Thursday, September 21, 2006
Joanne Rock: A Writer By Any Other Name
Call it a touch of vanity.
But I can’t help but smile when I read historical accounts of cultures that held their writers in places of esteem. I recently picked up some texts on the roots of Celtic culture where it meets with Druidic tradition and discovered that the Druid priests were not just spiritual figures but poets, passing their knowledge on in the oral tradition. Perhaps poetry helped the novice Druid to learn his or her lessons. No easy feat when they were schooled for a quarter century to acquire all the necessary skills.
Penning a medieval romance that took place in southern France last year introduced me to another culture that appreciated its poets. The troubadours were sought after to cement the legacies of their patrons in prose. Eleanor of Aquitaine employed troubadours to further her notion that women should be treated chivalrously when she ordered her poets to write the guidelines for courtly love.
Something about those accounts makes me feel connected to wordsmiths throughout history. Had I lived in another time, would I have undertaken the painstaking education of a Druid to exercise my love of words? Would I have jumped at the chance to be a court poet?
In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes that “modern storytellers are the descendants of an immense and ancient community of holy people, troubadours, bards, griots, cantadoras, cantors, traveling poets, bums, hags and crazy people… story is far older than the art and science of psychology.”
And that feels just right to me. A good story—in any era—is the very best sort of therapy.