Good News! Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. has just released Faery Craft, a beautiful book by UK Author and Artist Emily Carding! In the Summer of 2012, Calantirniel (Lisa Allen) was interviewed, and a good portion of this interview is actually published in the book. A recent opportunity to view the paperback version of the complete book itself, after so much anticipation, was not disappointing in the least! However, I realize some of you may like reading eBooks, so here is a link to the Kindle eBook version. (Update: Calantirniel actually has her OWN paperback copy now!)
Faery Craft is beautifully put together; the art is whimsical and deeply stirring at the same time, and the written portions do not lack substance – a “must-purchase” item for anyone who collects books on Faerie Lore – not just from a historical value, but that is also applicable to our lifestyles.
Thank you, Llewellyn, for granting permission for publishing on our blog not only for the purposes of Faery Craft‘s promotion, but also to allow those already interested in spiritual paths from the Elven viewpoint of Professor JRR Tolkien‘s origin stories of Middle-Earth to enjoy this interview in its entirety! Emily’s questions are bolded/italicized, Calantirniel’s answers follow. Enjoy!
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When did you first realise that there was more to Tolkien’s work than simply fantasy?
It was entirely unexpected, that is for sure! It was in April of 2005, when I finally got around to reading The Silmarillion on my husband’s suggestion. The original idea of reading the Elven origin stories was to educate me particularly about the Elven archetype shown in Tolkien’s more popular stories. However, when I actually read the words, I could actually feel something happening to me and at first, it was sort of scary. It is hard to explain, but it would be likened to my blood, my DNA just opening up and “singing” – and an overwhelming message was relayed to me that this was not imagination – this was REAL! I attempted to rationalize this feeling away, and tried to tell myself (like anyone else would) that this wasn’t happening and that these were just made-up stories, but this feeling got stronger and more insistent the more I tried to refute it, and I finally arrived at the conclusion that not only were these stories real, but that this was the spiritual direction I was supposed to explore! I was not prepared for this at first, and wondered if others felt this way when they read these materials too. Luckily, after searching online for a couple weeks or so, I found people who were not embarrassed to have arrived at the same conclusion as me! That was the humble beginnings of Tië eldaliéva, the Elven Spiritual Path. Frankly, we thought others must have done this before. While we had found evidence that some parts of Tolkien’s works were integrated into other existing pagan-themed traditions during the 1970’s at the earliest, we failed at finding any tradition based wholly on what Tolkien termed “the Legendarium” or the whole of the Middle-Earth stories.
Why is the message of his books relevant today?
I was also curious about this question – not just “Why me?” but “Why now?” In digging deeper with the Legendarium writings, it is apparent that the age cycles that Tolkien presented could be overlaid or correlated with those that have different origins, and we are not the first to discover this. Virtually everyone now knows the significance of 2012 being a huge turning point for the planet, shown not only by world mythologies (especially the Mayan one, which narrowed the dates down the most) but also by science.
Within the approximate 26,000 year cycle that our solar system revolves around Alcyone, the “Central Sun,” the year 2012 could be likened to a solstice point. So for 13,000 years the energies flowed one way and this is the turning point for them to flow the other way. While the prophecies for this time are understandably rather dramatic, I remain hopeful and have made a conscious decision to live with my heart rather than my head – and that is what everyone can do to welcome this time in the best way possible. For those that the Elven Path resonates, it is one method to live through your heart!
What is it about Tolkien’s elves that resonates with you?
I am not sure I could answer that question fully even after six years of involvement. It is a discovery process and an unfoldment. But what I can say is that ever since I encountered the elven archetype as shown by Tolkien, it always “felt” to me to be a closer expression of what I would term as elvenness than other archetypes that had been shown to me through general culture or even deeper studies of other paths.
But at first, I didn’t apply the resonation to myself – and it took others telling me more than once to make that connection. Still, the fact that I highly resonate with Tolkien’s portrayal of elvenness does not go as far as me thinking I am an elf! I have looked into what is termed “otherkin” and while I can appreciate the philosophy, I do not feel this is an identity – only a path to travel. While I love the fact that some or even all humans could possibly have elven DNA, science cannot demonstrate this today.
Instead, the way I (and a handful of others) resonate with elvenness is wanting to learn the inherent wisdom and foresightedness, as well as embrace their balanced expression of beauty and harmony with nature, magick and technology. While we are mortal humans, making it hard to be as wise as immortal elves, nonetheless we can still strive for that! And indeed there are stories of extraordinary humans who demonstrate amazing courage and honor, despite the inherent setbacks. And so no one gets any ideas that elves are “superior” to humans, it is clear in the stories that in the eyes of Iluvatar (the “All Father” or the All That Is), that elves, dwarves, and humans are equal to even those of the Maiar and even of the Valar, which could be equated to the elven pantheon. Humans also have a special gift – upon death, they go immediately to Iluvatar and it is not specified afterward what happens since it is not known.
What is it the appeal of the elven path and how many now follow it?
