Storytelling as Medicine: Healing the Culture of Violence

mccormickStory is the foundation of healing. A story can help us see the fruit of our actions and give us a new vision. Telling stories can heal souls. It can help us shift from a culture of violence to a culture of peace. The old paradigm of meeting violence with violence literally kills. It also denies that we are All One Family.

Storytelling is an ancient and intimate form of energy healing. It connects the heart with the mind, bypassing judgment and ego. A storyteller can channel love directly to individual souls and plant seeds of empathy, compassion and forgiveness.

In September in Minneapolis, I told “The Samurai and the Nightingale” (included below) at Minnehaha Park at the Pagan Pride Gathering. I heard this tale from my storytelling mentor, the late Ken Feit. Ken used to say that he left the Jesuit order to follow the path of a healer without wearing a collar that distanced him from people. Ken died at the age of 40 in a car accident.

The Samurai and the Nightingale

One day in Japan a proud Samurai went hunting. He saw a hawk circling in the sky above him. Quickly he shot an arrow from his bow. He saw the bird tumble to the earth, but he did not stop to check if he had killed it.

As he walked on, he heard a rustling in the bushes. He shot an arrow towards the sound. Hearing a cry, he went to see what he had shot. When he found a nightingale shivering with his arrow in its breast, he was overcome with shame. Gently he removed the arrow from the bird. He wrapped it in his robe and carried it home to his castle where he nursed it back to health.

The Samurai kept this nightingale in a bamboo cage in his bedroom. The bird would sing to him at night and put him to sleep.

One full moon night the Samurai gazed upon the nightingale that he had come to love and realized that it was wrong for him to keep it in a locked cage. He carried the bird in its cage into the forest where he had first met it. He opened the cage door and let it fly free.

Upon turning to walk back to his castle, he felt an arrow pierce his chest. The bandit who shot the Samurai came and stripped him and left him.

The nightingale flew to a bush above the fallen Samurai and sang to him all night long. Cold, in pain, and afraid, the proud warrior suffered in silence. He did not cry out for help.

At dawn the nightingale flew away. It was not until the Samurai saw the Door of Death opening that he cried out in fear.

Immediately an old man appeared. The old man silently gave him a drink, removed the arrow from his chest, applied healing salve to his wound and bandaged it.

Looking deeply into the Samurai’s eyes, the old man finally spoke: “I am the spirit of the hawk and the nightingale. As you shot me, so I, as the bandit, shot you. As you nursed me back to health, so I heal you now. My son, open your ears and your eyes. Listen to the song of the wind. See the tiniest leaf that falls, the smallest flower that opens. Watch the dance of the butterfly. For you are part of the same dance.

If we understand that we are all One Family, killing to stop a bully in Syria from killing makes little sense. Proliferating guns to reduce crime becomes silly. Jailing the mentally ill appears foolish. Shaming and blaming appear to be a waste of energy. I encourage you to find a story to tell that shifts our planet in the direction of peace.


  • • Healing Stories, Healing Story Alliance, a Special Interest Group of the National Storytelling Network
  • • Making Peace and Metamorphosis: Stories to Help Us Heal, 60-minute storytelling CDs by Carol McCormick , $10 plus shipping and handling
  • • Spinning Tales, Weaving Hope, The World Change Network, New Society Publishers, 2002



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