The Way of Many Ways

The Craft & Calling of the Bard

Every true gift is an invitation to the deeper gift.

The Enduring Power of Story

There is no story about when stories began. There is no place claimed where the first story came to be told, because Stories spring up out of us, just the way we once sprung out of Story. There is no account of our origin, the creation of the world and when we came along exactly that is not for the most part, Story.

Magic and otherworldliness were the way we once described anything that we did not have an understanding of, which we imagined was the work of the supernatural, the causes of which lay with forces and intentions beyond our sight and reckoning. Our folktales and our myths were how we formed our relationships between the two worlds, and how we shared them. In time, they shaped the story of us that unfolded.

Folktales and Myths are windows into the psyches of the people who lived by them, describing the ethos, norms and ambitions of the people they were designed to engage. They served as cautionary tales of folly and vice, exemplars of the virtue and rustic wisdom of ordinary folk, not of scholars or the gentry. They defined the behaviour of archetypal heroes and villains, they cautioned children of the capriciousness of nature and the presence of shadow and danger. They served as constant reminders that fate and destiny were not only connected but also subject to curious changes in fortune regardless of station. Three sons from the same father might face similar ordeals and endure completely different fates. Paupers could become princes, and riches could be won or lost in a moment of ill choice, or sheer luck.

Children would grow up with the integrated wisdom they learned and adults would be called to reflection and thence back to their better natures, from the morals of these stories. These stories had the power to stir hearts and cool tempers. Through these stories, prudence could be cautioned, vices tamed, equanimity obtained and perspective granted. The stories provided the frameworks of morality, custom, virtue and wisdom that held kings and farmers, tinkers and tailors to a shared truth.

In this way, the stories also shaped the people who shared them and thereby inevitably shaped us. Stories were the way people connected with the land and thus defined their sense of belonging. It was how we once made sense of the geography and climate, the fauna, flora, natural forces and geological features we were in relationship with.

It was the archetypal symmetry between what we encountered in the outer world and what we encountered in our own psyches that were mapped in the stories and folktales and echoed later in our rituals and ceremonies. Caves became lairs of monsters, passages to the underworld, but equally wombs of metaphoric rebirth. Mountains represented our pathways of communion with the gods. Bridges were passage over impassable water, or dangerous gaps, to other realms, that could not otherwise be crossed, either in pursuit of quests, or transcendence.

Similarly, birds, insects, fish and all manner of beasts were personified as animal totems, providing illuminating context about life, adaption and inherent nature through the symmetries shared between their appearance and behaviours, and aspects of our own personalities and traits.

Stories were the vessels and vehicles through which these vaults of context were preserved and conveyed. This was the same technology we relied on to capture our histories and the broad strokes of causes that shaped them, and therefore eventually us.

Storytelling is as old as we are. It is the vocation shared by mothers reading stories to their children at bedtime as well as venerated bards whom kings patronised handsomely and who were respected above priests. At first, it was village elders who were the custodians of that sacred practice, and later it became skalds and bards.

The only true magic that has survived from the old times, is the one of storytelling.

Even today it is the way our minds and hearts are shaped. Our collective and individual stories devise the labyrinths we struggle through and become lost in, and also landscape the vast fields of beckoning we gambol our way through in our pilgrimages of life.

These were cups and fountains through which we accessed the wellspring of Soul. ‘Soul’ being nothing other than the human thirst and capacity for Connection, Belonging and Purpose, through which we derive our vitality and creativity—through which we derive all Meaning. Our Stories, our Mythos, are the way we both replenish and drink from those wells. Our Mythos defines the depth and capacity of that well.

The Ailing

Our stories have become staid and sterile, synthetic and sensible in one sense, and deranging and debilitating in another. In a word, soulless. What used to be curated by elders, later mastered by Bards, strengthened through practice, ritual and retelling, and venerated through initiation, has become lost to us. Our bards are not venerated the way they once were, and their sacred vocation was relegated to inexpert village priests and witless schoolteachers, who denuded the verdancy and magic from the stories or exorcised them altogether. Academia, religion and modernity have replaced our vibrant living tapestries, with golems of monolithic narrative under a grotesque mask of sophistication and ‘properness’. Our shared stories now are our ‘isms’ and ideologies, or the way we lie to each other through the frauds of marketing, social media, identity and news. Some of these narratives are organised and some of them are just sort of there, permeated into the water table of our shared consciousness. These are our incompatible religious dogmas. Equally, they are the delusions regarding the limitlessness of nature, the irrelevance of our environment and the disregard of animals and other people on which the grotesquery of capitalism is predicated. Similarly, we have been inducted, against our wills, into the politicised stories of polarising nationalism, populism and the entrepreneurship of victimhood, that nightmare that was once ‘the American dream’.

