PATHWAYS TO ELEN
A series of articles by followers of the ancient, British Goddess.
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Read an extract from the booklet
LIVNG WITH ELEN
Brought up on the outskirts of a city, I only saw deer in a zoo, on television or on Christmas cards but I felt an empathy with their gentleness, strength and grace. Nature was a bit closer – in gardens, municipal parks, tree-lined roads, a small enclosed wood which was the last vestige of an old manor estate and even a few fields which had not yet been swallowed up by the ever-expanding housing developments. I’ve always loved the security of the cycle of the year although I hated having to relinquish the freedom and warmth of summer but delighted in the colours of autumn, swishing through vast drifts of crunchy leaves; I relished both the cosiness of winter and the beauty of the crisp frostiness; spring brought lengthening days and anticipation. None of this had a name but I can see now that it is an aspect of Elen.
I first encountered Elen by name in the summer of 1993. I was attending the tenth birthday of Robin of Sherwood Convention in London where I picked up a large pamphlet entitled “Elen – Goddess of Nature” by Caroline Munro and Chesca Potter. My Goddess now had a name and, in Chesca’s picture, she also had antlers. Living on the outskirts of an urban village gave me a wider view of the cycle of the seasons than that afforded by the confines of a garden so for a long time I connected with Elen only through the seasons of the year as this was the most accessible form.
In my teens and early twenties I had my future planned out and I was making good progress along my path – although, looking back, I realise I was probably wearing blinkers most of the time. However, life has a habit of throwing changes into the middle of your path: some are inevitable, some are unexpected and some are the result of decisions. As I’ve got older I’ve become more adaptable, more open to possibilities and potential in both my inner and outer life paths which, in turn, has led to a greater array of tantalising life choices. Elen of the Ways is the perfect matronal Goddess to call on by name for guidance to help you choose the right track, whether it is a career path, a spiritual path or a way of life.
In my late thirties and early forties I made three major changes in my outer life and then in my fifties moved half way down the country to live in the Forest of Dean, an ancient, royal hunting forest. We arrived here at the summer solstice. Although we weren’t up to see the sun rise – removal day had been very long and tiring – lack of curtains meant that we were up early so we set off across the road into the woods with the dog. Part way up a track a deer and fawn crossed in front of us. I felt that Elen was welcoming us to our new abode. At the winter solstice of the same year, I saw a white deer – a rare sighting even for those who walk in the woods daily and something I have never seen since. It felt like a stamp of approval, a sign of acceptance from Elen that we were now part of a forest life that included her deer. (Although Elen is primarily associated with reindeer, as they were more prevalent in the past in this country, it is generally accepted that all deer come under her aegis, including the roe and fallow deer in my Forest.)
About five winters ago, the death of the ground-covering vegetation revealed a very narrow deer track in the woods which we sometimes followed when out walking with the dog because it led directly to a crossroads of other tracks. Summer growth covered over all signs of the track but the following winter it was there again. It soon became obvious that we weren’t the only ones using this track and, within a year, what had been an almost invisible deer track had turned into a “motorway” for dog-walkers. Seeing this deer track “develop” was a practical way of understanding how Sarn Elen and other routes, which are now main roads, came into being.
I walk in the footsteps of the deer every day with my dog and frequently see them. Although I do meditate at home in the conventional way, I find that the rhythm of walking also enables the meditative state without any conscious effort and you are away from the majority of possible interruptions. This year was unusually dry from the end of January onwards and spring was both early and warm. The tiny streams which usually criss-cross the Forest, plus the large puddles, had long dried up. By mid-April I was concerned that I hadn’t seen any deer for quite a while and, out of the blue, asked Elen where she was hiding them.
“They’re waiting,” replied a mellow, smooth, mid-range, contralto voice. (Definitely not mine – I’m soprano.)
I asked if they had water.
“They have their sources.”
I expressed a hope that their sources wouldn’t dry up as we have only had a few light showers in the last couple of months and then the connection faded.
On another occasion I did a meditation at home to ask for Elen’s guidance on my path and then took it a step further the following day in the day in the woods. The meditation started with me following reindeer tracks in the snow. Suddenly they vanished and the snow was pristine all around me. I couldn’t even see where I had come from.
“You don’t need to know where you have come from – only where you are going to,” was Elen’s answer to my anxiety about having no point of reference.
I was still wondering how much influence my past had on the shape of my future but instead I asked, “What about those who have gone before me?”
