Elen of the Ways - A very special incense for the Reindeer Goddess , and all the antlered Goddesses of pre-history
Art by Kimberly Webber
This incense was created as a window to the scents, mood, and energies of these long ago winter nights when our ancestors lived just as intensely as we live today. I believe that back then when we humans were more woven into the fabric of nature that the gods did not require adoration or worship but rather an acknowledgement that they were an integral and immutable part of the metaphysical background of the world, human nature and the natural world and it was necessary to come to terms with these primordial forces to avoid disaster.
Ingredients: Angelica root, Juniper berries, White Pine/Red Spruce/Balsam Fir resins, Cedar tips, Sweet Grass, Ice man fungus, Star Tipped Reindeer Lichen, rolled in Labrador Tea
10 pellets Nested in Tinder fungus in a round tin.
Thousands of years ago, during the last ice age, women sat comfortably by fragrant fires, surrounded by their community in circular tents made of reindeer antlers and mammoth bones covered with animal hides. On their heads the women wore crowns of antlers fashioned into crowns with mushroom felt and around their necks bone necklaces clattered in rhythm to drumming from drums made from reindeer skins, clapping and chanting. In this setting, these women took ecstatic journeys in order to heal their communities bodies and souls and to insure the return of the Sun.
The air was filled with the healing and anti-microbial fragrances of jammy conifer trees, spicy angelica root and sweetgrass. The earthy scent of smoldering Tinder fungus, lit to ensure the life of the fire, mingled with the subtle pungent fragrance of baskets of dried Reindeer Lichen. The sacramental scent of bread and honey emitted by the dried Amanita muscaria mushrooms accompanied by sweet, hypnotic fragrance of Labrador Tea would announce the beginning of the ceremony.
Humans have had a relationship with reindeer since the last Ice Age At the end of the Pleistocene period, reindeer were much more widely distributed over the world than they are today. As the climate warmed up at the beginning of the Holocene, 10000 years ago, the species
began to retreat north and their numbers decreased. Whispers of the ancient reindeer cult are hidden in the traditional shamanic practices of northern, reindeer herders around the world. where healers still, to this day, take flight to heal using the amanita muscaria mushroom
Research by scholar and Fellowship of Isis priestess, Caroline Wise, on horned goddesses and the entomology of the various "Helen" (Elaine, Helen, Ellen, Elen) goddesses who appear in mythology, especially Celtic mythology, led her to give these goddesses the name "Elen of the Ways". Wise writes that "Elen is the goddess of the ancient track ways, the Leys, the kundalini currents in nature, and as the first track ways, the migratory tracks of the reindeer. From here she leads us to the lost Shamanism of the isles of Britian." Murmurings of ecstatic flight are also found in the indigenous Nordic religions with its emphasis on woman as community shamans known as "volvas" who are skilled in clairvoyance and the prediction of future events. The volvas use a magick called "seidr" which more than anything else seems to be an extension of their mind and its faculties. In Pre-Christian Germany there is the horned, Goddess Berchta or "she who shines in the darkness", a shamanic reference to taking the Amanita muscaria mushroom in the dark and experiencing sensitivity to light and visual effects. In 1932 Celtic scholar McKay wrote: " There are an immense number of tales, traditions, references, notices of customs, and various minor matters, which show conclusively that there formerly existed in the Highlands of Scotland two cults, probably pre-Celtic, a deer-cult and a deer-goddess cult. The latter was administered by women only, and both cults originated during a period when woman was paramount, and man inferior, and when man himself was in the hunting stage of development....The association of fairies with deer is one of the most prominent features of that [the fairy] superstition. Deer were looked upon in the Highlands as fairy cattle” Not one of the Highland Deer-goddesses shows any sign of domestication. Not one wields distaff, pitchfork, or broom. They are all creatures of the wild. This is very significant and suggests a very great antiquity. Could the mythic stories of the harrying deer found around the world is a motif for the destruction of the old religions?
The reason the antlered, female reindeer became such a significant spiritual symbol is many layered because it is rooted in biology, cultural practices and celestial, seasonal phenomena. The reindeer is the only species of animals in which the females grow antlers. Female reindeer keep their antlers over winter until after they calve in the spring while bull reindeer shed their antlers in early to midwinter. Because of this, the antlered female reindeer acquire the highest ranks in the feeding hierarchy, gaining access to the best forage areas. Reindeer favor various Cladonia species of lichens as well as the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The mushrooms active ingredients are excreted in their urine. To this day, Saami herders feed their reindeer Amanita, collect the urine and boil it up in a pot to imbibe. During the last Ice Age, at the end of the Pleistocene period, reindeer were much more widely distributed over the world and in Europe, they reached as far south as Spain. Much like the Indigenous, North American, plains people followed the buffalo, ice age people around the world followed the reindeer for food, clothes, and tools in order to survive. The symbol of an antlered figure holding the sun between its horns has been found in ancient cave paintings. These caves were likely used as places of worship and ecstatic experience. Reindeer urine or the mushroom associated with reindeer would have played a part in producing the ecstatic experience which is a common human preoccupation. Because the female reindeer retained her horns, and was pregnant during the winter solstice she became a metaphor for the rebirth of the Sun which had profound, significance during the ice age. The weaving together of antlers, food hierarchy, the solstice, the promise of rebirth, the mushroom and the ecstatic experience produced a symbol that has echoes to our time.
