Category Archives: travel journal

A Ritual to Yemaya – Mother Whose Children are the Fish

I spent the Winter Holidays in Rio de Janeiro with my sister, who lived there in the past, giving me almost a local’s insight to that city. Vaguely I knew that the goddess Yemaya was worshipped in Brazil but I had not made the connection to the New Year’s Eve celebration in which people all come to the beach at night, dressed in white and laden with white flowers. The white flowers are offered to Yemaya, known as Iemenjá in Brazil, at midnight by throwing them or sending them out on little boats into the sea.Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess painting by Judith Shaw

Once I realized that not only was Yemaya an important deity to the practitioners of the Candomblé religion but was also alive to Christians and non-religious folks alike, I knew I had an opportunity to experience something special.

Yemayá came to Brazil, Cuba and Haiti with the Yoruba people of Nigeria in the 1600’s during the African diaspora. Her most ancient and full name, Yeyé Omo Ejá, means “Mother Whose Children are the Fish.” She rules over the Seven Seas and large lakes. Her domain is the upper waters of the ocean, where life originated and continues to be concentrated.

candomblé ceremony to IemenjaThe Afro-Brazilians practitioners of Candomblé, the Afro-Cuban practitioners of Santeria, and the Haitian practitioners of Vodou all have deities called Orishas, of which Yemaya is a Great Mother figure. Each Orisha is celebrated on their sacred day with hours of singing and dancing in a circle. Certain kinds of herbs and drink might be imbibed. Suddenly the Orisha comes down and possesses the chosen among the faithful. Those who become possessed by the deity writhe, shout and moan. The deity is within them providing a link between the world of spirit and the human world.

We had heard contradictory accounts of when to see a Candomblé ceremony to Iemanjá.  Traditionally the worshippers come to the beach from a more inland part of Rio on New Year’s Eve. But as the crowds have grown with each passing year we were told that they hold their ceremony on January 30. We looked for them that day but with no luck. But we did find an unused blue candle on the beach – the candle color that is used during ceremonies honoring Yemaya.

With an expected turn out of 2 million plus people to the beach for the New Year’s Eve celebration of music, fireworks and offerings to Iemanjá we knew that we were not up to being in that crowd until midnight. So we went down to the beach in late afternoon to feel the build up of energy and to perform our own ceremony to Iemanjá at sunset, instead of midnight. That felt comfortable to me since in the Celtic tradition sunset and sunrise are considered to be liminal/transitional moments in which the veil between the worlds thins out a bit.

The boardwalk and beach were already hopping with people so we made our way to the opposite end of the beach from where the stage and main set-up for the fireworks was located. As sunset neared we found a spot on the beach where the waves met the shore, laid down our flowers, lit our blue candle and stood facing the sea in meditation. We offered our gratitude to Iemanjá for our many blessings and asked for her help in realizing our dreams for 2018. 

judith shaw after her ceremony to Yemaya

After our ceremony to Yemaya

 

 

 

 

We had kind of given up on finding a Candomblé ceremony but as we left the beach and walked a little further on the boardwalk we found one. The practitioners were enclosed in a little wire fence with onlookers all around. They were oblivious to us non-practitoners as their ceremony heated up. We watched in awe for awhile. When we left they were going strong. I can only assume that they would continue in that way until the spirit called them to take their offerings to Yemaya down to the sea.

Afro-brazilian- candomble-yemaya-ceremony

Read more about Yemaya, her story and where and how she is still worshipped today on my recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog.

My deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is in the world.  The second run is now available for order.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can  order your deck on my website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

 

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Music Heals the Weary Soul

Oh Hellos, fok rock band

The Oh Hellos, Eclectic Folk Rock Band, performs at the Four Corners Folk Festival

I had an awesome experience at the Four Corners Folk Festival over Labor Day weekend.  Unbelievably that was the first time I camped out at a multi-day music festival.

