This post is such a beautiful and fitting end to my year and just so on-season with the Winter Solstice that has been the highlight of this festive month, having reignited a deep subconscious (life-long) relationship I had been having with Elen of the Ways. Who is Elen? She is the mother-goddess archetype of these isles and many others; deeply and intrinsically associated with woodland and the deer.
After discovering Elen on a trip to Wales (see my post Journey with Elen: Finding my way) and diving into everything I could find about her, I started writing a long post about her earlier this year yet never published it because it just began to feel way too personal…weaving the factual in and out of my own life story and numerous gravitations towards Elen-like themes, from being born so close to Sherwood Forest that I spent years daydreaming I was Maid Marion living under the greenwood tree to the (far too) many synchronicities of place, interest and…yes…even name, spanning almost five decades. Elen is all about meaningful pathways and unearthing all this internal and external information last summer, when I researched her thoroughly, felt like shining a light on one of the most meaningful ones of my own life. Since discovering Elen, I have joined a facebook community of others who have found her and its fascinating to witness the sense of reunion and deep personal understanding emerging through the vehicle of her (like we are finding her deep in our own psyche…) as each person dives deep into the rich culture-pot and associations, the recollections of another era – an era when the feminine was revered and regarded as crucial to our survival – centred around her.
And right at that centre of that circle around her stands the doe…a subject I recently started painting on a whim, yes with a bird perched in her antlers (a typical addition, as referred to in the following article, though I hardly know what made me add the detail…). Suffice to say, if you’re drawn to this topic of deer and goddesses, do read this wonderful, seasonal, article (I am so grateful to Danielle Prohom Olson for articulating what I didn’t know how to without making it too complex…) and dive deep into one of the books about Elen – I recommend ‘Finding Elen: A Quest for Elen of the Ways’ by Caroline Wise, it was an absolute epiphany for me!
Oh wondrous headed doe… Amongst its horns it carries the light of the blessed sun…” Hungarian Christmas Folk Song
Long before Santa charioted his flying steeds across our mythical skies, it was the female reindeer who drew the sleigh of the sun goddess at winter solstice. Today it is her beloved image that adorns Christmas cards and Yule decorations – not Rudolph. Because unlike the male reindeer who sheds his antlers in winter, it is the larger and stronger doe, who retains her horns. And it is she who leads the herds in winter.
It was when we “Christianized” the pagan traditions of winter, that the white bearded man i.e. “Father Christmas” was born. And so today we no longer remember the “Deer Mother” who once flew through winter’s longest darkest night with the life-giving light of the sun in her horns.
Cradle of Starlight by Art of Sekhmet
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