The Value of Storytelling and Cultural Traditions

The Value of Storytelling and Cultural Traditions — A Time Capsule

Traditions and customs act like time capsules, creating a snapshot of the cultural narrative at a specific point in time. In the modern age, people overlook the value of storytelling and cultural traditions, but these tools serve several essential functions in our lives. Traditions can make life more meaningful. Want to learn how?

Stories, customs, and rituals existed for eons in the oral tradition long before they were documented in writing. The most popular of these stories became the basis for the sacred texts of our organized religions.

The Culture Snapshot & Time Capsule

Many of these customs are simple and superficial. However, some contain important lessons, messages, and even hidden knowledge. The intent, content, and context are all critical elements of these stories.

Traditions can be divided into several categories: personal, family, community, society, cultural, spiritual, and religious. Some stories or legends affect all the categories, while others may only be personal.

Customs and traditions are time capsules that contain valuable information about the values and beliefs that the culture wants to pass along. Our traditions remain long after we are gone. I’m sure you have some that are part of your generational traditions. The celebration of important holidays and benchmarks are good examples of customs that are handed down. What customs have you retained, and which have you changed?

The purpose of your traditions is to:

  • Preserve and safeguard essential rituals and practices
  • Create context, connection, and continuity
  • Act important reminders
  • Act as a culture snapshot and time capsule

The Value of Storytelling

We can create customs out of routine, which are habitual behaviors, and so traditions can become invisible. Customs or rituals have a range of importance. When we are mindful of our thoughts and actions, we are more likely to recognize them.

Sometimes, the way someone delivers the story holds as much meaning as the content of the tale, and the art of storytelling becomes an art. It all started with stories around a campfire. Gathering around a campfire is likely where they developed the idea of encoding the story with symbolism, typologies, and moral values.

The intrinsic value of storytelling is in its ability to become a mnemonic memory device that locks the intended meaning into the pattern of the story. The best tales are memorable, and you can attach almost anything to the narrative.

Storytelling and Cultural Traditions

The context of tradition is also important. Many of the processes of spiritual exploration come from an ancient spiritual legacy. So, it is crucial to keep the original pattern intact.

Religions tend to adopt or otherwise appropriate these time capsules because they contain powerful symbolism, and then they rebrand them for their own use. If the new belief system keeps the original processes intact, it serves to preserve and safeguard the tradition for the future. It does happen, but it’s rare. Religions like to hide where they get their stuff.   Symbols are easier to hide where you got them from, you just destroy any history of their existence.   Stories are also easy to rebrand.

The social artistry of the storyteller is essential to the message because how it is delivered can be as important as the content. Storytelling and cultural traditions go hand-in-hand. The value of the story is often in the way it is delivered. So, the orator’s skill in storytelling and the location also play an essential part in the value of storytelling.

Exploring Your Traditions Part One

Your Traditions Act Like A Time Capsule a Culture Snapshot

Write a list of customs, starting with the daily routines and working your way through important benchmarks like birthdays and major holidays. Be sure to include special events that are part of your family tradition. Leave room to add others. Once you start investigating, other personal and family rituals will surface.

After you develop your list, start to unwrap the content. Start with the storytelling and cultural traditions you recall from childhood because the formative years are the place when we begin to learn these stories. We can create a time capsule as early as three years old.

Once you start, you’ll find you have more than you realize. For instance, taking part in a religious service on Saturday or Sunday is customary. This pattern of behavior supports a specific cultural narrative.

Keep this list in your spiritual journal. If you don’t have one, use this list to get you started. If you don’t know what a spiritual journal is, follow the link and get started. It’s an inexpensive and valuable tool for any level of spiritual explorer. Do it! Get one. You’ll be glad you did.

Okay, let’s give an example of a family tradition. Your family meets every week for lunch on Sunday morning. See, that’s easy. We’ll dig a little deeper into the elements of this tradition in a moment.

