Friday, 29 September 2017

Elen of the Ways

Shaman Pathways -Elen of the Ways - Following the Deer Trods by Elen Sentier
Published by Moon Books - 89 pages Author website:

Painting by Jocelyn Chaplin
In the Boreal woods that covered northern Europe and the Americas thousands of years ago, there seemed to have been an honouring of the deer family as having great spiritual power and this has continued to this day in many parts of the world, for instance, with the Reindeer still play a central practical and spiritual role for the Sami peoples of Northern Scandinavia. Reindeer are the only female deer with antlers and, as such, may have been, and could still be, especially sacred. The author argues that hunter gatherers would not have seen animals as good or bad as later people did. They would have been deeply respectful and attuned to all of them. Elen Sentier describes an extraordinary encounter with a female deer which was giving birth and she is able to tune in to the energies of the land and of animals and weaves her own personal experience with stories, myths, facts and theories. 

One of the stories the author tells is the Celtic myth based on the goddess Elen called 'the Dream of Macsen Wledig'. He is the guardian of the goddess Elen and dreams that she asks him to build 3 stone cairns for her. These are a kind of bride gift and he does this to please her.  The roads between them are forever called Sarn Elens. These are the sacred paths of magical energy and may have been the basis for the much later idea of ley lines, made famous by Alfred Watkins. They have been seen as a kind of fairy chain linking sacred sites. Sidhe or ‘other dimensional beings’ that use these tracks could be similar to ‘Victorian’ fairies or enormous deer elders.  They could also have been deer tracks which were followed as reindeer tracks are today by the Sami. On a spiritual level we can all follow the threads through the other dimensions as well as on actual land. We just have to ask her to be shown where she wants to take us.

The author's early life in the wild countryside near Dartmoor prepared her well for her later path workings. She used to walk with her father along animal tracks and he would ask her who or what she thought had been there before. This deep level of attunement helped her relate to the many ancient sites she visited, such as Skara Brae, a Neolithic village in Scotland. Also in her childhood, she recalls moving natural rituals her neighbours undertook when someone died. Death was seen as a normal part of life. There was a particular wise woman and healer who influenced the author deeply. Reading her inspiring book, I felt that she was carrying the threads of very, very ancient wisdom and weaving them into our 21st century consciousness." Reviewer: Jocelyn Chaplin

"Here we learn of Elen, a goddess of great antiquity who was the ancestral, antlered Reindeer of the British isles. It was she who led the herd on ancient migration routes, and who detected the best male to become her mate. In ancient times, this goddess was known as 'Sovereignty' and she held the power while the god served her as guardian. In this well written book (illustrated with b/w photos), we learn to connect with this goddess through the knowledge of tribal elders and through experience, and - though we might not see any deer - we can sensitively perceive with inner eyes and identify with this species, speak to it and listen for a reply, as does the shaman, and be led to the Otherworld and thereby gain an understanding of the beauty and majesty of nature, once considered a deity. Here we do not track the animal for its meat, pelt and horn but for the spiritual nourishment that we can gain by honouring these elegant and magnificent and magical creatures. Elen guards the 'quicksilver' threads; the routes of the Wild Hunt, of lych, lyke and corpse roads and spirit paths where the dead were carried to their resting place. We learn of a time when humans belonged to the land, sharing it for mutual sustainability with all creatures. The story of Elen originates in the Mabinogion, an ancient Celtic tale. There is a story of Macsen who searches for a dream princess whose name is also Elen. The word 'elain' is Welsh for fawn, and 'jelen' is Czech for deer. Elen Sentier is a master - mistress - of the deer goddess and of earth wisdom, and this book transmits her love of the landscape, of traditional stories, history, poetry and of the Otherworld, all which she was introduced to as a child and shares with us in this extraordinary book." Reviewer: Wendy Stokes  

"This book is well written and connects the reader with the ancient shamanism of this country, and it does so with both grace and fascinating anecdotal information. The reader feels the author's passion and authenticity.
Elen Sentier is an Awenydd, from a family of Awenydds (spirit keepers). She grew up on the edges of Exmoor and now lives in Wales where she teaches and writes about British Shamanism. Her mother was the daughter of a Manx witch.
The reader is urged to seek and find a connection with the land through ancient shamanic practices. The author directs us to sacred sights across the UK and shares their significance with us, including the discovery of a sweat lodge which existed until the 19th Century.
The book describes how, by following Reindeer tracks, we can come into greater balance within ourselves. The author uses well researched historical analyses of early hunter gatherer society and points out how living out-of-harmony with the seasons, the land and the animals, makes us unwell on many levels.
'Elen of the Ways' is the antlered Goddess, and the book is rich with stories linked to Her, ancient mythology and the Priestess tradition.

Methods to connect to the land, track animals and read the landscape are suggested, to ask, listen for replies, even connect to insects in our homes rather than see them as undesirable intruders. These are easy practices, and yet they provide the method to attain a healthy understanding and knowledge of our environment.
A history of the symbolism and the importance of the Reindeer in Sami and other traditions - including our own is provided.
I enjoyed the explanation of the Goddess through the observance of the female Reindeer. The terms 'God' and 'Goddess' are explained - hunter gatherers had more gender equality, and we learn these ancient people had a profound honouring and knowledge of their environment and practiced gentle and respectful living in harmony with other creatures. We have forgotten so much which Elen Sentier has now revealed.
'Elen of the Ways' is for those who wish to discover their magical roots in the British Isles. Above all, this book shows the commonality of mankind across the world and how small the world family really is. Wonderful!" Reviewer: Amber Agha, Shamanic Practitioner,

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