Stories in the Stone Age

I first met Lynx Vilden in 2017 at a primitive fishing camp in the west of Ireland. I was unfamiliar with her semi-legendary status in the primitive skills world, only hearing of the camp through a friend, and essentially looking for an excuse to visit Ireland and get out on the land. It was a random choice, but one of my better ones.

I arrived via Galway with a raging hangover as I understand is customary when you leave Galway. Already I was in love with the place- it felt like Scotland only a bit cheerier, and missing a few mountains.

During the camp we wandered in aged hazel copse, cut staffs that would become rods, twisted nettle fibres into cordage fit for fishing line and carved bone into hooks that may land a fish in a way similar to our ancestors. We made a small boat, or coracle, out of hazel rods and cow skin and processed some weird looking fish that I forget the name of. We launched the coracle on a lake at the end of the week and tested out our primitive fishing kit. Having had that experience I can understand how it took old Finnegas the druid 7 years to catch the salmon of knowledge! Primitive fishing offers no guarantee of your supper…at least at beginner level.

It does cultivate an appreciation of the devotion, skill, sensitivity and natural awareness required by ancestral people just to put food on the table. Add shelter, clothing, fire, defence and any other human need into the mix and we see that survival was a full time occupation. A modern life of endless screen based demands on our attention may feel similarly endless, although the satisfaction level is quite different.

This week was also glorious. To be engaged in craft requires a meditative focus, it tunes our eyes and ears to the land for resources and patterns that may be useful. It slows us down, dropping into the refreshing rhythm of the natural human being. It’s a tonic for the soul.

Appreciation of blossom and birdsong is essential. The fostering of community is an unexpected boon. Through crafting we slow down and whilst using the hands we focus yet conversation flows freely. To be rooted in place, tuning into the land and staying physically engaged in a timeless way with a social group is powerful. Maybe it happens effortlessly, or maybe there is a quiet facilitation skill that enables this. I’m not sure, but certainly it happened and was powerful. That yearning in me to gather on the land with good hearted folk in deep connection to nature never goes away, yet rarely gets fully satisfied. This was one such occasion.

A few years later and I’m still no master craftsman. In fact I seem to have a unique talent in that I can attend a craft camp and not actually finish making anything! It’s a bit embarrassing, but doesn’t diminish the depth of connection I feel through such gatherings. People and land capture my imagination and fulfil something soulful in me. Predictably I bring stories to such spaces and there’s a symbiosis in the sharing.

In a pre-digital, even pre-print, world, storytelling, singing, musicianship and poetry were essential skills and crafts. Different in quality to the weaving, foraging, hunting and leather craft that kept people sheltered and nourished, but part of the same village culture and offering a different kind of shelter, tracking and nourishment. Different threads in the same fabric. Primitive skills without a strong music-story element lacks a bit of colour, invocation and dreaming. Stories without the pragmatic relational depth of craft, primitive survival awareness and physicality lacks body. They can be all dreamy idea and no real substance. All fragrance and no grit. The cross pollination of the physical and poetic is potent. It is no accident that the old Fianna tales revere poetry alongside hunting prowess, nobility and fighting prowess. Peace in the land and thriving of the Gaelic culture required poetics as a pillar.

This year I have been invited by Lynx to Norway. The Lithica primitive skills camp will take place during the last week of June and forms part of a bigger vision. I know this camp will be an enriching one. It holds all the essential elements, with skilled, empathetic facilitators for a week of practical, earthy magic making. I know such encounters can define a year, and provide fuel for living life in a better way. I expect depth, elation and the right amount of discomfort to experience something magical.

In recent years I’ve learned to appreciate the physicality of storytelling. How does a story change or develop as we carry it out on a landscape where the characters have walked? How does our appreciation of the wild creatures in the tale develop if we track, trail and learn about them? What can we learn about the cultures who told these old tales when we live in a way mirroring theirs, in deeper connection with the living world and a practical self sufficiency? It’s a way of serving the stories, and the craft of storytelling is richer for this embodied remembering. Both stories and craft carry echoes of the old cultures in distinct ways, and when they meet by the fire under an open sky or canvas, a subtle magic of a world in living connection is restored for a moment at least.

