It might seem odd to be reviewing a book with a picture on the front of wintry woods while it is the middle of summer and England is experiencing a heatwave, but I've been fascinated by Elen of the Ways, an ancient antlered goddess associated with reindeer, ever since I heard Caroline Wise give a talk about her at a Pagan Federation conference years ago. I was eager to take this new book, Shaman Pathways - Elen of the Ways,away with me for a little weekend holiday reading.
Although Caroline Wise is possibly the UK's leading expert on Elen of the Ways, having researched and written about the history of the unusual antlered female deity, this new book is by Elen Sentier, who was inspired by the goddess who is her namesake to travel all over the UK to look for traces of her influence and history.
Elen is a goddess who offers guidance. She shows travellers safe routes to their destination and also helps show people the way forward in their lives. Elen Sentier describes in Shaman Pathways - Elen of the Ways how she was first inspired to follow the "goddess of the Deer Trods" after seeing a hind give birth. This led her to study the art and artifacts of our ancestors from ancient times associated with both deer and reindeer and to study deer in the wild.
Shaman Pathways - Elen of the Ways is the story of Elen Sentier's personal journey and discoveries, interspersed with whimsical tales of a childhood growing up in a village inhabited by cunningfolk and wise women, raised by a father who taught her shamanic skills. She now feels that humans have lost their way and that we should all return to a more natural way of living, in tune with the goddess, if we are to survive the problems of our modern world.
Publisher Moon Books says on its website: "Elen of the Ways is about the ancient shamanism of Britain. Elen Sentier grew up in a long family lineage of following the Deer Trods; in this book she tells of the old, forgotten ways of our ancestors. Through her own experience, stories, practical exercises and journeys with the deer, Elen takes you into the realm of the Boreal Forest, of which Britain is a part, to show how the Deer Goddess is the spirit of this land. To walk the Deer Trods is to realise how close and connected you are to nature and everything in this beautiful world which we share with our non-human brethren. You learn, too, that our everyday world and otherworld are intertwined. Elen of the Ways is both here and there at the same time. You will find her everywhere."
Whether you take this book as fact or romantic allegory, it is interesting reading for those on their own journeys.
Links and previous related posts
Shaman Pathways - Elen of the Ways: British Shamanism - Following the Deer Trods