We hope you draw encouragement from the content below, and pray that it inspires you to live your everyday life with courage, authenticity, and joy.
Peruse as much or as little of it as you please.
Engage With Art
BERKSHIRE NOTES, PART III
I saw above a sea of hills
A solitary planet shine,
And there was no one, near or far,
To keep the world from being mine
What We Are Reading
And why you should read it too!
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
As you may have guessed from this month’s address, we have been reading Fairy-stories such as East of the Sun and West of the Moon and others like it: The Brown Bear of Norway and The Black Bull of Norroway.
Symbolism drips heavy from each word we read here, like dewdrops from meadow grasses on a misty, midsummer morning. It is fascinating and beautiful to notice the similarities and differences between these tales and to glean insights from each.
In brief, each story centers around a young woman who is taken away from her homeland by a talking beast. A rule or requirement is given which she eventually transgresses, either willfully or absentmindedly. Sometime in the story is revealed that the beast is a prince under enchantment. His love’s disobedience means he will be taken to a mysterious land, forget her, and wed an unscrupulous princess instead. The woman undertakes a journey and comes into possession of unique objects that grant her access to the castle. By divine help, her own ingenuity, or the compassion of others, she and the prince are ultimately reunited and live – can you guess? – in utter bliss for the rest of their lives.
These are the bare bones of the tale, which, on their own are unremarkable, tropey, and do little to stir the soul. But draped with a landscape, mysterious characters, and eccentric touches – such as a pair of scissors that turn everything they cut into silk – this framework upholds a richly embroidered tapestry of story before us, the threads of which catch the light and glint golden.
When told beautifully, it is the unique touches of each tale that make them so unforgettable.
For example, In East of the Sun and West of the Moon, the object of transgression – a shirt stained with candle-tallow – is also the object by which the entire story is redeemed. In The Brown Bear of Norway, we see three children born and then taken out of the woman’s arms one after another, and our hearts ache as she tells her family that “she was afraid beyond the world to have another child torn from her.” And in The Black Bull of Norroway the toil and lament of the woman outside of the prince’s door is piercingly evocative –
“Seven lang years I served for thee,
The glassy hill I clamb for thee,
The bluidy shirt I wrang for thee;
And wilt thou no wauken and turn to me?”
The careful crafting these three different stories blossom in us first despairing pain, which then ripens into the delicate fruit of joy. This is the fruit which tastes sweetest, whose juices drip down our chin as the shirt turns white as snow; as the children are gathered into the parents’ arms; as the prince wakens and turns, to the one he loves.
It is this joy that we find in the Grand Syndicate Ball, and it arises in much the same way. On its own, the event is a mere framework of dead practicalities. It is your right to enter it and knit life over the bones, to move the joints and breathe into the lungs. When you do so, the magic is sparked, and the true tale has begun.
It is you who hold the key to breathing New Life into Old Stories. What have you to bring this year? What lessons, tools, and relationships are being gifted to you in this season of life? If you journey with purpose, if your hands are open to receive, then by the time you arrive at the Grand Syndicate Ball you will have everything you need to Enter In.
May the way that you speak of the coming Ball differ from the way you spoke of it last year. May it be different from and yet strangely similar to the way your companions will speak of it. May your story be rich and unforgettable in the telling.
Should you wish to peruse the Fairy-stories we referenced, we have provided some links below:
East of the Sun and West of the Moon – The longest of the tales, but simply written, with beautiful illustrations. This version showcases divine aid granted to the righteous, and the journey is the most elaborate here.
The Brown Bear of Norway – A somewhat shorter telling. In this version the woman knows her bear is a prince from the beginning and loves him dearly. It presents the deepest look into trust, betrayal, and the marriage relationship.
The Black Bull of Norroway – The shortest story, yet written in a Scottish dialect that can make this read more difficult. There is also an audio version on this page that is a delightful listen. This story is perhaps the most unique among the three. A key feature of the tale is the extent to which the woman labors – not merely journeys – after her disobedience.
Remember What God Has Done
Has this section been a source of inspiration to you?
Please consider reaching out to us with part of your story to continue to encourage others! Tell us about a moment from a past Banquet & Ball where God moved in your life. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, enjoy the word cloud below, curated by Heather Young. She asked some past attendees to list the top three values that the Grand Syndicate Ball holds for them, and this is the result. Larger words were used more frequently than smaller words. This image resonates deeply with us, and we hope you enjoy it!