Preserve and Safeguard the Culture Snapshot

The word tradition comes from the Latin’ tradere’ to transmit, “to hand over, and give for safekeeping.” One of the main objectives of tradition is to safeguard and communicate the important messages, values, or concepts of the system. Customs are patterns designed to protect the integrity of knowledge. It’s a way of ensuring the original intent and meaning.

To do this, you need to incorporate the proper symbols, concepts, and meaning into a memorable storyline. Joseph Campbell (1) discovered that many stories in religions have the same storyline, themes, and elements; only the names of the characters are changed to fit the mythology. Religions encode their most important knowledge into narratives and symbols with several levels of understanding.

Every religious symbol in use today by organized religion has several layers of meaning that were borrowed from earlier systems. There are no exceptions. Religions use these symbols because of their original intrinsic meaning; however, they may not want this to be made public knowledge. The cross used by Christianity is an example. The Christians were not the first to use the cross. (2)

The older the tradition of the symbolism, the more historical authority and ritualistic power the symbols and the typology have in the popular cultural narrative. Then, the new religion adds layers of understanding to the public version, but only those in the most trusted levels learn about the hidden meaning. Some believe that the knowledge of Hermetics is in the way the teacher transmits the information. The culture snapshot only captures part of the story.

Many spiritual technologies, like seated and moving meditation, were safeguarded for centuries through the memorization of stories. All mantras and sutras in Indian meditation systems began as oral traditions—the Vedas date from 1000 to 1500 BCE. So, the mantras and sutras’ formulas are among the oldest historical records of this kind.

The Roman Empire grasped the value of storytelling and cultural tradition; it combined all the popular parts of the mystery religions of the Mediterranean into one “Universal Religion.” We know this creation as Christianity.

Traditions Create Context, Connection, and Continuity

Our Traditions Remain Like A Time Capsule

Another principal purpose of traditions is to create social context, connection, and continuity. A family’s way of celebrating a holiday is a good example. If you celebrate Christmas in a certain way, you pass this custom along to your children. It’s a ritual that creates family continuity and identity.

We see this in many cultures. In some parts of Europe, the demon Krampus (3) is just as part of the Christmas celebration as Santa Claus. Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as half-goat, half-demon. He punishes children who have misbehaved during the Christmas season, contrasting with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts.

When the entire community uses Krampus as a focal point, it brings people together and creates social continuity. When everyone in the community tells the same story and celebrates it on a large scale, children will believe in the fairy tale.

Simple functions also create continuity; gathering on a specific day or time for a family meal is a way of creating a community. People also make a community when they have the same traumatic experience. Survivors of any trauma will bond because they share the same life event.

Our Traditions Remain as Important Reminders

Another primary purpose of your traditions is to act as a reminder. Today, we have smartphones and automatic calendars. In times past, the value of storytelling and tradition served as calendars and reminders of important cultural benchmarks. Some cultures used the moon cycles as a source of reminders that helped them get ready for planting, harvesting, hunting, and fishing.

The cycles of the Sun, Moon, and Planets became another way to track significant events, like the solstices and equinoxes. Our birthday is one important reminder. Many cultures celebrate this benchmark. Many cultures use the 13-month moon calendar instead of the astrological signs of the stars.

For example, The Adhan (4) is the call to prayer, which is played on a loudspeaker in Islamic communities. They say or play this five times a day from a minaret or tall tower, summoning Muslims for obligatory prayer. It’s not just a reminder; it’s a command to obey, and they keep track of those who attend and those who do not. You place your life in jeopardy if you miss too many sessions. This is a tradition with consequences.

How Tradition Becomes A Culture Snapshot

A historical custom is an important picture of the past; it captures the intent and purpose of sacred rituals and celebrations. To understand the original intent and meaning, you determine the elements of the tradition by breaking down the custom into story elements, rituals, and symbols. Then, you can derive the purpose and intent. We can do this with the two examples above: the call to prayer in Islam and the story of Krampus.

