Myths to live by

In recent months, some of the users on the REWILD.info forum (myself included) have discussed the concept of mnemonics as it relates to primitive skills.  When trying to drink in and assimilate such a voluminous body of knowledge, you can find yourself easily choking on the information–or worse, having it pass right through your mind without ever sticking.

Eventually, I decided to develop a system in the REWILD.info wiki field guide called “songlines“.  The concept comes from an Australian Aboriginal practice of using the mnemonic techniques of singing and storytelling in order to aid navigation and tracking in the Australian wilderness.  To quote from Wikipedia:

Songlines are an ancient cultural concept, meme and motif perpetuated through oral lore and singing and other storytelling modalites such as dance and painting. Songlines are an intricate series of song cycles that identify landmarks and subtle tracking mechanisms for navigation. These songs often evoke how the features of the land were created and named during the Dreaming. The Dreaming Spirits as they travelled across the Earth, created and named trees, rocks, waterholes, animals and other natural phenomena.

[…]

By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous peoples could navigate vast distances (often travelling through the deserts of Australia’s interiority). The continent of Australia is a system-reticulum of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through disparate terrain and lands of many different indigenous peoples ~ peoples who may speak markedly different languages and champion significantly different cultural traditions.

So I thought we could put similar techniques to work in helping the rewilding community use songs, stories and poetry to help us learn, memorize and teach primitive skills–especially plant and animal lore.  I took my first stab at the concept with the following story about dandelions:

Maybe the dandelion’s name came from the French for “lion’s tooth” because the lion acted too greedy, eating every plant he came across and leaving none to grow into the next generation, and Dandelion (who lived a person at that time–back in the old time) said “Because of your greediness in trying to eat me, I will take your teeth and make myself a necklace from them.”  Lion thought this sounded unfair and complained to Dandelion, but Dandelion responded, “So, you don’t like my retribution, then I will take your mane as well and wear your yellow glory.”  Then the Sun looked down on what transpired and saw Dandelion acting greedy too.  “Dandelion, you have taken too much from Lion,” the Sun said to him, you may keep your golden mane, but only for a short time when you look up on my shining face.  Otherwise, you must close your mane away so that you will remember not to act greedy.  Also, your gold will soon turn to silver, as you age quickly, and that silver fly, carried away by the wind so that your children will grow up in many places.”  “What of me?” Lion asked the Sun, “must I wander toothless and mane-less under your shining face now, Sun?”  “You must share your mane and teeth with Dandelion, Lion, so that you both remember not to act too greedy.  And you must stop eating plants and start eating animals so that your children and Dandelion’s children can live in harmony as you once did before your greed overtook you both.  When you eat animals, you will only eat what you need and leave the carcass for the other meat eaters so that you never forget how to share.”

Although I received nice comments on the story when I first shared it on the forum, what I really hoped for did not materialize: more stories from more people.  So imagine my glee when I came across this post at the Anthropik Network about the venerable plantain.  To make things even better, apparently this post merely represents the beginning of a series of posts from Anthropik that will focus on translating practical knowledge into oral myth.

If we hope to survive the crash of civilization with a knowledge of the world around us that does not rely on books that will deteriorate with age, storytelling holds the key.  I invite anyone and everyone to share your knowledge with a story.  I don’t care whether you think of yourself as having a gift for writing or not–take a stab at it.  If you have practical knowledge about a plant or an animal, write it down, send it to me (Wilderix at gmail dot com), post it on the REWILD forum, make it into a wiki page on the REWILD field guide.  Share it.

~I wrote this blog in e-prime~
~You should only find the verb “to be” amid the quotes I have cited~

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