I came of age in the late 60’s, early 70’s when the music scene was shifting from folk to rock.  My own musical tastes then brought me through rock, to world music and onto to all types of Latin music.  Folk sort of drifted to the back burner of my music radar.

But a few years ago when my son, who is a gifted singer/songwriter, switched gears from leading a funk band to an eclectic, folk rock blend I opened my ears to folk music again.

Not only did I hear some fantastic music at the Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs, but I felt like I had stepped into the way back machine and was experiencing the 60’s summers of love.

The music I heard was a bundle of upbeat, positive, foot-stomping fun.  The musicians spoke and sang from their hearts.  The vocal harmonies were stunning and moving.  I remember one of the musicians said during his performance that he’d been touring the country and he wanted to let everyone know not to believe all the bad news – people across the country are good.

The folks at the festival were also full of joy and good spirits.  We spanned the generations – babies in arms to the over 60 crowd and everything in between.  Everyone was smiling – there was lots of random dancing – new friends were made and old friendships renewed.

For sure I heard great music on stage.  But equally as fun and inspiring were the amazing jam sessions happening at campsites all around the grounds.  I can’t remember the last time I had a smile on my face for 3 days straight.  Even the constant rain and huge downpour on Saturday night couldn’t dampen the high energy, good spirits of the Four Corners Folk Festival.

HotRizeSunday night was the final performance by a bluegrass band who has been around since the 70’s, Hot Rize  They did a bit in the middle of their set in which their alter egos, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, took the stage.  I was laughing so hard my belly hurt.  That whole bit was a huge spoof on country music, musicians and their dress styles, technology and much more.  It was a roaring end to the weekend – though I do think the older folks like it more than the younger one.

We headed home on Monday in a leisurely fashion.  The weekend was a great break from the constant stresses of modern life. The experience made it easier to go home and once again allow the bizarre and chaotic nature of the world to enter my consciousness.  The experience reminded me to remain open to the goodness all around us and to be grateful for my many, many blessings.

Women and Spirituality

My Black Madonna Study by Judith Shaw

I published a post a few days ago as a guest contributor to the Feminism and Religion blog.  It’s about my visit to Chartres and my experience with the Black Madonnas there.

This piece is a small study for my large painting, My Black Madonna, inspired by Notre Dame Sous Terre at Chartres.  See the large painting on that post.

Click here to visit that post and see more photos of Chartres and the Black Madonnas.

Where Beauty is Valued

Where beauty is valued, life takes on a shimmering quality; a sense of ease settles on the soul.  I recently returned from two weeks in France where I felt that shimmer and that ease.

I spent most of my time in Paris, which certainly ranks highly in the category of beautiful cities.
Beauty seems to be a way of life in Paris.  Thank the Goddess Paris was spared the bombings of World War II and Her ancient buildings still thrive.  From Her origins on the Isle de la Cité, to the early medieval expansion into the Marais on the right bank and the Latin Quarter on the left bank,

to the modern glass pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre, home to kings and queens for centuries, and the very quirky and modern Pompedieu Center, the pride taken in building with beauty remains.  Every few steps brought me to a halt as I admired the architecture, the flowers and the trees.

The window displays are beautiful.

The food is beautiful.

Even the subways and bathrooms are beautiful.  And speaking of bathrooms the French have got us beat on openness.  In some of the smaller towns, it’s not uncommon to find a unisex bathroom, with the urinals and the wash basins in the same room, which leads to one or two stalls with doors.  So a woman goes into the stall and when she comes out there just might be a man using the urinal.  Oh it’s all very discreet – his back is to you and you just look down and hurry out without washing your hands.

But seriously, Paris is an amazing city.  The neighborhoods, called arrondisments, all radiate out from a central circle, square, or triangle. This creates a city of connecting circles.  Maybe it’s all those circles that keep the French so in tune with the joy of life, la joie de la vie.

