Under the Chestnut Tree

Under the chestnut tree, we meet again.
Sagosystrarna. The story sisters.
Together we have journeyed into the realm of stories and myths. Singing, dancing, listening and telling, we have spun the stories with our hands and hearts, weaving and breathing the stories into being.
Into the woods, within and without, we have listened to the stories of the land, hidden deep under autumn leaves and flying in the crisp clear breeze.
Whoever said magic is not real? Just say the spell “once upon a time” and behold! Step into a world where everything is possible…

We met for the first time in February when Stockholm lay under a mantle of wet snow and slippery ice. Katrin, Carina and I travelled to the home of our new teacher – the storyteller Anna Julia Agoston, who runs Art of Storytelling.
We came to study a course in storytelling technique and performance. Over the course of the year we would meet for five intensive weekends of storytelling with different themes and exercises.
During the first weekend, we dove into the world of mythology and learnt the African myth of how the giant whale Chewa created the world. Our teacher Anna showed us how to map out the bones of a story – the main happenings – and how to bring out the soul of the story – the colour, the spice, the pictures and feelings. We began creating picture manuscripts – drawing and colouring the myth to life.
A story can survive over many generations and travel all over the world by word of mouth.  Over time, stories change and transform, but often the essence of the story remains the same, even if it may be hidden and broken after many years of neglect. Stories are medicine for the soul and have the power to invoke feelings, memories and messages from deep within. They carry the medicine and teachings of our ancestors, speaking of the journey of life with all its different friends and foes, insights and challenges.
It takes time to truly get to know a story. You have to live with a story before it becomes a good friend, and once you have made friends with a story it will stay with you – and that is why storytellers can remember so many stories.
Sometimes stories have a way of finding you and pulling at your sleeve, saying, “hey, listen to me!” Once a story found me when I was sitting on a train, and the story was so insistent I had to take out my notebook and write it down immediately. Once upon a time, long ago, there lived a wizard…

My journey as a storyteller began as a child. I remember being fascinated by fairy tales from an early age, and I often went on my own adventures in the woods, looking for fairies and secret sanctuaries. Stories spoke to me in my dreams, and in my late teens I took one of my story dreams and wrote it down.  
One evening the story pulled me onto stage. And I say pulled with meaning. I have never been one for standing in the limelight and am naturally more of a listener than a talker. But I had this story and I held it in my hands like a butterfly – it had to be set free.
And so, with shaking hands I stepped onto stage and shared my story. Afterwards, I was completely blown away by the response of the audience. People came to me with tears in their eyes. Some were convinced I was a magician who had put them all under some kind of magical spell. Well, I was just as spellbound as they were, if not more so.
I decided then and there that I was going to have to learn more about storytelling and begin sharing more of my stories. Seeing the profound impact of that one story opened my eyes to the healing power of storytelling. Stories have the power to inspire and invoke sleeping dragons from deep within.

Our first storytelling performance took place in the end of April. We invited people to come celebrate the last day of April in a forest glade in a Stockholm suburb.  Come and gather round the fire for an evening of storytelling!
The forest floor was blossoming with spring flowers and the setting sun streamed through the trees. We hung lanterns around the forest glade and lit a campfire.
It was a magical evening and so many people came! Anna’s husband Percy is a brilliant chef and he cooked the most delicious food for everyone. We danced around the fire, singing songs and hopping over the fire.
Looking around I noticed the sparkle in people’s eyes as they let their inner wings take flight.
Grown-ups need stories too.
We all do.

Now, five storytelling weekends later, Autumn is here and we have collected our harvest of storytelling certificates. Looking back, I feel so proud over everything I have learnt and all the fears I have faced. What a year! In the beginning I was so nervous about telling stories in Swedish, my second language! Now I feel so much more relaxed about improvising and making mistakes. I am never going to be perfect at Swedish but that’s okay. Sometimes you have to look a fool and laugh at yourself!
Above all, I am so thankful for my story sisters, Anna, Carina and Katrin. We have had so much fun throughout this year and been on such a magical, healing journey together.  May every woman on earth know the bliss of sisterhood! And may the journey continue! I look forward to cooking up more story magic together...
Thank you Anna for being such a wonderful teacher, helping me to grow as a storyteller, facing my fears and finding my own unique voice!
Thank you Percy for all the wonderful food you have prepared for us!


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