The big vision of the Lithica Rewilding project is to buy land and dedicate it to rewilding land and humans, creating a sustainable future in the process. ‘As Rewilded Lithicans, as Wild Humans, we enter the Wilderness Area respecting and honouring the beauty and sacredness of the earth.’ It’s a vision that I share and trust Lynx and her crew to carry forward. I want to be a part of that kind of vision, weave the ancient craft of storytelling into the mix and embody such a way of living.

As a fundraiser, I’m offering the storytelling services in a voluntary capacity in support of the project, covering my own travel too. It’s a bit of a stretch in the current economic climate as a self employed storyteller, yet it feels like a worthy commitment. If you’d like to support this enterprise, to the cost of a cup of coffee, I’ve set up a page on ‘Ko-fi’ where people can offer small donations (or large if you feel inclined!) to support the trip and Lithica project.

I don’t like to ask for something for nothing so will offer a recording of one of my favourite stories as a thank you to those who contribute. A Saami Myth about the daughter of the sun and how happiness came to the people is a good one to celebrate indigenous culture and the Scandinavian connection. How the Midges came to Scotland also has a Scandi connection. Either way, I want to give something back to anyone who chooses to support this and maintain the cycle of reciprocity. Any support will be greatly appreciated and help make a good thing happen.

To support via my Kofi page follow this link:

If you’d like to join us at this wonderful gathering in Norway from the 24th-30th June:

I’d be interested to hear of anyone’s experiences regarding earth based skills and storytelling in the comments below. Likewise, if you know of any stories that would be perfect for such a gathering, a nod in their direction would be much appreciated.

Also, if you want to stay up to date with my story musings and events, or discover more about Lynx’s journey, you can sign up via my mailing list or check out her book accordingly via the following links:

My mailing list:

Lynx’s book, ‘Return’:

Has a story ever truly moved you?

Has a story ever moved you in such a way you feel changed upon hearing it?

Has a myth or wonder tale ever worked a subtle magic leaving you with the feeling that the world is somehow different?

It’s happened to me a few times…hence I’m asking the question.

The tale of ‘Jumping Mouse’ set me off on my storytelling journey. The ‘Birth of Ossian’ felt like it spoke directly to my soul. ‘The Bird Who Gifted Fire’ is a story that anchors me in the best of Scottish culture. The “man who entertained bears’ carried me through one winter.

Yet the story I feel having the most vivid impact on me is an Inuit tale of Sedna, the ocean goddess. When I found that story something inside me changed. Something came alive that had been dormant before. It awakened something old and almost forgotten.

When I found ‘Sedna’ I was shocked. (Be warned, it’s pretty rough!) Yet somehow I was satisfied by the treachery and the absolute disruption of my expectation. I realised I was delighted by stories that surprise me, and that these old tales can do just that. I love stories that I could never make up myself, that could not be created from a modern mind. To witness patterns of the psyche that arose pre-industrialisation is a joy. Hunter gatherer psyche. A human imagination in close contact with the earth.

Sometimes the modern world is too predictable, the ‘happily ever after’ tales too contrived. Sometimes they are comforting. Surely they have their place, yet it doesn’t pay to sugar coat everything. That’s not how life is…or my life anyway. Maybe it’s the fatalistic Highlander in me that yearns for a good, harsh dose of ancient, Inuit mytho-poetic reality every now and again. How about you?

In these lands it does not pay to always expect things to go well. The cold can kill. Hunger can kill. The wild ocean can kill. How do we hold such brutal truths alongside the light and joy of living? Story is one such container that lets us feel dark and light from the safety of the fireside.

Time to kindle a flame. Utter a few words in the old tongue.

But what of Sedna?

This brief telling is based on the version I found. As always, trying to hear it from the people who traditionally told it is best. Furnish the imagery with learning about the people and ecology of the far north. Maybe offer a nod of respect in their direction.

But for now, here is a version of the tale that lit a fire in my mind that still glows.

Photo by Isaac Demeester on Unsplash

Sedna was the most beautiful girl in the village. Raven black hair, eyes ocean deep, cheeks rosy as blood on snow.