Look at each element of the time capsule and research each element. If you explore a story, break down the details into their significant concepts. Then, search for those same concepts in other stories. You’ll be surprised by what you find—the same with symbols or rituals. All you need to do is open the capsule.

Here, the value of storytelling can have several layers. It may communicate personal, family, inter-family, and societal messages.

Exploring Your Traditions Part Two

We hope you created a list of traditions and customs. If not, please take the time to do so. Then, break them down into key elements. This exercise will help you see how everything links, just like in the story with Krampus and Santa.

Many people share the same elemental components in their personal, family, cultural, and societal customs. Hold on to your list for a while. We’ll take another look at it shortly.

Remember our example in part one? Our example was a lunch meeting every Sunday.   So, now we need to break it down into the elements that it conveys. What is the typical topic of conversation? What do people do before and after the meeting? Who is in control of the meeting? Find all the elements that make up this tradition. It may have other elements, such as rebellion, the brother or sister who refuses to attend or comes late.

So, our simple tradition contains several messages, such as rebellion from or submission to the family’s religious tradition. It may also have religious or political overtones. The message is different for everyone involved, but it’s all part of the same custom and tradition. The cultural snapshot of the same event will be different for everyone.

Identify The Intent and Purpose of Traditions

The two examples above—the call to pray five times a day and the story of Krampus—help us determine the intent and purpose.

The stories of Krampus and Santa Claus are examples of cultural values about social structure and compliance. Obedient children get rewards, and the disobedient get punishment. This coherent message focuses on making children more obedient, which translates to a more compliant culture. In the custom, Krampus beats rebellious children with reeds and carries them away in a basket. That’s how you use the fear of superstition to drive behavior.

Fear is used the same way in other religions. The call to prayer in Islam is a way of demanding obedience. It tells people when and how to pray.   If you can control when and how someone does something, you can also program thinking and values. So, both the call to prayer and Krampus are similar. They are ways to make people obey.

This snapshot shows how we weave different stories into the cultural narrative. It is impossible to separate the call to prayer from the belief system — and it’s the same with the story of Krampus. Once you can spot the tradition’s intent and purpose, it is easier to trace it. We use a process called comparative analysis to expose the similarities across belief systems. It’s a scientifically based comparative religious study system.

Context and Consistency

The context of tradition is also important. Many of the processes of spiritual exploration come from an ancient spiritual legacy, so it is crucial to keep the original pattern intact.

Religions have adopted or appropriated many of these processes. However, if the religion keeps the processes intact, it serves to preserve and safeguard the tradition. Ancient traditions place equal importance on the content of the message and the quality of delivery. Storytelling and cultural traditions go hand-in-hand. The true value of a story often depends on the presentation, eloquence, and oratory skills of the storyteller.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Not all traditions are good or healthy. So, once we dissect their content, we must decide whether to change or remove them. For example, let’s say your family of origin has a tradition of going to religious services. You can dissect the value of this type of meeting and decide to remove it from your practice. In some cultures, this isn’t easy. Freedom of choice does not include freedom from religion.

The Good & Ugly Parts of Our Traditions Remain

Any tradition that promotes sectarianism is unhealthy. We are creatures of habit. We love patterns because we are habitual by nature. This means it is easy to fall prey to those things that are habit-forming and unhealthy. Many things that are addictive cause us harm.

Religion is, by definition, a belief system that is a closed set of boundaries. They design spiritual tools to go beyond the limits of thinking and belief. Religious belief systems are made from mythologies, presenting arguments supporting boundaries of thought, faith, and values.

Not all religions are equal. Some religions have more harmful programming than others. For example, Taoism and Paganism have the least boundaries. These systems encourage you to explore and develop your path. Whereas the extremist sects of Christianity and Islam have the largest, most complex, and contradictory boundaries. They also contain the most significant amount of harmful programming, including the justification of ethnic, racial, and gender discrimination and genocide. It all depends on how emotionally invested you are in their propositions. The real purpose of traditions like these is to stifle freethinking and protect their cash flow.

