Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Elen of the Ways

Shamanism - that's the strange thing that people used to do a long time ago in Siberia, right? It doesn't exist any more, right? Wrong.

If you're interested in shamanism, there are multiple ways to approach the practice, and books are more accessible for many folks than workshops and classes. If you're like me and your heart calls to a particular part of the world, perhaps one of the places your ancestors came from, then you might want to investigate the shamanic practice that is native to that region.

What place calls to me? Britain (among others). What book would I recommend to anyone who wants to learn about British shamanism and test those waters? Elen of the Ways by Elen Sentier.

Yes, that's a reindeer on the cover. Long ago, when the ice sheets covered much of Europe and the shamans worked their magic in caves and small settlements, there were reindeer in Britain (and there are once again, in the Cairngorms in Scotland!). Though Elen appears to people these days in the guise of other types of deer as well as reindeer, her memory goes back to those frozen times. Your memory does, too, if you listen closely enough - we're all descended from people who lived back then.

When many people hear the term shamanism they think of women and men in fancy costumes, dancing around in circles, shaking rattles and pounding drums in elaborate ceremonies. But ultimately, shamanism is not about ritual and show. It is about what's inside - inside you, inside Nature, inside the whole universe. It is a path of discovery and brutal but beautiful honesty.

Elen Sentier, the author of this book, is heir to a tradition that goes back to the time of the last Ice Age in Europe. In addition to providing loads of fascinating information about spiritual life (and daily live) over the generations since then, she leads the reader on a path to meet Elen, the goddess/ancestral spirit, and find their own way into the shamanic world. This is not a step-by-step, paint-by-numbers ceremonial activity. It involves delving into your own depths and learning to really listen.

Throughout the book Ms. Sentier guides the reader through journeys of discovery and she does so with grace and insight. But here's the thing...all she can do is point the direction. You have to do the work.

So if shamanism interests you, I'm sure you'll find the book to be a pleasant read. But if you think shamanism might be your spiritual path, you'll find the book to be a valuable tool and a map of the territory you need to discover.