Blake, J. (2016) The Fisherman: A Tale of Passion, Loss, and Hope. March 29. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAV6eXaS6dk (Accessed: 12-08-2021).
Gaiman, N. (2017) Norse Mythology. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Hulmes, D.F. (2009) 'Sacred trees of Norway and Sweden: A Friluftsliv Quest', paper. North Troendelag University College, Levanger, Norway. Delivered: September 14-19, 2009.
McCoy, D (2012-2019) Norse Mythology for Smart People. Available at: https://norse-mythology.org/ (Acessed: 12-08-2021).
Paxson, D. (2017) Odin: Ecstacy, Runes, & Norse Mythology. NewBuryport, MA: Red Wheel Weiser.
van Rosen, G. (1886) Odin in the guise of a wanderer. First appeared in the 1893 Swedish translation of the Poetic Edda.
storytelling by Eleanor Campbell and pavleheidler
research and consultancy: Corrine Harragin
special thanks to Dages Juvelier Keats, Shannon Cooney, and to all those before us who told this story to keep it alive.
get in touch with us by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
this research was made possible by cullberg and the explorations of now festival
reflections, first telling
written the day after the day of telling
Saying "Once Upon a Time," actually saying those words to a group of adults without losing focus... was challenging, to say the least. I could hear the tiny voice in the back of my mind rolling its eyes, "Don't be ridiculous." Adding to the challenge, I did not only want to say those words. With their uttering, I wanted to conjure a change in atmosphere, unleash upon the fabric of reality a bend or a fold that transforms the place from pretty to magical, from awe inspiring to hypersensitive, from reasonable to delusional, suggesting all the while that the place of story is not not a place of experience.
The tiny voice I'd heard interests me in its capacity to point to the aspect of "Once Upon A Time" that could trigger a cynic. My eyes were closed when I uttered those words yesterday, but my awareness was sensitive to the changes in the atmospheric tone. How much of a jumpback have the words inspired, and how do I–between now that I uttered those words, and before it's too late–cushion the place, so that the fall is gentle, a recovery possible, and a possible curious return-of-sorts initiated before the story has been told in its entirety?
In moments of alarm and discomfort, my attention goes to those who run the highest risk of reexperiencing trauma. I've learned this from polyamoury. I've learned this from social justice work. From writers and activists like adrienne maree brown, and Dan Savage. In a relationship, the stronger takes the cue from the weaker. Or else, the one who can takes the cue from the one who can't. Or else, the one whose focus is emitting takes the cue from the one whose focus has imploded. Until we're both ready. That's what it means to be interested, that's what it means to be present.
The one thing I did not anticipate was witnessing–in the faces of those who listened to the first telling–a childlike expression of wonder. Eyes gaping, soft cheeks draped over bone, mouth open. Was that the expression of wonder? I understood immediately that a person who allows wonder to show on their face risks a lot, for now I know what moves you. And indeed I know now, too, that you can be moved. The story of the runes teaches this as power. And I hope, Eleanor, we'll be telling the story of the runes one day. Exactly because the story of the runes is the story of responsibility, and the story of nuance. Qualities, in other words, which compliment power by offering a critical field for the thinking of the practice of pwer, which so many take for granted these days.
This is all I have the time for.
references (to be edited later)
brown, a.m. (2017) emergent strategy: shaping change, changing worlds. A K Pr Distribution.
Savage, D. (2021) Savage Lovecast. [podcast] Available at: https://www.savagelovecast.com (Acessed on: 13-08-2021).
reflections, second telling
written the day after the day of telling
A duck came up to me before and after the telling, when I was alone. A friend said, "the duck missed the point." I laughed at the thought of the duck missing the point as it has never occured to me that the duck did anything else but made a point.
A person, a father, approached me after the telling to say they appreciated being told a story they knew as well as they did. I am wondering today: if "familiar" is relative to "safe," will "safe" become relative to "not threatened," which might then become relative to "curious when faced with a detail that has been moved out of alignment by another." Me, in other words, the storyteller.
Because isn't that exactly what I'm doing, as I'm telling the story of lore weaved by experience of this place. I, the foreigner. I, the wanderer. I, the storyteller. Am I not moving elements of the cosmos in and out of alignment, as I'm learning to think and tread and thread along those synaptic pathways, which a cultural-local will be so very familiar with.
I wish I would have heard the father's child speak. In 2021, after all, the difference in age between parents and children is not a difference measureable in time only. Alas, I am left with the memory, an impression of the child's stillness of focus in my mind's eye.
This is all I have time for today.
this is where i told my story today. the tree in the backgrond, leaning slightly to the right, is an ash tree. ygdrassil, the world tree, the tree of life, at the root of which the story of odin's eye is taking place, at the well of mimir, is an ash tree.