Many men came to court her but she wasn’t keen on any of them. These local boys bored her. Her father became worried, “Sedna, I am getting old. I cannot hunt forever. You must find a husband and start your own family.”

She was in no hurry to do so.

Until one day a man crossed the sea by canoe. He was dressed in fine furs and wore walrus tusk sunglasses. He looked exotic and sounded extraordinary. When he sang it was enchanting. His voice carried like wind sweeping across the tundra, it rose from his belly like the growl of the great white bear. It was sweet and sharp as summer berries. In his courtship song he promised many things; a warm home laden with soft furs, meat to eat every day. How could Sedna resist?

She fell instantly for this bold stranger. Her father’s delight eclipsed the disappointment of the local lads. Sedna was married. There was celebration, feasting, ritual, blessing, games. Then she left with her new husband across the sea.

The first sign of foreboding was when they landed on a rocky storm-swept island. “Why are we landing here?”, “This is where we will stay”, she was told.

She clambered after her nimble husband, ascending rocks until they came to a ledge furnished with sticks, branches and moss in a wide circle. “This will be our home.” her husband stated.

It wasn’t quite what she’d imagined. She huddled that first night under tough walrus skin blankets. The next day her husband went to get food, returning with fish. He ate them raw. She did likewise.

This was her new life. Living atop a cliff, eating fish each day, with her strange husband. The sheen of her hair became dull, her eyes misty with disappointment.

One day he returned from fishing and tripped on the rim of the nest. His walrus tusk glasses fell off and for the first time she saw into his eyes. They were small, beady and black. She was aghast!

“What ugly bird’s eyes you have!” she spat. Her repulsion delighted her husband who proceeded to remove his clothes. For the first time she saw him truly, under his boots were flat webbed feet, under his jacket, long grey feathers, and as he removed his hood she saw a long nobbled beak protruding from his face.

“Aja, I’ve married a fulmar, the ugliest of gulls!” she exclaimed. He threw his head back, opened his beak and let out a long cackling laugh. She had made the choice, she was stuck with it. She was his wife, whether human or not.

The next day as her Fulmar husband went fishing she spent the day weeping, calling out on the wind, “Aja, Aja, Father I have made a poor choice. Aja, Father help me?’

Anguta, her father was hunting when he heard the call. He dropped everything. He readied his canoe and paddled across the sea following the distant call of his daughter’s voice.

When he came to the island Sedna was waiting by the shore. “Father, let’s go quickly. My husband the fulmar will be back soon.”

And so they turned and paddled. Sedna told her strange tale of hardship.

Anguta’s eye kept darting to the horizon as her tale unfolded.

“What is that?” he asked, pointing in the distance. As the speck came closer they made out the long wings, the grey feathers, the angry squawking beak.

Soon the fulmar husband was above them screeching down, demanding his wife return. “Never!”, father and daughter cried in unison.

The fulmar became angry. He flapped his wings heavily, causing waves to rise and the boat to rock treacherously in the water. As he beat his wings storm clouds gathered and the wind picked up. The fulmar called up a storm. The sea frothed and foamed.

As the boat lurched in the swelling water and the risk of death became real, fear gripped Anguta’s heart. He called above the howling wind and swirling waters, “Maybe you should go with him, you chose to marry him!”, “Father! I can’t, I won’t”, “You must or we will both die.”

Sedna was aghast at her father’s suggestion, she flatly refused.

Fearing for his life, Anguta grabbed her and tossed her overboard, landing with a splash in in the frigid waters. “Have her.” he called to the shrieking Fulmar.

The ocean was ready to claim her first. Ice cold it gripped her, stole her breathe, weighed down her clothes. Somehow Sedna grabbed hold of the side of the canoe, pulled herself alongside, “Father!”, she pleaded.

Anguta’s mind was made up, he tried to prise her fingers from the canoe, but she clung on for dear life.

Anguta reached into his hunting bag. He took out his knife and cut the tips of her fingers on each hand. They each fell into the sea, as they drifted down they became seals.

Sedna cried out, still she gripped with bloody hands. Arguta cut again, the rest of her fingers fell into the sea and became walrus.

