The art of storytelling has roots that run both far and wide.
Historically, oral storytelling served as an early form of communication, predating the origins of written language. It can be traced back to prehistoric times when humans used cave drawings to commemorate their experiences. As early as 3000 BC, the first hieroglyphics were used by priests to decorate temples and tombs and record important events like wars or stories about their many gods and Pharaohs.
On the societal level, storytelling has served a variety of functions including the passage of history, customs, morals and traditions, handed down from generation to generation for the sake of conservation. Storytelling uses entertainment and embellishment as educational tools taking form in popular culture in print, audio and video as fairy tales, folk songs, poetry, paintings, dance, acting and body art. During the pre-industrial era storytellers served as the teachers, healers, leaders and entertainers of society.
Storytelling has also played a vital role as a form of cultural memory, fortifying the vitality of groups of people across the globe for centuries.
In Australian Aboriginal culture, one of the world’s oldest indigenous cultures, Songlines, also known as Dreaming tracks, was a form of storytelling used to understand the landscape, reinforcing the value that their culture placed on the natural world and explaining occurrences of natural phenomena. Stories of the air, land and the universe were passed down by the elders to children at a young age who then carried them forward, passing tales from village to village and tribe to tribe.
Black slaves in America used songs and storytelling as a way to keep African folktales alive in the face of culturally oppressive conditions. It created space for the preservation and dissemination of African culture, provided respite from the unbearable hardships of slavery, and encouraged a sense of community.
Native American tribes have a rich oral storytelling history with themes centered around the honoring of all life, including plants and animals. Retelling stories was a way to stay connected with their ancestors and became especially important during times of forced relocation and colonization.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans used storytelling in the form of mythology and lyric poetry about gods and goddesses, heroes and monsters to explain everything from religious rituals to the weather, helping give meaning to the world people saw around them.
Keep the practice alive. Register for our upcoming class - Storytelling 101: An Introduction to Creative Writing, starting on October 11th. so you too can become a storytelling vessel. . For more information and to register, click here.