Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Doors again

P1040451Doors have so many meanings, signal so many different things. At the end of the Second Branch of the Mabinogion (see below for details), there is a brief account of a marvellous journey. Seven chieftains are returning from Ireland bearing with them the head of Bendigeidfran, their leader. He has told them to bury his head on the White Hill in London. This will give protection to this island for the future (and by the way, it makes me think that, if his head is still there, we really have no need of Trident.)

On the way, the seven chieftains are twice delayed, once at Harlech in North Wales where, for seven years, they are enchanted by the singing of the birds of Rhiannon. Then they move on to the island of Gwales (it’s what we now know as the island of Skokholm off the coast of Pembrokeshire). On that island, there is a royal dwelling in which they find a large hall in which there are three doors. Two doors are open. One is closed. And Manawyddan, who is one of the seven bearers, says it must not be opened.

For 80 years, the seven chieftains do not open the door and in all of that time, they remain oblivious of all the sorrows they’ve ever seen or suffered. Nor do they age – and all the while the head of Bendigeidfran, provides good company to them as he had promised. Then of course – for it has to happen – one of the seven men opens the door that’s been shut and at that point they all know they must move on.

From dread to promise:

Doors have so many meanings. You can’t indefinitely shut the door on the past, you can’t indefinitely keep it shut on the present. There’s the inevitable sense of having to deal with what perhaps you don’t want to deal with. But then, too, there can be a sense of new things opening up. This can be very exciting as in the comment sent in this week by my friend Liz Richards about a door in her childhood. Liz says: ‘My granddad looked after the gardens at the mansion near our house and there was a secret door. The anticipation and excitement of my granddad opening that door was a memory I will never forget.’

P1060643An exercise in visualisation:

While revisiting the theme of doors this week, I was reminded of a visualisation exercise I’ve done with groups many times. Karen Tovell and I used to do it – for it can be remade in many different versions – in the days of our Drill Hall workshops. And once when I introduced it to a parents’ group in Ilford, it was so much enjoyed that I suggested to the participants that they try it on their own at some point during the following week. The next week, one member of the group reported regretfully that, during the whole week, she’d not managed to find the three minutes I’d suggested it could take.

Have you got time?

P1060645Well, anyone can try it. You can allow three minutes or just the one. Just make yourself comfortable and quiet, close your eyes and, in this case, bring into your mind’s eye a door –  any kind of door, it’s your choice. Have a look at your door in your mind. Notice its size, what colour it is, whether it has any features such as a door-knocker or bell, whether it’s open or shut. Then as you wish, you can move into having a think about what may lie behind your door. And if you wish and when you’re ready, you can open your door and take a look at what lies beyond. You don’t have to go through it, you can come back when you wish.

That’s it. Where your door comes from – memory? imagination? – may be of interest to you. In either case, it can prove a spur to thought. If you’re a teacher or group-leader, it can lead to all kinds of good ideas of things to do with your class or your group. If you’re a writer or storyteller, it can summon into your mind a wealth of stories, old ones or new ones as the case may be. A door is a fertile image. Thanks, Liz, for making me think about it some more.

The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion in the new translation by Sioned Davies (OUP 2007) is the one I’ve been referring to most of late. I recommend it.


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4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Doors again”

  1. Karen Tovell Says:

    Dear Mary

    I was so interested to receive this week’s blog from you about Doors. Immediately my mind flashed back to a period of time in the early eighties when I was a weekly Hospital Radio volunteer at a London hospital working on the children’s ward. We had one teenage boy who regularly came in suffering from the worst possible flare-ups of eczema – his body was on fire and he was bound in bandages from head to toe to prevent him scratching himself red raw. Poor lad, he was in a hellish way and at home he (and his parents) could get no rest day or night. Then it all changed. Someone on his treatment team gave him a visualisation to use at home for when he was tossing and turning in agony. He was to imagine that his house had a CELLAR DOOR and he could go down and open it, where he would find the steps led down to his own private swimming pool that was filled with milk. He was to sit on the edge of this pool and bit by bit immerse his body into it and be soothed. This worked so wonderfully well that soon he could do this by himself and he was greatly comforted – and at night he was no longer crying out in agony, so leaving his parents an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

    Keep up the good work, Mary, really enjoy receiving your blog.


  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Oh Karen, what a moving account you give of this boy. And how good to know that visualisation can bring such real comfort. From mind to body, it’s powerful stuff. Thanks so much for what you’ve written.

  3. Liz Richards Says:

    HI Mary ,
    Just sat down closed my eyes for twenty minutes and visualized a door.
    This door was a door of my life, how each door that opened was a new chapter in my life.
    How opening doors doesn’t have to be “literally opening a door.” My thoughts of so many chapters in my life that I have gone through to where I am today.
    I await expectantly to open more doors in my life and hope they will be as interesting as the last sixty years have and I have many more.
    Your blog gets more interesting every week and I get so much pleasure from reading them.
    You always make me think out of the box.
    Thank you
    Love LIZ xxx

    Your blog gets better every time Mary and look forward to reading it so much every week.

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Liz, it’s always so heartening to hear from you. I think you’re fantastic the way you take ideas on. Your visualization of the doors in your life is inspiring. Maybe others will follow suit.

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