The Sorcerers, Steven Craig Hickman

The Tree is all but dead. The fruits are seedless and all-sugar, no succour and no pith. The branches are anaemic, every leaf and bud vying for the same drop of rain, the same ray of sun. No moss grows at the base, because of the rolling stones of Sisyphus being toiled at ceaselessly in closed circles, fixated on an unachievable prize, intransigent to season. The roots left weak and withered.

When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.

Alanis Obomsawin

The Silver Branch

But there is still one branch of storytelling that holds fast—the one silver bough, the one that sings with the golden light of that other place. It is a mirror of the tree that was and the tree that will be, belonging to both the simple ground of being, but also to the hidden world—awake and dreaming, beyond the veil of mist.

The Silver Branch is the craft & calling of the bard. The way that is two ways: The seen and the unseen.

It is practised in the hall, to inspire, to engage—to convey and feed messages from the other world, to shape the story that lives in us, to captivate, to peddle ideas and tinker with the ones we have, to forge together links, to bring new oil for the lamps. It is the creative, expressive face of the humanities, arms reaching out—washed clean of academia and religion.

The other half is encountered. It is discovered in adventures of risk and revelation that we find along the metaphorical road, out in wild places, beyond the bridges and beyond the hedgerows. The bard is a collector of stories, an explorer of the mysteries, a psychopomp, who relays messages from the other place. Those messages are found in the world, raw and unformed. They are written in the stars, and etched across the sky. They are traced by the tumble of stone and by the flight of birds and whispered aloud to the heart through the lyric of a song or the hidden message of an everyday word happened upon by chance.

They are the answers to unformed prayers we distil from dreams or the punchline of a cosmic joke that is discovered to have been playing out sometimes only well after the gong has chimed. They are hidden things, coaxed delicately from the crannies that lurk in the corners of the eye. They are extracted through meticulous archeology from the foundations and flagstones of other works, or they are borrowed, traded, and mended for purpose.

This is the craft and calling of the bard. Part poet, part keeper of the histories, part mystic, part merchant.  Part alchemist, part trickster.

Part spell-weaver, part truth speaker, the bard takes the fabric of ordinary life and sews into it threads of deeper fate and destiny. Like Orpheus, in that they can travel the Underworld, and harvest truths from the dead, and from the spinners themselves, to create a tapestry of intrigue, wonder and meaning.

In the bard is the soul of a philosopher, the ear of a sage, the tongue of a poet, the eye of a lover—dressed in the cloak of a hero and the boots of a beggar. At times, their raised hand becomes more powerful than the sceptre of a king, and hid beneath the brim of their cap, the mischief of the comic and the rustic mirth of the common man.

Their trade is words and language, a trade in which they are canny merchants. Their materials are mythos, metaphor and archetype. Their workshop is the imagination. Their forges and crucibles? —The theatres of drama, of comedy and tragedy of human life, and none more restless and inviting than the theatre of the human heart. Their hammers and bellows are tempo and timing, rhythm and rhyme.

Theirs is a craft of measured timing, of anticipation, and arousal. Of tantalising, climax and release.

Their wares are the spells they weave, of symbols and secrets, of salmon and sea, of sinew and scar, of sceptres and scythes, of swords and scales, sages and swineherds. Their knowing, equally of sailors and sirens, of sufferance and sacrifice, of sunshine and starlight, of sorrow and salvation. They bring alive these, in a tapestry of stewardship and solitude, of Sabbath and sacrilege, of Stygian sojourns and Sisyphean struggle—of saga and song.

Bards are the shepherds of Legacy. As such, their work has to centre always, around meaning. Their charge is to stand both in the light of the hearth and strum the harp strings of our hearts to resonance with wonder, even as the lullaby of it puts our critical minds to sleep and equally to work secretly in the shadow of the forge, all the while tending the fires and pumping the bellows of our souls to fierceness, and quenching the same again in the notion of temperance. Their work is like the Trojan horse, harbouring instead secret wisdom within, waiting its turn to be drawn into our citadels, to creep out and night, and do its work while we sleep, to unbar the gates, and in this way shape the stories that will be told, that we will belong to, and most especially the manner of that belonging.

