I said to Woy, let’s go somewhere in the first week of November. He shook his head and said regretfully, “It’s All Saints Day and I have to go home to be with my family.”
And then he began to tell me about the eerily beautiful graves in his home country during the night of All Saints; they would be lit with candles and a strange light from beyond, like a reaching out of hands from all peoples across the chasm of time.
From the moment I met him, I knew I could listen to him forever, when he tells the stories about the history of humanity, as told from the Slavic perspective. Slavic mythology is almost unknown as there are almost no surviving testimonies of Slavic prayers, myths, iconography and artefacts. Their time-old history is oral tradition.
Woy loves telling those stories to anyone who would care enough listen. He would also do strange things like bury strands of my hair that he sweeps up in the earth contained in the old wine crates where he grows vegetables. My children think he is crazy: a well-respected professional who holds a top position in a multinational finance company who does things like this and tells weird stories (he believes in draculas and vampires).
And then last Sunday, I finally understood the origin of his desire to share the myths.
I was at a talk given by a Cree woman from Canada, Jazmin Pirozek on “Entheogenic Medicine in Canada: Healing a Marginalized Population”.
Jazmin began by singing a little song that her spiritual teacher, Juan Flores Salazaar, taught her. That song came from the depths of Peru, where Jazmin went in search of healing – “My people are very sick. They are dying. I have to travel far to seek healing. For myself and for my people.”
I wasn’t expecting to feel – I came to know and learn – but nonetheless, I felt compelled to close my eyes and immerse myself in Jazmin’s unfamiliar words which made no sense to me at all, but seemed to originate from the centre of the universe. Though Jazmin did not possess an amazing voice, I was deeply moved by her song. “Songs heal,” she said simply. And then I understood the power of the human voice.
I remember I used to love listening to my children’s father reading them bedtime stories, which he did, unfailingly, every night of their childhood. I didn’t have the luxury of being there every night as I was the main breadwinner at that time, but whenever I could, I would run home and creep into bed with them to listen to those magical stories.
But those stories, in truth, are nothing special. Harry McLary of Donaldson’s Dairy, for example. Or Stig of the Dump. But it’s the act of being told with love that elevated them into something utterly magical. And this is why we are hardwired to love stories from as soon as we could comprehend -it’s all to do with connection.
So here’s something I want to put to you. You read, you tell stories and you sing for your children, but do you do so for your partner? Try ❤
I couldn’t find a clip anywhere of Jazmin’s song, but here’s one of her spiritual teacher singing.
Main photo: from a royalty-free image from Dreamstime, of a winter hut in Poland which features strongly in stories from Woy’s childhood.