Long ago and far away in space-time ice covered the Earth. It would feel strange to us now, we who live in a warm time when snow only comes for a few weeks in winter, if at all.

In northerly climes like Scandinavia, parts of Russia, Canada and America, snow may come for several months over the winter but we have to go up into the Arctic to find snow all year round, and those lands are shrinking every year now because of global warming and climate change. We watch wonderful programmes like Frozen Planet but we can not imagine living there. 
If we really stretch the imagination, our mind tells us that such an existence would be terrible, frightening, cold and miserable. 

We admire the explorers and scientists who go there for many months at a time but we do not believe the frozen wastes to be places to live, to make great art and philosophy; we consider them to be too bitterly cold to event think. Our ancestors didn’t share these feelings as this beautiful carving shows.
This sculpture, known as the Swimming Reindeer, was created at least 13,000 years ago, that’s 3,000 years before the end of the last Ice Age. It’s carved from the tip of a mammoth tusk and shows a male and female reindeer with their heads raised and their legs extended. The depiction is remarkable in it’s naturalism; it conveys movement and displays the hunter’s knowledge of anatomy. It was discovered in 1866 as two separate pieces and acquired by the British museum in 1887.

Our ancestors were not savages as was the perceived academic wisdom until quite recently; they were people of amazing culture who must, from the intricacy of such art as the Swimming Reindeer, have had spiritual depth. 

Before farming, the land was owned by none; it was known to be for all, all life belonged to the Earth, including all animal, plant and mineral life as well as humans. The concept of ‘ownership’ began with farming. Hunting and gathering was the ancestral way of life for humans for most of the six million years of our evolution from apes. 

Reindeer have been around for a long time and were native to our land long ago and they are now coming back through the wild herds in the Cairngorms. The earliest fossil deer were found in Europe and date from about 34 million years ago. The exquisite Lascaux cave painting is of an Irish Elk, who first appears about 400,000 years ago, that’s in the time of archaic Homo sapien ancestors. The Lascaux painting is quite stunning and shows how very well our ancestors knew deer. It was painted on the wall of a cave, far underground and hidden from everyday sight. To see it you made a journey into the womb of the Earth, in darkness, then with the flame lights lit, you would stand in presence of the Deer Spirit, Elen.

Elen of the Ways is the ancestral antlered goddess of Britain. Elen was the goddess who led us, through the reindeer herds, to safe living in both summer and winter. The beasts of the goddess still know the old paths that carry the energies of the land; these pathways are the threads that hold the balance and cycles of nature.  Learning Elen’s ways will help you learn about all the life we share on this beautiful planet. Everything changes and only so does everything remain. Elen’s ways lead us back to knowing this and to living it. The art of letting go, of not knowing best, of being full of expectancy but without expectation….this is walking the deer trods.

Excerpts from Elen Of The Ways by Elen Sentier.
Elen will be sharing the deeper wisdom of Elen Of The Ways with us at The Shamanic Lands in June.



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    Davyd Farrell

    Davyd is the Co-Founder of Archetype Events, a politics graduate and trainee medical herbalist.

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