Tracks started to radiate out from where I stood like the centre of a sunburst. Eventually one track was lighter and brighter than the others. That, presumably was the one I had to follow – but where would it lead me?
Next morning, walking in the woods, I put this question to Elen.
“Where do you want it to lead you?” was the enigmatic reply.
“I don’t know but I’m running out of life time. Even if I have another thirty years, I will get physically frailer and my mental faculties may dwindle.”
“Then keep walking in my woods. Thirty years is a long time – you can still do much. What do you want to do first?”
I spent the rest of the walk pondering that question. When you’re walking into the sun, it dazzles your eyes so that you can only see part of the path that it immediately in front of you. Occasionally you can lift your eyes and glimpse the whole of the path vanishing into the distance but you can’t see it clearly enough to tell what is on it further along. You can only ask Elen to walk with you and so this invocation was created over the course of several walks:
Sovereign guardian of the land.
Walk with me through field and forest.
Watchful stillness of the deer.
Walk with me in silence.
Clothed in the seasons, ever changing.
Walk with me through the year,
Keeper of the trackways.
Walk with me along my paths.
As most of my connection with Elen throughout my life has been outside, it seemed appropriate to make my formal dedication to Elen, as her follower and priestess, out in the woods – but where? I have several favourite places in the woods. As an experiment I took my dowsing rods out with me one day and the results confirmed that my favourite places have high energy levels but which one would be the most suitable for a dedication ritual? Elen answered my question when I saw a deer in a place where I have never seen them before. I decided to wait a few days until the summer solstice, the anniversary of our arrival in the Forest. On the morning I was out early and chanted my way to the chosen place. The dog gave me a strange look once or twice but trotted along resignedly. When we arrived, I cast a circle with a slightly confused dog in tow but then she just sat patiently whilst I performed a short and simple dedication.
Since then, I have said my invocation every day I am out in the woods and I am still adding to my understanding and knowledge of Elen.
BRIGHID AND ME
Experiences With the Goddess. Articles by devotees of Brighid.
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An extract from the booklet
I feel as though I have always known Brigit - maybe it's the Irish ancestry on my mother's side of the family. It was 1980 when I first encountered Brigit formally. I was reading about Imbolc rituals and celebrations and the information about Brigit simply put a name to something with which I was already familiar - well, the creative, inspirational aspect of Brigit, anyway. Looking back over my life, I have always been involved in something creative, one way or another.One of the first things I did after I entered the third stage of my life was to attend the Goddess Conference. I'd intended to go to the Goddess Conference for years but family things always seemed to take precedence. However, the fact that this one was dedicated to Brigit galvanised me into action. It was wonderful being with so many like-minded people instead of being isolated. (Maybe that's what I'm trying to re-create, albeit through the written word, in this book.) From then on, Brigit turned up the creative heat but I'm not complaining. I love creating workshops, for example, which will empower or inspire other women, or even just give them a few indulgent hours of "me" time so they can relax, de-stress, regain their identity.........so perhaps there's a healing aspect to some of this creativity as well.
Many of my Goddess
workshops include some movement and/or dance. Sacred dance seems to be an
“overlooked” creative activity these days. Some people think that they need to
master complicated technique in order to dance. Perhaps they have negative
memories of dancing lessons as a child. They worry that they might not do it
right or that they are the wrong size/shape/age to dance. Remember that
gracefulness is not exclusive to the young, thin and mobile. Lack of space at
home need not deter you from honouring the Goddess with dance. Many bellydance
moves, for example, can be done standing on the spot and some can be done
sitting down. So, how would you create a dance for Brigit? The advent of
battery-operated candles and tea-lights has been a blessing as you can now
dance with “fire” without risk of setting yourself and your surroundings
alight. (If you can’t find any battery-operated flames in your local pound
shop, try eBay.) Remember when you were a child and you wrote your name in the
darkness with sparklers on Bonfire Night?
Start by doing that with your tea-lights/candles; then write Brigit’s
name; Brigit has three main aspects – draw a shape to represent that…..and then
keep adding more ideas. Before you realise it, you will be dancing from the
heart, not from a text book. Another way to dance with Brigit’s fire is to use
Chinese fan veils which graduate from red through orange and into yellow. The
lengths of silk which extend from the fans can be made to ripple like flames
and are particularly effective in the fire colours. If you have never seen
these used, visit YouTube on your computer and put Chinese fan veils into the
search facility. For those without access to a computer, many
bellydancers/teachers can demonstrate how to use fan veils.