Long before St Jude was prayed to as Patron Saint of Travelers, there was Elen of the Ways, who both created and guided the pathways and trackways of the world.
Dawn follows darkness; shining day gives way to starry night – cycles of change and flow.
Elen of the Ways is She who guides us on these paths of change.
Like so many Celtic Goddesses, She is elusive, shimmering, changeable. She endures through the ages, shifting into what each time needs Her to be. She is an antlered goddess who rules the Ways, the Roads, the Passages of human life, both physical and spiritual. Most likely She has been worshiped since paleolithic times. She is a Sovereignty Goddess who bestows the right to kingship on the one who will best steward the land, linking sovereignty to fertility and well-being.
Read my retelling of Elen of the Ways’ story on my post at the Feminism and Religion blog.
Long have women loved. Long have women loved their children, loved their men, loved their community, loved their land. This capacity for love created homes, created agriculture, created culture. This capacity for love gave us great sovereignty, over our personal lives and the lives of our communities.
Over the past 5,000 years our sovereignty has been turned, slowly but surely, turned into dependency. But women did not go willing to this state. It was facilitated by violence and oppression. That violence, violence of centuries, violence of eons, suppressed the power of love and turned it into dependency.
Yet the seasons continue turning and the world changes once again.
Now in our modern times we are a nation of women, a nation of women rising, flinging off the chains of male dominance. We fly free. Though still we suffer, at times all alone in a world ruled by men, we claim our power and we fly free.
As summer comes to an end, I find myself remembering a summer of many years past – The summer of the waning crescent moon dropping red into the sea as we drove the shores of the Aegean at 3am heading home after an evening of food, drink, dancing and conversation.
United by Love, oil pastel on paper, 9.5″x12.5″, by Judith Shaw
White the beach, black the sea, deep blue the sky – bands of color running along side us – the air caressed us both with its soft, moist breath. It was a summer of love, a love I’d never known before. It was love at first sight and yet we danced slowly into each others arms. It was an impossible love as we came from worlds far, far apart, both in distance and in cultural expectations. And yet we fell into the depths of that love, coming together for one extraordinary summer of intense communication, both spiritual and physical.
That summer ended and I had to return to my own land. We planned, we hoped, we expected to be together again soon. But that was not to be as the vast, vast distances of culture whipped up freezing winds to chill the hearts and break the bond. When finally I was able to return to his land it was a return to heartbreak. Our love was true. Our love was deep. But sadly love is not always enough to turn the passion of first love into the enduring love of companionship.
Now, nearing the end of the autumn of my life, I wonder about love. Are such experiences only for the young? Can love warm a cold heart again?
Union, oil on canvas, 49″x40″ by Judith Shaw
The Celtic Goddesses are deeply rooted in place. From their various locations they fulfill two main functions in Celtic mythology. They are guardians and protectors of the land who bestow sovereignty on the king, presiding over sources and destinations. Their other function is as goddesses of inspiration and creativity, ruling the realm of imagination
Boann falls into the second category as Goddess of Inspiration and Creativity. She rules over writing in general and poetry in particular. Flowing waters, spiritual insight, fertility, knowledge and creativity are Her domain.
She was also known as “White Cow.” Cows were sacred and associated with water in many ancient cultures. In the eyes of the ancients, both milk and water, the substances of life, flowed from the breast of the Goddess. In addition to being associated with rivers, some scholars connect Boann with the heavens. The Milky Way is also known as “Way of the White Cow”. Boann, as “White Cow” thus either becomes or rules over the river of heaven, the Milky way.
Read my retelling of Boann’s story on my post from last month on the Feminism and Religion Blog.
Summer solstice fell on June 20th this year, which is my birthday. I have always loved this time of year so much, not only because of celebrating my birthday but also and largely because of the long days of light and the buzz of activity from a world wide awake with bird song, ripening fruit, and the hustle and bustle of human endeavors. But it is in fact the day in which we begin our return to the darkness. This thought has rarely occurred to me, but this year at this time death seems to be prominent. The truth of the precariousness and preciousness of life has become evident – from the death of celebrity after celebrity, to the latest mass shooting in Orlando, to fires raging in some parts of the world with extreme heat, to a friend of mine dropping dead of a massive heart attack a few days before the solstice – death seems to be all around us.
The Celtic Goddess I explore this month is the perfect one to nurture our understanding of the unending connection of life and death. Olwen, Welsh Flower and Sun Goddess, rules in the three realms – the Underworld, the Earth, and the Heavens. She was known as the “White Lady of the Day” or “Flower-bringing Golden Wheel of Summer.” In the medieval story which retells her ancient and lost stories, she is the motivating force in healing a world of aggression, violence and rivalry.
Yes the human experience has long been one of suffering and pain. Yet the more we allow ourselves to feel each moment – the good and the bad – the more we can appreciate the greatest gift of the Goddess – Life. The Way of the Goddess guides us through the light and the dark on the path to balance and wholeness.
Discover the power of Olwen to help you on that path. Read my retelling of Olwen’s story in my latest post on the Feminism and Religion blog.
Life has taken me on a journey away from my studio the past few months due to the need to learn a new skill for earning money. But I had the luxury of locking myself in my studio for the whole month of January in preparation for an art show I put up at the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club. I was working hard to finish the largest painting (7’x7′) I have ever done “Our Enchanted Bosque”.
The Bosque is an amazing wild spot in the heart of a mid-sized metropolitan city. Almost every major city with a river running through it has turned that riverside property into a commercial zone. Shops and restaurants line the shores of rivers around the world. Whenever I go to the Bosque since moving here in 2000 I say a prayer of gratitude for this wild spot. I bring my water bottle and a snack while I bike or walk; sit quietly or draw; and feel the power of nature. My soul opens and the problems of modern every day life recede for a moment. Almost every other activity in modern life requires consumption. The Bosque has been consumption free but that might not last.
“Our Enchanted Bosque” took me on a two year journey of pleine air painting, discovery about myself and of what I wanted to express with this painting. Read about that journey on my post from February for the Feminism and Religion blog- Click here.
I have been absent from my blog for a couple of months due to an extreme work overload. But that has eased now and I’m back. During this time I’ve only been able to keep up with my committed publishing dates for the Feminism and Religion blog. So, I’m backing up a bit here to keep you guys up to date with my work on the Celtic Goddess series. In February I published my painting and story on Arduinna.
Arduinna, Gaulish Goddess of Forests and Hunting is one of the many Celtic Goddesses who is associated with a particular region or body of water. She was worshipped in the heavily forested regions of the Ardennes, located in what is current day Belgium and Luxembourg with small portions found in France and Germany. She was also associated with the Forest of Arden in England. Her name has its roots in the Gaulish word “arduo” meaning “height”.
Arduinna as a Woodland Goddess represents our wild nature. With no tame, domesticated castle or demesne to call her own, she ran free in the forests of the Ardennes. She is the untamed spirit in us all, never tied down by the commitments of love or motherhood. But being Celtic, she was not chaste. As a free spirit, she would have enjoyed amorous liaisons when and where she chose.
Read more about Arduinna on my post at FAR.