Sometime around the year 2000, I saw a vision that I did not act on immediately. It kept recurring, and I realized it was to be the next activity for the TAO Humor Center.
In the vision, I saw a group of people sitting around a fire underneath a black sky filled with millions of twinkling stars. There were people of all ages, races, and nationalities. Behind the circle of people were several kachinas who were facilitating the group. The people were telling their stories of woundedness, one-by-one. The others were listening intently to each speaker. Each speaker had a kachina standing behind him as he spoke. As the person spoke, he or she was able to move away from his wounds and move into a new personal history, a new past. I saw that the kachinas were multi-dimensional, and were able to instantly transform a person’s story into wholeness and healing. When everyone had spoken, the people got up and walked away as transformed beings totally healed. It was amazing!
I didn’t think I could act on this vision since I had NO idea how the kachinas worked. How did they heal through storytelling? What was their training? What consciousness were they in? How did they communicate and work together? I did not have any answers, but I realized we could start storytelling anyway. In the e-mail invitation to call a gathering, a typo was made that read starry telling, and I realized that that was our name: Starry Tellers!
The first time we tried Starry Telling was when a Pink Flamingo clown in our group had a heart attack and ended up in a coma. She was in a hospital out of town and was suddenly air-lifted to Pueblo, Colorado by her family. Our P.F. clown troupe had not had a chance for closure or goodbyes. We gathered together in a circle, and one-by-one said what we wanted to say as if she were sitting in the center. It was very deep and healing, and a sweet sense of peace came through our laughter, tears, and shared love. It was a simple, profound, and heart-lifting experience for us all.
My Mother died in her late nineties, around Christmas time. She had no living relatives or friends left of her generation. Our family decided to have a memorial service in the Pokagon State Park in Indiana, at Potawatomi Inn on Lake James, where she had met our Dad one summer. Some of the family camped out, and the night before the memorial seventeen of us sat around a campfire and created Starries. I had brought my bag of over thirty finger puppets, and each person picked one to speak through. We focused on telling a story imagining that what you wanted to accomplish had already happened. I went first, for my Mother, and told a story in which her dream of being an Opera star happened, and she was also a wonderful mother of three.
The mother of the 1 year old made a story they could act out together. The last to go was a ten-year-old great nephew who had put a puppet on each finger and brilliantly created a story that summarized all the stories! It was fascinating to hear people’s dreams. This ceremony was a beautiful part of the weekend to honor our Mother.
Every Fall, Native Americans from all over the U.S. host a Prayer Ceremony on the National Mall in Washington, DC. They now include all spiritual traditions. One year we were invited to do Starry-telling in a tipi. Since Native Americans have ancient legends of originating in the stars, our focus was for each Starry Teller to imagine that they came from the stars, and to tell of a gift or talent they brought to planet earth.
We had large puppets that people spoke through, and one-by-one they passed the talking-stick and spoke.
Two twin African American girls, age 12, each ended their story by dying. I reminded them that the focus was on the gifts they brought. Each one quickly resurrected herself and went on to finish her story in an uplifting ending. A new mother of a six-week old baby, who was in the tipi lying in front of her, conducted a group story (like at a Girl Scout campfire) which brought us all together. Gathered here were around twenty people who had never met before suspended in time sharing their dreams with each other! It was a beautiful time of connecting in a personal way, demonstrating all that is right and good and beautiful about being a human being.
These are some examples of how we used Starry-telling. If we are indoors, I have a fake campfire that plugs in and gives the atmosphere of a campfire. We used to have big puppets, but when I downsized, I sent them all to St. Joseph Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota, for the care and education of Native American Children (mainly Lakota Sioux).
Talking through puppets allows people to be more playful and less self-conscious. Finger puppets work fine. It is amazing how beautifully spontaneous, creative, and inspiring groups of people are when they are asked to focus on something uplifting and beautiful and create a story about it. This is what Starry-telling is about. One could use the old saying:
Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you will land among the stars!
[Written July 6, 2009]