Elen of the Ways by Judith Shaw


Judith Shaw photo

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 Elen of the Ways,painting by Judith Shawendures 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

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.

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Categories: Earth-based spirituality, Goddess, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Paganism

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17 replies

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this mythical journey but wonder about the concept of power over that is inherent in “kingship” and “stewardship” – both seem to reflect the “good side” of our current paradigm.

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  2. Very interesting! We need leaders today who dream mystical dreams and awaken to pursue goddesses who protect the land. I guess today maybe she’d protect people on freeways.

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    • Barbara that is so true! What an image that brings up in my mind of current day leaders dreaming such a dream! Good thought about freeways. I might add that to things to bring to mind when Elen calls your name – “Invoke Elen’s name when you get in your car for protection on your journey down asphalt/cement paths”….. Elen was around long before St Jude, Patron Saint of Travelers.

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  3. Sara, I must have worded that sentence wrong as my intent was not to reflect power over but that Elen herself had such power that even the Emperor of Rome would do as she asked. I think what you say is true as the marriage between Elen and Mascen seems to be like the “Sacred Marriage” in which the King can only gain kingship through marriage to the Goddess thus marrying the land and becoming the Steward and Protector of the land and the people. In this ancient paradigm I believe the role of the king was not oppressive but was one of responsibility to the people which often required great sacrifice.

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    • I think kingship is inherently oppressive, all kings are warrior kings and dominators, especially when “push comes to shove.” I think the idea of the sacred marriage is a part of the patriarchal takeover. In matriarchies women in clan groups own the land and there are no kings or queens. I do agree with you that the myth suggests that women did not give up their powers willingly.

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      • Carol, I agree because where there is kingship there is hierarchy which leads to oppression. But what I have gotten from my readings of many ancient stories is that in early days of Kingship there was much more responsibility to the people involved than in later years when it was purely about domination and greed.

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  4. As we endeavour to dismantle the oppressive power-over structures of our world, we ourselves find we need to and want to step into our own power, find our own sovereignty and our own ways of wielding power in the world. As an elected official, when I discover a queen story I read it hungrily, looking for inspiration and support for my work in community leadership. It’s often complicated, isn’t it? The old stories inevitably are tangled up in the patriarchal, colonial, classist, racist, homophobic norms of their times, and yet, they are our stories, and they hold wisdom. I love the way Elen is rooted in the forest and protects the cycles of nature, and that she has a special animal ally. I love her strength in insisting that the King come find her. I did raise my eyebrows a bit at the road building – oh, another infrastructure project! Roads, one of the foundation of Western Civilization, of imperialist expansion, of our oil-based earth-raping transportation system, I thought. But in the context of the story, the roads connected people and opened them up to the world, no doubt creating new ways of understanding and new freedoms. And the road-building is only one aspect of the sacred art of path-finding.
    Maybe we could ask Elen to bless Hillary Clinton, to bring her success in the election, to help her find pathways of justice, compassion, and protection of the earth, and to remind her that her deepest work as ruler is to “bestow balance on the many energies of the land.”

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    • Laura, Yes complicated for sure. So many layers and layers of human experience have been laid on top of the old stories they can get very difficult to unravel. I had the same feeling about the road building when I first read Elen’s story. But as I dug deeper and saw Her connection to the animals, their pathways, the Ley Lines I realized that as you said “the road-building is only one aspect of the sacred art of path-finding.” And though as Carol mentioned oppression is somewhat inherent in the concept of Kings and Queens I also find comfort in the stories of Queens and how they navigated the waters of their times.

      Maybe I should send Elen’s story to Hilary!!

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  5. She responds, “If the Emperor loves me, let him come here to seek me.”
    I found this such a powerful line. Love is to be sought, not commanded.

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  6. Carolyn’s definitive book, Finding Elen: The Quest for Elen of the Ways is available on Amazon, her co-author is Linda Iles

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  7. Judith Shaw, have you read Elen of the Ways, by Elen Sentier? I think you would enjoy it.

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Trackbacks

  1. Elen of the Shimmering Ways | Judith Shaw - Life on the Edge
  2. The Reindeer Goddess by Judith Shaw | GrannyMoon's Morning Feast

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