Every other step you’ll find a cafe with tables and people spilling out onto the sidewalk.  Even in cold weather, which apparently happens in June too, people are sitting outside, as many cafes heat their sidewalk tables.

Most of my time there was cold, grey and drizzling.  And yet it’s still beautiful.  Now I understand why there are so many paintings from the early 1900’s of streets of Paris with people walking and carrying umbrellas.

And the countryside is just like the Impressionists paintings.  Perhaps French painters have achieved so much, because they live surrounded by such beauty.

Oh and let’s not forget all the outstanding art to be found in the many, many museums –  what an inspiration!  At the d’Orsay Museum, after first seeing their permanent exhibit of the Impressionists, I then visited a special exhibit of work by Degas, Degas and the Nude.  I loved the way the curators of the exhibit showed the progression of his work and explained some of his techniques.  The Pompedieu had a special Matisse exhibit which also explained some of his processes.  I think I’ll be trying out some of those techniques.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I saw the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny Museum, Delacroix’s work and studio at the Delacroix Museum, the very famous Mona Lisa,Venus de Milo , work by Botticelli, Giotto and many other greats at the Louvre.

My final museum visit on my last day in Paris was to see  Monet’s waterlilies at l’Orangerie.  Monet donated the paintings to Paris after World War I. He hoped that the beauty he found in nature and expressed with his paintings would help people heal from the wounds of war.  He  also hoped that his work would help maintain our vital connection to nature which he feared was being destroyed by the Industrial Revolution.  I don’t think I was the only visitor who found a spiritual experience viewing his art.

Of course the many, many old churches house some very inspirational art.  I’ll be posting  more details on the churches and the museums in future posts.  In addition look for info on our trip to the medieval cathedral and town, Chartres, and to Carcassone.  Carcassone, in the Languedoc area of Southern France, has a  fascinating history of courtly love, religious heresy and ultimately massacre.

So now I plan to learn French.  I’ll definitely return, next time for a longer stay, perhaps to the Lanquedoc.

La Cité at night in Carcassone

Merida – A City Filled with Inspiration

Santa Ana park, merida, mexicoI arrived in Merida, a UNESCO heritage site, in the beginning of December, 2011 with a certain idea of what I’d do there. It took a short week or so to leave behind those plans and schemes and sink into being in the now. I stepped outside of my usual work-it, work-it, self and slowed down enough to hear the spirits speaking. In Merida, I embarked on a journey of self-realization and inspiration.

Rosy, Ismael and their adult daughter Ileana welcomed me with warmth, helping to ease the initial feelings of loneliness one can experience in a strange new place.  Little did I understand from my isolated American perspective that renting a couple of rooms from them would make me an honorary part of the family immediately.  Rosy and Ismael are both very open to other cultures.  They have treasured memories of other gringo friends and of their travels to visit their son, who lives in Europe.  We passed many evenings together, eating, sharing a glass of wine, laughing and talking.

Merida's Gate, a drawing by Judith Shaw

Houses of San Juan, watercolor by Judith Shaw

colonial buildings of merida

In the streets of Merida, I walked and walked, wrote and drew, visual inspiration appearing again and again.

The Madres Tree, a watercolor by Judith Shaw

The Madres Tree, watercolor by Judith Shaw

Merida, a sun kissed jewel, is an enigma waiting to be revealed.  The city with it’s beautiful colonial buildings and hundreds of trees glistening in the sunlight, lazes through the day, sleeping in the afternoon.

Old Colonial House now bank, merida, mexico

Unlike other European and colonial cities there are very few sidewalk cafes.  The sidewalks are hot, hot, hot  with a very narrow passage between street and buildings.  Massive buildings with dark, often closed doorways and windows hide her treasures from casual strangers.

hot chocolate in meridaOne day I discovered a charming cafe for hot chocolate, while walking down a street I’d walked many times before.  That same day I discovered a very interesting antique shop which I’m sure I’d passed many times without seeing.   Could it be the Mayan Portal which hides and then reveals these places?

