Blog Home2018-11-16T18:48:58+01:00

One of my favourite books on myth, story and place, Keith Basso’s Wisdom Sits in Places, focuses on the ways in which a sense of place and of belonging among the Western Apache people is tied up with stories that are embedded in the landscape. Their stories are born out of a magical mixture of oral history and reconstructed memory, and have an educational function in the community (‘stories go to work on you like arrows … stories make you live right’). Here’s how Basso describes it: 119

I’ve been re-reading Sean Kane’s superb book, The Wisdom of the Mythtellers, prior to a performance this coming weekend at the Carrying the Fire festival in Biggar with Alastair McIntosh. 322

‘Native’ cultures around the world have worked for thousands of years with story. More than ‘worked with’ – been founded on, lived by. Why? Because, at the risk of being repetitive and using one of my favourite quotes yet again, ‘Stories go to work on you like arrows?… Stories make you live right?… Stories make you replace yourself.’ These words, spoken by people from Western Apache communities to anthropologist Keith Basso (Basso, 1996), get right to the heart of why stories can change people. What we do with ‘narrative therapy’ is really no different in intent – it just runs the risk of being (and often, quite frankly, is) a whole lot more boring. We steal the idea, give it a fancy name, wrap it up in clever-sounding but largely meaningless jargon, and then, if we’re not careful, rip the heart out of it. Which, of course, is what western ‘culture’ does best. 318

The kind of stories that I’m interested in exploring on this blog aren’t just for entertainment. They’re not ‘fictions’ in the usual sense of the word. As Alan Garner puts it: ‘The difference between legend and modern storytelling is that the modern story is a conscious fiction, whereas the legend … was, in its origins, an attempt to explain a reality.’ This is what I’m interested in: the stories that underpin our lives, our concepts of the world, our ways of being. Through all the years that I’ve been working with stories I’ve been astonished at how easily people seem able to dismiss stories – ‘fairy stories’ especially. Stuff for kids, they’ll mutter. Escapism. They’re not real. 320