When we were walking the GR11, storytelling became a huge part of our daily lives. As we walked we would tell each other detailed stories, old and new, from books, tv or film, trash, tragedy or terrifying; it didn't really matter, as long as they were told with gusto! We also read to each other in the evenings from our only book that followed the journey of Norma Jean Belloff who cycled across America creating the first Women's speed record. We wild-camped for the majority of the trip and the distinct lack of technology brought storytelling alive for us and it is something that I am trying to continue and explore more since our return.
In the spirit of storytelling, this week we attended a stargazing event with the Dark Sky Wales team and it reinforced my feelings that storytelling not only connects the teller and the audience in the present, but also across history. However, most importantly, storytelling engages us with science and nature in a way that facts alone often struggle to do. Just look at the viewing figures for Planet Earth II, it is the beautiful storytelling that hooks us in, with more young people watching the most recent episode than X-Factor - brilliant! If we want young people to connect with nature and conservation, then storytelling from a young age is not a bad place to start!
I know a few constellations, but I am usually limited to The Plough, Pleiades and Orion's Belt when I gaze up at the sky. The Plough was the first constellation I was able to recognise, although as a child I referred to it as the saucepan (and still do now if I'm honest!). It always makes me think of home, or more specifically the street where I grew up. Perhaps because we were always told to come home from playing when it started to get dark, by which point The Plough was normally visible as I hurried back. So, I associate it with happy memories, or stories, from my childhood and that is probably why I have always remembered it and look for it in the night sky. Pleiades and Orion's Belt I picked up along the way, through various evenings spent picking out clusters, shapes and patterns and making up my own stories.
Once we start telling stories about the stars they are brought to life and it becomes very easy to remember and pick out constellations from the night sky and their associated narratives. In particular, stories that allow you to connect numerous constellations are extremely powerful tools to help us remember. For example the Greek myth that connects Gemini and The Ram through the quest for the Golden Fleece with Jason and the Argonauts.
These ancient myths provide glimpses into the distant past, through stories that would have been passed down verbally, well before the written word, and elaborated or embellished with each telling. I was particularly interested in the Celtic mythologies associated with the constellations, with stories of Lleu overlapping Perseus and the horse Llyr connecting with Pegasus. Llyr, the sea god, is associated with a beautiful white horse, which then also provides a possible explanation of why the whitecaps of waves are sometimes known as white horses.
Next year will be named the Year of Legends in Wales and I have already signed up to a storytelling workshop for activity providers in the Brecon Beacons. In the mean time I have just bought a copy of The Mabinogion and A Poet's Guide to Britain and I am excited about connecting them all with my future walks and adventures!