Tag Archives: celtic goddess art

Shapeshifters

One of the things I have loved learning about in my studies of Celtic mythology is the mystical, magical nature of the Celtic worldview as reflected in their stories. The most ancient of their stories, those of the Tuatha de Danaan, belong to eternity whereas the heroic cycles belongs more to the earth but all of their tales are imbued with magic.

I find the magic of the shapeshifting goddesses to be compelling in many ways. Swan Goddess-Swan Song,painting by Judith ShawThey show the relationship between the human and animal world and the need to understand our animal nature.  Horses, seabirds, swans, deer, reindeer, butterflies are a few of the creatures you could meet which might actually be a Celtic Goddess.

Read more about the shapeshifting Goddesses in my most recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog.

In the One is the Many – Celtic Triplicities

In my recent blog post on the Feminism and Religion blog I explored the concept of Triple Goddess and the sacred nature of three to the ancient Celts.

Many neopagans and modern Goddess worshipers mistakenly equate the triadic nature of some Celtic Goddesses with the Triple Goddess concept first popularized by Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess. Graves stated that Goddesses were frequently found in triplets as Maiden, Mother and Crone. But there is nothing found in the ancient stories of Celtic Goddesses to indicate that they were known in this way. 

Quite the contrary – though the Celts had a number of both triadic Goddesses and Gods, they did not represent stages of life. Instead these triple deities were seen to represent the mysterious nature of the cosmos. They expressed and ruled over the more mystical aspects and truths of life rather than the mundane and practical ruled over by the deities connected to geographical locations.

life-emerges - painting-by-judith-shaw

Life Awakens Within the Great Unknown, oil on canvas, 34″ x 36″

Celtic mythology reveals their understanding of the mysterious quality of the universe. They recognized that there is a deeper reality just beyond our everyday physical reality; that there is a limit to human consciousness; ultimately it will encounter the unknown and the unknowable.

Read more on my original post over at FAR.

Branwen, A Goddess for Troubled Times

It’s now been almost three weeks since the fateful election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. It’s still so hard to believe that the forces of hate have won out over those of love.  I still get sick to my stomach as with each passing day the worst seems to be coming true.

Though I know deep in my heart that ultimately this dark and hateful energy will fall, I also know that much pain and suffering will have to occur first. I search for ways to handle my fears and ways to continue advocating for a world in balance, a world where peace and justice is available to all. The heart finds solace where the heart will – while editing the stories in my Celtic Goddess series soon to Branwen, Celtic Goddess of Love and Beauty, painting by Judith Shawbecome a deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle cards, I reread my telling of Branwen’s story, who seems to be an appropriate Goddess for this time.

Branwen, Celtic Goddess of Love and Beauty, speaks to me about the power of love to unite and the patience needed to endure suffering while holding onto the light.

Branwen was the sister of Bran the Blessed, king of all the Island of the Mighty. In the ways of the Old Tribes of the British Isles she was also the mother of the next king. She was the center from which all life emerged and thus possessed a vision which saw the whole, the greater scheme of things.

Her story is long. You can read the details on my post on the Feminism and Religion blog. But in essence She fell in love with and agreed to marry the Irish King, Matholuch, who had made the sea voyage to seek her hand. At first life in her new home in Ireland was happy. The Irish loved Her and She soon gave birth to a son.

But once word of an atrocity committed by one of Her brothers against the Irish got out the people turned against her. King Math, at the urging of his people, put her aside. She was made to work in the kitchen where she was routinely mistreated. With the help of her friend, the starling, she got word to Bran of Her plight. Bran raised an army and off they went to Her rescue.

Branwen urged a peaceful resolution and Her release was negotiated. The face-price for peace was that Branwen’s son, Gwern would become the Irish High King. But the same brother with hate in his heart destroyed this peace. During a celebration of Gwern’s kingship, he threw Gwern into the fire and killed him. War broke out, a war of extreme destruction in which ultimately both sides were destroyed.

Branwen’s story is truly one of sorrow which speaks to many of us today who are in deep sorrow by the recent election results and fear over what these results will mean. Branwen sought to unite two lands by love. We must do the same. With this love she was able to forgive and continue seeking peace for all. We must do the same. She sought this peace not only for the people but also for the land. We must do the same.

Branwen, Great Goddess of Love, died not by violence but of a broken heart at the destruction surrounding her.  Her great love for humanity, Her patience in the face of difficulties, and Her ability to forgive are abilities we can seek to live up to in the difficult days ahead.

Branwen’s wisdom is one of love and peace.  She gives us the wisdom to restore our vision of wholeness, our vision of a world where connections are recognized and diversity celebrated.  Branwen shows us the way to empathy and to the courage to persevere during times of danger and fear.

Elen of the Shimmering Ways

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 Elen of the Ways, Celtic Goddess painting by Judith Shawworld.

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.

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Boann, Celtic Goddess of Imagination

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 Boann, Celtic Goddess of Inspiration,painting by Judith Shawcreativity, 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.

A Time of Light – A Time of Darkness

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 Olwen, Welsh Sun Goddess painting by Judith Shawdays 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.

Arduinna, Celtic Goddess of the Ardennes Forest

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, Celtic Goddess art by Judith Shaw

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.