Story Telling

MEDICINE STORY [address: Story Stone/Another Place, Rt. 123,

Greenville, NH 03048]

 

Manitonquat, "Medicine Story", is a Wampanoag [Native American

Tribal Nation] elder, storyteller, and seminar leader. One of

his stories is of dolphins, a favorite animal of his coastal

tribal nation. It seems there was a huge shark terrifying the

people. One of the tribal elders went to the dolphins, and said

he knew they were very intelligent, and that they could figure

out a solution to the shark, but that he didn't and couldn't know

what it was. The dolphins formed a council circle, and each

spoke in turn. The first said that they lacked the education and

training to take on the shark. The second wasn't sure exactly

what they should be doing; they weren't trained warriors, and

couldn't take on such a big fish. The third said that they were

smart, and so could figure out an answer. The fourth said, "Oh,

I know, listen, what we're good at is playing. What do you say

we play the shark to death? Or at least drive him nuts?" They

all agreed it was a good plan. And that's just what they did.

They crowded round the shark, and started turning cartwheels,

jumping and diving. The shark was very serious, and tried to

swim away quickly, but the dolphins were too fast, and kept up

with him. One would bite his tail, and when the shark turned to

get him, two more dolphins would swim in and poke the shark with

their dorsal fins. The shark was driven to distraction, and

eventually dived so deep the dolphins couldn't follow, and went

away and never returned. It is so to this day- if you see

dolphins playing in the water, you may be sure no sharks are

about, as the dolphins will drive them away. He said that when

the creator created things, he put fun as a marker to the

important things to do in life.

 

He cited Mother Theresa, who on a visit to this country, said

that people weren't starving for food, but that they were

starving for love. In the Native American world view, generally,

ideal human interaction occurs on the model of a circle. What

goes around comes around, you attract what you are, the cycle of

the seasons, from Spring growth to Summer heat to Autumn

reflection to Winter hibernation, all of this is summed up in the

circle. The circle of the fireplace, the drum, a dwelling, the

horizon, the power of the world comes from circles, as Black Elk

said. Reciprocity, the long spoon story [In this story, a man

goes to hell, and notices that no-one can eat, because they have

extremely long spoons, and instead they fight with the spoons; he

goes to heaven, where they have the same spoons - and people FEED

EACH OTHER] Reverend Ike's "you can't take it with you, but you

can send it on ahead", all of this and much more is evoked by the

circle. Councils occur in a circle, and in a circle, one can see

everyone's eyes, and all are equal. In Chinese Feng Shui, or

design theory, straight lines are regarded as somewhat dangerous,

and meanders and circles as good.

 

Where does your sense of Self stop? For many Americans, the

sense of Self stops at the skin. This is a very peculiar idea,

one that many people in the world today would find very strange.

A community is a circle of people who have a sense of self beyond

their skin, where people communicate and work together on goals

for their common good. Community is for humans what the hive is

for bees. It might be people who share the same place, or people

who are related, or people who share the same interests.

Isn't "Community" self the web of the small, seemingly

unimportant things- perhaps little courtesies, or favors, looking

out for others, a smile or a wave to people on the street, and

all the other things people used to do without thinking?

 

Cooperation is what makes human beings what they are. It was

noted that competition tends to make people stupid, and cited

political and athletic speeches, among other things, as

supporting evidence. A nurturing, healthy community is a circle,

even a basket, held together by mutual trust, respect, and

interdependence. Corporations and similar organizations are

pyramids, or triangles, with clearly defined, even sharp, edges.

 

Manitonquat also does programs in prisons. For him, prisons are

the refined essence of our society. He's very patient. The one

statement that will make him bridle, though, is when someone says

he has to earn their respect. He says, "No, we have to start

over. Everyone has a RIGHT to respect. Respect is the center of

the circle of life. You can't expect people to love others, but

you can reasonable expect them to respect others. Respect

doesn't mean agreement, it means simply regarding other people as

the sacred, precious, intelligent beings in search of joy,

freedom, peace, and play they are. Respect may mean making eye

contact, which is remarkably rare in American society, and

normally an open challenge to a fight in a prison. Manitonquat

cited prisoners in his groups that said that his circle was the

only place in their lives where they felt like a human being,

where they got respect.

 

In India, people greet each other, or at least the elderly, by

placing their palms together, and saying "Namaste'". One could

translate this as "I recognize and salute the divinity in you".

The maxim "What you concentrate on grows" shows the power of this

idea.

 

Babies spend 9 months in a very comfortable place, and come out

naturally full of love. They come out of the lodge, and find

that people are... wierd. Nowadays we might say that they have

their own difficulties to work out, but babies don't know this,

so they start to grow a mask, to survive. We all have masks. We

could think of relationships, where 2 masks meet, and in time

gradually let the real selves through, and sometimes things don't

work out so well, as the mask and real self aren't necessarily in

harmony. Your public mask is the self that goes on your resume'.

