Branwen, Celtic Goddess of Love

Branwen, Goddess of Love and Beauty, daughter of Penardim and Llyr, sister of Bran the Blessed, King over all the Island of the Mighty, was loved by her people for her gentleness, compassion and beauty. As Mother of the king to come in the tradition of the Old Tribes of the British Isles, she is the embodiment of Sovereignty. She is the Center from which all life emerges. She rules over the Land, both its spirit and its manifestation. Her vision is long, seeing the whole, the greater scheme of things. Sometimes this knowledge can be too much to bear.

Branwen, Celtic Goddess of Love and Beauty, painting by Judith ShawBranwen (“white raven”), is most likely an ancient Goddess whose sacred spot is Cadair Bronwen (Branwen’s Seat), a mountain peak in the Berwyn range of Wales. Cadair Bronwen is topped with a cairn that resembles a nipple from afar.

Branwen’s story falls within the category of the ‘Slandered Wife’. Parallels can be drawn with the story of Rhiannon from the first branch of the Mabinogion, in that both Goddesses are falsely accused and suffer persecution after their marriages to men from a world different than their own. These types of tales are numerous in a time when the old way of feminine autonomy and sovereignty was giving way to a male-dominated world.

Read my retelling of Branwen’s story on the Feminism and Religion Blog site.  Click here

Community Art – Engagement Through Art

community art projectStories of Route 66/International District Community Art Project is entering our final phase of work. We are now starting to work in teams to create three public art installations.

Over the past four and a half months we have been engaging with community members every Sunday, creating art, accessing abilities and interests, and collaborating to discover what type of public art projects appeal to our participants.

community art closing circleThis project has been an amazing journey. We have experienced so much together, created some beautiful art, and become friends with people we never would have known. We have come together in an opening and a closing circle many times, playing games of trust and connection.

community art littleglobe ID Hands have been an ongoing theme used in various projects lead by the different artists of our artist team.

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community art ID littleglobe The kids made masks and a castle. We made crowns and other ornaments with which to adorn ourselves

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community art ID littleglobeWe made a totem pole and mandalas out of seeds and fruit.

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We created drawings of our names and what we love.

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community art ID littleglobeWe used fabric and frames to create stunning portraits. community art ID littleglobe




community art ID littleglobe We did a honeycomb drawing of animals we love and made wall hangings using recycled plastic bottles.

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We made a human mandala using hula hoops and we played theater games

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We had a talent show and some of the teens have been making videos.

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Through this process our artist team discovered that the participants are drawn to art gardens, art shade structures, video and performance. Stories of Place, one of our partners in this project, mapped the district and presented us with the different empty lots and spaces available.

Billy Joe is leading the team that will create a shade structure in a large lot right on Central Ave. Erin and Monica are in charge of video and performance that will be held in the Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre in the International District.

community art ID littleglobeI am the Project Director for the art garden we will create. By the end of July we will have turned an ugly, empty lot full of stickers and garbage into a beautiful space. Last Sunday my team collaborated on the design of the Art Garden. Everyone is interested in painting a mural on the fence as part of the garden. So we also worked on possible elements to include in the mural. Now I am busy bringing all of our ideas together into one design, researching materials and costs and gathering all kinds of recycled elements to incorporate into our garden.

It promises to be a fun, exciting, art-filled summer.



Danu, Mother Goddess of the Celts

May Day, Beltane, ushers in May and the growing season.  Now is a perfect time to remember Mother Goddess, know by many names to our ancient ancestors around the world.

Danu, Celtic Mother Goddess painting by Judith ShawDanu, of the flowing waters, Queen of the fertile land – Danu, the Great Mother Goddess of the Irish Celts, known as Don by the Welsh Celts, is the Creator Goddess of the Tuatha De Danann, the first wave of Celtic tribes to invade Ireland.   She is also known as Danann, Ana, and Anann.  She gave birth to all life in the land of the Celts.

No stories of Her survive but Her power remains strong. She is the most ancient of all the Celtic deities. In a silver flash of iridescence she appears in my mind’s eye.

As the “Flowing One” She is associated with the seas, wells, springs and the Danube River, gifting Her children the magic of transformation, inspiration, and wisdom. As an Earth Goddess, She bestows abundance and earth mysteries. She embodies the wisdom of living in balance with the Earth. She is sometimes associated with Flidais of the cattle and deer. She is also connected with Brigid, Goddess of Healing, Poetry and Smithcraft, who the original Neolithic people of Ireland worshiped long before the Celts arrived.