This is one moment,
But know that another
Shall pierce you with a sudden painful joy.
T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
reflections, third telling
written the day after the telling
I am learning about the specificity of the contract that is created between the teller and the listener because the material they share is literally alive. The storyteller has never committed, like an actor* has, to a specific order of words, to a specific pace, to delivering a singular reading of the story. As a storyteller, I am constant, my telling is not. One day I will forget to mention a detail. The next I will digress. In the end, however, I will always tell this story and not just any story, as Donna Hathaway says. The story, in other words, will be told.
I remember looking up and not recognising the faces I was seeing. I remember feeling, I am like that tree over there, the ash tree, Yggdrasil, standing in same place every day as people arrive and they leave leave. This is my time. That is theirs. Some arrive to this place with the singular aim, to make a fire, to prepare their lunch. Who am I to these people, who didn’t come here for me, for Odin, for the telling? A fellow hiker, perhaps, not a storyteller whose interest in the ash tree isn’t only literal. This ash tree is Yggdrasil to me, the Tree of Life, the Cosmos. At its roots: the wells; in its crown: Asgardr. In Asgardr is where Odin is and where will stay until the time for him to meet Mimir comes.
We are both waiting for Odin to put his cloak on.
This is how much time I have today.
the writing of odin's eye
On this occasion, Odin–who is said to have been willing to pay any price to satisfy his thirst for wisdom–decided he needed to drink the water from Mimir’s well. Mimir was a shadowy figure, sometimes giant, sometimes god, and Oden’s Uncle, brother to his mother Bestla. Mimir’s insight––unparalleled amongst the inhabitants of the cosmos––is attributed to the water of the well, which Mimir consumed daily. This is the water that Yggdrasil itself, the Tree of Life, drew from.
“A drink from your well, Mimir. My journey was long and frightening.”
Mimir’s expression remained unchanged.
“You know better than I do, Oden the Responsible, that mine is to keep what you seek out of your reach, lest you relinquish the chance to know wisdom to the anticipation of a resolution. Wisdom cares not for martyrdom.”
It took Odin all his strength to calm the storm that brewed inside him, nagging him to lean over the wall, submerge his face under water, and swallow the most copious gulp he possibly could. Time. Odin, staring directly at Mimir, could see his figure waver in the reflection of Mimir’s eye. It was not movement that he perceived, though, for he was as still as the winter. In the place of the old Wanderer Mimir’s eye reflected a fawn whose crown was still covered in hair.
“My mother is your sister, Mimir,” Odin said in desperation.
“Corruption by nepotism, Odin the Senseless. Have you no grace?”
“A drink from your well, then, given as gift to the one whose perspective is partial, doomed as he is to ears of hearing and eyes of sight.”
“A gift. Perhaps,” said Mimir, “but not in the way you might expect.”
Mimir enjoyed observing Odin in his struggle, for it was not everyday he got to participate in the rite of passage a god will undertake whenever they become aware of their shortcomings.
“Which is not something gods did frequently. Nor eagerly,” Mimir thought to himself. “Vision you seek,” he said aloud, having made up his mind. “And vision you require, no doubt. But in your haste, Eager One, what vision you seek you will fail to grasp.”
reflections, fourth telling
written on several occasions
- a person asked me if Odin drunk his eye, or whether the eye was left in the well. They seemed to have been interested in the relationship between the well and the eye. I told them how the eye according to some sources is said to be in the well “seeing nothing, seeing everything.”
- three people approached the ash tree after the telling, looking for diamonds in the bark. I do not know if they found the diamond I found. The ash in question is really young.
- people ask me, how was it? and i really don’t know what to answer. after i tell the story, i do not feel like a professional performer who might be concerned with my delivery. i am a person, conscious of the fact that i told a story i really care about.
- this was the first time I found myself consciously stepping left and right to give Odin and Mimir a place during their conversation. I do not remember my voice sounding any different between the two, I do remember my muscle tone changing and my posture transforming. Subtly? Obviously? I am not sure.
- the wind was strong this day. the crowd large, the largest this week, in fact. Some people sat quite far away.
Mimir’s heart skipped a beat.
“Vision, you see, depends not on the eyes to see, or the ears to hear. Vision is not quantifiable and it does not deal in certainty. Vision requires patience, vision requires confidence, vision requires in-sight. A balance, in other words, a dynamic equilibrium established between that which you see and that which you do not. This is key. You know what to do.”
Odin did not hesitate...
He reached for the knife with one hand. With the other, he parted the lids of his eye. He cut through muscle and tendon, with the precision of time itself, severing the ocular nerve in the process.
His action left no room for disillusionment or hesitation.
