Following the Deer Trods

Dec 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Articles, Books for Shamans

by Elen Sentier

The heritage gifted me by my family and the elders of the villages where I grew up is very ancient. I didn’t realise this as a child, of course, then it was just “what you did”, what all the people you loved did, how life was. Now, as a grownup, I know much more of the past, the archaeology, mythos and stories of our lovely land.

Did you know that recent archaeological discoveries show that we humans have been living in Britain for the best part of 1 million years? The discoveries, made between 2004 and 2010 at Happisburgh (pronounced Hayze-bor-ugh) in Norfolk, uncovered remains that revolutionise the way we think about the early human colonisation of northern Europe. The findings are phenomenal and include the oldest human footprints found outside of Africa, more than 800,000 years old and show that our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who used sophisticated stone tools and lived a good life-style. In a couple of TV programmes on the excavations that I watched they showed what they considered to be sacred objects, one of which was thought to be a goddess figurine.

These finds really tell us we must not restrict ourselves to thinking our heritage only runs from the invention of farming a mere 6000 years ago. Humanity is far, far older than that even though we are the youngest species Mother Earth has birthed and we certainly weren’t the “ugg! ugg!” savages historians used to say we were. We’ve lived, here in Britain, in civilised, organised communities for over 800,000 years – that’s a hell of a lot longer than we’ve been farming!

As part of the Boreal Forest we knew the goddess as Grandmother Reindeer and Elen of the Ways, and we followed her where she led. My family walked in the deer trods but, for us, the deer were the red deer as Exmoor and Dartmoor are far too warm now for reindeer to be comfortable. We still knew the women who wore antlers on their heads and who walked the lanes and paths and the followed old ways.

We have a long and beautiful heritage of knowing and working with the goddess that we can tap back into if we wish. This is part of what shamans do the world over – they go out across the worlds, learn things and bring them back for their people. Archaeologists have used some of these techniques – Heinrich Schliemann at Troy: Bligh Bond at Glastonbury: Arthur Evans and Alice Kober at Knossos with Linear B to name a few. Scientists too sometimes work this way, for instance Kekulé discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule from a day-dream of a snake seizing its tail (the Ouroboros). We can all do this.

In Following the Deer Trods I’ve put together some suggestions that offer you the opportunity begin that path for yourself. They are based in the ways I was taught and which I’ve developed with many students since the early 1980s. If you feel you’d like to meet and work with Elen of the Ways, our deer goddess, give it a read.


Elen Sentier,



Leave a Comment