EP 187: Reckon and Wonder – Witness, Matrimony, and the Making of Oral Culture with Stephen Jenkinson

In this episode, guest host and podcast producer Jackson Kroopf interviews Kimberly and Stephen Jenkinson about their ongoing event series Reckoning: Birth and Death Among Us. They discuss the role of witness in their work as birth and death workers, the politics of feelings in a culture where pop psychology has become a religion, and dive deeply into their relationship to matrimony. In anticipation of their final event this summer, “Reckon and Wonder: Grief, Elderhood and Spirit Work,” taking place this June 29th-July 2nd, 2023 at the Orphan Wisdom school in Ontario, they reflect on the difference between recording and live events and the unique impact that their convergence has revealed in their respective relationships to the oral tradition.


What You’ll Hear:

  • Reflections on witness from retired birth and death workers
  • The value of disillusionment
  • The power of loneliness
  • The religion of western psychology
  • Adolescents grabbing for pop psychology labels
  • The respect in not offering solutions
  • Blessing not as approval but the emergence of something new
  • Marriage as both celebration and loss
  • An only child and single parent inviting in a new husband
  • Blessing not as approval but the emergence of something new
  • Building an escape route as you enter a union
  • An only child and single parent inviting in a new husband
  • The no-go zone of contemporary western marriage
  • 15 minute weddings, 15 minute funerals, 15 minute births
  • Being healthy enough to tend to home and neighbor



Stephen Jenkinson is a cultural worker, teacher, author, musician and ceremonialist. He is the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School, founded in 2010 with his wife Nathalie Roy. He has Master’s degrees from Harvard University (Theology) and the University of Toronto (Social Work). Since co-founding the Nights of Grief and Mystery project with singer/ songwriter Gregory Hoskins in 2015, he has toured this musical / tent show revival / storytelling ceremony across North America, U.K. and Europe and Australia and New Zealand. They released their Nights of Grief & Mystery album in 2017 and at the end of 2020, they released two new records; Dark Roads and Rough Gods. Stephen is the author of Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble (2018), the award-winning Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul (2015), Homecoming: The Haiku Sessions (a live teaching from 2013), How it All Could Be: A workbook for dying people and those who love them (2009), Angel and Executioner: Grief and the Love of Life – (a live teaching from 2009), and Money and The Soul’s Desires: A Meditation (2002). Most recently, Stephen published Reckoning (2022) with Kimberly Ann Johnson.



Reckon & Wonder: Grief, Elderhood, Spirit Work ~ A weekend at Orphan Wisdom, Ontario

Activate Your Inner Jaguar: Women’s Health and The Nervous System