Somehow she still held on and as he cut her hands, they fell into the sea and became the whales. Sedna fell down with them.

She fell down, down, down to the bottom of the ocean. All the way down to the underworld.

In time she became the goddess of the ocean. She was an angry goddess, and who can blame her! She commanded the sea and all of the sea creatures. She could give life and take it away.

When the sea was stormy and it was difficult to hunt and get food, it was because Sedna was angry. She became angry when the people hunted and did not respect the spirits of the animals they killed. In such cases a shaman would need to visit her world through trance and appease her. Make offerings, understand ways of living in better balance.

One way of appeasing Sedna was to comb her hair, seeing as she has no hands, she couldn’t do it herself anymore. To Combe her hair would release the animals. If she was appeased, then the sea would calm and people could hunt again.

In some places, this dance of life still goes on. Rare places, precious places.

“She still dwells at the bottom of the northern ocean.

That woman down there beneath the sea,

She wants to hide the seals from us.

These hunters in the dance house,

They cannot mend matters.

They cannot mend matters.

Into the spirit world

Will go I,

Where no humans dwell.

Set matters right will I.

Set matters right will I.”

(verse from

Photo by Vince Gx on Unsplash

That’s the story of Sedna…or at least one version. There are many others equally beguiling.

I’m not qualified to talk about the cultural meaning of this story. It feels a bit edgy and out of my depth to even tell it. I do know that it moved me in a profound way though.

When I hear this story I don’t find myself looking for the meaning. This is no Aesop’s Fable. It is wild and old and just coming into contact with it is enlivening. There’s something in its fabric that I yearn for, something I feel starved of. This story has not arisen in the modern mind, there is an ancient, harsh patterning to it. Although I love it, I’d rather meet such patterns first in story, rather than real life.

Northern myths often have a harsh gravity to them. It’s why I like them. I’ve been through enough Scottish winters to sense their truth, especially if I cast my imagination back a generation or two. With a father who grew up on a windswept Sutherland croft, I’ve heard tales that tell me I’m only a generation away from people with lived knowledge that starvation comes close and winter claims lives.

In many ways, modern life is comfortable, our senses can afford to become dull and disconnected from natural patterns and cycles. Yet if the electricity goes out any time soon, the bite of winter will seem real again. That edge can bring out the best in people, or the worst. I’m drawn again to the end of the story and left to wonder.

So that’s it. A wee musing on an Inuit tale that for some reason stays with me, alive amongst all the others.

I’d love to hear of the tales that have stuck with you, moved you or even changed you somehow? Leave a comment if you’ve got one to share.

If you’re interested in a taking a deep dive into Northern Myths, from Scotland and beyond between March and May 2023, check out my myth as medicine page:

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Exploring the Kingdom Under the Sea

My storytelling journey started truly when I became a father.

I knew that surrounding my daughter with stories would resource her well. Steiner, Einstein and other knowledgeable types seemed to agree about the merit of fairy tales and the development of children. Old folk tales and myths carry essential gifts of imagination and meaning, easily given, that I wished to offer her.

Classic qualities show up in the old tales such as:

Resourcefulness, quick wits, appreciation of the natural world, navigating darkness, love, loss and yearning, the possibility of magic, the power of the crone’s advice.

They help with our sense making.

Other motifs, so gnarled, wizened, and mossy, that our logical minds can barely grasp them also show up. Stimulating a wild, ancient delight, and offering us what our modern domestic lives cannot. A nourishment of mind and soul occurs if we track the right tales and treat them with respect.

As a father, sharing stories created shared quality time, mutual joy and entertainment. In a small way it was sacred. It was practical too, an efficient way of blending creative work with family life.

I’m biased, but I’m proud of how Eala has turned out thus far. I know stories have helped foster her creativity, quick-wit, humour, articulation, and empathy. To tell stories is to be human and these tales have served each of us well over the years.

Along with nature connection, stories form the core part of my parenting, as well as the youth and community work I deliver. Both invite wonder, connection, curiosity, timelessness, imagination, truth seeking, contemplation, and the need to pay attention.

The most nature-connected cultures place storytelling at the heart of village life. To my mind the best storytellers have a strong natural understanding too. We live in times where each are urgent tonics amidst the complex crises of the 21st century.

