One thing that tends to bind much of the Pagan community together is a love of the myths. There is all sorts of disagreement on what the Gods and Goddesses are and are not, And from my own personal perspective and opinion – none of that matters. What the Gods and Goddesses are and are not is such a personal, intimate thing – I would never want to create a steadfast rule of what that means. Real, archetype, imagination – the Gods and Goddesses are what They are to each individual. I happen to believe that They are real, separate and distinct entities. But that’s for another post.
Attend nearly any Pagan gathering where there is a central fire that is being tended to, and you will find folks gathered, singing and telling stories and tales. From my perspective, it is in our DNA. Not as Pagans, but as people. Growing up, I was a member of the Boy Scouts program. And even with other members who were decidedly not Pagans, there were stories and songs prevalent throughout the night. It is almost as if the act of building a fire where everyone could gather in the night brings a requirement of song and stories.
Stories are a wonderful part of who we are as people. We tell stories every single day. When we sit on the bus or the train, we might strike up a conversation with someone nearby. And the stories do not need to be complex, morality plays like the myths can be. It can be as simple as observations on the weather, or how crowded the bus seems to always be at this time of day or even just asking how someone’s day is going. We set our experiences in the form of stories, because it paints a vivid mental mural for those we are communicating with.
As I have noted before, I work as a Data Analyst. My job requires me to provide a representation of the data that I comb through on a daily basis. I work up a story – or as it is called in this case, an analysis – of the data. Sometimes, I utilize written communication to present the story, and sometimes graphs or pie charts. Sometimes, I even provide a spoken representation of the data as well, or even a combination of any three of these methodologies. Boiled down to its base element, I am a storyteller within my position. In my mind, its only natural for me to gravitate to these Pagan gathering fires, and hear the stories and songs represented by many others in my community.
As I found at the not-so-distant OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering, being at the fire does not mean that I just hear the stories. I also need to tell my own stories. And some of the folks there claimed that I have a natural gift for doing so. I do not see that, but then I am my own worst critic as well. But it certainly takes a little bit of courage to do so. (Another post for another time)
Since I have started to embrace the idea of being a storyteller, I see so many areas where storytelling is an integral part of what is being done. But the one that catches my breath the most, is remembering my three years in the classroom as an adjunct professor. I taught for the college I work for now, but I also taught at other colleges as well. I enjoyed being in the classroom, and relating some of the crazy things that happened to me during thirty-plus years of working in Information Technology. As I have told students before, if there is a way to do something wrong in an Information Technology position – I have likely done it. If there is a law to be broken in getting a task done, I have likely done that too – as my shift did back during my time working in a Command and Control facility in Germany.
To fix a fifteen foot section of telecommunications lines within a sectional wire harness that ran along the ceiling, we utilized a short patch by rerouting over a section of cable utilized by the Bundespost (German telecommunications group run by the government). We cut and spliced the section that we needed and waited for the Bundespost maintenance folks to contact us. We knew we had less than two hours to complete our repair, and remove the patch before the Bundespost folks arrived. Like clockwork, they called fifteen minutes after the patch had been started, and our time clock began. It is against the law to damage Bundespost lines, but we needed that patch to keep our telecommunications going for the Operational groups down the hall in the bunker. There were issues that happened along the way, including a momentary argument over the color of wire that was being spliced in. All of that is part of the story. And while it may not be of ultimate interest to many, I have told that story to a few networking students to showcase the need to repair critical components at any cost.
Stories do not have to have a teaching element to them. Sometimes, they are just for entertainment, such as my story of the Screen-Door Boar, an event that actually happened at the 2016 Gulf Coast Gathering. This was the story I told at this year’s Gulf Coast Gathering, which I mentioned before. Having never stood up at a Pagan gathering fire and intentionally told a story – it was a sweat-inducing moment, and not because the fire was hot. I really applaud people who have the courage to get up and tell stories and tales in front of a crowd.
Take a look around. See where the stories are, and appreciate the beauty of each one. There are TV shows that we watch – such as Game of Thrones – that we hang on every episode so that we can see where and how our favorite, intrepid characters deal with adversity, or even awkward moments. There are baseball games that we watch on TV, where every at-bat can be a story of its own merit. Each pitch becomes a sword-slash, a spear-thrust, or the loosing of an arrow in a battle between pitcher and hitter. There is the daily news. Remove the idiotic “as-it-happens” news cycle, and you have real life tales of how people deal with daily issues. And epic, historical moments that play out moment by moment, thanks to the never-ending aspect of the news cycle. There are facets of story all around us, playing out with each moment – and our vision, our hearing, our experience puts us in the position of recording all of that every day. A solitary walk in the woods provides you with a story that no other person may experience at that moment. The literal moment of “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to hear it – does it make a sound?” Except that we can change that slightly to “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody that sees it has an iPhone to record the moment – did it really happen?”