As the centuries moved on, the deities of the Tuatha de Danann were turned into the Fae Folk of Celtic legend. Danu, the Great Mother Goddess remains connected to the Sidhe, the fairy hills and the dolmens known as portal tombs.

Danu and the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of Death, are aspects of each other as life and death are eternally intertwined. Her colors are the blue of the waters, green of the Earth, and white silver of inspiration and wisdom. She is everywhere, protecting Her children but never forcing us in any way.

She is associated with mares, snakes, seagulls, and fish that live in both oceans and rivers like salmon. Her trees are the rowan tree, long honored by the Celts for its balance of beauty and hardiness, the apple tree, and the hawthorne tree.

Danu calls us to recognize the richness of life. She lights the fires of inspiration that connect us to the source. She reminds us of our own divinity, creativity, and ability to manifest. She rules both chaos and its transformation to new beginnings.  When Danu calls, remember that it is within our power to restore balance to the Earth, remember that we are all connected.  May Her loving, abundance be with you always.

Resources: LEBOR GABÁLA ÉRENN, The Book of the Taking of Ireland,,

A Love Affair With Bees

Brigid's Garden, painting by Judith ShawI have fallen in love with bees. I must admit that I didn’t really think much about bees until the collapse and disappearance of bee colonies began in 2006.   That was the beginning of my journey into the secret life of the hive.

In typical fashion for an artist I began reading about bees and creating art about bees, while toying with the idea of becoming a beekeeper. Finally in 2012 I took the plunge, built a topbar hive, got a swarm, and began the adventure of living with bees.

Though my two years of beekeeping have not been successful I plan to continue. The first year my hive got infected with wax moth worms which slowly destroyed the hive despite my best efforts to get rid of them without using chemicals. But even though the colony did not make it, while they were living and working they pollinated the veggies I had planted in my small backyard garden, giving me the best yield I’d ever had.

My bees from last summer were much stronger than the first hive but did not make it through the winter. I was so sad in February when I realized that the guard bees were gone and the bees flying in and out of the hive were robber bees from elsewhere. Checking the hive, I discovered that all the bees were dead.

It seems a bit odd to feel affection for these tiny little flying insects that sting but I have gotten attached to having them close by. I just love watching them fly around the hive in late afternoon when the sun glistens on their fluttering wings. They look like golden flying jewels. I love the sound of their buzzing and the smell of the hive. I love watching them stumble around the flowers likes drunken sailors, their little legs laden with heavy loads of yellow pollen. I love opening the hive and seeing their amazing organization and cooperation as they create and work their honey combs. And of course I love the sweet honey that they make, which hopefully one day I will be able to harvest.

You can read more about bees and our long relationship with bees and Bee Goddesses on my recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog site.




Spring Equinox – Life Renews Again

Starseed, painting by Judith ShawToday marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It is a day of perfect balance – the hours of light and the hours of dark are equal.  Cultures all around the world celebrate new beginnings and new life on or around this day.  This is a time when the human family can renew our faith in the promise of rebirth; in whatever way we choose to honor life.

Poppies, painting by Judith Shaw

Watching spring blossom all around, I am reminded that we are all connected in this web of life.  The darkness of winter brought nutrients to the soil as last year’s life decomposed, nourishing the seeds and bulbs that lay waiting in the darkness of Mother Earth.   The early flowers are in bloom, opening their sweet faces to the glory of the sun. The seeds I planted a few weeks ago emerge from the earth, with the promise of fresh salads and tasty greens to come.  And baby lambs are born at this time.

Molivos Before, painting by Judith Shaw

Life Awakens, painting by Judith ShawThough our planet faces a multitude of difficulties, the yearly arrival of spring lends a sense of hope in our ability to create a balanced, harmonious world.  May we each take a moment today to be grateful for what we have and to reflect on what we can do to manifest a more harmonious earth.

Etain, The Shining One

Etain, Celtic Goddess, painting by Judith ShawMy recent blog post on Etain, Celtic Goddess, on the Feminism and Religion blog site generated much lively discussion about why and if Goddesses who have been changed by the patriarchal world view should still be considered.