Where we give our attention is important.

The oldest, arrogant sibling whom ignores the subtle signs and quieter voices, seldom does well in stories. They tend to get beheaded, eaten by the monster or turned to stone. Likewise, fail to pay attention in the wild and your chances of being cold, lost, damp, or injured are high. Each are training grounds for life challenges.

We walk into danger when our senses are dull or gaze long in the wrong direction. When we mistake noise for meaningful information, volume for value. When our ears aren’t tuned to the subtle patterns and poetics of life we miss the magic entirely.

Lacking awareness we are more vulnerable to witch, wolf, tyrant, and ghoul. These ancient archetypal predators show up today in the marketplace, cyberspace and city streets in various guises. The classical imagery is changed yet relevant. Much of the human experience is timeless, only the furnishings change.

Stories and nature connection sharpen our perception and sense of belonging. They strengthen our root system in the essential soil of being human, engaging practical and soulful aspects of the living world. We tune our ear to grandmother’s knowledge to balance the Tiktok trend flashing before our eyes.

Without this foundation we are more vulnerable to life’s storms.

Photo by Tusik Only on Unsplash

At home, we have been rapt on many an eve as I peddle familiar tales, or test out new ones on my own adoring audience of one.

We fended off screens with narrative folk magic.

We travelled to the Tundra and met the Arctic sea goddess, nibbled fruits from magical trees in equatorial Africa, found the treasure in our garden having walked to London Bridge and back.

We laughed at monkey outfoxing crocodile and raven outfoxing himself.

We followed fox trails, tuned our ear to the voice of the birds, and rode upon the back of the great bear. We even dared to outwit the ‘nameless one’ on occasion and shared celebratory feasts from several magical pots that always gave cake before salad.

We barely scratched the surface of the surviving folk imagination and knowledge, yet our mythical boots are well worn. It’s been a beautiful, meandering journey together.

However, she has just turned 12 and all is changing. The veil between the realms of childhood innocence and adult complexity becomes more permeable each day. Transparent as spider silk and soon to be blown away entirely by the inevitable winds of change.

Steiner marked it as a key age of transition, and it’s clear that she is no longer the little child familiar to me, and never will be again. Transition is afoot, the adult world alive with allure and gravity. In a swift six months she has gone up to high school, discovered makeup and the delight of Costa frappuccinos. She self travels on the bus, sleeps as late as she is allowed, and certainly doesn’t want a bed time story from her dad.

As she changes so does our relationship. Loss is a part of this transition, as is renewal and opportunity. It is as it should be. Soon she will cast a feather from the window and follow in the direction of her fortune. She’ll walk that path alone, or at least with someone who’s not me. Someone cooler, more hip and contemporary, who spends less time talking about faerie lore and the habitat of otters. This time, crossing the threshold, is precious.

She is no longer a captive audience of one.

She knows her own mind, and if I want to direct her towards enriching life experience rather than the impulse of the market, astute advertising and peers, it’ll take effort, guile and grace.

Teens have a special resonance with the Trickster; the charming outcast present in all robust mythological cosmologies.

Creativity, subversion, a will for disorder, chaos and consequence, carefree indulgence, insatiable appetite, constant motion or lying in bed all day. Trickster is the master of change, and is said in some cultures to have created the world itself, or at least stolen back the Sun. The world is certainly a duller place without them. Too static, stoic, constipated to truly reflect reality.

Tricksters were the characters crucified first by the missionaries. Cast out in association with the devil for being too rambunctious and feral, too indulgent in primal instinct and desire, in the face of pious order. More hot body than cool mind and thoroughly improper. The detachment from physicality and natural instinct has been a long and systematic process. Witch burning came later. It was pretty thorough. Only echoes of the old ways survived the flames.

As such we may not welcome Tricksters acquaintance at first, and sure, be wary of them. Keep your senses sharp and anticipate occasional carnage, yet they play a vital role in a healthy culture. Change is uncomfortable but inevitable. Results are not always predictable or desired, but there’s a chaotic order to be respected and a grace to be found in its discordant rhythms. Meet Trickster through story first, it’s safer that way.

