This past month I had the privilege of visiting the new Pueblo Cultural Center and Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the village in Taos. I was most impressed with the pottery and artifacts of ‘the storyteller,’ so I just had to share this with you as it does have a bearing on how we communicate with our children, grandchildren, and the community in which we live.
PUEBLO ORAL HISTORY AND CULTURE
History was always passed down verbally. Someone would always pass on the stories of the tribes’ history and culture to the next generation. So, it never needed to be written down; this was part of their culture. It is shown in the pottery, which is beautiful. The storyteller can be portrayed as an animal or a person, indicating that it can be anyone who is that storyteller. A turtle sculpture appealed to me, with little turtles crawling all over it, listening to the story. There will be a storyteller in every generation, passing the story down and adding to it as events happening in each generation affect the tribe.
JEWISH ORAL HISTORY AND CULTURE
I was reading Deuteronomy 4:9-14, which says,” only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and their children after them. Remember the day that you stood before the Lord?”
FAMILY AND CULTURAL HISTORY TODAY
At least one family member must be the storyteller, passing down the family’s history from one generation to the next. Writing it down, making it available for the people who come after them, the triumphs and the failures, so that the lessons learned in each generation can be noted and applied when necessary. Families become tribes after a time with the marriages and resulting children. Regrettably, this is neglected in this modern day and age. Although they are good websites where you can find out family history, the stories that make an impact are told by grandparents, aunts, and uncles. We love to remember the humorous incidents, but what about the tragic ones too? There are things that we learn from these stories.
STORIES TO TEACH
How would you learn to avoid a snake if you hadn’t been told snakes could kill you if they bit you? Growing up in Africa, snakes were one of the biggest things we were afraid of, not only because we had so much experience with them but because of the story of our great-grandmother, who was blinded when a spitting cobra spat in her eyes. A small child who doesn’t know about a snake would be happy to pick one up. They wouldn’t be afraid, but because we teach them through these stories, they learn to leave a snake alone.
STORIES OF FAITH
It is the same with our stories of faith. Those stories strengthen the family’s faith when God has acted in a family and helped someone. We may read stories in the Bible, but it is much easier to believe when we hear of other people’s faith and that it is still possible for God to act in our own family. When it is our own experience that we’ve felt and heard God’s voice, it is easier to pass on. We don’t know how, in the Bible how God spoke to certain people. We don’t know whether it was audible, through symbols, in their hearts or how they heard it. But it is when we experience it personally, that we can describe it to our family members or write the story down so other people can be inspired to believe it. Even when things are difficult, we can keep going in faith because we know that God has been faithful to them and helped them along the way.
So, keep writing, keep telling, and write your stories. Be inspired by the Pueblo Storytellers that pass their history and culture down from generation to generation. If you received my Newsletter, you would have read that I was inspired by The Divine Comedy, written by the poet Dante 700 years ago. He wrote his poem explaining his spiritual journey through the history and culture of his time and the message he was given, he was told to write it down for future generations, and much of it is applicable today as it was back then. One realizes that human nature has not progressed very much! Dante used circles to describe processes, which is how it seems to work. We keep circling back to the same problems but end up with a better understanding of God and how to live a worshipful and thankful life.
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