Elen of the Ways

My primary animal spirit connection, for over 30 years, has been red deer hind and I’ve worked with an archetypal deer goddess for many of these years too. Over time, I found her name was Elen of the Ways and sometimes she appears with antlers. My reindeer drum and Saami birch and antler Kuksa cup which I shared at our April grove meeting honour my connection to Elen. Since Locksley asked so nicely, I said I’d post more about Elen here.

So who is Elen of the Ways?

Elen of the Ways, also called Elen Luyddog (Elen of the Hosts) is mentioned in the Mabinogion in the Dream of Macsen Wledig. In the tale, she represents Sovereignty and is said to have inspired the building of the ancient roads and trackways across Britain, Sarn Elen in Wales being one of the most famous reputedly named after her. Her story also has some links to the later christianized figure of Saint Helen with whom aspects of Elen’s myth have become at least partly conflated.

Elen is also mythically associated with deer and increasingly with the archetype of the antlered goddess. But I hear you say, female deer don’t have antlers!? But yes, some do! Reindeer, which once also roamed Britain, are the only female deer which also bear antlers. Besides Elen’s mention in the Mabinogion, there is relatively little published about her (see post comments for some links) and there is some debate about whether her link to deer and in particular her depiction as an antlered goddess is an ancient or a relatively modern association, inspired by the artist Chesca Potter’s visions and illustrations of Elen with antlers.

And then there is her name…Elen in various languages translates as hind, deer or reindeer e.g.  Gaelic Eilid and Middle Cornish Elen = Hind (I use Eilid as part of my name ;) ) Welsh Elain = fawn (some say deer); and reputedly Czech Jelen = deer and Bulgarian Elen = reindeer!

My personal feeling is that the current resurgence in perception of Elen as a deer/reindeer goddess is tapping in to a more ancient memory in the landscape and trackways of Britain that Elen evokes and guards. Elen, whether antlered or not, is typically invoked as a goddess/guardian of the trackways and dreamways by those who work with her and I made and dedicated my reindeer drum in her name.

For anyone who wants to know more about Elen of the Ways I’ve posted some links in the comments box of this post.

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9 Responses to Elen of the Ways

  1. briseilid says:

    Want to know more about Elen of the Ways?
    Read the Mabinogion and commentaries on the tale of Macsen Wledig

    Search the web, the following articles in particular are worth a read:
    By Caroline Wise who works extensively with Elen:
    http://www.andrewcollins.com/page/articles/elen_1.htm
    http://www.andrewcollins.com/page/articles/elen_2.htm

    And for a different view:
    http://www.traditionalharp.co.uk/Caer_Feddwyd/articles/Elen.htm

    Elen Sentier is due to publish her book on Elen of the Ways later this year
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shaman-Pathways-British-Shamanism-Following/dp/1780995598/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366370939&sr=8-1&keywords=elen+sentier+elen+of+the+ways

    There’s also a thriving ‘’Elen of the Ways’ Facebook group with 400+ members

  2. Diane says:

    I have worked with Elen for many years and it is always a pleasure to come across one of her clan xx

  3. briseilid says:

    Thanks for your reply Diane and lovely to know you’ve also worked with Elen for a long time too!. As you say, it’s always great to be in touch with other deer souls :) I’ve sent you a facebook message too. Blessings x

  4. locksley2010 says:

    Very good blog, thank you so much for sharing.
    Ronald Hutton mentions a ‘Stag Cult’ being in and across all of Britain, so I wonder if the people who resonate with the stag and deer are in fact being called by one of the earliest, prehistoric energies of the Land?
    I know of at least four member of the GOC who share an affinity with this phenomenon (including yourself!).

  5. briseilid says:

    Thanks Locksley! :) The feeling of being called by the prehistoric energies of the land…yes I resonate with that, along with others in the Grove as you say. Perhaps we need to drum again and raise the ‘antlered’ energy in the Grove one day soon ;)

    • locksley2010 says:

      I say we all get antlers and start running around all over the place, lol.
      Does that mean I get to pass on the direction of fire to you at Samhuinn?

  6. briseilid says:

    Lol…I’ll hold that image…just imagining the reaction of those in the Grove who don’t embody deer energy :) Yes the solar associations with deer and the fact that I’m Fire, do draw me to South…but I’m increasingly drawn to North/Earth in my Ovate wanderings. May have to negotiate with Lady Morgana! ;)

  7. lilly moon wolf says:

    Have been trying to track an elussive goddess which brought me here to Elen…have you fpund or considered Elen is also Aradia?

  8. briseilid says:

    Thanks for your reply lilly moon wolf. Glad you found the Elen blog.
    No, I must confess I’ve never heard of Aradia and any links to Elen. I’d be interested to hear more please :)

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