Coyote, Loki, Raven, Hermes, Anansi, Fox, Tortoise, Hare, enter this house of the holy, may your tales delight, inspire and challenge us.

But I digress in this storyteller’s wandering. Back to the sea kingdom.

image by jesse-schoff on Unsplash

This age of change (conspiring with the urge to escape the dark Scottish winter) lead us to the Maltese islands in the southern Mediterranean sea. We sought the sun, shared adventure, and to explore the kingdom under the sea through scuba diving…with a frappuccino or two thrown into the bargain!

As I previously searched for stories, I now look for activities that invoke wonder, weave threads of connection with the natural world, and provide the appropriate edge for a pre-teen. Potential hobbies that can outlast our shared experience, stretch our awareness, and even inspire life choices. I’m casting breadcrumbs in the hope they trail back to a place of belonging in the natural mystery of life. 

Also, with the trickster being alive and well in me, I fancied a little midwinter indulgence. Warmth, rest, and someone else to cook my dinner sounded a good way to spend the first week in January, a time when Scotland is notoriously cold, grey, miserable and hungover.

Scuba diving was a slightly random impulse, but a treasured discovery.

Having gone through the rudimentary training, we squeezed into our wetsuits, masks and air tanks. Ready for submersion we lowered ourselves down into the clear blue-green water in the straits between Malta and Gyozo and pulled on bright pink flippers. The waves were gentle and the rocks coated with tiny remnants of shell, like finely grained sandpaper. It was a sunny January day and we had the bay to ourselves.

We knelt in the shallow waters and when lowering my face underwater, seeing clearly and breathing easily, it felt like activating some strangely common magic. To access this watery realm so familiar from above as a wet, wide expanse of blue-grey, and see the subterranean living complexity was awe inspiring. I was rapt before I had even seen a fish.

The next moment was more humbling as the waves rolled in and I found myself tumbling over onto my back like a disorientated turtle, long legs and pink flippers in the air, flapping around gracelessly and trying to get vertical again. My dignity robbed in a second. My daughter laughed so hard that her mask flooded with water and she had to come to surface again. OK, this was new and a bit of an edge experience. Slowly we got moving and explored the underwater world.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash

Firstly I was amazed at how many fish there were. Some shuffling in shoals, others brightly patterned as if painted images from an ayahuasquero’s dreaming, others huge and alone, lurking by great underwater shafts of rock.

We saw an eel gasping in ritualistic defence of its rocky burrow, an octopus curled in an indistinguishable form and other curiosities. Soon, underwater swimming felt familiar, although touching the bottom felt unnerving and there were deep dark caverns where I definitely didn’t want to swim. The image of the eel occasionally haunted me. It was small but looked tenacious.

We saw great chasms and cliffs under the sea. The fish didn’t seem to care that we were there. Every so often the guide would come back and wave me along, I was so lost in fascination I couldn’t keep up.

We saw it all in silence, but for the sound of our breathing bubbles. There is a quiet grace in that watery realm. A stillness amidst the eternal ebb and flow.

The gleaming majesty helped me understand the idea of a ‘kingdom under the sea’. I’ve always felt Neptune or Poseidon to be particularly regal, refined yet powerful, as well as wrathful when crossed. This glimpse into their world and it all made sense. This place was sovereign and magnificent.

Mannannan, or Honi the seaweed god, are Celtic variations of deities of the deep sea. One thing I was surprised to see in the Maltese waters was the absence of seaweed. In Scotland there are great kelp forests under the water. No wonder we have a seaweed god, yet there was no such deity in ancient Greek mythology. Local mythology is interwoven with local ecology. They are codependent and synergistic.

Ah hour passed in an instant. We were lead back to the site of my tumbling turtle impression, kicked off our flippers and climbed onto dry land.

We were praised on how naturally we took to the water, although it was also mentioned that I kept drifting off rather than following the guide. “I could see you getting lost in your own story under there” she told me. I was oblivious, although in time Eala told me how she kept looking back and seeing me sinking to the bottom of the sea bed staring at an urchin, or spinning around up at the surface rather than following the group.