The Mayan Portal was a running joke between Rosy, Ismael and I concerning the 2012 phenomena.  The Yucatecans have had many experiences with 2012 scholars, experts, and followers of all types over these past few years.  Oddly enough I wasn’t thinking of 2012 or the Mayan Calendar when I chose Merida as my winter destination.

Through a Mayan Portal, painting by Judith Shaw

Through a Mayan Portal

This is a painting, inspired by visits to ancient Mayan cities, was started in Merida and finished back home in New Mexico.   I was playing with the portal concept which Rosy, Ismael and I had joked about so often.  View other work from my time in Mexico on my online gallery.

Merida at sunsetThe city comes alive at dusk, offering up a world of surprises. The houses, which were closed and silent in the heat of the day, now glow with muted colors in the night light.  An open door reveals a rose colored living room suffused with soft light, ceiling fans turning. Beyond an arched door opens to the green of courtyard and family together.  I pass a corner store, stark white against the deep cerulean blue of the evening sky.  The crescent moon, joined by brilliant Venus, lights my way.

Beauty in Decay, old building in Merida, MexicoBut the pulse of modern life takes its toll on this aging beauty.  Buses and cars rumble down the narrow streets, spewing exhaust and heat.  Plastic trinkets fill the locals stores, music blares everywhere. I had forgotten how noisy it can be in Mexico. And there’s the serious problem of the old colonial buildings abandoned and in varying states of decay.  The cost of renovation coupled with the difficulty of navigating the labyrinthine government rules and regulations result in abandoned and falling down buildings. There’s a beauty in this decay until it gets to the point of no return.  Then it’s just very sad.

But not to worry.  It’s Mexico where everyone accepts their lot (usually) and then gets dressed for the party.  Merida puts on a free party almost every night during the winter.  A short stroll takes you to free jazz or classical music concerts in beautiful old theaters, folk and contemporary dance performances in outdoor spaces, theater performances, art openings, artists selling on the street and of course the street performers in the Plaza.

The biggest celebration of all was held on January 6, the city’s birthday. In 2012, Merida celebrated 470 years as a city.  It’s really older than that, as before the Spanish came it was the Mayan city of T’Ho.  True to Spanish habit, they built Merida with the stones of the Mayan city they destroyed.

merida birthday celebrationThe celebration began, as all celebrations in Mexico do, at midnight of the day in question.  Performances had been going on all evening of the 5th. Merida’s folk dancers and trova singers were all out in traditional costume.  Actors were strolling, dressed as the gentry of the henequen hacienda  period.

henequen  plants, yucatanDuring the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fortunes were built from the humble henequen plant, whose fibers were used to make strong rope, in demand worldwide.  Korean workers were used as contract laborers on the henequen haciendas. similar in feel to southern plantations.  Great wealth was produced for a few, some of whom built the mansions that line Paseo de Montejo, modeled after the Champs Elyseés in Paris.

merida plaza at nightAs midnight of the 6th approached, the dancers and musicians, together with all the folks, formed a long line on 60th Street and paraded the 4 blocks from Parque de Santa Lucia to the Plaza, singing and playing Trova music.  I was with an American friend and somehow or another we managed to get ourselves situated in the Plaza, right in front of the large stage set up in front of the Municipal Building.

merida birthday celebration fireworksWhat an amazing performance!  Over the next hour, different groups of dancers and musicians took the stage to dazzle us with their art.  Finally a few minutes before midnight all the performers filled the stage and delivered a rousing version of Las Mañanitas, the Mexican Birthday song.  At midnight, a stunning firework display soared in the tropical skies above the hot pink Municipal Building.  I felt like a kid in a candy store.

The year 2012 had begun with great joy and celebration. I felt enriched by my experiences so far in the Yucatan, while looking forward to the adventures waiting for me in my last few weeks.

