The Power of Mandalas

Dawn Mandala, goauche painting by Judith Shaw

Dawn Mandala, gouache on paper, by Judith Shaw

Can geometry open our hearts and minds to spirit?   Throughout time people around the world have thought so. Mandalas and Sacred Geometry symbols are found in many cultures both ancient and modern.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word which means “sacred circle.”  In Buddhism, Hinduism and other ancient wisdom traditions of the East, the mandala has been used as a tool to facilitate contemplation and meditation.  Through the process of studying and/or creating a mandala one can reach one’s center, one’s connection to Source. The circle, the first closed shape of Sacred Geometry, thus becomes a doorway to Oneness.

Traditional Hindu mandalas follow a strict form.  Every mandala is created following the precise design of that form.  One sees a further development of other Sacred Geometries within these traditional forms.  First there is the squaring of the circle also known as “The Marriage of Heaven and Earth”, with the circle representing Heaven and the square representing Earth.

Shri Yantra painting  In the Hindu tradition, each design within this “Marriage of Heaven and Earth” is called a yantra mandala and functions as a symbol which reveals cosmic truths. Thus yantra mandalas become sacred geometric symbols of a particular Hindu deity.

One of the most famous yantra mandalas is the Shri Yantra, a symbol of Tripurasundari, a supreme Hindu Tantric Goddess.  It depicts a series of precisely interlocking triangles, half pointing downward and half pointing upward.  It forms a state of perfect balance and harmony and represents the union of the female and male principles.  Also known as the Yantra of Creation or the Cosmic Yantra it is the most honored of all the Hindu yantras. The Shri Yantra becomes a door which can lead to the experience of Oneness.

lakshmi-yantra paintingAnother goddess whose divine truths are revealed through the mandala is Lakshmi, Hindu Goddess of fortune, light, luck, and beauty.  Meditating on the Lakshmi Yantra encourages spiritual progress and helps to overcome internal blocks.

Christianity has also used the mandala to represent Divine Oneness and to teach the wisdom of the tradition.  The magnificent rose windows of the Gothic cathedrals are luminous examples of western mandalas.   Complex sacred geometries were used in the architectural designs of the buildings themselves and of the rose windows.

rose window chartresThe rose windows are a western representation of our human aspiration towards wholeness and balance.  The rose windows operate on various levels; spiritual, emotional and intellectual. The instructional aspect of the rose windows is clearly seen by the subject matter – biblical stories, lives of the saints, astrological calendars, and virtues and vices to name a few.

In much the same way that the Hindu yantras symbolize the aspects of a particular deity, the rose windows typically show Christ or the Virgin or some other combination in the central rosette of the window.   The gates at the cardinal points of the yantras depict the many paths available to reach the divine.  In a similar fashion, the saints shown in the petals of a rose window can be seen as paths to Christ.

More than likely, mandalas were reintroduced into western thought through the pioneering work on the unconscious by Carl Jung.  Jung wrote: “I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.”

Lotus Mandala 1, painting by Judith ShawContinuing in this tradition, artists and spiritual practitioners today have been exploring a more free-form style of the mandala.  Within the basic foundation of the “squaring of the circle”, the artist then creates a personal, spontaneous design based on the concepts of balance, wholeness and oneness.

A quick google search reveals a multitude of mandala workshops being offered all around the world. Exploration of the mandala through these workshops offers a connection to your true self, an experience of sacred love, an opportunity to improve your life with intention, a deepening of your connection to nature, healing of emotional, mental, or physical pain, and a chance to be truly in the moment.

Lotus Mandala 2, painting by Judith Shaw

Yellow Flower Mandala, painting by Judith ShawThe mandala is a form that I have used in my own art since before I discovered that it is one form in Sacred Geometry. Even when not directly exploring the mandala, I find that often I want to craw a circle around the main image in my painting – seeking that wholeness in the process of painting. In future posts I will explore other elements of Sacred Geometry, all of which grow out of the mandala, the sacred circle.

Charmed Circle of Goddess Love, painting by Judith ShawA Lotus Dream by Judith ShawSources:,,,,

Spring Cleaning – Art Sale

Yellow Flower Mandala

Yellow Flower Mandala

I’m cleaning house and studio.  It’s time to move older work which I still own out into the world by offering a great price.

Yellow Flower Mandala shows The Seed of Life, sacred geometry’s symbol of the first emergence from the spirit world into the physical world. It’s an oil on canvas, 23″ x 28″.

Originally $1200  – Now yours for only $400 (plus shipping)- sale on for the month of March.

If interested just leave a comment to that effect and we’ll work it out from there.

Credhe, Celtic Goddess of Love

This journey I am on with the Celtic Goddesses is like a walk into the labyrinth, with many twists, turns and confusions until I finally reach the center of each story.  Each goddess has multiple names and multiple stories which are sometimes even a bit contradictory.  Some have very few or no surviving stories as they were only put into written form in the 12th century.

Credhe, Celtic Love GoddessSome take me into dark and scary places, whereas others reach for light and love. The goddess I explored for my February post in the Feminism and Religion blog is a Love Goddess, who allowed me to reclaim the color pink as one of power and agency.

Credhe, also known as Creide or Cred is an Irish Faery Queen Goddess of Love and Spirit Contact. She is associated with Danu’s mountains, the Paps of Anu.  These are two gently rounded high hills that were adorned by the ancients with earthen and rock mounds and cairns positioned on top to represent erect nipples.  Her Sidhe was most likely located near the Paps of Anu.  She is also associated with crystals, the color pink and rose oil.