In a world of wonders its hard to pay attention to other humans rather than strange sea creatures and rock formations. In response they said that I looked like some strange sea creature myself. My moustache protruding from my diving hat with a ginger underwater sheen. I supposedly looked like some kind of unusual giant otter. Eala said it was hard not to laugh whenever she saw me…it seems my destiny to amuse, without even trying!

Primarily this was a father and daughter adventure, but secondly I’m curious how it can affect my storytelling. I often filter experiences through a storyteller’s perspective. To experience something is to be able to tell of it more convincingly. I will often travel to a landscape where a story is set to get a feel for the place, the ecology, the mood, the sound-scape. Imagination fuels the telling of story, yet our imagination is furnished by experience.

I hadn’t considered getting closer to the world of the selkie though.

Photo by keith-luke on Unsplash

In Scotland there are many fantastic tales, told as if true, of the seal folk, or selkies. They are one of our favourite supernatural beings. It’s a strong belief, surviving amongst some of the older island folk. The selkie are compassionate, strange, enchanting and beautiful. They can never settle on land even if married and busy raising hybrid children. The call back to the sea overrides any mortal love on land.

There are also legends of the Lochlannach, the ‘people from under the waves’ and great enemies of Scotland…one of their witches is accused of burning down the best of our forests many centuries ago. The ‘Blue Men’ of the Minch are a sailor’s scourge between the mainland and Hebridean islands. In Orkney, tales of the Finn Folk are favoured. Each of these tales and their associated mythos comes a little closer as I glimpse these underwater realms.

In reality, one hour underwater is like dipping a toe in the ocean, it’s a tiny experience of the deep blue, when some people submerge daily. Yet surely something in me has changed. I sit back home at a desk in a grey Scottish valley and hear a distant whisper. The eternal call of the sea, pulling always at the selkie heart. I dream of the wealth of Poseidon.

Maybe Eala does too? Or maybe she just thought the fish looked cool and it was fun watching her dad flap around like a clumsy mustelid. It was a gorgeous thing to share either way.

I’m hopeful that this leads to more adventure. That we come back to warm waters to dive together, or she explores on her own as she journeys into adulthood. She’s got a knack for it I think. I hope that it resources her in some way and her appreciation of the ocean grows.

For me, I already feel how it has harnessed my understanding of stories set in watery realms. It’s time to dig out some of those old selkie tales and see how this experience can shine a little more light on the beautiful kingdoms under the sea.


Tall Tales in a Long House

Ah Knockengorroch World ceilidh.
Scotland’s undisputed, premier music festival to those familiar with such muddy foot-stomping field gatherings, and a quizzical mouthful for those unacquainted.

It was a special year according to many folk.  Maybe the music, the people gathered there, the absence of rain for an entire day, a refreshing dunk in the river post sauna….the crazyness of club mud, or one of the various other unorthodox shenanigans.  Each will have their own sweet cocktail of reasons…  I’ve got a few, but for the sake of this post I’ll keep it story-wise, for at this particular Knockengorroch I got to tell in the Longhouse- undisputed, understated champion of intimate venues, and a place crying out to have stories shared within its lime-coated stone walls.

With an impromptu set to open the venue at 1.30 on the Sunday, I was a wee bit concerned that it’d be a low turnout. And as I sat there in the relative darkness, with one enthusiast and his kids, I was anticipating a fairly low profile affair.  May as well just talk about faeries I supposed.

So there we started, differentiating between the sweet, winged, flower-fairies of Victorian England, and their larger, altogether more mischievous, occasionally helpful, and sometimes downright evil, hillock dwelling Scottish counterparts.  Best left a bowl of creamy porridge to be kept on board, and resisting their riotous fiddle fuelled parties, lest we disappear for 100 years or more.

Maybe it was the wee folk themselves, pulling the elemental strings outside, and drumming up a crowd to hear of their cultural prowess & historical stature, or maybe it was a bout of rain that brought people into the Longhouse, but soon enough we were full, and at the end of a Healing story from Skye, with a faery clan and a dearly loved cow, I was pleased to feel the eagerness of those gathered and be given the nod for another tale.

