Rosmerta, Celtic Goddess of Abundance

As we near August 1, known to the ancient Celts as Lughnasadh or Lammas, examples of abundance are everywhere.  Gardens and farms are in full bloom with some crops ready for harvest and others very near.  Lambs born in spring are now reaching maturity. Days are still long and we are full of energy. It is a perfect time to remember the Celtic Goddess, Rosmerta.

Rosmerta, celtic goddess painting by Judith ShawRosmerta,  a goddess loved by both Celtic and Roman Gauls was known as ”The Great Provider”. She is a goddess of fertility and wealth. She was worshipped in South-western Britain, Gaul, and along the Rhone and the Rhine rivers.

After the region was conquered by Rome, Rosmerta was incorporated into the Roman pantheon, becoming associated with Mercury.  Though She has been called Mercury’s consort there is no evidence that was the nature of their relationship.  She survived in the Roman era as a powerful goddess in Her own right, being depicted alone many times.  Alone and with Mercury, She carries a cornucopia and a basket of fruit, symbols of abundance.   A giving goddess, She was often shown with a patera, a ritual offering bowl, and with a ladle or scepter.

Read the rest of my thoughts on Rosmerta and view some ancient images of her on my recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog.  Click here.

Celtic Month of the Oak

Judith Shaw:

I love this information about how the Celtic people related to trees as sacred and vital. Enjoy this post about the Oak Month in the Celtic calendar.

Originally posted on magick millenial:

Celtic Calendar: Oak Month, June 10 – July 7

angel-oak-tree-l

Some quick notes on the tree and the month:

1. The Oak moon falls when the trees are beginning to reach their full blooming stages. The mighty Oak is strong, powerful, and typically towering over all of its neighbors. The Oak King rules over the summer months, and this tree was sacred to the Druids. The Celts called this month Duir, which some scholars believe to mean “door”, the root word of “Druid”.

2. Oak month is a good time for spells for protection and strength, fertility, money and success, and good fortune.

3. Tip: Carry an acorn in your pocket when you go to an interview or business meeting; it will be bring you good luck.

4. Oak trees act as a conduit for the energy of endurance, fortitude and strength, offering a magical remedy for fear and despair…

View original 237 more words

Rose Windows for a Rose Garden?

Last fall the City of Albuquerque put out a call to artists to submit design proposals for a permanent public art installation in a new Rose Garden in the Albuquerque BioPark.  Loving roses, both for their beauty and their symbolic meaning, I decided to give it a try.  In addition, through my experience as lead artist for the International District Community Art Garden, I had learned that I do not have to know everything to bring a project to completion.  I had learned how to collaborate with others who have different areas of expertise from my own.

Rose Window ChartresThe call was for art which would reflect the importance of roses in the Southwest landscape.  Researching roses, I discovered that antique roses which precede the modern hybrid tea roses date back to the Roman days. These antique roses are hardy, tolerate cold, and flourish well in a dry environment.  Working off of the idea of the ancient, I gravitated to the use of the Gothic Rose Window as the form for the art.  These windows, found in Gothic Cathedrals across Europe, are called rose windows because the panes of stained glass radiate outward just like the petals of a rose.

In addition, the symbolism of the Gothic Rose Windows fits well with what one might hope to experience in a beautiful rose garden.  These rose windows are seen as mandalas, which are spiritual expressions of the desire for wholeness and harmony.   The rose window serves us on many levels – spiritual, mental, and emotional.

Rose Window design by Judith ShawThe call was for the art to be incorporated into a fence to be constructed on the west side of the garden.  The concept of a window type installation seemed appropriate for such a location.

My design called for three large Gothic type Rose Window shaped sculptural pieces.  The design would be realized with a combination of metal with appropriately colored patina, glass mosaic, and fused glass.  The North Rose Window in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Chartres, France (seen in the first photo here) was the inspiration for the central piece of my three proposed art pieces.  Of course the Rose Window built into the stone walls in the Chartres Cathedral is massive.  I used a segment of the Sacred Geometry of the Chartres Rose Window for the design, as my piece would be only 10 feet high.

Rose Window Tree design by Judith ShawThe two “Rose Windows” that go on each side of the center Rose, though placed in the same outward form of a Gothic window, depart from the geometry of the rose window designs. They display a stylized tree within each window form.  The tree,  a symbol of life throughout the world, unites heaven and earth, digging into the earth with its roots and reaching to the sky with its branches. Placed appropriately on either side of the “Rose Window” central piece, they create a frame for the Rose Window which lends a feeling of enduring strength and protection  to the more fleeting feelings of love, beauty and inner secretes associated with the rose.

Rose Garden art design by Judith Shaw

Finally, to bring New Mexico into the feeling of the design I planned the placement of these metal and mosaic pieces in a structure built to look like the skyline of the multi-storied residential complex you can find in places like Taos Pueblo.  This architectural element is repeated many places in New Mexico and has become an iconic symbol of New Mexico.

I worked very hard to meet the deadline, which was October 31, 2014, knowing full well that another artist team might win the commission.  The Rose Garden opened to the public last month but without any art. Unfortunately the City of Albuquerque decided in December, 2014 that they were not yet ready to move forward with art for the Rose Garden – sort of disappointing when you consider all the work that all the different artist teams put into their design proposals. Perhaps I can find another home for this concept?

Grainne, Celtic Sun Goddess

Grainne, Celtic Sun Goddess painting by Judith ShawIn the ancient Celtic world the Goddess was the One who expressed Herself through the many.  Grainne is such a one. She is both Winter Queen/Dark Goddess, nurturing seeds through winter, and Solar Sun Goddess, welcoming the rebirth of spring.  She is Aine’s sister or another aspect of Aine. She, like Aine, was honored at the summer solstice and the first grain harvest of early August with bonfires and torchlit processions on top of her sacred hill at Leinster, Ireland.  Remnants of these festivals are still found in folk ritual today.