Then there's a less crystallized mask, the mask you wear with

your friends. How would a resume look if you were applying to

someone to be their friend, I wonder? Then there are deeper

parts. There's a master craftsman part, a "Shakespeare" part,

which has the seeds of greatness. Perhaps there's a "shadow"

part, of repressed hopes and fears. Perhaps there's an "inner

child" part. And perhaps there's a part so invisible that when

you do something totally out of character, you say, "Where did

that come from?" and you aren't sure.

 

Stress is a natural part of life. Stress energy builds up

inside, swallowed up into the inner landscape, the inner life.

Men sometimes build up resentment energy in their chests, for

years, and perhaps it leads to heart attacks, for energy built up

must always find release. A circle of people can be a very

powerful way to release stress energy. One can think of

Alcoholics Anonymous, and similar groups. The smallest number to

form a circle with is two. If one is allowed to unload built up

poisons from inside, to hear that "it's ok to make mistakes, you

did the best you could with what you had at the time", one can

get rid of masking layers, and get down to one's real essence.

 

You could have an agreement with a friend, that you get to talk

for, say, ten minutes, and they listen attentively, and don't

interrupt. Then, after ten minutes, you reverse, and they get to

speak. He recommended that one choose success stories, issues

that "have juice", something that "rings your buzzer", something

that looks like it needs attention, as those are markers for

important issues. You might think about what your real nature

is, what your purpose is, to see the story you tell in this

exercise as a lens to define, perhaps, your place in the

universe. It is not spiritual to say that we are made of

stardust- it is literally true. Manitonquat notes that some have

been hurt more than others, and thus have more layers to go

through to their core being. He felt that he could get through

to the humanity of the worst serial killer, with this exercise,

given the time. He noted that none of the prisoners he dealt

with had come from good homes, that all had been subject to

severe control, and pain, and had gone from foster home to foster

home to adult life often without a friend they could trust, much

less a healthy family. This exercise is truly a "Medicine Story"

exercise. ["Medicine" referred to whatever made people whole.

In English, whole, healthy, and hale all come from the same root.

Thus, "Medicine" is whatever makes us whole, and a "Medicine

man/woman" is one who offers whatever is necessary to make people

whole. Regrettably, a better word is simply not available in

English.]

 

I heard once in that the military was the concentrated essence of

America- that it somehow combined small town America with Alice

in Wonderland and Franz Kafka. Is it not also the essence of

competition, of the adversarial approach? I've heard lawyers

where I work say that the best legal solution is one where no-one

is happy. Is that any way to run a society? No-one wins in a

war.

 

RESOURCES

 

America has experienced an incredible revival of traditional

storytelling. Local groups can sometimes be found through your

library, arts council, or nearest college. The following list is

by no means complete.

 

NATIONAL

 

National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of

Storytelling POB 309 Jonesboro, TN 37659-0309

 

National Story League 3508 Russell Apt. 6, St. Louis, MO 63104

 

Association of Black Storytellers, POB 27456,

Philadelphia, PA 19118-7456

 

lnternational Network of Biblical Storytellers

181O Harvard Boulevard, Dayton, OH 45406

 

[SPECIALIZED] NGH, P.O. Box 308, Merrimack, NH 03054-0308

(603) 429-9438 annual conference: August

 

 

SCHEDULED GATHERINGS OF STORYTELLERS

 

All Native American Powwows seem to have some storytelling

component, and the Native Americans are some of the best in the

business. Check out your public library, or the events section

of your newspaper, for events happening near you, or contact the

organizations cited as follows.

 

 

NEW YORK/NEW JERSEY/NEW ENGLAND

 

Connecticut Storytelling Center, Department of Education,

Connecticut College, New London, CT 06320

CT Chapter, Network of Biblical Storytellers

15 Dogwood Drive, Prospect, CT 06712

Southeastern Connecticut Storytelling Support Group

3 Main Street, Noank, CT 06340

 

New England Storytelling Center Lesley College Grad School,

29 Everett St, Cambridge, MA 02238

Western Mass. Chapter, International Network of Biblical

Storytellers- Granville Federated Church,

8 Granby Rd Granville, MA 01034

Western New England Storytellers' Guild

6 Round Hill Road, Northampton, MA 01060

The Spellbinders 301 Jacob Street, Seekonk, MA 02771

Maine Chapter, International Network of Biblical Storytellers

12 College Ave, Gorham, ME 04038

 

Seacoast Storytellers Portsmouth Public Library,

8 Islington St, Portsmouth NH 03801

North Jersey Storytellers 145 Walnut Street, Englewood, NJ 07631

 

Spin-a-story Tellers of Western New York

31 St. Paul Mall, Buffalo, NY 14240

Pearl in the Egg Storytellers' Guild- Kirkland Arts Center,

POB 213, Clinton, NY 13413

Storytelling Center of Oneonta Route 2, Box 206, Delhi, NY 13753

Westchester Storytellers' Guild

60 Southlawn Avenue, Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522

Odyssey Story Tellers- Finger Lakes Library,

314 North Cayuga St., Ithaca, NY 14850

Jewish Storytelling Center 525 West End Avenue, Apt. 8C NYC 10024

NY/NJ Chapter, International Network of Biblical Storytellers

229 West 78th Street, New York, NY 10024

New York City Storytelling Center

10 Patchin Pl, New York, NY 10011

Genesee Storytellers 203 Whistle Stop, Pittsford, NY 14534

Story Circle of the Capitol District

1117 Ardsley Road, Schenectady, NY 12308

 