Witches this time, and of to Kintail.  Out at sea, through the forest, into strange dwellings, a stranger journey, and Kintail again, fit for the sea.  One of my favourites, and again popular with those gathered.

It struck me how the setting adds so much to the story, and reminded me that although the storytelling aspect of our folk culture and heritage has played second fiddle (excuse the pun!) to the songs and tunes of old, maybe its time is coming again.  There’s a thirst for it for sure, and when the right place, right people and right stories come together like that there’s a tangible magic….whether by faery blessing, or some more pragmatic alchemy.

Anyways, knock was great, and sharing Highland tales in the Longhouse a personal highlight.  Its a long way off to be thinking about doing it again next year, but that’d be a fine way to see out of May annually I reckon.  In the meantime, there’s an intention brewing like the contents of Stine Bheag’s iron pot.  For other such venues must surely be waiting, more folk curious for the tales, and as much lore as one could ever hope to carry for the sake of sharing.  Until next May, I’ll be leaving the metaphorical porridge bowl out for the Wee Folk, and hoping they conjure these elements together for an alchemical ceilidh or three.

Hopefully I’ll see you there, in the warm glow of the hearth.

In fine fettle and good health.
Happily sitting on the Wild Edge.

Stories and Scarecrows in Glasgow

Last week I was invited to share stories through in a country park outside Glasgow.
The theme of the event was Scarecrows, and a number of community groups, schools and ethnic groups had participated in the project by creating their own scarecrow to be exhibited at this event.  We had plant-pot people-crows a giant bat-crow, and even a rather endearing little hedgehog-crow, so the audience for the stories was even more eclectic than usual!

I was to gather groups as they arrived, leading them past the owl handling site, through the hawthorns to the scarecrow grove for a story, one befitting to the themes of the day.

Well, I didn’t have any scarecrow stories, but there was plenty around for inspiration, with the hawthorn being a tree of the Faeries the first group of woman listened eagerly to the tale of Tormad Crupach (Crippled Norman) and his venture into the faery realms, the autistic group mixed with another primary school and lapped up the Magic Garden from Kazakhstan, the owls and other birds of prey featuring strongly.

Being on the West Coast, I felt it only right to share the creation story of the Midgie, born of of the remains of Norway’s most loathsome giant, and was reminded of the dearness of being 8 when anything is believable!
The forests of Kintail, and the witches who live on the fringes, and the mountainous North of Scandinavia, where snow bears and trolls dwell completed the afternoon.

Each group responded warmly, and I’m sure would have been at home in any ceilidh, and each left with an invite, as they had heard a story that day, maybe they had a story of their own to tell someone else.

I’ve been invited back in June, and am hopeful there’ll be a tale or two coming back at me.

Stories For A Better Nation

Friday past (24/4/15) saw the successful launch of a project exploring the synergistic relationship between folk culture, and the modern socio-political landscape.

Myself, Janis Mackay, David Campbell and David Francis, played with the hypothesis, that our folk stories and song have something current, or maybe timeless to offer as a means of building cultural resilience, and giving an engaging narrative to sit alongside the drab economic yarns of the political realm.  In hindsight, this could have aptly been titled “Myth as Mirror” as we drew upon tales of sea monsters and selkies and mused their echoes in the current state of affairs.

It was something of an assurance that the audience responded warmly to our hypothesis that folk culture has something to offer in this context, and that by weaving classic old tales with song, poetry, music, academic quotations & audience participation something rich and satisfying can be created.

This was the first outing for The Story Collective, and sensing the receptivity of folk for this style of delivery, the potential potency of this marriage of worlds, and knowing how much we each enjoyed creating and sharing it, it seems we could have a busy year ahead.

Next up, rejuvenation of the old style ceilidh culture, a place of sharing, and then maybe a wee tour of Stories For a Better Nation in the autumn.  That’d make me smile anyway.  Hope to see you at the hairthside.

Stories on the Way

This is the online home of Wild Edge Storytelling, weaving myth, legend and oral history to offer a rich cultural experience for folk of all ages and interests.

Inspired by Scots and Gaelic heritage, and the traditional Ceilidh in particular, we love stories and song as a way of sharing rich experiences in community, activating imagination, connecting to roots and nourishing the soul.

me didge