Christmas Eve in the Tropics – The Goddess Re-membered

Merida drawing by Judith ShsawChristmas Eve, 2011 and I was sipping coffee in an outdoor cafe in Merida, Mexico, sweat dripping down my neck. The Grand Plaza, across the street, shimmers in the tropical sun, framed by the arches and columns of the Portal.  I see birds, wings fluttering like a string of pearls flung out through the trees of the Plaza. Huge old laurel and palm trees, trunks and branches reaching for the sky, offer soft green protection from the heat of the midday sun.   No white Christmas here.

Nuestra Senora del Carmen, Merida Church bell towerThe city bustles around this little oasis in final preparations for Christmas.  A single butterfly, golden spark in the sunlight, flits among the chaos of the Centro. Street vendors hawk their wares as cars and buses rumble by.  Church bells ring, calling her children to remember the teachings of the church on this Eve of Christ’s birth.

Virgin icon, itzimna church merida mexicoguadalupe painting merida mexicoAll of Mexico is full of churches where the faithful flock to pray to their God.  Solace is found in the the words, the rituals, and the icons within. One of the major sources of solace for many Mexicans comes from the Goddess in the form of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and other Christian female saints.  Of course the people don’t think of Her as the Goddess but she is adored in much the same way.

our lady of yucatan madonna statue merida mexicoIn the main church on the Plaza Grande, The Catedral del San Idelfonso, there is a very powerful statue of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Yucatan.  I’m never completely alone as I sit in front of Her and say my prayers for love, balance and peace.

She inspires me to paint my version of Her image. I call Her Our Lady of Heaven and Earth.

Our Lady of Heaven and Earth, painting by Judith Shaw

izamal church altar mexicoIn two colonial towns close to Merida, Izamal and Valladolid, the adoration of the Virgin is evident.

Izamal Madonna icon mexicoHer statue lives on these churches’ main altar by day and is carried in procession every night to a special room where She rests.

Valladolid church at night

Luck was with me one evening as I sat drawing in front of the church in Valladolid.

procession with virgin icon valladolid mexico All of a sudden I heard singing and then saw the procession of people carrying the statue of the Virgin from her day home to her night home.

procession with virgin icon valladolid mexico

Izamal church madonna sanctuarymadonna dress izamal mexicoIn In Izamal I was able to see the room she sleeps in and another room with dresses She has worn in the past.

unity christ merida mexicoOf course there are also statues and paintings of Jesus in his ministry and on the cross.  A very large statue of Jesus on the Cross, called Unity Christ is found on the altar of the main Cathedral in Merida. It symbolizes an understanding and unity between the Spanish and the Maya after the caste war, a Mayan uprising in the late 1800’s.

christ on cross valladolid mexicoStanding in front of another statue of Jesus on the cross, I had an unusual thought.  Perhaps it was the influence of the Mayan stones, from which the Yucatan churches are built, but I felt strongly that we are at the end of an age. Jesus both symbolizes and came to change this Age of Sacrifice and Suffering. It just took a few thousand years longer than expected.

bell shaped madonnaThis 5000 plus year old age of man’s rule by force, centuries and centuries of rape and pillage, of destruction of the Mother’s shrines, of Her body, of Her children, is now at an end.  Also ending is the belief in original sin and the inherent worthlessness of the human being.  We are waking up to the reality of God/dess manifesting through us; that our thoughts and consciousness create our reality.  Christ told his disciples that if they had faith as much as a grain of mustard seed, they could move a mountain.  His ministry revitalized the teachings of the ancient world, calling on the power of love and consciousness to change the world.

our lady socorro icon valladolid mexicoFor thousands of years the assault on the Mother has increased and it appeared that the insanity of worshiping Death over Life had won.  But over the last half century or so, more and more people have heard Her call.  Painters give Her form; writers tell Her stories; musicians sing Her songs; dancers dance Her dance.  Bit by bit the Goddess is re-membered.

