The traditional festival of Samhuinn is said to be the time when the veil between the land of the living and the departed is thinnest; therefore it’s the perfect time to celebrate those no longer with us and the gifts they passed on traditionally, without the need for Halloween-esque tales of haunting, but instead of celebration and comfort.
How often do we hear that talking is good for our mental health yet stigma still remains when it’s a topic that makes people uncomfortable? Like Death? The only cure is to open up and talk, rather than contain it within, and two events as part of this year’s Storytelling Festival highlight that if we honour the past in the present we give to the future.
Precious Legacies: Remembering the Ancestors (24 October) pays tribute to the countless stories and tunes left by departed tradition bearers, such as Stanley Robertson and Duncan Williamson, and To Absent Friends: Suppers of Storytelling and Remembrance (30 Oct) offers a workshop space to explore forgotten traditions of remembrance.
The people we lose never stop being a part of our lives, as Margaret Bennett perfectly exemplifies in her approach to sharing traditional tales as she states:
‘In recalling a story I first heard from one of the ‘old folk’, I always picture the person who told it to me, whether it was a close family member in Skye or a friend in a far-flung place. Through time, the ‘old folk’ pass away, but their stories come alive in our retelling.
‘Through them, we ‘remember our ancestors’ – yours as well as mine, with stories about characters, strange happenings or interesting customs from bygone days.’
Margaret is joined by David Campbell, Jess Smith and Ruth Kirkpatrick, who sums the event up as “Taking on the Mantle.” Remembering Traveller storyteller Stanley Robertson, who mentored her in her early storytelling days, Ruth states:
‘All of us feel grateful and privileged to take on the mantle of the wonderful generation of storytellers and singers we learned from.
‘Our pleasure and honour is being custodians of their great inheritance and passing on their timeless legacy.’
Jess Smith who will be sharing campfire memories of tunes, fiddles and tales highlights how stories were beacons of comfort and information for nomads constantly on the move:
‘Travelling people were ships that passed in a sun-kissed twilight and summer was full of surprises – who was at the old ground; relative or stranger?
‘If it were family, then a time of sharing news around a flaming campfire and familiar tales lay ahead. If it were strangers, then it was time to forge friendships and hear different stories to add another dimension to our lives.
‘To me as a child all those years ago, another world beckoned, a time to be transported to lands where Dragons smoked a pipe and chastised the naughty child while fairies leapt and danced upon the heather bells.
‘To be an adult Traveller meant to be a keeper of the tales and songs gathered from those freedom times. The passing of time has never diminished nor misted the tales and songs for me – they remain as fresh and vibrant as the day I heard them. My joy today is remembering those Precious Legacies.’
A night of wonderful tales from a quartet of talent is guaranteed, which will inspire many to reconsider remembrance, which To Absent Friends aims to do within a supportive environment, encouraging you to be as light-hearted or sombre as you want, as long as you are sharing. The Workshop will explore the forgotten traditions and equip you with the skills of commemoration, which is followed by a Storytelling Supper of Reminiscence on Thursday 7 November.