Etain (pronounce Ay-deen), a Celtic Goddess called “Shining One”, was originally a Sun Goddess before becoming a Moon Goddess and one of the White Ladies of the Fae.  Her story, which lasts over one thousand years, reveals Her place as a Goddess of Love, Transformation and Rebirth.  Elements sacred to Etain are the sun, dawn, the sea, rain, water, butterflies, apple blossoms, and swans. She is associated with healing and the transmigration of souls.

Etain shows us that we can overcome even life’s most difficult circumstances. She teaches us that though beauty, wealth and position might fade away we can regain our shining light. She lights our way on the path of transformation, guiding us toward balance, wholeness and rebirth.

To read about Her story and various responses to this post visit FAR – click here. Look for a follow up post that explores my feelings about these Goddesses on a deeper level.

Community Art – Engage, Connect, Express

community art drawings by Judith shawCommunity Art is a term used to describe creative activities that bring together the different people of a community. Community Art gives people the chance to learn new creative skills and to use these art skills to voice their concerns about and desires for their community.

I am honored to be one of five artists selected to work with a Community Art Project in Albuquerque, NM. The multimedia project, funded in part by a NEA/Our Town grant, is called Stories of Route 66 – International District.  It is the first part of a years-long project that will impact various neighborhoods in Albuquerque.

A growing association of very different partners came together to realize Phase One of this project.  Littleglobe, who for more than 10 years has been actively facilitating community art projects, leads this phase with poet, Valerie Martinez, as project director.  Littleglobe’s experience shows that large-scale community projects bring community members together with compassion and tolerance, enabling the community to generate positive developments for the benefit of their neighborhoods.

As a refugee relocation city, Albuquerque’s International District has been a fusion of cultures since the 1970’s.  The International District, with 27 different languages, is now home to people from Vietnam, Latin America, Asia and Africa. In addition the district has the largest population of Native Americans in Albuquerque and is home to many Hispanic/Latino, Anglo and mestizo people. It is a district that faces many challenges – high unemployment, poverty, crime, infant mortality, and substandard living accommodation – all coupled with very little political influence.

international district community artWe began our weekly community art/dialogue sessions on January 12.  Each session begins with a circle where one of the team artists leads an activity meant to generate energy and build communication. We clap, we stomp, we make sounds, we share with our neighbor.  Then we dive into two different art activities each week.

Internation National District community artOur first Sunday together we created a 32 foot long drawing by tracing our hands and then drawing an image of something we love –  something we treasure –  next to or in our hands.  Next we connected our treasure to our neighbor’s treasure.  Finally we all walked around the long drawing and added more wherever we felt the desire to do so.  Everyone seemed to have a great time and the long drawing turned out awesome.  Connections were beginning.

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international district community artOn our second Sunday, 1/19, we continued to develop our stories with creative activities.  I led the visual art component in which each person created an “I Am” drawing, including their names, something to represent where they came from, something they love about where they live now and something they love to do.  Personal lives, cultures and histories began to unfold.

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Monica Sanchez led the theater arts component.  She organized everyone into small groups.  Each group was to “act” like a family, assigning a different role to each.  Then they created three different family portraits around an imaginary family event.  We had some weddings, a funeral, a birth, a birthday and some family arguments.   Each group acted out their event by freezing in position as if they were the photograph.  Roles were assigned in a non-logical way, children were grandparents, men were brides.  Connections were made amidst much laughter and merry-making.

international district community artOn our third Sunday, 1/26, we were so excited to see the trust that was developing between everyone involved. We sensed friendships forming and respect growing.  Erin Hudson and Billy Joe Miller both built on the previous week’s activities with their projects.

international district community artErin used video and audio to further develop the story of the treasures they hold in their hands.  Billy Joe used props and frames to bring the family portraits they had begun to the next level.

Leaders and helpers from the participants are emerging.  Several of the youth have been using the camera and capturing some fantastic shots of our fun.

The diversity of cultures in the International District makes it fertile ground for stories of place, culture and history. Ultimately our weekly sessions will culminate in three temporary public art installation and/or performances.  As we meet each week we will build trust and develop new skills.  The group will decide what they want these three installations to be.  This long process will inform the design and building of a permanent “story plaza” to be built on Route 66/Central Ave by a nationally recognized artist.  It is a groundbreaking approach to public art.  It is an approach that gives voice to the people of the community where the public art will be.  It is an approach that empowers people who often have no power. It is an approach that creates connection through creative engagement.

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