If you look at all the ancient people, they are all steeped in story. There are stories about their heroes, why things are done the way they are, how things got to be the way they are, codes of conduct, and other things that are woven into every day life. These create the threads by which people are rooted and connected. The whole tribe was interwoven into those stories and believed in those stories.
In modern culture we don’t share common stories. We don’t even have shared stories within our own families. Perhaps we don’t even have relationships within our own families. This is why so many of us are lost. How can you know who you are when the threads that create you have been severed and lead nowhere? How can you feel your Oneness in the universe if you are a law unto yourself?
Let me give you an example. The Cherokee have a tradition called “going to the water.” The first thing in the morning, each person gets to the river (settlements were almost always near running water) to purify him or herself. It’s a way to start fresh, wash away illness and bad thoughts. To keep the water pure, nothing was allowed to contaminate it. Not spit, urine, feces, or trash. Going to the water was also done during the new moon and when returning from battle. This was to keep the community pure.
Sounds quaint, eh? But what’s the big deal about that? Well, for one thing, it teaches hygiene. It also shows respect for water. All life depends on clean water. Our water supply is contaminated with agricultural run off, chemical pesticides that people routinely spray on their lawns, pharmaceuticals that are either flushed down the drain or peed out, as well as garbage. This is not to mention things like oil spills and fracking.
When you live your stories, you have an awareness of how your brothers and sisters (human and non-human) impact your well being. You don’t harm them. You show gratitude for them. When you do that, you feel a connection to them that benefits both sides.
When you share your stories with others, it creates community and understanding. It lets you live in harmony because there is agreement about how to do things and what really matters.
Saying grace before you eat and participating in Thanksgiving is a way to showing gratitude for the bounty from Mother Earth. Yet how many now make it about football and shopping? Removing the sacred from feast days just makes it a party. Haven’t you ever felt lonely at a party? If so, that’s because it’s easiest to feel most isolated in a group where there is no connection. Connect with your food. Connect with Earth and the farmer that provided that food. When you do, you grow in relationship to others in your world.
In Scotland, people know the story of their clan. They know what their tartan and coat of arms look like, their family motto, and the history of their people. They know about their heroes and villains. In short, they know where they come from. Although Scottish people are all over the globe, it keeps them rooted in their land and heritage.
America is made up of immigrants, slaves, and indentured servants – many of whom severed ties from their homelands. Sometimes by choice, other times by force. Within a generation or two, they lost touch with their roots. They lost their stories and thus themselves.
Don’t lose your stories. If you already have, recapture them. Know your people. Know your past. Find out the meanings behind the traditions you embrace. Engage in the purpose for holidays rather than just using it as a day off. Stories create continuity and connection. They give meaning to life.
When people go on vacation, they often pay someone (a tour guide) to tell them the stories of the people and places they are visiting. Why? To get an understanding of who they are and what they went through. Did your people suffer through a plague, get tortured in the Inquisition, found a city, or work in a guild? Were they sun worshipers, conquerors, or miners? Did they live in the same valley for generations or were they wanderers? Their story is your story. Why not discover it?