pale leaf Gaia's Garden leaves




by MommaWhiteCougar

Winter lays like a little death on Northern Europe. It is near the end of the last great Ice Age. A small tribe, more an extended family, had set out early in Spring to search for better hunting grounds, crossing a small glacier in the process.

They had intended to return to their accustomed Winter home before the unusually severe weather around the glacier would bar their way. A series of small disasters has found them trapped on the wrong side of that glacier for over two months. They are in unfamiliar territory, and must huddle against the moaning winds of Midwinter in an opportune cave.

The very air sparkles with frozen water crystals. The weather is far too severe for the hunting party to go far. They must subsist on what they can scavenge from nearby kills of four-legged predators or what little they have managed to store in caches in the permafrost.

The Shaman shakes his rattle and cries out to their Earth Goddess begging for the days to cease growing ever shorter and colder…

Standing at the entrance to the cave, a girl faces what must surely be her death. She has bled for the first time and is required to go into seclusion to survive on her own until the first blood ceases to flow. When she returns she will be a woman ­ if she returns.

The Shaman hands her all the tools he will provide ­ a knife and a fire-making kit. He blesses and releases her. She walks away without looking back, but she can hear her mother already sobbing quietly for her lost daughter. None can survive in the unknown forest alone in the darkest days of Winter.

It is hard to see the trail beneath the snow, so she follows her heart. The first nightfall comes so very quickly! She calls upon the Sprit of her yet unknown Totem to help her. It is then she sees a large fallen tree: hollow and rotten. The snow isn’t as deep on the far side, and she crawls within the heart of the tree.

Using her firemaking tools, she creates fire with some of the dry wood from inside her snug hollow tree. She melts snow to drink. Hunger she can ignore. Thirst she cannot.

First light in the morning finds her walking again, for that is the best way to keep warm. A few hours pass and the low sun is almost ready to set. She is at the Western edge of the forest facing the broad and windswept tundra. She is the first of her tribe to have come here, and an amazing sight greets her eyes. There are unfamiliar antlered beasts here browsing on the mossy birch trees.

As she watches them, she notices a cow has put its foot down a rabbit hole and cannot rise. It struggles and its pain is great. Despite its fine warm coat, lying in the snow has chilled it. The cow moans and cries shivering with the cold and agony.

The girl knows she should be looking for shelter, but the cow’s great suffering has moved her. Forgetting fear, forgetting herself, the girl draws her knife and approaches the cow. She slits the suffering animal’s throat. “Go to She from whence we all came,” she says. As the cow dies, there is a look of thankfulness and peace it its eyes.

Darkness falls as the cow breathes its last. It is then the girl fully realises her plight. There is no shelter here. There is no dry wood to start a fire. She does the only thing she can think of ­ she huddles against the still-warm reindeer carcass. The falling snow covers them both and the girl slips into a deep sleep.

“Wake young one! If you remain asleep you will surely die!” Her eyes fly open in fear for she knows she is quite alone.

There is an image standing in front of her, shifting subtly in the fast-falling snowflakes. The figure wears a long cloak of reindeer fur, and her unbound hair glistens with frost crystals. A crown of antlers is upon her brow.

“You risked your life to end the suffering of my daughter, and for that I thank you. You have taken the first steps on your Path. Tell your people this: Do not fear the deep snows of Winter. Do not fear the cold. Do not hide in caves when Winter winds howl ­ follow my children and they will succour you.”

As the girl watches, the woman-form seems to become frosty mist in the air, sparkling like snowflakes, and somehow is both woman and deer. The cloak drops around the shoulders of the girl.

“The hairs of my fur are hollow and therefore warmest of all in Winter. My milk can nurse your babes as well as my calves. My meat is sweet and tender. My antlers can make both tools and objects of beauty. Follow my herds and use them well. Nurture them and they will nurture you.”

The figure begins to move away, then turns to speak again. “I am here to shelter you and help you for all time. I will be with you in woodland and forest along the Trackways of Time as long as you and your children remember me. Guard and cherish the animals and sacred places that care for not only your body but also for your soul.”

The girl is completely alone on the forest floor beside the body of a reindeer.

A week passes at the cave in the forest. The Shaman has celebrated the Winter Solstice, and his magic has caused the days to lengthen slightly. The people are confident that Spring will eventually come.

They have mourned for the girl, for if she had survived, she would have returned long since. Life for the extended family returns to normality. Things might even be better with one less mouth to feed.

Three young children play in the muddy snow. Suddenly their rough and tumble ceases and they fall silent staring at the path from the forest. The sudden stillness brings the others to the entrance.

There is someone walking serenely toward them through the sparkling air. She wears a long cloak of reindeer fur, and her unbound hair glistens with frost crystals. A crown of antlers is upon her brow.

“I am Elen,” she says. “I have come to take you home.”


Now in the 21st Century, she will come to take you home, if you can just trust a bit. Unfocus your eyes ­ look there! Under the pavements of London or Glasgow or Cardiff grass grows and streams flow. Trees sway in unseen breezes. The forests are still here in our hearts, and Elen is still with us.

*        *        *

Elen © MommaWhiteCougar


pale leaves

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