The Business Of Stories Is Waking Up with Martin Shaw, Ph.D.

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Shaw is our guide in examining our broken relationship with the world. He shares this advice about deep listening. “If myth is the way that the earth thinks, I needed to listen deeply to forests and to rivers and mountains and to gullies and to open more land, to see the stories that were trying to disclose themselves to me all the time.” He uses ancient European myths that concern our own inner, wild twin. He speaks about the deepest need of humankind which concerns relatedness, relatedness with awareness. He helps us along this path by sharing story. He says, “Ancient stories rarely traffic in the day that was like the day before. They usually begin with the day that everything changes, whether that's something that happens in an individual's life or whether it happens in a culture, or a tribe, or a village. They are designed to take us deeper when circumstance starts to squeeze us. They don't indulge in arbitrary misery. They are always trying to dig into the mud of the encounter with the notion that possibly there's a little bit of gold in there. There's some information that, over time, could turn into wisdom.” As our guide, Martin Shaw, helps us get acquainted with the kind of folktales and myths that can be helpful in navigating these turbulent times. He shares the story of “The Lindworm” as an example from his new book Courting the Wild Twin. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Martin Shaw, Ph.D. is a scholar of myth and an acclaimed storyteller. He's a wilderness rites-of-passage guide and is internationally regarded as one of the most exciting proponents of the mythic imagination. He tells "prophetic stories" that speak deeply to the challenges we face today, in the world and in our personal lives. He has devised and led the Oral Tradition course at Stanford University, is a visiting fellow at Shumacher College, and the Director of the Westcountry School of Myth, a learning community in Dartmoor in the far west of the United Kingdom.

 Martin Shaw’s books include: 

  • A Branch from the Lightning Tree: Ecstatic Myth and the Grace in Wildness (White Cloud Press 2011)
  • Snowy Tower: Parzival and the Wet, Black Branch of Language (White Cloud Press 2014)
  • Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia (White Cloud 2016)
  • The Night Wages: Bidden or Unbidden Initiations Come (Cista Mystica Press 2019)
  • Courting the Wild Twin (Chelsea Green Publishing 2020)

 To learn more about the work of Martin Shaw go to or

 Topics explored in this dialogue include: 

  • Why pandemics are nothing new and how stories, fairy tales, folktales, myths, and legends remain
  • How the stories that have a gritty, initiatory quality deepen into an understanding of what failure can feel like and actually how we can build from that
  • How stories help us go to the underbelly of things when life is not behaving in the way that we’d like
  • How this time of global pandemic and hunkering down in place helps us to be quiet enough to hear the deeper question we are grappling with
  • Shaw tells the ancient story of “The Lindworm”
  • Why, when we are in the presence of something that might psychologically devour us, we might search for a surprising question, one that has not been asked for before
  • How handling very tricky situations takes courage to look for the thing that’s never been said
  • Why it is important to walk through the images of a story and see what is alive for you
  • How in folktales genius often shows up from the margins, the edge of society
  • What the wedding shirts refer to in the tale of “The Lindworm” – attending to the heart
  • How these tales are a kind of shorthand that would take a whole book of philosophy to disclose
  • What did archetypal psychologist, James Hillman, mean by an educated heart
  • What does it mean to listen deeply
  • Shaw shares advice on deep listening. “If myth is the way that the earth thinks, I needed to listen deeply to forests and to rivers and mountains and to gullies and to open more land, to see the stories that were trying to disclose themselves to me all the time
  • How nature is trying to attract our attention in some way and to produce a degree of praise from us. So be a “praisemaker”
  • What is the way the god Hermes speaks to us
  • Why to attempt to return things to normal means that we never took the pill of experience to hear what’s being disclosed to each of us in this moment
  • How Shaw was catapulted into another retreat by the coronavirus when he returned from 101 days of retreat in the forest 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 4/23/2020   Program Number: 3701

Music Playlist

From Album: Oracle
Artist: Michael Hedges
1996 Windham Hill #CSL 02

Opening Essay: Track 01: The 2nd Law
Music Break 1: Track 03: Baal T'shuvah
Music Break 2: Track 03: Baal T'shuvah (continued)
Music Break 3: Track 07: Gospel