A Goddess For Our Times

From The Greenwood Tarot by artist Chesca Potter

In this follow up piece to my previous blog featuring Snow Spirit (Elen of the Ways) we offer a glimpse into the goddess traditions of Old Europe, the mysticism of the Magical Forest, our ancient ancestors and why they matter to us today.

When I first contemplated this topic, I asked Holly about her inspiration for Elen of the Ways, pictured in the gallery at the end of the blog, and she shared this:

It seems to me that Elen often assumes a shrouded quality. As with other forest creatures she appears furtively and unexpectedly. One will find themselves in a sunlit glade and sense some movement there and quite suddenly, she will come into view; dappled in sunlight, as fresh as spring and then, just as abruptly, she disappears! 

When Holly first displayed on Facebook her image of Snow Sprit, a.k.a. Elen of the Ways, at the time I was researching what we refer to as The Paleolithic Period or Early Stone Age. This period lasted over 2.5 million years and ended around 12,000 years ago. Holly noted in our correspondence that she perceived Snow Spirit as a Paleolithic goddess, a synchronicity that captured my full attention.

We know very little about Stone Age religion, let alone paleolithic goddesses. What we do know has been inferred partly from the period’s rock art and cave paintings. Clearly, the religion of early hunter-gatherer societies was shamanism. Snow Spirit as crafted by Holly is a woman shaman – a shape shifter – appearing in her goddess aspect with her animal familiar.

Paleolithic shamans were healing women who would isolate themselves in the forest to hone their spiritual connection to Mother Earth. I personally believe that Snow Spirit’s theophany to Holly (a manifestation to a human of a god or goddess) is to help us not only to heal ourselves but also to regain control of our conscious minds, which is being severely tested today. There is an existential threat to our own civilization: a pervasive, even psychotic disconnect from reality, a disconnect that is decidedly wicked and decidedly destructive. (More on this topic in future blogs.)

The Greenwood Tarot, Holly’s inspiration for Snow Spirit, was reimagined in 2003 as The Wild Wood Tarot by its original author. Elen was once again presented as The Ancestor, a major arcana card symbolizing spiritual instruction. I think it’s important to remember that our ancient ancestors lived in the Paleolithic period, whether in Europe, Africa or in some other part of the world home to early civilization and that we still are very much interconnected with them and their gods via nonlocal, omnipresent consciousness.

The rock art pictured above comes from Chad in Northcentral Africa where some of the most important African archeological sites were discovered. The gallery below presents The Wild Wood Tarot’s depiction of The Ancestor, Holly’s Snow Spirit sketch and The Watcher from Chrysalis Tarot representing woman shamans and the wise benevolent Spirits of the Forest.

Interestingly, Holly’s Snow Sprit is accompanied by a wolf. Accordingly, we might infer that Wolf is Snow Spirit’s spirit animal or familiar¹ and be inspired to wonder how Wolf’s spiritual attributes align with what I’ve written here about shamans and spiritual consciousness. By the way, all spirit animals are our protectors, however Wolf, like Snow Spirit herself, is our supreme protector. Snow Spirit is indeed a goddess for our times. We need all the protection we can get.

¹ “Animal familiars are fellow travelers on this earthly plane. Nothing more. Nothing less. Certain spirits will return to us time and again because we are as familiar to them as they are to us. We are drawn together. Perhaps they are connected to a higher existence and were sent here to keep an eye on us and keep us company. Perhaps they are spirits which were drawn to us and our myriad possibilities. Or perhaps they’re just exceptionally aware animals.” – Claire, PaganCentric.org

© Toney Brooks, 2022

Whispers of Snow Spirit

Elen of the Ways, a.k.a. Snow Spirit © Holly Sierra

Snow Spirit is an enigmatic goddess who has traveled eons to make her presence known to us in these troubled times. In Platonic parlance an eon, in addition to being a very long period of time, points to a power existing from eternity; an emanation or phase of the supreme deity.

In this case, “supreme deity” alludes to the Great Goddess, mother to all the Mother Goddesses throughout history, of which there are many. Every culture has had it’s own. Even Islam, a rigidly monotheistic culture, worshiped Al-Lat. Her name means The Goddess. Al-lat was a moon goddess, the wife of Allah, moon god to the Arabians.

In Judaism, the feminine presence of God who dwells among us is called The Shekinah, translated as “caused to dwell.” It was the Glory of the Shekinah who led the Israelites out of the desert. In Jewish mysticism she is said to be “in sorrowful exile” going on now for 2,500 years or so.

We mention The Shekinah (a.k.a. the Divine Feminine) 8 times in the Chrysalis Tarot Companion Book. Here’s my personal favorite:

“The exile of the Shekinah finds its cultural analog in the separation
of the cosmic soul (Psyche) from human conscious awareness
(ego). This is a predictable consequence of a materialist worldview
that insists upon the primacy of matter and pigeonholes consciousness
as a mere function of matter—specifically, a function of the gray
matter inside the human skull.”

In Chrysalis, we believe (1) in panpsychism – everything in the physical world possesses some degree of consciousness; (2) in non-local consciousness – that consciousness exists independent of the brain, and (3) that consciousness is the timeless and eternal Ground of All Being – a metaphor for the Absolute or the Great Goddess.

Artistic interpretation by Velizar Simeonovski

It’s little wonder that in these days the Great Goddess chooses to come to us from a cave in Southwestern France 13,000 years ago as Snow Spirit.

The Upper Paleolithic culture of that time was called the Magdalenian Culture. The actual engraving (shown in this link) in Trois-Freres cave is androgynous. Since the cave was re-discovered in 1914, the logical assumption at the time was the engraving depicted a male sorcerer in the form of a therianthrope (part human, part animal) as shown in the artistic interpretation on the left.

Holly’s drawing of Snow Spirit corrects this error – the Magdalenian Culture was matrilineal and matriarchal and accordingly they would have evolved female deities and female shamans.

You can learn more about the Magdalenian Culture and Magdalenian Girl, whose skeletal remains rest at the Field Museum in Chicago here.

The incarnation of Snow Spirit we’re most familiar with is Elen of the Ways, a Celtic Welsh goddess. Here’s what mythologist and artist Judith Shaw wrote about Elen:

“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.”

I personally believe that restoring Elen and Snow Spirit to conscious awareness will help guide and protect our journey through the murky corridors of the present paradigm shift, which is becoming murkier with each passing day. Paleolithic goddesses are enigmatic because we know virtually nothing about them. We are able, however, to infer and intuit certain characteristics, attributes and symbology as well as glean their whispered messages – consciousness is timeless.

For example, the Paleolithic Magdalenian Culture existed on the cusp of the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age. Magdalenian Girl’s fragile world was changing as radically as ours is today. Her own paradigm shift and its lessons for us will be the subject of our next blog.


Forensic bust of Magdalenian Girl, The Field Museum, Chicago, by artist Elisabeth Daynes

© Toney Brooks 2/2/22