Grainne is a part of the triple goddess formed by Herself and Her two sisters, Fenne and Aine.  Both Grainne and Aine were seen by locals as beautiful, golden-haired goddesses who visited their fields and hilltops to protect and nurture the land, people and animals.

A Sun Goddess and master herbalist, Grainne rules herbs, knowledge, the sun, and fire.

Today Grainne is most known from the elopement story of Diarmaid and Grainne, with a similar theme to the later Welsh story of Trystan and Iseult and to the even later tale of King Arthur and Guinivere. These tales portray the unhappy love triangle of two men who both love one woman.  Usually the woman is married to or promised to the older, more powerful man yet is in love with the younger man. In theses tales it is the woman who chooses the man, compelling him to act as she desires. The woman’s choice of the younger man is reminiscent of the Sovereignty Goddess who chooses youth over an ailing king.

Read the rest of the story on my post on the Feminism and Religion site.  You might want to visit some of the sites I have listed in my sources as they give more details of the magical events in the elopement story of Grainne and Diarmaid.

Mary Magdalene – Priestess of Christ

I was invited to enter a piece to be judged for a show at Brigid’s Place in Houston, TX.  The invitation was to artists who would like to create a new vision of Mary Magdalene. The show, to take place this July, is entitled Re-IMAGE-Ing Mary Magdalene.

Though I did not know much about Mary Magdalene, I have been interested in her part in the life of Jesus and in the legends surrounding her.  So, I decided to take on the challenge and to write an essay about her for my monthly post on the Feminism and Religion blog site.  It begins like this:

Who was Mary Magdalene? The first thought of many today is that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute. But was she? Until the third century, Mary was considered an “apostle.”

Mary Magdalene, painting by Judith Shaw

Mary as an apostle posed a threat to the early Church patriarchs who denied women all authority in the Church. In addition, by early in the first century C.E., Mary Magdalene had become associated with Christian thought identified as heretical by the Church. The easiest way to eliminate Mary’s importance was to cast aspersions on her moral character.

Click here to read the rest of the essay which includes some of the legends surrounding Mary Magdalene.

The Gift of Life

Life – a precious gift I so often take for granted.  Events of the past week have turned that blatant disregard into profound gratitude.

I began keeping bees about three years ago.  My first two years were unsuccessful.  But last year, bees I obtained from my bee mentor, Mike, were strong and vibrant.  They provided me with my first honey harvest, wintered well, and come spring were out and about pollinating the neighborhood.

Brigid's Garden, painting by Judith ShawTwo Sundays ago I knew it was beyond time to open the hive to see what the bees needed.  As Mike was very busy with other bee issues, his work and his life, I decided to go it alone even though I felt a bit of trepidation since I’d never performed this task before.

While working the hive one bee got up inside my veil.  This is where my inexperience kicked in. Instead of simply killing that one bee, I ended up taking off the veil.  The bees went at my head, getting into my hair and buzzing all around.  Trying to remain calm I used my gloved hands to comb them out of my hair.  By this point I was getting stung repeatedly.  Finally I got them all off, went inside, showered and pulled out the stingers I could find.

Having been stung before I didn’t think I was in danger of anything besides a number of hurting, swollen spots.  But my body responded differently to around 20 stings. Not long after my heart was racing, my face was beet red, my chest hurt and I felt my throat closing up.

I tend to think I’m invincible but at my son’s insistence I went to the ER.  They fixed me up with their drugs.

Still I am dealing with the systemic problem of the toxins in my body and have felt quite strange since the event – coughing, weak, nauseous, tired and a seriously non-functioning brain.

Then on the following Friday I learned that  my sister had a freak bicycle accident on that Thursday.  She ran into a garbage can, fell and broke her hip.  She ended up in surgery with a total hip replacement. Needless to say I was very upset and worried by this.  Life was seeming very precarious.

As it turns out recovery from hip replacement is very good and most people can return to a normal life maintaining activities such as low impact sports like hiking, biking and swimming.

The Morrigan, Celtic Dark Goddess, painting by Judith ShawBeing to forced to slow down has made me reevaluate the way I live.  My worry about money sets me on a course of constant doing – striving to create income from my art – creating a life seriously out of balance. The Celtic Dark Goddess, The Morrigan comes to mind.   She is a complex and difficult goddess who reminds me that chaos and darkness are part of the flux and flow of life.  For something to come together, something must fall apart. When facing overwhelming challenges The Morrigan with Her power of life and death guides us  to our own inner strength. Another world, another way is possible

Sunflower Spiral, painting by Judith ShawThese experiences have given me new eyes with which to see the world. All seems to shimmer around me now – the beautiful turquoise sky, the crystal clear mountains, and the blossoming trees and flowers glow in sharp relief. While at the same time the sterile techno world of gains and acquisitions, the extreme separation from nature, and the frenetic speed of freeways and byways seem ever more unreal.

Any petty hurts or sadnesses I have nursed retreat to the realm of the absurd, chased away by love and gratitude for the gift of life. Tears well up in my eyes for no real reason as I feel the sweetness of life and the love of a billion hearts.

 

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:  http://charlesgilchrist.com/SGEO/AboutMan.html,
http://www.isibrno.cz/~gott/mandalas.htm,
http://www.whats-your-sign.com/yantra-mandala.html,
http://dragon_azure.tripod.com/UoA/Med-Arch-Rose-Window.html,
http://www.sacredsymbolhealingart.com/SacredSymbolhealingArt.com/Mandala_Facilitators.html