Stories are born of our ancestral nature-connected cultures - and - the imaginal dreaming into the never-before-seen that is possible if we know how to listen to their seeds of memory and visioning held within. This means stories hold both wisdom of the past and of the future. They change us from the inside out, re-membering us into the consciousness and culture of connection with each other and the other-than-human world. Stories are born of a specific earth-place. The landscapes through which the characters move are the ancestral homelands of the peoples who told them. The Earth body of the hollows, mountains and forest through which the humans and other-than-human creatures in the story journey, is the place where your people, my people, lived and died. Therefore, our bodies and the bodies of the other-than-humans are living memories of these places and the ways of being in reciprocal relationship with them. You might here take a breath and let that arrive in your heart and body for a moment.
Can you sense how that would change something in the collective in these times? It may not change the dire predicament we are in right now, but it would surely help us to create a different kind of consciousness within it, a way of, as Donna Haraway says, staying with the trouble.
Perhaps you are wondering how stories from long ago are relevant in these times of biodiversity collapse and climate change. In our experience, stories offer maps through landscapes of our deepest longing and grief that can guide us towards ways to respond that are rooted not in modernity’s mindset of human centric quick fixes but, instead are creative deep time responses through us from Earth herself. As Bayo Akomolafe asks, "What if the way we respond to the crisis is the crisis?"
The first step is to not do anything, but be within the discomfort and let it shape us, transform us. The stories we most love offer us templates to follow that teach us how to die well and as a heart-felt offering to the whole, how to descend into the place where we can hear our original instructions and so, return initiated into a deeper knowing of how to live a life of beauty amidst the dying world.
A story might be the exact bitter medicine we need in order to be fully alive in these times of death, metabolising the grief and anger we feel into the capacity to take refuge in the unknown unfolding future.
Storytelling is Decolonisation Work
We are invited to re-member and tend the stories from our own ancestral cultures. Our work with them is to scrape away and compost the overlays of modern paradigm/ power-over culture to reveal the ancient earth-based heart still beating within them. By doing this work with stories from our own cultures, we are re-membering the cultural ways of our own peoples and honoring our ancestors and their forgotten ways. As we re-member our belonging to people who are in reciprocal relationship with the earth and their ways of being in conversation with Earth Community, we heal our own wounded ways of perceiving, based on the separation trauma of civilisation. If we are blessed to come from a people that are still connected with place and the living Earth Community, then of course this work will look very different, as the stories themselves are probably more intact. However, there is sadly often much work to be done to re-member and reclaim those stories from the forced forgetting through occupation and colonization.
Next, if we are not living on the homelands of our own people, we are encouraged to discover the stories of the peoples on whose land we are currently living, colonization of the human and other than humans has touched every continent on this beautiful Earth. Who are the indigenous humans and other than humans who lived where you now live? What are their stories, both historical and mythic? Which is to say, how did they know and express themselves and their relationship with the land they belonged to, where you now live?
In addition, we are encouraged to make our inner world more diverse by reading and listening to the stories of many different cultures, to widen and expand our way of thinking and perceiving the world beyond the white supremacy/colonial/capitalist structures of the modern paradigm we all are raised in. For example, the European stories are internationally well known in the current Disney version of fairytales (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), and as a result, little children all over the world are wanting to be princesses. Inspired by the ancient knowing within stories, revealing many different and traditional ways of being in relationship with the world, we modern humans are invited to engage with our home place and the other than human world differently. As well, through reading the stories of others cultures, we are cultivating empathic resonance and breaking down any assumptions or stereotypical beliefs we may have about cultures other than our own.
Lastly, we are invited to decenter the human narrative and listen for and to the stories and voices of the other than humans as they fly, flock, run, romp, swim, hunt and dream in the ecosystems we share.
Storytelling is Consciousness Shifting
By transforming our listening and thinking into a mythic consciousness, woven into deep time, future time, and the web of now, stories allows us to stretch ourselves into the fertile unknown and the deeply magical. This is essential to create a consciousness that can dismantle power-over culture and some day co-create the new.
Stories are Maps of Transformation
A story well told captures our imagination and our emotions, both of which are necessary to be with both the collapse and the possible futures of Earth’s dreaming, staying present in beauty and the discomfort of the present moment.
These other ways of knowing have been marginalized in a culture that privileges strategic thinking and empirical science over sensing, feeling and imagining - and stories help us to build our capacity to use them.
Can you feel how some old stories ask us to become a bigger or more soulful version of ourselves in the world? They weave us into connection with human community and the-other-than human community, awakening us to the embodied consciousness of Earth.