The Goddess in America is Out!

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The long-awaited Moon Books anthology, The Goddess in America, was released in the past week. I wrote the lead article for this volume, about the contributions of Native Americans to the Goddess Movement. There are also articles in the first section exploring Cherokee, Hopi, and Mayan perspective on female deity.

I was expecting something similar to Naming the Goddess here, but I was pleasantly surprised to see articles exploring the impact of The Goddess in a number of areas rather than a regional version of that anthology. Articles explore The Goddess in shamanistic, Christian, healing, archetypal, and Craft contexts. I was pleased to see an in-depth article on Voodoo and an article on Hebrew goddesses. Jhena Telyndru does justice to the issue of cultural appropriation by acknowledging the “rock and a hard place” that Americans without indigenous heritage face in pursuing a Goddess spiritual path, with some arguing that immigrants have already taken too much from Native peoples and others objecting to the idea of transplanting the worship of European deities from their sacred locale. I was prepared to take exception to Phoenix Love’s article on The Goddess and pop culture, but instead found a provocative exploration of how popular culture furthers as well as hinders a meaningful relationship with Goddess energy.

This anthology gives a lot in terms of variety, breadth, and surprising food for thought. There’s a lot of meat here, and if you think you already know the American Goddess Movement this book may surprise you.

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Another Update From the Deep Woods

Autumn colors have peaked and faded. It’s really such a short season. I now have snow-covered peaks to photograph and I will be sharing those with you in a few weeks.

Another thing that’s been happening for me, and really dominating my life, is that the house I’m living in is being repaired. A very good thing, but it’s requiring planning and adjustments on my part. We’re about two months into things, and of course the hard part is for those actually doing the work. The hard part for me is finding time to work. (I know, we should all have that problem.) I do my writing evenings and weekends, and during the week I clean, cook, and run errands, or just go for a long walk. Sometimes it rains or snows and I get a bonus day of work. It’s actually quite manageable, and it’s gratifying to see the repairs coming along. I have new windows! It looks like this will be going on for many more months, so the winter will be a time of adjustment. And maybe it will be a bit warmer inside this year.

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Autumn Bliss

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Autumn Foliage has Peaked in the High Peaks!

Look for more stunning photos here next week.

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Update on the Next Book

My book-in-progress is coming along nicely. I have completed the first draft and compiled the illustrations that will go along with the manuscript. This next book will be a more focused take on animal magic, looking specifically at divination with animal signs. I have been sharing short excerpts on this blog and I will be sharing more snippets over the next few months. The book will be published by Moon Books. Production schedules with commercial publishers can be quite long, so look for the finished product in about a year. It will be worth the wait.

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More Autumn Photos

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Leaning into the Curve

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I hope everyone’s Equinox was satisfactory and that the New Moon brings good happenings. Mercury retrograde in Virgo was intense, wasn’t it? And with a lunar and solar eclipse going on as well. I had my hot water, my washing machine, and my heat quit on me. You might think losing heat is no big deal in September, but not in the Adirondacks. Fortunately I now have a new hot water tank, I have a new washer/dryer, and the landlord is working on installing a new boiler, which is a rather involved proposition.

I am finding time to enjoy the out-of-doors in the most beautiful season of the most beautiful place to hike on earth. This is from the Giant mountain range on Wednesday.

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Elen of the Ways

Photo: USFWS.

Photo: USFWS.

Again from my forthcoming book on animal divination:

An increasingly popular conception of the Deer Goddess goes by the name of Elen or Elen of the Ways. Knowledge about this goddess was disseminated through the research of Caroline Wise(1) on Elen of the Hosts, who appears in a short section of the Welsh Mabinogion. While researching ley lines in Britain, Wise discovered this passage:

…Elen thought to make high roads from one stronghold to another across the Island of Britain. And the roads were made. And for that reason they are called the Roads of Elen of the Hosts, because she was sprung from the Island of Britain, and the men of the Island of Britain would not have made those great hostings for any save for her.(2)

The “hosts” refers to the army that utilized Elen’s roads. Elen of the Hosts is a historical figure, the queen of a usurper in the Gaulish Empire who assassinated the Emperor Gracian. Also known as Saint Helen (and not to be confused with the Saint Helen who is mother of the Emperor Constantine), she is reputed to have established Christianity in Wales. Wise theorized that the roads of Saint Helen were created by migrating reindeer, and that the Elen of the Hosts described in the Mabinogion is conflated with an older deer goddess. The most convincing part of her argument, from a scholarly point of view, is the prevalence of deer words sounding like Elen in many European languages. My Google translator confirms that “eilit” is Irish Gaelic for “doe,” while “jelen” is Polish for “deer” and “elen” is Bulgarian for “deer.” “Elain” is Finnish for “animal.” The Dictionary of Word Origins has this to say about the English word “elk”:

The Indo-European base *ol-, *el- produced a number of words for deer-like animals – Greek elaphos ‘stag,’ for example and Welsh elain ‘hind,’ not to mention English eland.(3)

“Elen” may be a root Indo-European word for “deer,” and if so would be an appropriate appellation for the Deer Goddess. If the roads of Elen were established by reindeer, however, it is doubtful that a reindeer goddess was worshiped on the British Isles at that earlier time by that name, since the large scale Indo-European migrations, unlike those of the reindeer, were fairly recent.

The most compelling case for Elen as a deer deity is the number of people who attest to connecting strongly with a deer goddess by this name. Chesca Potter seems to be the first modern artist to channel Elen as Reindeer Woman in the 1980s, but Elen is probably now the most commonly depicted Horned Goddess.

(1) Caroline Wise, “Elen of the Ways,” andrewcollins.com, http://www.andrewcollins.com/page/articles/elen_1.htm accessed July 9, 2016.

(2)The Mabinogion, translated by Gwen Jones and Thomas Jones, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), 77.

(3) John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins, (New York: Arcade), 197.

 

Further Reading

Wise, Caroline. Finding Elen: The Quest for Elen of the Ways. London: Eala Press, 2015.

Sentier, Elen. Elen of the Ways: Following the Deer Trods Hants, UK: Moon Books, 2013.

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Reindeer and the World Tree

Deer much at the foliage on Yggdrasil. Iceland, 17th century.

Deer much at the foliage on Yggdrasil. Iceland, 17th century.

 

More from my forthcoming book on animal divination:

The stag of Artemis being in fact a reindeer raises questions about the four stags who nibble on the branches of the Germanic world tree, Yggdrasil. This is the tree that holds the nine worlds, three each in the lower, middle, and upper regions. A snake nibbles at the roots of the tree, an eagle claims the high branches, and four deer browse the foliage. These animals create balance by tempering the growth of the ever-growing tree. The deer are identified as stags in the only source that mentions them, the Prose Edda, so this is not a case of a picture being misinterpreted, at least not in modern times. It is curious that reindeer would not be prominent in the mythology of the Norse, when reindeer memory survives as far south as Greece. Another stag, called Eikthyrnyr, lives atop a tree called Laerad in Odin’s upper realm of Valhalla. Eikthyrnyr munches the leaves of Laerad along with a nanny goat named Heidrun. From the udders of Heidrun flow mead. From the antlers of Eikthyrnyr flow the waters that make up the rivers of the worlds. Eikthyrnyr could also be a reindeer doe. Default male bias being the pervasive affliction that it is, assertions of maleness in animal deities must be entertained with skepticism. The presence of so-called stags where we would expect to find reindeer, amid the absence of mention of any does, suggests either naiveté or a patriarchal rewriting of mythology.

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Artemis and the Reindeer Doe

Herakles capturing the Ceryneian Hind as Artemis and Athena look on. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Heracles capturing the Ceryneian Hind as Artemis and Athena look on. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

 

Here is another short excerpt from my forthcoming book about animal divination:

In antiquity the deer familiar of Artemis was a reindeer, which some confuse with a stag. Both horned and hornless does are depicted driving the goddess’s chariot. These does are magical and can run faster than an arrow. A fifth doe, called the Ceryneian Hind, was too fast even for Artemis to catch, but the doe was later given to her by one of the Pleiades sisters, Taygete. The third labor of Heracles (Hercules) involves capturing the Ceryneian Hind and bringing her alive to Mycenae, a city in the Argolis region of the Peloponnese. This quest, which takes exactly one year, begins at the temple of Artemis in Oenoe (the Oenoe located in Argolis). Though the journey begins and ends in about the same place, Heracles chases the Hind through the upper Balkan region and into Hyperborea, a vaguely defined place in the north. The indomitable Hind then leads Heracles south to the temple of Artemis atop Mount Artemisium, where she allows herself to be captured. This is a shaman’s journey, an initiation into the cult of Artemis. The giant Hind, with her gold antlers and brass hooves, may have been a statue in the temple with those features.

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