A Storyteller’s Guide to Accessing the Muse

A STORYTELLER’S GUIDE TO ACCESSING THE MUSE

As a professional storyteller, in the past I’ve told stories that last four hours. Often, after long story performances, people ask me, “How did you memorize all that?” My answer is always the same: “I don’t memorize anything. I work with my Muse.”

All right, you might ask, what is the Muse?

Our familiar words “music”, “museum” and “amusement” derive from it. It goes back to an Ancient Greek word that described the Nine Muses, the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts in Greek mythology.

“Inspiration” means “to breathe in.” And that’s exactly what the Ancient Greeks thought happened when an artist, let’s say a storyteller like Homer long ago, started to perform one of his long tales. Homer would call upon the Muse named Calliope. Her name means “beautiful voice”, and she was the Muse of Eloquence. According to the belief, she would appear invisibly behind the storyteller and breathe ideas into his head as he spoke.

But before starting off, he would ask for her help. He would “invoke the Muse.”

The first line of Homer’s The Iliad reads:

“Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Akhilleus’ anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men…”

Homer is about to “sing” a very long story about how Achilles, the greatest warrior at Troy, became furious with the Lord High Marshall, Agamemnon, for daring to take Achilles’ girl. Homer is also about to pluck a lyre while he’s singing his story. He’s what the Greeks called A Singer of Tales. He and others like him were the cinema of the day around 700 BC. There wasn’t much else in the Bronze Age.

But notice that Homer isn’t saying, “I am now beginning my poem.” Actually, he’s surrendering responsibility for his act to “the immortal one”–to Calliope, instead becoming her vessel. As he begins the daunting task of performing a poem over 15,000 lines long, he’s asking for the Muse’s inspiration.

According to the myths, Calliope was the daughter of Mnemosyne, the Titan of Memory, and Zeus, the King of the Gods. Quite the pedigree in those times.

Homer invokes her again when he begins The Odyssey:

“Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.”

Centuries later, when John Milton, the English poet born in London in 1608, wrote Paradise Lost, he invoked the Muse, too. However, since the Greek gods were long gone and he was a Christian, he invoked the Holy Spirit, not a goddess, for help:

 

“I thence

 Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,

 That with no middle flight intends to soar

 Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.”

 

He was trying to outdo the “Aonian mount,” otherwise known as the mountain home of the Greek Muses, of which he was quite jealous, it appears. “Hey, you oldsters ain’t got nuthin’ on this blind Brit.”

Humor aside, what does all this have to do with you accessing your Muse? Here, in modern times? To learn to tell stories in your own words, direct from your imagination? I think we can add imagination to the long list of what the Muse is. Buried inside the word “imagination” is the word “image.”  Since imagining is the summoning of mental images, let’s say that your Muse begins to work when you consciously create mental images.

I’ll explore with you my method for developing clear, living mental imagery in later blogs.

Countless times I’ve stood backstage in the semi-darkness with my 12-string guitar, walking around behind the drawn curtain, tuning and playing musical motifs I’ll use in the story. Beyond the curtain, the low roar of the audience tells me it’s almost time to step out there, sit in my chair with my microphones ready, and begin. Since I stole this trick from Homer and Milton and many others, I invoke my Muse. “Oh Muse,” I’ll say aloud, “please come to me tonight. I’m just a tiny human being and all these nice people are waiting. Please help me.”

Now you don’t have to believe in the Muse to be inspired by it. In modern language, some might call it the unconscious mind, or human creativity, or the soul, or the Holy Spirit, or simply imagination. Whatever you’d like to call it, I perform this simple ritual anyway to make myself feel better.

And usually, it works. The imagery pours into my mind and I step into a movie I can see, hear, smell and touch. After that, the words begin to flow.

More to follow.

May the Muse be with you.

 

–Odds Bodkin

You can find my stories at my online download shop.

New Odds Bodkin Recordings

NEW ODDS BODKIN RECORDINGS

From Odds Bodkin:

I’m in the studio next week to mix ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS, my best live show ever of Viking tales and lore. So surprising and wonderful was the audience’s reaction (it was recorded this year at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA–college students mostly) that we’re mixing the audience microphone in with the two stage mics to capture that magic. They laughed. They groaned. They even sang.

ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS will be available soon.

By the way, I’m doing a live version of this show at Nova Arts in Keene, NH on Sept. 24th, if you’d like to enjoy it in person. Music on Celtic harp and two 12-string guitars.

Tickets are $25:

https://www.novaarts.org/events/oddsbodkin924

Also being studio recorded next week, my latest original tale, VOYAGE OF THE WAISTGOLD, which we’ll publish soon as well. A 70-minute adult pirate fantasy, it’s naughty but beautiful. Watch for it.

Plus more fresh recordings to follow! A new DARK TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL, which folks have been requesting for years. It’s going to be a busy few months!