- Angelica root (Angelica archangelica/atropurpurea) consciously wildcrafted
Fragrance: Spicy and musky.
This herb derives its name from the Medieval Latin "herba angelica". It was so named because it is believed that it possesses special attributes that cure plague and poisoning. The Saami reindeer herders use in their healing ceremonies and smoke the ground root from childhood.
Medicinally, Angelica is primarily used in smoke to treat respiratory problems. It can also be used to keep warm as it increases the flow of blood to the peripheral regions.
- Juniper berries (Juniperus communis) consciously wildcrafted
Fragrance: Spicy, sharp, ozonic.
Juniper is used as an anti-microbial smudge in cultures around the world. Smoking the berries is useful in relieving arthritic pain and asthma spasms.
White Pine/Red Spruce/Balsam Fir resins (Picea strobus/Picea rubens/Albies balsamea) wildcrafted
Fragrance: Jammy, fresh
Conifer resins have been heated as the Icelandic people say "To make a man happy". Their uplifting fragrance coupled with their anti-microbial and lung clearing actions ensure a healthy human.
- Cedar tips (Thuja occidentalis) consciously wildcrafted
Fragrance: Sharp, jammy
The cedar tree is held in great esteem by many northern indigenous peoples because of its many uses and is considered to be a gift to mankind. Since its wood is weather and time resistant, cedar wood is valuable in construction and boat making. Cedar foliage is heated as a remedy for headaches, fever, swollen hands, coughs and rheumatic complaints. It also has a strong anti-viral effect in the air.
- Sweet Grass (Hierochloe odorata) from my garden
Fragrance: vanilla, new mown hay
Sweetgrass is part of the four sacred plants, Tobacco, Sage, Cedar and Sweet Grass, of the Indigenous North Americans. It's smell is the sweetest and the most persistent of the four plants and it is thought to welcome in to a space positive energies. Medicinally, the smoke is used to ward off colds.
- False Tinder fungus, Ice man fungus (Fomes fomentarius) Consciously wildcrafted
False tinder fungus is not really "false" at all. It is a true tinder fungus that while it will not burn, it will smoulder for hours and the spark can be blown onto birch bark (the tree on which it grows) or small tinder to start a fire. This was an extremely valuable characteristic for fire makers and transporters. The 5,000 year old Otzi the Iceman carried four pieces of F. fomentarius. One strung as a bead on a leather cord. In Siberia people sniff it on its own or mix it with tobacco and use as anti -microbial smoke. When scraped, the mushroom body produces a fluff like sheep fleece called amadou. Amadou can be felted into hats, clothing and other objects. Extracts of the mushroom have been widely studied in Russia and have a wide range of medicinal uses from being a nerve tonic to treating cancer
- Amanita muscaria -This is the indigenous North American variety that has a golden orange cap as opposed to the European variety which has a bright red cap/Consciously wildcrafted
Fragrance: honey, bread
Amanita muscaria has a ancient history as use as an entheogen around the world. Some believe it was the original soma, Chinese mushroom of immortality and was used in the Greek mystery cults. It is also associated with Santa Claus and his flying reindeer. What is known for sure is that the Siberian Saami culture uses it in various forms as an intoxicant and entheogen. It has significant religious significance in the cultures were it is traditionally used. The hallucinogenic effects and reports of nausea after ingestion dried mushroom caps vary but most positive experiences report light having luminous and beautiful effects, seeing jewel like objects with their eyes closed while having a relaxed and peaceful feeling. Medicinally, there has not been a lot of research using this mushroom because of its controversial spiritual uses. There are reports that much like many other mushrooms that it has a wide range of healing properties.
- Star Tipped Reindeer Lichen (Cladina stellarius) Consciously wild crafted
Fragrance: pungent, fungus
This is the lichen preferred as winter food for reindeer herds. Animals guard the patches that they dig up from under the snow and will fight to preserve their access to them. Caribou have bacteria in their gut that can process lichen material into usable nutrients. Some Inuit people eat partially digested lichen directly from the stomach of freshly killed reindeer. Research has shown that more than half of lichen species contain compounds that are highly effective against gram positive bacteria. Inuit use lichen tea for chest pains and native hunters who are climbing hills eat it in order to maintain wind.
- Labrador Tea (Ledum/Rhodendren groenlandicum) leaves consciously wildcrafted
Fragrance: Honeyed Hash
The Ledum/Rhodendren family of plants was used by ancient cultures as a magical substance to help contact the metaphysical background of the world. Its hypnotic, honeyed hash, fragrance is unique in the plant world. Northern people around the world use it use it as a tasty medicinal tea to respiratory complaints, as a tonic and to help sleep. Labrador tea is also used as a spice to flavor game meats and fish.