Dawn follows darkness; shining day gives way to starry night – cycles of change and flow.
Elen of the Ways is She who guides us on these paths of change.
Like so many Celtic Goddesses, She is elusive, shimmering, changeable. She endures through the ages, shifting into what each time needs Her to be. She is an antlered goddess who rules the Ways, the Roads, the Passages of human life, both physical and spiritual. Most likely She has been worshiped since paleolithic times. She is a Sovereignty Goddess who bestows the right to kingship on the one who will best steward the land, linking sovereignty to fertility and well-being.
Elen, though lost to us today, is best known from her appearance in the Mabinogion story, ‘The Dream of Mascen Wledig’. The character, Mascen Wledig is based on the Roman Emperor, Maximus. Mascen /Maximus, while out hunting grows tired from the heat and takes a nap. He dreams of a legendary journey across mountains, rivers and streams. At the journey’s end he comes upon a beautiful red-gold castle. He enters the castle and finds two red-haired youth playing chess and a king carving chess pieces. Next to the king on a red-gold throne sits Elen, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, shining golden like the sun.
He awakens to discover that this dream will not leave him. He longs for Elen, determined to find her in real life. He has dreamt a visionary dream, know as an Aisling to the ancient Celts. We see this type of dream in stories of other Sovereignty Goddesses. In these dreams, a woman representing sovereignty appears and captures the heart of the dreamer. The dreamer then must undertake a quest to find Her and become the King who protects the land.
Mascen/Maximus sends out his men to find Elen. They succeed in finding her and inform her that the Emperor wishes her hand in marriage. She responds, “If the Emperor loves me, let him come here to seek me.” What power she must have had to order the Emperor of Rome to do her bidding. He begins the quest for Elen himself. After many adventures he finds her, just as he found her in his dream. She decides to marry him as in Her view that is the best choice for the land. She asks for and receives her bride gift of the Island of Britain for her father, the three adjacent Islands for Herself as Empress of Rome and the construction of three chief castles at locations of Her choice. The highest was built at Arvon where she lived with Mascen/Maximus and the other two were Caerlleon and Caermarthen.
It’s possible that this marriage was about more than just the joining of two dynasties. As Caroline Wise, goddess historian and the leading expert on Elen of the Ways, says “An aisling of my own showed me it concerned the awakening of the land, establishing a balance of the earth energies through the meridians of the land, keeping the Wasteland at bay.”
Elen became Empress Helen, who used magic to build roads for the protection of Britain. The people of Britain were marshaled by their love and respect for Elen to build these roads, connecting Her three castles. It is also believed that the roads are connected to the ancient ley lines (energy lines) of the earth.
Long before the Romans arrived Elen was the Guardian of the Leys, the ancient track ways. In Her guise as the Horned Goddess, She led the way on the migratory tracks of the reindeer, the only species of deer in which the females have antlers. Later, after all the reindeer migrated further north and out of Britian, Elen opened the pathways the red deer followed in the ancient forests of Northern Europe.
It is Elen who reveals the lost ways of Shamanism in Britain. Those who study Earth Mysteries attribute various functions to ley lines. One function is that of shamanic flight paths, connecting Elen to shamanism as the Guardian of the Leys. This connection also places her as Goddess of the Dreamways, the paths our souls take every night on a journey of self- discovery and revelation.
Elen is also known as the Green Lady, Elen of the Shimmering Ways and Elen of the Hosts.
Elen, primeval Goddess, is the soul of the forest, the creator of tracks and paths, the facilitator of human and animal movement. The wellbeing of the land and the movement of the beings that live on that land are Her domain. She bestows balance between the varied energies of the land, its fertility and the cycles of our natural world.
Call on Elen of the Ways to protect your in your journeys as She rules the essential element of motion and change. From the stillness, from the void, as life emerges and flows, Elen of the Ways guides us on the pathways. She guides and protects us on our physical paths and on our spiritual paths. Call on Elen to lead you down the ancient pathways to a revelation of the mysteries of the deep, wild wood, where our hearts reside.
Sources: First I must thank Sharon Blackie, whose book “If Women Rose Rooted, The Power of the Celtic Woman” first introduced me to Elen of the Ways. That led to discovering Caroline Wise and her work on Elen. Wise’s article is published on AndrewCollins.com. Other sources include – Balanced Women’s Blog, The Dream of Macsen Weldig, Seawitch Artist
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Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and sells real estate part-time. She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints and paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.