It is the marriage of craft & calling, practised in parallel lives, woven into one.

It is joined along the pathless path, found both at the edges of the map and equally at the writing desk. It is encountered upon the bridge and stile, as much as in the river below or the field beyond. It is a thirst slaked from the mirrored surface of the sacred well as much as from the depths it hides. It is nourished from the mere mention of the golden apple. It loves the rose more in the sucking of the thumb still smarting from the stab of the thorn. Its stride spans the forum and the feasting hall. It is earned through trial, not of monsters and maidens, but of self-banishment into the unknown and of great longing for true welcome in return.

It is earned through trial, not of monsters and maidens, but of self-banishment into the unknown and of great longing for true welcome in return.

This, is the silver branch. This is Soul, speaking.

The Path of Paradox

Connecting with and practising the craft & calling of the bard is a path very much defined by paradox. It requires a relentless relationship with vulnerability. To touch and be touched by the whole of life, one has to be prepared to be profoundly vulnerable.

This path is two paths, at once in intimate relationship with Life, beyond the bounds of our own facts and fiction and at the same time in the company of and the service of the audience, while always remaining invariably and privately apart. And then there is the way in which one has to become familiar with the territory of shadow and of dreams and the doors, the gates and the curious bridges and stiles we have to amend ourselves to, to pass between them.

Both ways and the way between, require enormous vulnerability.

The one path demands our fidelity to a profoundly deep relationship with the world, being the cup, the receiver, the open hand and the listening ear of whatever is being spoken to our unguarded heart as we walk both paths. The other asks us to stand in devoted relationship with our craft, and further to stand in the centre of the light and to reach and capture and lead the hearts of everyone within that circle. It is to know that to fully yield to one path is to compromise the other and to know besides, that both must be walked, in perfect and unabating tension.

Equally, one has to have the courage of an artist, to speak challenge to power, to defy convention, to be critiqued for the art, and judged for the idea. To create art is a vulnerable process. To perform art or even publish it quietly out into the world, is to put the full devotional fruits of your labour, not only into the gallery of public scorn and opinion but also onto the sacred altar of that ideal you are devoted to, and thereby have to face how short your arrow can ever land from the noble mark of its aim.

Craft is another word for vehicle or vessel. It is something we can embark upon, steer and be steered by, invest in and be changed by. Many people are poets by craft. To be a bard or a true poet is only ever by deep and profound calling.

Our world is depleted of Soul. Our world needs the rekindling of the hearth and the restoration of our wells. It is not enough that we designate a fireplace, we must place the bard at the centre. It is not enough that we queue up to drink from the well, we need to learn to trace its sources and replenish it also. We are the ailing tree. Mythos is the magical cure. The Bards will be the gardeners, the hearthkeepers—the journeymen of that undertaking.

SILVER BRANCH, SOUL SPEAKING
Through the forest of darkness 
and symbols 
a hallowed place of no steeple,
thatched with the mosses 
of the kind of troubles that visit the winter of every heart,
the Silver Branch,
the soul speaking;
The door 
to the deepest wells 
of Being and Connection, 
of Meaning, 
can be nowhere else, 
but through the witnessing 
of gentle grief and sorrow, 
allowing it to touch you. 
This must always be the price 
of the deepest retrieval 
of the deepest part 
of Soul.
It is the tithe paid, 
willingly, 
by men and women, 
to the temple of brotherhood, 
to the church of sisterhood,
whose only commandment, 
only psalm, only sermon, 
only revelation 
is the golden rule, 
and all else but a parable;
Asking "What would I want?"
Whose only prayer is:
“Let mine, be the hand 
that reaches down, 
even as I would have, 
that grace find me. 
Let mine be the lamp 
that lights the way, 
even as I would wish 
my way lit.
Let yours also, be the peace
I long for in my heart.
Let yours be also, the triumph
I reach for 
with the wingbeats of my soul.”
© Rocco Jarman

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MEET THE Grove Owner

Rocco Jarman

POET | PHILOSOPHER | MYSTIC

I’m a philosopher-poet, embracing the essence of humanity’s narrative while guiding others through the journey of self-discovery and collective evolution. As a bridge between past and future, I explore the depths of intentional existence, weaving through symbolism, mythos, and psychology to illuminate the path forward. My roles span from teacher to advocate, from dreamer to leader, each facet reflecting a commitment to unlocking the potential of tomorrow through the power of personal and shared myth.

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