So where do I start this idea that has been slowly nibbling at the crust of my soul for many years? I do not know where to begin. Maybe the best place is to describe an incident, a feeling moment, when I am aware of being uncomfortable about my life. This morning I came to my desk and saw a copy of Storytelling Magazine sitting there. I am still a member of the National Storytelling Network although I do not attend their conference or participate in any national storytelling events. I often criticize myself for not being part of this community. It is not that I have not tried in the past, just that my attempts did not produce positive results. I always end up wanting to punch someone in the nose rather than saying, “no don’t let that bother you, just try again”. The most egregious example was the lack of interest in my documentary film, “Brothers In Word”.

How do I describe this emotion? I am reminded of the Norse story about the world tree, Yggdrasil. The world tree is the connection between the world of the Norse people and the world of the Norse gods. In Jungian psychological language, it is the connection between the conscious and the unconscious, between the ego and the Self.

Yggdrasil suffers for the role it plays in connecting the two worlds. At its roots there lives a dragon, Nidhogg, who gnaws at its foundation, trying to topple it. In the top most branches, there lives an eagle (interestingly unnamed in my sources). The eagle  seems to be in opposition to the dragon. Enmity between these combatants is stirred up by a small squirrel (Ratatosk), the talebearer or gossip, who continually travels back and forth between them carrying stories that create strife between the opposites.

How does the metaphor connect the Norse myth to my angst with the storytelling world? My ego craves recognition for my work in the world of storytelling. My higher self, says “no. just do your work and what will happen, will happen. I do not need to concern myself with recognition”.  Between these two, there is an army of thoughts, hundreds of little Ratatosks whispering in one ear and then the other of my ego and Self.

So how do I silence my Ratatosks to allow my tree of life to prosper, to build positive connections between ego and Self? The Buddhists and mindfulness psychologists would  suggest that I focus on being in the present and not allow my ego to wander down past roads to events that I cannot change. I do agree with this approach, but not wholly with the practice. I like the wandering, it is in wandering along these paths that I find stories to tell. In deed, I identify with my Ratatosks, I am both the sufferer of mischief (gossip) and the creator of it!

My tree of life prospers not because I have found the answers to my problems, but because I am aware of  their existence.  Come to think of it, the Yggdrasil has survived eons of time with the same dragon gnawing at its roots, and it has not fallen to the ground. That does not mean that it will not fall, only the Ragnaruk, the end of time, has not arrived yet –but that is a story for another time.


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  1. Bill Wood says:

    What a beautiful and insightful connection between life experience and the mythic world! I believe what you describe is one of the inevitable griefs of being an artist. Like you, I identify with Ratatosk, perhaps because I have never been comfortable just living in Midgard, the day to day realm of humans. Perhaps you should explore a story with Ratatosk as the main character?

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