Shaman Pathways –
Elen of the Ways
Following the Deer Trods,
the Ancient Shamanism of Britain
Author: Elen Sentier
ISBN # 978-1-78099-559-5
Elen Sentier is a spirit keeper and taleweaver writing and teaching the way of the awenydd, a British native shamanism. With this book she hopes to help the reader discover and walk the quicksilver paths of Elen of the Ways for themselves. Note that this isn’t a book that is meant to be read and set aside … it is a book that encourages the reader to practice what they are reading about.
For this work, this tradition, deer are held sacred. They act as mentors, guides, and healing spirits. Sentier begins by talking about the ice age and global warming, and how the cold world is an integral part of our world. She talks about a sculpture known as the “Swimming Reindeer” – two reindeer, male and female, shown with their heads raised and legs extended. It is at least 13,000 years old. Sentier note that it displays the hunter’s knowledge of anatomy, and that it is now in the care of the British Museum. Sentier interprets this sculpture as indicating that the Reindeer Goddess was important to humankind from very early times.
Sentier talks about wild reindeer as being a major resource for humans in the northern hemisphere for tens of thousands of years. They are an important source of food, clothing, shelter, and tools. Basically, this was a hunter/gatherer society, with land belonging to everyone. The transition to an agricultural based society, and farming, brought on the concept of land ownership, and the first forms of modern government.
Sentier portrays the hunter/gatherer’s as “ultra-light back packers”, and that they consideredthat people belong to the land, not the land to the people. There is some really good material in this section, including commentary on the “Man The Hunter” conference in Chicago in 1966, an some of the ideas presented there.
There is some great commentary on gifting, and how it was practiced by the hunter/gatherer society. These really are things to think about. It is a concept that is coming back into vogue with some people right now … generally termed “energy exchange”.
The section on deer and humans begins with a beautiful Lascaux cave painting of an Irish Elk (entitled “Lascaux Megaloceros”. The cave (in southern France) was very far underground … hidden from everyday sight.
Speaking of the inter-connectedness of life, Sentier notes: “Spirit, your spirit, builds your body like a space-suit for living on Planet Earth out of the stuff of Earth. Your spirit then inhabits the
space-suit for the duration of your incarnation and at the end, when your body dies, all the atoms go back into the Earth again to become other things.” She goes on to say that when we are in touch with our spirit, we simply “know” this. In this knowing, we understand that we must ask permission to kill our food to eat … whether it is animal or plant. Respect life, and know that we all nourish each other all of the time.
Sentier talks about the cave paintings as the way in which the people of that time communicated with the Otherworld, and how they carried on their lore. She also talks about the migration trails, and how they were a part of the lives of the people of that time. It is quite interesting to read about how towns and cities have been built on these routes, only to have the inhabitants of the towns and cities complain about the presence of the animals! How far have we come from being one with nature! Too far, IMHO.
This book is filled with incredible photos that enhance the information provided. It is a lesson in the history of mankind, as much as it is a presentation of the ancient shamanism of Britain. Sentier notes that in British Celtic tradition the goddess is the Earth and the Land, while the god is the guardian of the earth and husbandman of the Land. The goddess is known as Sovereignty, she holds the power while the god serves the power, and act as guardian for it.
Sentier talks about Elen guarding the “quicksilver threads” … the energy lines (ley lines) that criss-cross Britain. They connect sacred wells, stone circles, hilltops, and other sacred sites. And yet … she is virtually unknown in Britain. These energy roads are what the Wild Hunt travels on. (The Wild Hunt is a ghostly group that rie horses and follow hounds in pursuit of someone or something.)
Through the experiences and training she has had, as well as through historical references, Sentier brings to us Elen of the Ways, the ancient shamanism of Britain. For those that wish to know about the shamanic path, specifically this shamanic path, this book isa wonderful resource.
© 2000 – 2013 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction in any venue prohibited without written concent of the authro.