–Odds Bodkin

Power Myths of Ancient Greece: Storyteller Odds Bodkin on Zoom This Thursday

Power Myths of Ancient Greece: Storyteller Odds Bodkin on Zoom This Thursday

Master Storyteller and Musician Odds Bodkin kicks off his 3-part series, Power Myths of Ancient Greece, with a revelatory show:

EARTH OVERTHROWN: Gaia and the Titans

Thursday, March 3rd at 7 pm EST on Zoom

With character voices, narration and a full score on 12-string guitar, the storyteller takes you back to the dawn of time, according to the ancient Greeks. It’s the tale of Gaia the Earth and her Titan children. And of their terrible war with the upstart Gods of Olympus.

Storytelling for adults.

Get your tickets today!

$30 per screen

Origin Myths

Long before geology and science in general led to a revolution in our understanding of Earth’s ancient story, pre-scientific peoples asked the question, as all of us do: where did all this come from? This Earth? We humans? The life systems of rock, oceans and sky that sustain us? When and how did it all begin?

Those questions remain profound ones, questions that we’re still working to answer. Our human origin story is more finely honed with each passing archeological and genetic discovery—and there are plenty more to be unearthed—while Earth’s origin story, and that of our Solar System and the Universe, is deepened by astrophysical discoveries every day.

However, pre-scientific peoples were just as smart as we are, they just didn’t have our modern tools. Did that prevent them from using their raw senses and storytelling skills to explain where they themselves came from? Certainly not. After all, what’s an ancient father or mother to do when their child asks, “Mommy, where did the stars come from?” Better say something by way of explanation, otherwise your child will think you’re a know-nothing.

And so, around fires in caves and eventually in mud huts and stone cities, origin myths were born. Every band of humans had one, unique to their surroundings.

The ancient Greeks were especially detailed in their fantasies, and no Greek more so than the poet Hesiod, who lived around 700 B.C.

I have based EARTH OVERTHROWN: GAIA and the TITANS, on Hesiod’s Greek genesis story, The Theogony.

In this origin myth, Gaia is the Earth. Her children the Titans create the ecological systems upon her surface. They all take both human and elemental forms, switching easily back and forth, and all have human failings, just like we do.

That makes The Theogony an interesting tale indeed. Jealousy, horror, dashed expectations, war and betrayal stalked the Titans, just like they do we moderns, who fancy that we know so much more than the ancients.

There’s even some humor.

STORYTELLER ODDS BODKIN

EARTH OVERTHROWN: GAIA AND THE TITANS

MARCH 3, 2022 at 7 pm EST on Zoom

Performed with 12-string guitar

Tickets: $30

Part I of a 3-part series, POWER MYTHS OF ANCIENT GREECE in March/April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Live and Online Adult Story Performances by Odds Bodkin Coming Up in March and April 2022

Live and Online Adult Story Performances by Odds Bodkin Coming Up for March and April!

Master Storyteller and Musician Odds Bodkin announces four LIVE shows coming up at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA, plus POWER MYTHS OF ANCIENT GREECE, a compelling 3-part series over Zoom starting March 3rd.

“a modern-day Orpheus”–Billboard

Feb. 27 (Sunday) at 5 pm: VOYAGE OF THE WAISTGOLD, the world premier of Bodkin’s original pirate fantasy tale in verse. Live at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square, the artist reads aloud his outrageous new literary work, narrated in “pirate patois.” GET TICKETS

 

 

March 3 (Thursday) at 7 pm EST: EARTH OVERTHROWN: GAIA AND THE TITANS, the “Genesis story of ancient Greece,” performed with a 12-string guitar score. The first in his POWER MYTHS OF ANCIENT GREECE series on Zoom. Watch from anywhere. GET TICKETS

 

 

March 17 (Thursday) at 7 pm EST: THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR’S FEAST, his debut telling of this wondrous and gruesome myth performed with 12-string guitar. The second in his POWER MYTHS OF ANCIENT GREECE series on Zoom. Watch from anywhere. GET TICKETS

 

 

March 20 (Sunday) at 5 pm EST: BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE, his beloved telling of the original version of Beowulf. Live at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square, Bodkin evokes the old Viking world with voices and 12-string guitar. GET TICKETS

 

 

April 3 (Sunday) at 5 pm EST: ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS, his performance of two powerful Norse myths, Thor’s Journey to Utgard and The Mead of Poetry on two 12-string guitars, with a lore introduction on Celtic harp. All before a live audience at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square. GET TICKETS

April 14 (Thursday) at 7 pm EST: THE ILIAD: CAPTIVES, PLAGUE AND FURY, his tour de force telling in modern language of Book I of Homer’s Trojan War classic, The Iliad. The third in his POWER MYTHS OF ANCIENT GREECE series on Zoom. Music on thunderous 12-string guitar. Watch from anywhere. GET TICKETS

 

 

April 17 (Sunday) at 5 pm EST: THE FALL OF GAIA, his in-person version of Hesiod’s Theogony, with a panoply of character voices and music on 12-string guitar. This show is live at Grendel’s Den on Harvard Square. GET TICKETS

 

 

 

TONIGHT! Odds Bodkin Tells The Odyssey on YouTube Live.

Tonight, Odds Bodkin tells The Odyssey on YouTube Live at 7 pm EST, 4 pm PT. Join the crowd for a blast of storytelling excitement, and experience a master storyteller at work. Surging music, vivid characters and compelling narrative bring this classic of Greek Mythology to life.

