Who doesn’t love a good story—a tale of mystery and inspiration?
Well gather round the roaring fire my friends, and let us willingly partake of this storyteller’s narration:
“Long ago—long before there was written language, people gathered at night by their own camp fires for protection and warmth and to hear tales of bravery or to hear of fearsome encounters with all sorts of beasts.
Or maybe they gathered to hear of a far-away land of abundance and easy reaping of food sources that could get the family through from one day to the next, or from one week to the next; or to those who watched the changing sky at night, a place of such sufficient food supplies that the family could live from one full moon to the next because with limited resources available to them in more rugged and barren environments, there was no assurance that the family would survive for any length of time. Survival was the motivating force for everything the family did.
This was the sum of their life—everyday a constant focus on survival—simply staying alive and keeping those they cared most about, alive as well. Family member’s days were often filled with hunting wild game that they could catch and gathering any edible plants to share with their family group. When two or more family groups gathered together for safety and shared hunting responsibilities, they became larger family units known as TRIBES.
Often when larger tribal groups or clans were formed, a natural division of labor occurred among the people because some tribe members were more resourceful or more intelligent and/or made better hunters/providers than others did. Some tribe members were proven stronger and more powerful than others, and often larger groups were ruled by those who could hold leadership positions because of their physical prowess or intimidation abilities.
Women had many varied functions in small and large family groups; and since size and physical strength were often more male-dominated traits, it meant that women often held subservient positions to the males in the tribe unless it was a matriarchal society who valued the act of creation and giving birth to new tribe members. Where wisdom, acquired through age and life experience, was more valued by the tribe, women were often considered the desired leaders.
When different family groups joined forces and first began communicating with each other, it required a commonly-understood language to describe the necessary workings of the situation and the environment—especially a means to signal danger or to communicate the need for cooperation to complete a group task, like for group hunting or defense strategies.
With the development of a commonly-understood language among tribe members, came the glib-tongued tribal member who could best relay information around the nightly gathering at the campfire—the one who could relay the excitement of the day’s hunt or warn of approaching danger from other competing tribes, or speak of the possibility of better hunting if the group changed locations and simply followed the herds of animals as they migrated across the landscape. Today we take common language for granted but it was once created for the purpose of basic survival.
The best-at-communicating tribal member was often designated as the tribe’s nighttime historian and/or storyteller—the one who could remember the tribe’s exploits and history of its members both existing and past. Storytellers relayed information to the others, but sometimes storytellers simply created their own stories for specific reasons, such as to fill the void of knowing WHY a particular thing happened when people couldn’t see valid reasons for what had occurred. Creating a ‘makes-sense’ reason eased group anxiety, and a less anxious group meant that people got along better with each other for longer periods of time, which meant less internal fighting.
Another important tribal member with specific functions was the healer/medicine woman or man, or sometimes that member was called the shaman—the one who dealt with the unknown around them—talked to the animal spirits—communicated with the unseen spirits of the land and the sky.
If the shaman and the storyteller were one and the same person, then the fireside tales could become less historical focused and more philosophically oriented. This meant that “ORIGIN stories” were then created that described the reason for their life, death, and even the WHY of their existence because shamans can easily get information input from unseen forces—spirits in particular—possibly even from other intelligent beings since shamans had that 6th sense ability to communicate beyond the human realm.
Sometimes the shaman/storyteller created an entire set of beliefs on how the tribe members should live their lives, how they should focus their efforts to best appease the presently disgruntled nature spirits that had foiled their latest hunting effort; and sometimes the shaman even told the rest of the tribe what to aspire to or what to avoid for their personal best interest.
And sometimes the shaman just ‘made stuff up’ for their own personal reasons such as to gain a higher tribal status or personal favors from other tribe members.
The tribal leader—the chief—usually the strongman, was a powerful force in the group and often determined whether the tribe survived or became extinct, but the shaman/storyteller set the tone for their lives and often guided the members with tales of warning or tales of victory if all pulled together as one strong unit.
The most basic religions were started by shaman/storytellers—visionaries who claimed a connection to higher powers beyond earthly life, and who told their tales to others in such a convincing way, that the other tribe members believed them and then changed their own behavior to match that behavior prescribed by the shaman/storyteller who later became known to the tribe as the Holy Man/Holy Woman, or the Priest/Priestess.”
While it has certainly been proven over the eons of our human existence that stories have power over all who listen to them, stories are more easily believed by those who most need to hear their message.
Stories touch us in ways beyond our basic comprehension because they appeal to our inner vulnerabilities and to our innate desire to feel safe and secure.
Stories often speak best to our need to feel loved and protected—to feel a part of the larger group—to feel an integral member of the larger family to which we all belong.
The most powerful story that we always long to hear is the one that defines the purpose of our lives.
So maybe it’s time for a NEW ‘origin story’ so we can create that NEW life for the betterment of our human tribe.
I think that’s what I’m trying to do by gathering all these various information sources together in this eclectic blog. I think we need to recreate the HUMAN STORY.
And while it might not be easily done, I think this is something we ALL must do together for our personal betterment and for the survival of the greater tribe.
THAT is the true POWER OF STORY—
it defines our life.