GATHERINGS:

 

Connecticut Storytelling Festival- Dept of Educ., CT College, New London,

CT 06320 APRIL

Tapestry of Talent Children's Storytelling Event 38 School St, Enfield, CT

06082 MAY

CONFRATUTE Conference/Institute on Gifted Education, UConn, Box U7, Rm 28,

Storrs Hall, 231 Glenbrook Road,

Storrs, CT 06268 JULY

 

Winter Solstice Storytelling Celebration- Northampton Center for the Arts, 6 Round Hill

Road, Northampton, MA 01060

DECEMBER

Sharing the Fire Storytelling Conference- New England Storytelling Ctr,

Lesley College Graduate School, 49 Washington Avenue,

Cambridge, MA 02238 MARCH

Women's Storytelling Intensive 724 Berkley St, Berkley MA 02780 MAY

The Art of Storytelling from the Inside Out POB 214,

Oak Bluffs, MA 02557-0214 JULY

Three Apples Storytelling Festival POB 994,

Cambridge, MA 02238-0994 SEPTEMBER

Women's Storytelling Intensive 724 Berkley Street,

Berkley, MA 02780 NOVEMBER

Stories After Dark 99 Arlington St, Brighton, MA 02135 FREQUENT

Storytellers in Concert POB 994, Cambridge, MA 02238-0994 FREQUENT

Spellbinders Storytelling Series for Adults

301 Jacob Street, Seekonk, MA 02771 FREQUENT

Interface, 55 Wheeler St., Cambridge, MA 02138-1168 VARIED

Rowe Conference Center, Kings Hwy Rd, Box 273, Rowe, MA

01367-0273 (413) 339-4954 VARIED

 

Children's Literature and Storytelling Conference- Trenton State College,

Forcina Hall 384, Hillwood Lakes, Trenton, NJ 08650 OCTOBER

Pumpkin Patch Festival 145 Walnut Street, Englewood, NJ 07631 OCTOBER

 

 

Storytelling Institute- Palmer School of Library and Information Science,

C.W. Post Campus, Long Island Univ., Brookville, NY 11548 MAY

Clearwater's Hudson River Revival 112 Market Street,

Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 JUNE

Open Air Storytelling Festival- Finger Lakes Library System,

314 North Cayuga St, Ithaca, NY 14850 JUNE

Storytelling Conference- University of Rochester,

125 Lattimore Hall, Rochester, NY 14627 JUNE

Taking Words, Making Worlds Storytelling Conference 56 Brighton Street,

Rochester, NY 14607 JUNE

Jewish Storytelling Conference 525 West End Avenue, Apt. 8C,

NYC 10024 JULY

Long Island Summer Storytelling Festival-Cartoon Opera, POB 354,

Huntington, NY 11743 JULY

Storytelling in Central Park New York Public Library,

455 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10012 JULY

Conference on Jewish Storytelling 525 West End Avenue, Apt. 8C,

New York, NY 10024 AUGUST

Omega Institute, 260 Lake Dr., Rhinebeck, NY 12572 VARIED

 

 

For information and resources on Storytelling in the US, contact:

 

National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling,

P0B 309, Jonesborough, Tennessee 37659 (615) 753 2171

 

SPECIALIZED STORYTELLING RESOURCES

 

Somers Mountain Indian Museum,

332 Turn Pike Rd., Somers, CT, (203) 749-4129

Storrowton Village, part of Big E, West Springfield, MA

Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA

Institute for American Indian Studies, POB 1260, 38 Curtis Rd.,

off Rt. 199 Washington, CT 06793-0260 (203) 868 0518

Plymouth Village, Plymouth, MA

Advanced NeuroDynamics, 1833 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815

800-800-MIND

Anthroposophic Press, RR 4 Box 94, Hudson, NY 12354, (518) 851-2054

 

SPECIALIZED STORYTELLING BOOKS

 

Journey to the Ancestral Self Song, Tamarack. Station Hill Press, 1994.

 

MIND GAMES, The Guide to Inner Space. Masters, Robert, and Houston, Jean.

New York: Dorset Press, 1972.

 

My Voice will go with you: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson.

Rosen, Sidney. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1982. For therapeutic storytelling.

 

The Golden Cauldron. Scully, Nicki. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Bear and Co., 1991.

 

Zen in the Martial Arts. Hyams, Joe. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher,Inc., 1979.

 

 

ONE BOOKSTORE DEVOTED SOLELY TO STORYTELLING RESOURCES IS:

Yellow Moon Press

POB 1316

Cambridge, MA 02238-1316

(617) 776 2230

 

PUBLISHERS OF TAPES INCLUDE:

August House

POB 3223

Little Rock, AR 72203-3223

1 800 AUGUST House [800 284 8784]

 

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