What is Ancestral Storytelling?

“Since time immemorial, we as human beings have communicated what’s essential in our lives through stories.”

Cheryl Hunter

Storytelling has been part of human existence since the Stone Age. Sitting around a fire, or painting in a cave, birthed a tradition inherent to the human genome. One every human carries. It’s little wonder we’re so fascinated with stories like LoTR and Star Wars.

Passing On Tradition

It’s theorized that storytelling evolved to maintain tradition in aboriginal tribes. To preserve spiritual customs and teach the next generation how the world works. Weaving lessons into a story made it entertaining, especially for young children. What child doesn’t like a bedtime story?

Storytelling is wired into our brains. It helps our genome pass on information and evolve. Without storytellers, tradition would vanish. The Hero’s Journey would be unspoken, and unexplained, by our elders.

The Hero’s Quest—A Story About Our Own Journey

The Hero’s Journey is the tale of a protagonist, drawn on a rigorous adventure. S/he meets a mentor and several companions to aid in the quest. There’s always an antagonist, or opposing force, that obstructs the hero.

Each successful story, movie, and video game follows this formula. It fascinates us, like moths to a bonfire.

Aspiring to be the hero in our own lives pushes us to new heights. It encourages growth and adaption. That’s not to say we should become selfish, but embrace the story we live everyday. To observe and honor it. To treasure the present moment as the story writes itself out.

The story finishes when we die. Until then, it remains unfinished, no more than a myth.

The Personal Myth

“The story of our lives is crucial to understanding who we are and to which we have to ascribe some meaning. That’s where we find meaning.”

—Bill Moyers

We’re always looking at the future. Worrying, hoping, aspiring. The future is what we wish to become. But if we neglect the journey, the road to that future, then we miss out on living the story itself.

Many of us live busy lives—full of anxiety, pain, and distraction. When we’re able to center ourselves through a practice like meditation or prayer, we grow aware of the present moment. We observe the journey undertaken. Hurdles become amusements, and pain become catalysts for our own evolution.

The Inner Antagonist

As with all stories, there’s an antagonist. Whether it’s a serial killer, obnoxious boss, huge loans to pay off, an angry ex, or one’s inflated ego—they remain obstacles to be overcome.

Carl Yung theorized that the Greek gods were archetypes for human behavior. The rampant jealousy, power-hungry tendencies of the gods reflecting humanity’s issues make sense in hindsight.

But where do these issues come from? Enter the ego.

The Eye of the Ego

I’ve read that the ego gets a “payoff” from baser emotions. It loves to dwell in hate, jealousy, guilt, and fear. Even anger and pride have drawbacks that self-destruct on the ego despite these payoffs. It isn’t until the upper levels of courage, reason, and love that the ego’s nature changes towards a more positive outlook.

In stories, the hero embodies the higher emotions, with flaws to be overcome. The villain is a dark reflection of the hero stuck in the lower emotions.

Storytelling From An Evolutionary Standpoint

For life to thrive, it cannot dwell in the lower levels of consciousness. It strives for higher emotions, despite the temptation of the ego to pull back to the baser ones.

This, in itself, is the inner struggle between hero and villain. It’s the story we engross ourselves in time and again. Our ancestors knew this, and to prevent the degradation of the Hero’s Journey in humanity, they maintained the storytelling ritual.

This is ancestral storytelling. Preservation of humanity.

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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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