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