And in practical ways of the world this remembrance is seen.  The Green Movement seeks new technologies which mimic Her natural ways.  Even within the hustle bustle of our modern cities, urban professionals grow gardens and raise bees and chickens, remembering once again the cycle of the seasons and the rhythm of the Earth.

Yemaya Heals by Judith ShawI have been blessed to follow the road of painting Her image – as woman, as nature, as that first form which emanates from the unknown.

Leaving behind the soothing dimness of the church, I emerge into the golden sunlight of late afternoon, acutely aware of the transformations that have taken place in this ancient land and of the transformations yet to come.

Valladolid church angelPerhaps we’ve finally arrived at a time when the human family can believe in our inner beauty, power and love.  Perhaps the Goddess is reborn, the age of sacrifice is over, and the beauty of this physical life will once again be celebrated.  Life is a constant cycle, a spiraling cycle of birth, death and renewal.  Even the cycles die and are reborn.  The Mayans say we are once again at the point where one long cycle dies to be reborn on yet another turn of the spiral.  I feel the truth of this transformation deep in my bones, deep in my cells, deep in my heart.

valladolid church angel 2

The Mayan World Whispers Secrets to Our Modern World

Uxmal Governor's PalaceBack home now, my time in Mexico continues to resonate in the chambers of my heart.  Three separate but connected chords spiral through my experience there, the ancient Mayan past, the Spanish Colonial past and the present day mix of Mexican and Mayan culture.

The voices of the ancient Mayans speak today through their mysterious ruins and through the soft voices of their descendants.   While visiting the ruins one can hire a guide or use a guide book, which both speak with authority about the meaning of the structures and symbols carved in the rocks.  But the Mayans I met say that the knowledge of their ancestors is lost and no one really knows the meaning of their buildings and glyphs.

Governor's Palace Puuc style decorationUxmal, the first Mayan city I visited, dates from before the 10th century AD.  It is estimated that at its height in 900 A.D., the area surrounding Uxmal,  (“oosh-mahl”, meaning “thrice-built”) was home to 25,000 Maya.  It is a beautiful expression of Puuc architecture.

Puuc, “hilly country” in Mayan, is the name given to the only hilly area in the Yucatan.  The same term refers to the predominant style of ancient architecture found here.  Puuc decoration, in abundance at Uxmal, is characterized by elaborate horizontal stonework on upper levels.

Uxmal butterfliesThe area around Uxmal was occupied as early as 800 BC, but the major building period took place when it was the capital of a Late Classic Mayan state around 850-925 AD.

Uxmal’s importance waned after Toltec invaders took over the Yucatán peninsula (around 1000AD) and established their capital at Chichén Itza.  The site was abandoned shortly before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, around 1450.

These buildings have a power that’s hard to explain.  The past speaks here but the messages is unclear.

Uxmal Magician's TempleThe first and tallest structure you see is called The Magician’s Pyramid  (115 ft).  My guide book said it wasn’t much to look at, but I found it pretty impressive.  Also called the Pyramid of the Dwarf, both names come from a legend about a magical dwarf who was hatched from an egg, raised by a witch and built the pyramid in one day.  In reality it took much longer to build this structure. The Pyramid of the Magician shows evidence of five smaller pyramids inside the current structure and was built from the 6th through  the 10th centuries.

Uxmal Magician's TempleIt’s rounded sides, height, and steepness make this pyramid unique among Mayan structures. What could have gone on here? As visitors are not allowed to climb or enter the structure, one’s experience is a bit limited.  But still, I find myself drawn to it and with effort force myself to move on.

Uxmal Nun's QuadrangleNext is “The Nun’s Quadrangle”, obviously named by the Spanish.  Did the Mayan’s have nuns?  From what I’ve been told by Mayans I’ve talked to in Merida, central to their philosophy is the balance of body and spirit.  That doesn’t seem to imply a denial of the body like we’re seen if Christian philosophy.  They also believe that life is both positive and negative and we must strive for a balance.

