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