Meet Odysseus, the weary warrior at Troy. Go inside the Trojan Horse. Meet the languid Lotus Eaters on their perfumed island. And finally, be trapped in the Cave of the cannibal Cyclops with Odysseus and his men.

“a modern-day Orpheus” — Billboard

This 70-minute live performance comes with an intermission. Claire Hennessy of Six Feet Apart Productions will MC the show.

Get your tickets now! And stay after the show to chat with Odds Bodkin.

 

The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast

Odds Bodkin, Master Talesman

Sunday, Jan. 30 at 7 pm EST on YouTube Live

Tickets $25-$30

 

Sunday Night at 7: The Odyssey Told with Music

Sunday night at 7: The Odyssey Told with Music.

Master Talesman Odds Bodkin plays 12-string guitar as he tells The Odyssey. The musical pace quickens, then explodes, then returns to serene beauty as the tale unfolds. Bodkin uses “leitmotifs”–musical cues like Darth Vader’s ominous theme in John Williams’ Star Wars music. If you’ve never seen storytelling like this, you’ll enjoy the heightened energy and vividness.

The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast

A 70-minute Tale with Intermission

Jan. 30 at 7 pm EST and 4 pm PT on YouTube Live

Odds Bodkin

Tickets: $25-$30

A Week from Today: Odds Bodkin tells THE ODYSSEY

A week from today, Odds Bodkin tells THE ODYSSEY on YouTube Live. This rescheduled performance (Omicron interfered but all is well) begins at 7 pm EST, 4 pm PT. Produced by Six Feet Apart Productions and hosted by Claire Hennessy, this 70-minute tour de force storytelling performance combines thrilling music with vivid characters acted in real time.

Journey back to Homer’s world of Greek mythology and the Trojan War with a Master Talesman.

“a consummate storyteller” — The New York Times

“a modern-day Orpheus” — Billboard

Odds Bodkin

The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast

Sunday, Jan. 30 at 7 pm EST

Tickets: $25 – $30

It’s Like a Movie, Seen from Inside the Hero’s Mind

It’s like a movie, seen from inside the hero’s mind. In this case, he’s Odysseus of Ithaca, a father and fighter, far from home. The Greek poet Homer’s great metaphor for how soldiers come home after war is what The Odyssey is all about.

Almost making it home, but then being swept away again by forces beyond your control. The lure of drugs to calm the mind. And being forced to fight an inhuman monster because you made a bad decision.

This coming Sunday, Jan. 16 at 7 pm EST, Master Talesman Odds Bodkin will appear on YouTube Live to tell this timeless story. He’ll accompany himself throughout on thunderous 12-string guitar.

Get your tickets today.

 

The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast

Jan. 16, 2022 at 7 pm EST, 4 pm PT.

An hour+ performance live on YouTube.

Tickets: $25-$30

 

Presented by Claire Hennessy and Six Feet Apart Productions.

 

NOW IN STOCK: Odds Bodkin Story Drives

NOW IN STOCK: Odds Bodkin Story Drives. You can always download Odds Bodkin’s classic tales with original music from Odds’ Shop and get them instantly, or you can order a Story Drive to share with friends and family.

Click images for story details!

A Sunday Evening with a Classic Greek Myth: Odds Bodkin Tells THE ODYSSEY

A Sunday Evening with a Classic Greek Myth: Odds Bodkin Tells THE ODYSSEY.

“The closest thing we have to a genuine Homeric performance…”–Professor James Tatum, Dartmouth Classics Department

“Students are clamoring for him to return…”–Professor Martha Taylor, Chair of Classics, Loyola University Maryland

The Greek poet Homer, scholars say, recited his ODYSSEY epic while plucking his lyre. Odds Bodkin performs his modern-day language ODYSSEY while playing 12-string guitar.

If you value Western Civilization and its timeless lessons, including literacy and imagination, don’t miss this live performance on YouTube Sunday, January 16th at 7 pm EST. Just buy your ticket for the login, and then sit back for a 70-minute blast of virtuoso storytelling.

And afterwards, chat with the artist if you have questions.

THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST

SUNDAY, JAN. 16, 2022 at 7 pm EST, 4 pm PT on YouTube Live

Presented by Six Feet Apart Productions with Claire Hennessy

Tickets $25-$30

 

Coming to YouTube Live: Odds Bodkin Performs THE ODYSSEY January 16th at 7 pm EST

Coming to YouTube Live on January 16th at 7 pm. Get tickets now for Odds Bodkin’s epic, THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST.

Soaring, exciting music on 12-string guitar. A host of character voices, including Odysseus and the Cyclops. Amazing vocal effects of storm winds, sea birds and crashing stones.

Hosted by Six Feet Apart Productions, master talesman Odds Bodkin will spellbind you with his vivid storytelling during this Sunday performance.

Tickets: $25-$30. Assemble your family and friends for this “tour de force” (Dartmouth Classics Dept.) live performance by a “consummate storyteller” (The New York Times.).

TICKETS