BOOK REVIEW: ELEN OF THE WAYS (SHAMAN PATHWAYS)
Highly recommended both to a core readership interested in British indigenous Shamanism and to anyone uneasy with a world where loss of connection with nature (and thus spirit) is so prevalent. Author Elen Sentier describes herself as “awenydd, a spirit weaver and tale keeper from a long family lineage”. The word is from British Celtic tradition, but it is being used to name a quality of being extending back much further in time, and of universal application. “Walking the deer trods is to learn how close we are to nature … how we are connected to anything whether or not it appears inanimate and this is what the awenydd knows”. The presiding spirit of this path is the elusive deer goddess Elen of the Ways, who the author encountered as a young adult, thereby entering a lifetime of service to her. This book is about both context and story of this service, an invitation to “open yourself to Elen’s complex, multiple and beautiful ways”.
Elen Sentier takes us back to an archaic northern world in which most people lived by following herds of reindeer on their migrations – following rather than leading or managing: the deer decided when and where to go. She evokes the culture and spirituality of this relationship, describing a hunter gatherer society that once lived well without private property or long hours of work. She talks about communities that understood reciprocity and interdependence and lived by a practice of gift-giving and receiving both in the everyday world and that of spirit – themselves seen as hardly separated from each other. She sees this as a culture of sensitivity to all life, including the interconnectedness of “what you eat and what eats you”, and alive to the energies of the land itself.
The book traces this history through iconography and myth – with the figure of the antlered reindeer goddess standing for the Sovereignty of the land. It also describes “journeying” as a here-and-now practice for being in natural settings, tuning in with respect, entering relationship, preferably with a minimal reliance on satnavs, compasses and maps. Here is nourishment for spirit, available if we are.