The Abrahamic traditions have such a great social reach that they impact our culture, whether you follow them or not. You must expose yourself to self-hypnosis and group hypnosis programming or face harsh consequences. You must demonstrate your allegiance by attending religious services to reinforce self-hypnosis.

Western organized religions create boundaries for good reasons. First, they legitimize the belief system by claiming a unique space. Second, they safeguard and propagate their interests as a tradition. These religions do not care about your development. They care about political power and cash flow.

Worst of all, some religions are not transmitters of any process for developing human potential. They are counterfeits, substituting mythology for processes of development to create customers. Inconsistency is another major problem with the most popular organized religions. In one place, it talks about love. Then, in another, violence includes genocide and the persecution of people who do not believe in their God.

We also carry forward ugly family traditions, and these are the behaviors that leave scars in our souls. We can overcome these obstacles, but it takes tremendous courage and diligent inner work. Many children carry forward traumas that cause them to act out in destructive ways.    So, we have the responsibility to correct these and stop the cycle of abuse. Our traditions remain as a legacy.

The Good Traditions

Good traditions and customs are easy to spot. They promote the health and welfare of everyone and the planet. These need not be elaborate or lengthy. Personal rituals are the glue that holds us together. They fulfill the grand purpose of traditions by linking us to our heritage.

For instance, set a reminder to study a foreign language for 30 minutes every day. It becomes a learning tradition with benefits. Learning a new language is good for your mind’s health, and it allows you to communicate with someone from a different point of view. It does not involve adherence to harmful religious programming.

These good behaviors are worthy of leaving as a legacy. Our traditions remain long after the passing of time.

Processes for Spiritual Exploration

The dimensions of time and space are not barriers to our consciousness. We do not exist between our ears. The real you, the person you talk to inside your head, have no limits. Our consciousness has a foundation of pure awareness, enabling us to access higher states of consciousness. All we need are the keys to open our understanding, and these tools exist. We call these tools spiritual technologies.

Everyone has a way of awakening the spiritual gifts sleeping in their DNA. Awakening is a process. When we open our spiritual gifts, it sets our spiritual walk into motion and opens our minds to new potentials.

Many ancient cultures conducted research into consciousness. They sought ways to access these spiritual gifts. The investigation of awareness is something many ancient cultures thought was necessary, and we enjoy the benefits of generations of research. These early pioneers give us several tools for exploring consciousness.

We call the processes of these early explorers spiritual technologies. These processes stand up to the test of science; they are repeatable and produce unique physiological changes. These tools enable us to reach higher states of awareness that differ from waking, sleeping, and dreaming.

We use a blended learning model incorporating safe and reliable processes. We are not the first to use this eclectic approach. For example, Gurdjieff’s strategy was to adopt techniques that had proven effective. The research of these early pioneers stands the test of time.

Exploratory Exercise Part Three

By this point, we hope you have a list of your personal, family, cultural, and societal traditions and have broken these down into single elements. Now, we will open the time capsule to see what this custom is all about.

We look at the intent, purpose, context, and consistency of breakfast after the religious service. I notice that we do not talk about the religious service’s content.

The best part of this tradition is the conversation after breakfast. We mostly talked about what we did as a family and what we wanted to do. It’s an essential part of creating your own traditions.

When the subject of religion comes up, it seems to be a dividing issue. So, I prioritized the breakfast meeting rather than the cultural pressure to participate in a religious service.

In Conclusion

Don’t forget that our cultural rituals link us to our unique heritage. Your personal, family, and cultural traditions are like DNA, a time capsule of beliefs and values.


(1) The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell: Wikipedia 
(2) The cross: its history and symbolism:
(3) Krampus: Wikipedia 
(4) Adhan: Wikipedia