The most well-known of Her stories illustrates Her power, a woman’s power, to manifest her heart’s desire.  Credhe vowed that the only man who would win Her heart would be the one who could write a perfectly crafted poem, describing in detail every aspect of her home and its contents. She lived in the beautiful and peaceful Otherworld ruled by Manannán mac Lir, God of the Sea. This place was known as Tír Innambéo or’ Land of the Living’. As it was inhabited mainly by women, it was sometimes called the Land of Women.  Mortal men were not allowed in unless invited. Thus Her would-be lover must write this perfect poem without advantage of sight.

To read the rest of her story and to hear the poem written for Her, click here.

A New Democracy for Artists

It is really amazing how much the internet has changed so many of our institutions and ways of doing business.  For artists of all types it has opened up a world of freedom from the dealers and producers; the gatekeepers at the world of art.  From sites like Etsy to CD Baby to Lulu, options exist for artists to create and promote their own work.

Night Poppies, painting by Judith SHaw

Night Poppies, oil on canvas 14″x11″

I personally have not had much success in the traditional art world of galleries, museums, etc.  But since I decided to become my own dealer and promote my work online, people from all over the world discover my work and contact me with comments, and/or inquiries about purchasing. Invariably when I am feeling somewhat despondent about the difficulties of getting my work out into the world an amazing comment arrives in my inbox about how my work has touched someone.  These events always leave me feeling humble and grateful that spirit continues to speak through me with images of connection and oneness.

Recently I was contacted by a blogger from India who wanted to interview me for his blog.  We were going to do a Skype chat but the time difference made that a little hard.  So he sent me his list of questions which I answered and sent back.  Here’s a link to that interview.     Enjoy!




Greece – A New Day for Democracy?

Molivos Hills, drawing by Judith ShawOver the past few years I have been so sad to see the suffering of the Greek people as they bear the brunt of the financial collapse caused by the banksters.  Greek books were cooked with collusion between big banks and a corrupt government.  Then the big banks started betting against Greece and the rest is history as their economy collapsed and they found themselves under the control of the European central banks.   The people did not cause the collapse but the people have been the ones to suffer.

How could this be?  The people who never lost their own identity even under 400 years of Turkish rule, without a country to call their own, had finally succumbed through economic warfare.  But I should not have despaired so deeply as history is long.  And now, Greece, the birthplace of democracy, is raising her head again seeking a renewal of democracy.  In a landslide election on January 25, the Greek people voted in the progressive party, Syriza.  Syriza is opposed to neo-liberal economic policies which favor privatisations and the removal of laws protecting labour.  They are committed to eliminating the austerity which the EU has imposed on Greece, causing six years of severe economic hardship for the majority of Greeks.

molivos sea fr ss '87 72Perhaps after many, many twists and turns of history – from small Greek city-states, to Alexander the Great, to being a province of the Roman Empire, to the Byzantine Empire, to centuries of domination by the Ottoman empire, to the beginnings of reunification as a nation, to the Great Catastrophe when after World War I the Allies left the Greeks out to dry in their attempt to retake Istanbul (always called Constantinople in Greece), to the Greek Civil War after World War II which left a very right-wing government in control, to Greece’s entry into the European Union – perhaps the Greeks, a very hard-working and proud people, will lead the West back to democracy and an elimination of the huge gap between the rich and the poor which is far, far from democratic ideals.   I hope that the next time I have the opportunity to visit Greece I find it renewed and prosperous.

Caer Ibormeith, Celtic Goddess of Dreams and Prophecy by Judith Shaw

Judith Shaw:

Here’s my latest Celtic Goddess painting and story, published today on the Feminism and Religion blog.

Originally posted on :

judith Shaw photoCaer Ibormeith, Celtic Goddess of Dreams and Prophecy, is a pan-Celtic goddess who was worshipped in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.  In Scotland and Wales Her name was used to name places such as Caer Edin (Edinburgh). In Ireland Her name identified the homes of Goddesses and Gods, such as Caer Arianrhod, home to the Goddess Arianrhod.

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In the Flow

Our Bosque, painting by Judith ShawThe practice of painting continues to inform me about the nature of living in the flow.  I move through life and through painting with much more ease when I move with the flow; when I open to serendipity; when I trust.

In painting, as in life, one must learn to navigate the limitations of physicality. I start my day’s painting cold, dry, slowly moving into an openness to the flow. Finally the surface is covered and the oil paint is wet and sticky.  Now I can lose myself, lose ego, allowing the paint to move in its own way with a little help from my brush in hand.

The day ends, the light fades, my body tires and I stop.  But the painting is not finished.  And the next day or the day after when I can begin anew the paint has dried.  Now I must move from the dryness to the wetness.  I must move from stagnation to flow.

Under the Olive Tree, painting by Judith ShawOnly now fear can set in.  Maybe my next move will be wrong.  Maybe the risk I take of change will end in disaster.  Maybe it would be better to accept the known, even if not quite right, than fail while seeking the revelation of the painting. I confess that when these fears take the upper hand I engage in what I like to call “painting around in circles” – putting the same color, the same form, the same everything on top of the work of the previous day.  Until finally I get so fed up with myself that in a burst of energy I make a radical change in color or form thus moving myself back into the flow.  Other days I ignore that fear and move more leisurely into the flow.

Similarly my life sometimes gets blocked as I seek to hold onto conditions which call out for change.   The familiar is so comforting, that even if it is killing me, I hold on. In these times I must also face the fear, either with a logical, step-by-step plan or with a burst of energy and a surgical slice, and return to the flow, leaving behind the old way of being.

I am grateful that my practice of painting helps me face the situations in life that have grown stagnate and call out for a new flow.  Perhaps you too have a practice that helps you face the need to let go when it arises.