She is returning to the people as a symbol of powerful feminine energy.

She is returning to the people as a symbol of powerful feminine energy.

I went to a wonderful talk last night by Caroline Wise about Elen of the Ways at Steiner House in London. She has researched this figure in history and mythology for over 20 years. I have been painting her for nearly as long. I was especially interested in the way that Caroline refused to call her a goddess, noting that this word has all too often been overused. Elen doesn’t generally appear as a goddess in the literature though she is clearly sacred and has many connections eg with Helen of Troy and St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emporer Constantine. She seems to be more a force of nature than a transpersonal being.

Caroline noted that she seems to be especially associated with the regenerative power of nature, as in the ever living cross of St Helena. This was replaced in Christianity by the cross as a symbol of death. She can be seen as the Green Lady, just as important as the more familiar Green Man. In one slide she showed the two of them  Green woman and Green man equal and interconnected with double helixes swirling between them. In another image she becomes the horned goddess as an image to balance the horned god. This may go back to the ancient honouring of the female reindeer who have antlers, and whose tracks across the land Elen also symbolises.  She seems to be a connecting energy or light both across landscapes and between dimensions. In my painting I gave Ellen bull’s horns which bring in a ‘masculine’ element. These were sacred in what have been losely called ancient goddess cultures in the Neolithic and Early Bronze age religions of Europe and Asia. But as a force rather than a deity she speaks to me much more powerfully for today’s world. I see her more like the ancient Chinese Tao…the way of opposites, that mystery which we cannot speak of. The word ‘goddess’ has sometimes been diminished by its overuse and can lack the numinous associations of the word god.

People today don’t always want to worship a superior being, but there can be a longing to honour and attune to a hidden, mysterious life force. Ellen is one name that can be given to this. In my painting she is pregnant with hope for the future right in the middle of the city of London. Behind her the bankers buildings rise into a stormy sky. And beside her there is the sacred river Thames  winding snake-like to transform the land back to sustainable use.   It is a kind of prayer to Ellen in these times of deep transition.

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