The deed was done.
reflections, fifth telling
written the morning after the day of the telling
i am aware of a number of recurring thoughts i haven't had the chance to write down yet.
i was asked on a number of occasions by people who haven't had the chance to attend a telling whether i was reading the story i was telling. at first i thought the question surprising. after i've been asked it three times, i thought it curious. what about storytelling makes me assume a telling, and someone else a reading. i imagine two different scenarios. people in a sharing circle sitting aroudn the fire. a grandma in a rocking chair, with a child and a book in lap. are they all telling stories? i suppose they are.
another question that keeps coming up–which i happen to find a particularly dancerly question–is whether i am telling the story word for work or improvising my telling every time anew.
i am not telling the story word for word, even though i have started every telling with the words once upon a time, when time itself was young... when i say that i am not telling the story word for word, even though [...] i am expressing a feeling. in my expeirence, to committ to saying something word for word feels differently. in the reading, in the learning, in the speaking. in the rehearsing and the performing of the material. in my reading, writing, and telling of odin's eye i pay no attention, for example, to anything that would insure i am able to tell the words in the exact order every time. as a possible consequence, i also do not have to pay any attention to my telling becoming automatic, comfortable. easy. slack. nothing of my telling needs "refreshing."1 instead, i revel in the suggestion that the story takes us all the way back to the time when time itsef was young. why? becuase of the problem this creates. how is oden the wanderer old when time itself is young? was he an old youngster, was he a young oldster? is oden's age, the wrinkle on his forehead, a mirage? an islusion? which is why mimir, in my telling, is able to perceive oden as a fawn, an emotionally young old-looking person? oden is a shapeshifter, afterall. or! is there another lesson to learn from this consideration. namely, that time itself is relative in lieu of experience at least as much as it is relative in lieu of E=MC2.
this is how much time i have today.
i did not get to write about improvisation and why i do not feel like i'm improvising, even though i am not speaking learned text either. i would also like to write something about how different telling a story feels from working with a score, for example.
i also feel like i could incorporate more musings regarding the details i am excited about in my tellings, and why i chose to highlight them, and expand on them, instead of simply telling them through action, which is often the way of the storyteller, or so it seems. share the action, let the listener fill in the gaps with their own imagination. yes. except that odin's internal reflections: those are the actions i am curious about as a storyteller. can i tell them, is the question i ask myself, without making the listener feel i sorted the conundrum for them? can i tell the internal musings of a character so as to create more space inside of the internal process for the listener to consider.
i would like to expand on this. this is very exciting to me.
reflections, sixth telling
written on the morning after the day of the telling
i started listening to Jeanette Winterson reading Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, a book I read twice before, for the sole purpose of enjoying Jeanette Winterson reading Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, now that audible made that possible.
lo and behold, a surprise in chapter 4, where Winterson writes “there was a time when record keeping wasn’t an act of administration, it was an art form.” (emphasis added) poetry was easier to remember than prose, and so rhythm, pace, and beat encouraged messages to travel farther through space and deeper in time, when the only way for a message to travel was by means of an articulate life.
which begs the question, why storytelling? why today? why at the edge of a lake by a firepit and a wind shelter? between the rocks and the trees, two of which are ash trees, the ancient yggdrasils.
in my conversations with fellow artists, especially artists my age (i've just run out of time) who are "stuck" in the cultural-temporal limbo–half our lives techology was but a rumor, half our life technoloogy was not a rumor any longer. we are not our parents, though, or our grandparents, when it comes to our relationship to technology. neither are we the generations whose formative experiences include scrolling and swiping and touching the smooth deliciousness of a touchscreen–i am noticing a pattern gaining expereince, gaining strength, a sort of pride perhaps.
this is the pattern of disillusionment, a matturing pattern: we are beginning to realise that art isn't what we were promised it would be when we were young. we are beginning to realise that art sets us apart from more frequently than it brings us closer to people. people.
i admire a storyteller's priority, to create relationsip between my capacity to dream and yours. everything else is means to an end.
this is where i have to stop today.
the seventh telling
written on the morning after the day of the telling
this was the largest telling to date. it's as if the wind understood the challenge i was facing, it calmed and only proceeded to interupt me once–for dramatic effect, i thought. thanks, wind.
the sixth telling, i do not think i documented this, was the only telling to date which was partially told inside of the wind shelter. the rain came suddenly and it didn't stay long. by the end of the telling the sun was out again. following a particluarly strong thunder bang one of the listeners said, "that's thor." "he must be jealous we are not telling one of his stories," i replied.
something about yesterday, the crowd? my mood? the exhaustion? made it possible for me to relax a little, in the way i wouldn't have thought appropriate during previous tellings. i would have imagined relaxing in this way to be detremental to my cause. the effect, however, was the exact opposite of the anticipated.
being diagnosed with ADHD creates an interersting challenge for the person diagnosed, especially if the person diagnosed is diagnosed–like i was–in adulthood. categorised by the DSM-5TM1 as a neurodevelopmental disorder, ADHD expresses through and is evidenced in a person's behaviour. that ADHD is evidenced and so diagnosed via the analysis of a person's behavioural patterns leads to confusion, as the diagnostic methodolgy suggests ADHD to be a behavioural challenge.