It is unclear how many actually follow the path, but I can tell you there is interest. The many presences on the internet since 2005 have ranged from about 70 people to the current Facebook page with over 300 “likes.” Many of these people do not contact me with details of their level of interest, but I can tell you that I know of at least 15 other people who deeply practice a form of spiritual practice where Tolkien is the main source for their cosmology and structure.
How aware do you think Tolkien was of what he was writing?
Actually, this was shown to me by Tolkien himself. Listening online to the Tolkien Professor, there is an introductory lecture wherein Tolkien had begun writing these stories much earlier than their publishing dates – I believe 1917 is the earliest of these writings we know of, and these were while he was in a war in a trench! He also had pictures of how he traversed to what he called “Fearië” which is what can be likened to Faerie.
When prompted by his Inkling colleagues about questions in the stories, Tolkien did not respond with, “Oh, I need to rework that.” He actually said, “Oh, I need to go find out.” (emphasis added.)
There are other examples – for instance, his 1967 BBC Radio Interview revealed to an astute listener his ability to thinly skate the line he needed to skate at that time, preserving not only his practicing Catholic stance, but also his scholarly respect as a University Professor of Linguistics. It was only after his death that we learned of all the back-stories and started putting two and two together. I can elaborate further if you wish, since I believe there are a few other ways this shows – but these are the main ones I can think of right now.
What do you actually do? Is there a set of ritual practices or is it more organic and internal that that?
It is sort of a combination. Through our studies of the material, we have in fact created a working ritual calendar (by “filling in” what Tolkien already started as a calendar) as well as the actual rituals. We have applied the Legendarium cosmology as closely as we can for a practice, and it works very well.
While knowing the stories is (to me) a necessary part to really understand and integrate the energies at a deeper level, we have witnessed some open, curious people trying out the rituals and having very profound experiences of their own – and often (as you can imagine) right in-sync with the energies of the ritual that were intended! Our rituals are based on visualization, reflection, meditation and speaking or toning (sometimes singing) things into existence, rather than the usual symbolic (or literal) fertility practices of most Pagan paths.
I will mention that while we have a very good calendar that closely matches the Legendarium materials, there are at least a few possibilities of interpretation that with great care and understanding could also work very well. I say this so no one gets the idea that “our way” is the “only way” because it is not.
As a side note, not everyone who resonates with the Elven Path is Pagan. We have some open-minded Christians, Agnostics and other religious (or non-religious) backgrounds involved, so the rituals need to be in a way that everyone is comfortable, and that has been achieved.
Regularly reading the actual stories is another thing that we find is a good practice. Most people have already read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series, but have not read the back-stories. We recommend: The Silmarillion (particularly the first portions), the Lost Tales 1 and 2, Unfinished Tales, and Morgoth’s Ring (Vol. 10 of the 12-volume History of Middle-Earth, or “HoME” series) to start with, including the Appendices. I am rather embarrassed to say that I know the Appendices of the 3rd LOTR volume, Return of the King, better than the actual LOTR story!
If possible, hearing the stories orally adds a new level to integrating and understanding the stories, but reading aloud to yourself can be tiring, especially if you are also trying to understand the sometimes-complex nature of these stories. If possible, we also recommend obtaining the audio version of The Silmarillion, expertly narrated by Martin Shaw. While you can listen to the stories while casually doing other things, it is really effective when you are reading the stories and hearing them at the same time.
Other practices that are very helpful, like daily meditation for divining and/or healing work and interacting with and being in nature as often as possible. It helps to have studies or hobbies that relate to nature in some way, such as hiking, gardening, etcetera – and it is especially helpful for these activities to cross into your profession if you can! The creative process is also a major part of living this energy – making art in many different ways is very satisfying (especially if you are singing while you do it!).
If one wishes to go further, learning the Elvish languages – even a few words used for ritual, can really help connect one to these energies fairly quickly. In fact we think it might be why a guy like Tolkien was able to go so deep into this place and bring forth these mytho-historical stories! There are a few sources we have collected over time and while we do not have a formal study program, they would be available for self-study.
Another interest could be the study of the Elven “Runes” (called the Cirth) as well as the more elaborate Tengwar, which are the symbols used not only to write the languages, but also have symbolic meaning on their own. For those of us who have applied these symbols in various ways, we have found these work for meditation, divination, magick, protection and healing work. We also use/visualize the symbols and tone the words for the compass directions in the beginning of rituals to “set” the space (and in a way it sets our internal space more than the physical space around us). We do not “draw” a circle with an athame or even a wand, as we find it unnecessary.
In fact, it is possible (and even preferable) to not use magical tools at all for ritual, since the symbols with visualization work wonders. While there are examples of the elves crafting magical items in the stories (i.e. swords, rings, etcetera), we wanted something that would be accessible to everyone.
Also, for those who follow a more Christian path, they are more comfortable relating these concepts with prayer, and they find this path a safe way to connect with their ancestry and can still with a moral conscience resonate with Christ Consciousness and the Bible. Maybe because Tolkien himself was a practicing Catholic and the fashion in which the stories are relayed makes deep sense to those of a Christian background, and there are plenty of Christian-based websites that discuss the symbolic spiritual nature of Tolkien’s works out there – they just don’t integrate these concepts in their spiritual practice.
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