For a new weeks (more) I’m living near the Great Windsor Park, and it is just some 6 miles away. It is full of deers and a multitude of wild life, amd it’s a wonderful area. In ancient times this was part of the larger Berkshire Forest, and it was replete of old myths, even today.
You know I can’t stop looking for myths and stories around, and I have two myths for you, today. One of:
- Herne the Hunter, and another of
- Elen of the Ways.
Herne The Hunter
Of, Herne the Hunter he is said to have antlers growing from his head, rides a horse, torments cattle, and rattle chains. The latter may be mythological ‘right’, but the latter sounds theatrical. And it is, as it becomes from the words of William Shakespeare.
Herne the Hunter, either used a horse or was seen alone in the forest. He was said to be seen as a free and nobly forested-spirit, and was (because of his antlers) he was associated with deers.
As a male character he was related to the fecundity and ecological balance of the forest. To Druids, Celts and many others Herne the Hunter symbolised alertness and potently, his reverence and his spreading tree-like antlers to epitomise the forest. Stags are also associated with shape-changing, and appear throughout celtic mythologies several people became stags for a while. Even at least one occasion it was said St Patrick became a shape-shifting deer using the féth fíada. Féth denotes ‘mist’, and fíada originally means the ‘knower’.
There is an old tale goes that Herne the Hunter,
Some time a keeper here in Windsor Forest,
Doth all the winter-time, at still midnight,
Walk round about an oak, with great ragg’d horns…
(In The Merry Wives of Windsor, the Shakespeare pays tribute to the ghost of Herne the Hunter, wandering Windsor Forest).
It was said that he was especially close to a huge oak tree, known as Herne’s Oak. As these things happen, that tree was felled in 1796, though others said it was a different tree that was Herne’s Oak, though that was, itself, was blown down by winds August 1863.
However, Queen Victoria planted an oak tree and it stays for all to see – along with a number of many other oaks and other trees. Perhaps, the balance of the forest is that life and death moves on, but the myth of Herne the Hunter continues as long as we remember him.
Whatever, the view of Herne the Hunter is, it is (I believe) a welcome thought. With Herne the Hunter we remind ourselves, in story, myths poetry, ritual, of the flora and fauna, the need of forests, of life and death (and life), and of the great balance of nature.
Elen Of The Way
Elen of the Ways is our second Celtic (Druid etc), ‘antlered’-person, changeable and who is, also, elusive in the forest.
Here’s a mythology: In The Dream Of Macsen Wledig (part of the Mabinogion), Mackenzie is out hunting but gets sleepy, and has a dream.
Elen of the Ways is depicted as a mysterious woman of power who knows how to gets what she wants. Macsen Wledig slept, and he experienced a dream.
In that dream, he travelled way across mountains and along rivers, and undertook a sea voyage. He crossed an island and found a magnificent castle, and there was a beautiful woman and he fell in love with her.
Macsen had found the woman of his dreams within his dream! Ofcourse, he never gets his kiss. When he moves to kiss her he awakens, and in the waking world he can see no Elen of the Ways.
And so, Elen of the Ways, is said to be to all look for her. She may assist those who travel the world’s ways and roads geography, and also perhaps she may assist us in our spiritual journeys or our slumbers, as we listen for her dreamful advices.