A big “thank you” to Brian Rohr for writing our first guest blog post!
During the first year of my apprenticeship with Master Storyteller/Mythologist Daniel Deardorff, I refused to tell a story in public, though I was asked by various people to do so. The reason for this was simply that I did not feel ready. During that time, I went deep within, studying, learning, observing and absorbing all that I could about the art. I was fortunate to be able to sit at the feet of a master. I was in no hurry.
One of the things Danny taught me was that as important as it was to be a Storyteller, it was equally or more important to be what he calls a Story-Carrier – one who lives with the stories, letting them grow inside, informing that person how to be a human being. Everyone has this ability. It is how we as people used to learn – through the ways of the oral tradition. But over time, facts became a replacement for a deeper truth that the old stories inherently carry. As such, being a Story-Carrier was a skill I needed to hone.
Simultaneously, I was also learning the sacred art of calling a ritual fire, an ancient practice of clanking flint and steel together to make a spark. While I could have easily used a lighter and fluid, the purpose was not about how quickly I could create a fire. Rather, the practice was to help form a deeper relationship with the element ‘Fire.’ Why you ask would a storytelling apprentice want to create this bond? Well, it is said that ‘Grandfather Fire’ is the carrier of all the stories, by virtue of having listened to the stories humans have shared throughout time around a fire. As a Story-Carrier and Teller, it was important to learn what this powerful element had to teach.
And it was not easy.
Night after night, I would sit in my backyard beside the fire pit I dug, practicing with the flint and steel. It was hard to get a spark in those days. I could easily be there for a half hour or more before a smoky fire got going. Like anything else that one works hard at, it became more natural over time, as I formed that relationship with Fire. Ultimately, learning to call a ritual fire along with learning to be a Story-Carrier brought me to a richer relationship with the stories themselves and to an understanding of what a deep responsibility that relationship is.
It has been a number of years since those days. Not only have I told stories in public, I have toured across the country several times, performing at universities, synagogues, festivals and conferences. Usually there is no fire allowed at these events, but I frequently still like to summon ‘Grandfather Fire.’ I do this by sharing the relationship between fire and the stories with the listeners, and then I ask everyone to use their intention and power. I count to three, asking everyone to really concentrate and imagine a fire before us: one…two…three! With our fire now blazing, we can properly begin the story!
Brian Rohr is a Storyteller/Mythteller who recently moved to Portland from Port Townsend, WA with his beloved wife Sarah. You can see Brian perform at his upcoming feature-length performance called: Calling Forth the Mythic Fire: An Evening of Wild Storytelling at Hipbone Studio on May 17th. More info can be found at:brianrohr.com/mythicfire
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