[session expired. after pressing "submit" the website blocked me. i have to remember to write where it's safe to write. i lost about seven paragraphs of clear writing and am running the risk of missing the train to orlången. complete loss of executive function today.]
1 Diagnoostic and Statisical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association
in my earlier effort, I tried to write down the way between relaxing and risk-taking and perceived professionalism in dance performance on the map made from adhd, behaviour, neurochemistry, and personality. I risked being late for work to do this, not realising that—once again—in an effort to make sense, I have outlined a prototype of a research question.
I am writing this at the bus station, waiting to be picked up by the festival staff, unable to let go of the need to articulate my question: if analysing behaviour is the only known way to evidence adhd, how can I learn to differentiate between my behaviour as evidence of my personality and my behaviour as evidence of my neurodevelopmental disability?
The differentiation is crucial emotionally before it is crucial socially for the following reason. Personality is negotiable. ADHD isn’t. Let’s say I find myself in a situation, as I often do, in which I haven’t been able to stop talking without realising that I haven’t been able to stop talking. When held accountable for the effect my continued talking had on another person, I have two options. I can feel guilty… or not.
I can feel guilty, because my personality, my behaviour, I should be in control of it, right? and if i'm not in control, this is due to my failure to gain control. alternatively, I do not feel guilty because i know that even on the best of days I am vulnerable to my symptoms, which i can influence by taking meds, by meditating, by getting enough sleep and eating enough and all that. but i can never deny them, never get rid of them, i can never not be vulnerable to them. i cannot, in other words, make a choice because i have no choice. there is no choice.
reflections, eight telling
written on the morning after the telling
i arrived at the festival with less time to prepare than usual. i was frustrated, emotional. i sat for my daily meditation, 15 minutes of peace on top of the rock overlooking the lake. tears streamed down my face like that water pours from mimir's horn down odin's throat, introducing into the story a sense of cool sobriety.
i do not think i was crying. i was weeping.
the second definition of weeping, according to the Mac-native Dictionary app, is to exude liquid. that's what i was doing, i was exuding. according to the same Dictionary app, to exude means to discharge slowly and steadily.
later in the evening, when i was home alone, finally alone, thinking back upon my week, i asked myself: what was it about this week that made me so tired? sure, i had a nerve extracted from a root of my tooth for the first time in my life this thursday, which was stressful more than it was painful. but that doesn't explain it. the stress and the pain is not of the kind, the type, the sense, the tone thaat is at the root of this tiredness. this tiredness feels differently.
in my mind's eye, my week disintegrates into the matrix-like structure. bits and pieces of information flying around me like bees, connected with each other through song and dance only they can hear and read. i do not need to be able to read their dances and hear their songs. i see their movements and extract my own meanings, wonderings, musings.
a pattern begins emerging.
at the festival, the conversation developing between me and my colleagues concerns logistics and logistics alone. if i'm talking about art and artistic practice, i'm talking to visitors, members of the public. here and there, a memory pops up of a collegial conversation about art, mine, yours. these conversations remain faint. they are not superficial, but we are not losing ourselves in them, either.
i am tired because at the end of this week i am not an artist. i am an activist and a researcher, interested in the specific ways organisational strategies do not only evidence the existence of underlying power structures, but help define the power structures' quality or kind.
i am tired because i've spent time and energy doing what i wasn't supposed to be doing. my job was to tell a story, to document the telling, to reflect on my developing practice, and to repeat that process on a daily basis. which is what i did. i've done my job. i should rest now.
i am tired because i'm gathering evidence for an essay i am not writing, for a research i am not developing. which is why i only have my brain to store this data in. and my brain is full. as is my todo list. i should rest now.
i think of odin in this moment. this creature who is as old as time itself when time itself is young, this creature who looks like gandalf but behaves like spring, this man who could have been a woman, were his story written down by somebody else at another time. then i think of mimir saying to odin, "vision is the stuff of experience." and i close my eyes, happy that i can experience thought. i am tired because i traveled far this week. tired means good today.
photo taken by samuel john draper
sent to pav on august 26, 2021
at the root of yggdrasil, we see the norns.
one time past.
one time just before the present.
one time past that has not yet had the chance to emerge as time future.