among the “Best of Twenty Years Ago.” Enjoy.

Send your thoughts and opinions regarding this issue, future themes, or other comments to letterstotheeditor@keltria.org. Be sure to indicate if the letter is publishable.

Note: Keltria Journal Issue #42 is available on the Keltria Member Webpage until Issue #43 releases.