Uxmal ChacThis large complex has many representations of the rain god Chac. with his large, elephant-like nose.   Probably because of its elevation, the Puuc area doesn’t have the proliferation of underground cenotes and water-filled caves like the rest of the Yucatan peninsula does.  Thus Chac is even more important here than in other Mayan sites, as rain was crucial to the success of their crops. Representations of Chac are found all through out the complex.

Uxmal double serpent carvingAlso in abundance are representations of the common folks’ thatched roof houses (still in use by many today), double-headed serpents, which often represented the ecliptic of the sun, and symbolic representations of the planet Venus. Venus was very important to the Mayan astronomical system and the Venus cycles figured into the counting of their calendar.

Uxmal Venus symbolI had a very interesting conversation with a Mayan man, owner of a tourist shop, about the Mayan world view.  According to him, the Mayans believe that there are twelve lines of people who are descendants of what are now called the twelve Gods and Goddesses.  But he emphasized that these twelve Gods and Goddesses are manifestations of the One Source from which we all come.

Uxmal dovecot structureHe then went on to explain that the Maya have three calendars, Astrological, Agricultural and the Calendar of the Ages.  These three calendars meet at the end of the ages.  But in his opinion there is confusion over the translation of dates into the Gregorian calendar system and this meeting could be in another thirty years or so.  And of course it doesn’t signify the end of the world – it signifies a transformation of consciousness.   He emphasized that this transformation doesn’t happen in an instant, it slowly unfolds through time.  He also believes that the Mayan civilization is much older than what we currently believe it to be.

Uxmal Tree drawingI certainly had a strong sense of something very foreign and very ancient while at Uxmal.  On my way from the Nun’s Quadrangle to the Governor’s Palace I was awe struck by a tree, shimmering in the bright sunlight, growing out of the very rocks of the ancient city.  Not being your typical hurry, hurry tourist, I sat and drew this tree.  I love taking photos, but something about drawing connects me even more strongly to what I’m experiencing.  I felt the power of this ancient truth – civilizations rise and fall but nature always endures.

Uxmal Turtle HouseAnother spot drew my eye to draw.  The Turtle House, named for the frieze of turtles adorning the top of the building, is small and yet elegant and harmonious.  I walked around it , discovering a door which opened in to other doors, finally meeting a door on the opposite side.  Framed by this door, one sees through to a portion of the Nun’s Quadrangle and the blue blue sky.

Uxmal Turtle house doorAgain I had to sit and draw.  Then back in my studio this image wanted to get onto the canvas and change up a bit.  Thru a Mayan Portal,painting by Judith Shaw

Uxmal jaguar

Next on the list was the Governor’s Palace.  This is a very impressive, three level structure which archeologist believe functioned as an administrative center for the region.  It probably had astrological significance too, as scholars of archaeoastronomy have recently discovered that the central doorway, which is larger than the others, is in perfect alignment with Venus.

Uxmal pyramidUxmal viewI passed the Great Pyramid behind the Governor’s Palace , pausing to climb up the steep steps for the view.  It was amazing.

Uxmal Dovecot facadeFinally I was completely enchanted by the building called Dovecote which features lace like roof combs. This is not a common architectural feature in Puuc temples.  A dovecote is a structure created to house pigeons or doves and is generally a Western European tradition.

Uxmal archWhy did these Maya people build this structure in this way?  Did they keep pigeons and doves also or was it simply decorative?  Could European traditions have made their way to the New World before the conquerors arrived and if so how and when?

Uxmal wallWandering the stones of Uxmal, I feel strongly the truth that the ancient world shelters secrets we’ve yet to decipher.  And perhaps these secrets hold the key to knowledge which can help our modern world regain the balance it sorely need.