Ayn's Newsletter February 2019
"Flying With The Deer"
Portrait of "Elen of the Ways" by Belle Crow duCray.
A WILD WOMAN WHO FLIES WITH THE DEER
In the Celtic tradition, kings and heroes must honor the Great Queen or Sovereignty Goddess in order to find unity with the land and community. My idea behind the "Legends of the Grail" series was that the cup, cauldron or grail was symbolic of the feminine deities (the well maidens and other faces of the divine feminine) that were dishonored during the Roman invasion of Britain and the coming of Christianity. The Goddesses all became Mary (and thank goodness she survived) but in the process we lost many archetypes, especially the more frightening ones. We need all of the faces of the Goddess to find our wholeness, our Grail.
Elen is one of these wild women who flies with the deer! Elen of the Ways is a Goddess of Sovereignty who has been worshipped since Paleolithic times and is linked to fertility and the wellbeing of the land. She is often depicted as an antlered deer-woman running along a path. Mythical Elen Luyddog of the Hosts (340-388 AD) of Britain became known as Helen of Caernarfon and the mother of Constantine the Blessed. She is associated with the Roman roads in Wales. It is said that Saint Helena's pilgrimage trail once extended to Jerusalem. There are more holy wells named after her in Britain than any other female saint. In some legends, Saint Helena of Caernarfon ordered the building of Sarn Helen, a great Roman road that runs through Wales. You can read more about her in Heroines of Avalon & Other Tales.
Was it an accident that I found myself standing on Sarn Helen in North Wales? I had been looking for the road, but I believe it has to find you. There are certain times in life when the shining paths open to you, and magically and mystically you are invited into another world. By a river near Betws y Coed in North Wales, I noticed we were walking on ancient stones. We had found Sarn Helen, I was following Elen's Way. The forest seemed animated, and I could imagine that Tolkien had once walked there. It did seem that some ancient doorway had opened and that I was walking amongst the creatures of Middle Earth. Each oak seemed like a doorway into another world. Looking down I noticed a white stone looking back at me, and felt quite certain that Elen was allowing me into a poetic and magical dimension.
Seeing with the Eyes of a Deer
To learn to shapeshift, practice with a gentle deer. Begin by walking mindfully on the Earth for at least 15 minutes. Move slowly, as if you were a deer, moving silently and deeply in rhythm with all of life. With each step, practice listening not only with your ears, but also with your heart. Blink your eyes a few times, and then merge with the energy of the deer. Look at the woods with the deer through her eyes. As you begin to see with the eyes of the deer notice if the world around you appears differently....
(from Heroines of Avalon & Other Tales, "Practice" p.141)
Finding the Llywelyns of Dolwyddelan Castle
On a blustery day in October, a friend and I were hiking near Betws-y-Coed in North Wales when the clouds cleared for a moment. The sun lit up a path that shone with a golden radiance. Even the sheep turned to look at the glorious path. What could we do but follow the road to a Wondrous Castle? As we walked I thought about the stories my father used to tell me about his grandmother, a Lloyd who came from London and that her great-grandparents were from a Welsh royal bloodline. I began to understand why my dreams and the whispers of my muses pulled me to Wales. What I love about finding royal bloodlines is that they are fairly easy to trace. Also, these ancient royals believed (for better or worse) that they were on Earth to hold the light for the world. We soon found ourselves standing in front of Dolwyddelan Castle. It took us about ten minutes to figure out the pronunciation, but according to some Welsh sites it is pronounced "dol-why-do-lan."
When we visit a sacred site there is a history etched in the soil. If we close our eyes and listen like a deer or other wild creature, the wind might blow through the leaves in a way that opens an enchanted world.
Kings & Heroes
The shining path of the Goddess Elen is interwoven with the path of the Llywelyns. If we look at the name carefully "Llyw--elyn"- it is clear who this tribe served. "Llyw" comes from a Welsh word meaning leader. Leaders of who? Well, leaders of "Elyn" or "Elen." The ancient ones remembered that the land thrives when the Goddess of Sovereignty is honored!
I felt shivers of excitement as I imagined what it must have been like to be a hero and leader in the 12th century and even earlier. During our current chaotic times, I have thought about the qualities that make a great leader. Certainly King Arthur embodies the qualities of a true king. A true king and hero serves and protects the people. It is his role to love his queen and continue his dynasty. He must do his best to form alliances, create unity and establish peace. A true king and hero must also be prepared to defend his people and his lands with his life. What if these noble qualities were awakened in each one of us? What if we possessed the steadfast strength of kings and heroes? Well, stay tuned because that is the subject of the book I am currently writing...