Well it’s that time of year again when we remember reindeer. Even in southern climes where reindeer never go you’ll find them adorning roofs and buildings – the inhabitants hoping for the arrival of winter gifts delivered by reindeer, Santa and sled.
Reindeer have been important to humans since our early days as hunter-gatherers. Found in cave paintings throughout Europe and Asia, reindeer are depicted as soaring through the air, perhaps acting as intermediaries between the human world and the spirit world.
Journey, Confidence, Stability, Guidance, Endurance, Adaptability, Sensitivity, Abundance, Fertility, Light, Life, Rebirth of the Sun, Soul Journey
Read more about Reindeer – their history, lives and symbolic meanings on my recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog.
Finally, after almost 5 years of work my deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is ready. The cards are designed: the stories are written; the only thing lacking is the funds for publication.
To that end I have just launched a crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo. Here you can pre-order the deck with it’s booklet (out by Thanksgiving) or one of the other many perks of prints and originals of my work – all at reduced prices.
Click here to visit my Indiegogo campaign. Contribute if you can. If not and you like the project then please share the page with your friends.
My most recent post on the Feminism and Religion blog is of Corra, Celtic Serpent Goddess. Corra, whose name is almost forgotten today, embodied the Earth, calling forth the serpents of life, death and rebirth to twine the magic of eternity around the lives of our ancestors.
Corra is of the earth and yet She can also transform into a crane, symbolizing the transformation of body to spirit on our journey through the great circle of life.
Click here to read the rest of Her story
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.
As I near the end of my self-assigned project to create a deck of Celtic Goddess cards I find that my retelling of their stories is changing. Now I am seeing a way to reclaim the power these Goddess had long ago, before the world turned and the age of Patriarchy took hold.
The Celts did not have a written language so all of their stories were passed down orally. Many of their stories and myths were first written down between the 10th – 12th century, well after Christianity and a patriarchal world view had taken hold. But the original power of many of these Goddesses and Gods can be gleamed from the written stories.
And now with only five goddesses to go to complete a deck of 30 cards, I find that I am de-patriarchalizing (a cool new term coined by Nancy Vedder-Shults, FAR member) their stories, changing up some details and giving them back their agency and power. So looks like I’ve still got a lot of work left – editing and re-writing some of the first ones I wrote.
My most recent painting and story is of Mor, Goddess of Sun and Sea. Though She is a Sun Goddess, She is mainly associated with the setting sun, thus reigning over death and rebirth also. Mor, was known to some as Queen of the Island of Women, one of the Celtic Otherworlds, characterized as a place of eternal youth, and abundance.
Read the 10th century version of Mor and my retelling of her place as an ancient and powerful Goddess on the Feminism and Religion Blog. Click here
My most recent exploration of Celtic Goddesses was of one who left me with a very peaceful feeling, the type of feeling induced by deeply moving music.
Canola, Celtic Goddess of Inspiration and Creativity, is another ancient Celtic Goddess whose story comes down to us in very limited form.
One day Canola had an argument with Her lover. Goddesses, being intermediaries between our physical world and the infinite Source of All, feel emotions in a similar fashion to mortal humans. So, like any mortal woman, Canola was upset by their argument.
To calm Her distress, She decided to walk along the seashore and feel the peace and beauty of the natural world. After awhile She heard beautiful, ephemeral music being carried to Her by the wind. She was so enchanted that She forgot her distress over the argument and sat down to listen more closely. She fell asleep as the music continued to wash over Her soul.
Upon awakening, thoughts of Her lover and their argument were gone. Still entranced by the music She searched for its origin. And She found it – offered to Her by the Earth Mother who nurtures and loves all of Her children on land and on sea. She found the source of the music emanating from the carcass of a giant whale laying on the beach. The wind was strumming the notes across dried sinews still attached to the rib-bones of the whale. From the death of one creature, new life would be formed.
When Canola lay sleeping, She surely was able to access the creative inspiration brought to us in our dreams. Now awake and witnessing the gift offered to Her by Mother Goddess, inspiration struck. Canola, with Her creative intelligence and Her love, created the harp, Ireland’s national emblem to this day.
Read about the shape of the original harp and the wisdom Canola offers on by post at the Feminism and Religion Blog – click here.
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, 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.