“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls” – Joseph Campbell
My bliss led me to a Bachelor’s in Religious Studies and Humanities because I love a good story. Anything is possible and everything is permitted in the imagination, but experiences are something completely different. It is in the art of Storytelling the two can intersect safely.
“And there are among them composers of verses whom they call Bards; these singing to instruments similar to a lyre, applaud some, while they vituperate others” – Diodorus Siculus Histories (8BCE)
There is a spiritual connection with telling stories, especially when it is a recited sacred script. It is said the ancient Celtic Bards studied for a minimum of twelve years, memorizing the unwritten stories of their Ancestors and land. They were a kind of walking library; knowing songs, poems, sagas, history and general gossip was their vocation. As part of the Celtic hierarchy, Bards held a place of wisdom and respect in society.
“The Bards were singers and poets, the Vates were seers and scientists, and the Druids were both scientists and moral philosophers, the judges and arbitrators of both private and public disputes” (Jones & Pennick, p.84).
Today’s ‘bards’ exist to the masses as pop singers, celebrities and internet phenomenon. Not to say there aren’t storytellers, but television and computers have replaced the limited access this ancient role once held. There is hope in the long-standing bardic traditions still held in Wales, England and other parts of the British Isles; language & music festivals (eisteddfod) are held in conjunction with bardic events, or Gorsedd.
Value in Librarianship
There is a resurgence of storytelling performing in bars, open mic nights in coffee shops and while usually involving adults only, this trend can easily spill over into the library environment. Storytellers in the library are an invaluable asset for many reasons. Go to a library anywhere in America during a story hour and the proof of audience numbers are there. It is one of the best services which can be offered to the public.
“Storytelling is a stealth activity that often moves into professional arenas unrecognized. Most people have a very limited idea of what storytelling actually is, and how it can be effectively utilized not only in programming, but also in management and advocacy. Recent research in neuroscience supports what librarian storytellers have known for decades: human beings are hard-wired for story, and respond to it at a visceral level. Listening to oral stories has been closely connected to the acquisition of literacy skills, the expansion of vocabulary, and the development of active listening skills, but storytelling has also been identified as the single most effective means of persuasion” (2015, p.6).
As I experienced with other student performances in this class, giving a dramatic recitation or telling of modern literature, such as science fiction, not only draws in a curious audience but can also attract new readers to the title. Having storytelling events for families instead of just offering toddler times would be great publicity, not to mention literacy ad-vocation.
I have been involved in Druidry and the Occult communities for close to 20 years now, having served in different capacities. This dedication to mythology is an integral part of my religious experience; memorizing hymns and incantations are required for certain successful effects. I have a regular blog which includes written narratives, informational pieces and book/product reviews but just this year I decided to include a podcast so I could play music. Never scripted, I stick to a theme and use just some bare-bones notes to keep myself on task.
Since taking this class I have included more personal anecdotes in this audio recording. I have also started thinking about performing within my community, traveling to different conventions or festivals to tell stories of the Gods or recite Orphic Hymns in devotional settings. It is in my immediate plans to reach out to a local storytelling guild, attend some meetings and watch others who are more seasoned while working on my own repertoire. Learning more myths, exploring the uses of props and costumes are plans for my near future.
The tips, experiences and feedback I have received in this class has shaped my confidence in storytelling. I hope to take the skills acquired in this course, along with my new interest in performance storytelling, into a library position or other service oriented opportunity.
Jones, P., & Pennick, N. (1997). A history of pagan Europe (3rd ed., p. 262). London: Routledge.
Negro, J. (2015, April 1). The whole story, the whole library: Storytelling as a driving force. ILA Reporter.