Tag Archives: The Goddess

Danu, Mother Goddess of the Celts

May Day, Beltane, ushers in May and the growing season.  Now is a perfect time to remember Mother Goddess, know by many names to our ancient ancestors around the world.

Danu, Celtic Mother Goddess painting by Judith ShawDanu, of the flowing waters, Queen of the fertile land – Danu, the Great Mother Goddess of the Irish Celts, known as Don by the Welsh Celts, is the Creator Goddess of the Tuatha De Danann, the first wave of Celtic tribes to invade Ireland.   She is also known as Danann, Ana, and Anann.  She gave birth to all life in the land of the Celts.

No stories of Her survive but Her power remains strong. She is the most ancient of all the Celtic deities. In a silver flash of iridescence she appears in my mind’s eye.

As the “Flowing One” She is associated with the seas, wells, springs and the Danube River, gifting Her children the magic of transformation, inspiration, and wisdom. As an Earth Goddess, She bestows abundance and earth mysteries. She embodies the wisdom of living in balance with the Earth. She is sometimes associated with Flidais of the cattle and deer. She is also connected with Brigid, Goddess of Healing, Poetry and Smithcraft, who the original Neolithic people of Ireland worshiped long before the Celts arrived.

As the centuries moved on, the deities of the Tuatha de Danann were turned into the Fae Folk of Celtic legend. Danu, the Great Mother Goddess remains connected to the Sidhe, the fairy hills and the dolmens known as portal tombs.

Danu and the Morrigan, Celtic Goddess of Death, are aspects of each other as life and death are eternally intertwined. Her colors are the blue of the waters, green of the Earth, and white silver of inspiration and wisdom. She is everywhere, protecting Her children but never forcing us in any way.

She is associated with mares, snakes, seagulls, and fish that live in both oceans and rivers like salmon. Her trees are the rowan tree, long honored by the Celts for its balance of beauty and hardiness, the apple tree, and the hawthorne tree.

Danu calls us to recognize the richness of life. She lights the fires of inspiration that connect us to the source. She reminds us of our own divinity, creativity, and ability to manifest. She rules both chaos and its transformation to new beginnings.  When Danu calls, remember that it is within our power to restore balance to the Earth, remember that we are all connected.  May Her loving, abundance be with you always.

Resources: LEBOR GABÁLA ÉRENN, The Book of the Taking of Ireland, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danu_%28Irish_goddess%29, http://thegoddesstree.com/GoddessGallery/Danu.html

The Mother is Everywhere

My Black Madonna painting by Judith ShawThe Mother is everywhere.
The Mother is in the sky.
The Mother is in the sea.
The Mother is in the mountains.
The Mother is in the tress.
The Mother is in the moon, the sun, and the stars.
The Mother is in the galaxy and the Great Beyond.
The Mother is everywhere.

Painting – My Black Madonna, oil on canvas, 38″ x 24″ – inspired by the Black Madonnas of Chartres. You can read about my experience in Chartres Cathedral in the summer of 2012 and about other Black Madonnas on my post on the Feminism and Religion blog

Flidais – Celtic Goddess for Fall Equinox

Flidais Celtic Goddess painting by Judith ShawThis year the fall equinox occurs on September 22.  In the Pagan calendar it is a time for giving thanks called Mabon.  Mabon celebrates the end of the harvest season and is a time to honor our wild nature and nature spirits. It is a day of perfect balance when the hours of daylight and darkness are equal. Mabon ushers in our journey into the dark night of winter.

Flidais (pronounced flee-ish) is a complex Celtic Goddess with many differing stories and aspects.  She represents both our domestic and our wild natures and is an appropriate Goddess to call on on this day of balance.  She first appears in the ancient mythological cycles as an Earth Mother. She was the  mother of the Irish cultivator heroes, Arden, and Bé Téite and the “she-farmers” Bé Chuille and  Dinand.   From Her they gained the power to cultivate and work the earth for the community.

She is considered a woodland Goddess by modern Celtic pagans. Called Lady of the Forest, she protects wild fauna and flora.  But in mythology she is equally connected to both domestic and wild  animals.  In particular deer and cattle are Her sacred animals, both of whom She milks. She Herself called all the wild animals “Her cattle.”

You can read the rest of my article on Flidais on the Feminism and Religion blog.

Why I/We Need the Goddess

I have been drawn to the Goddess for a variety of reasons.  Initially, as a young woman, She spoke to me of my own power, self-worth, self-determination and my/every woman’s inherent beauty. She lent Her hand to my emerging sense of independence from male domination.

Aphrodite Dancing painting by Judith ShawOver the years my experience of Goddess deepened.  At times I feel Her as manifest in me and as a symbol of my own power.  At other times She is who I pray to for both personal and community help. And certainly She has come to be my strongest symbol of the beauty and power of the natural world, ruling over life, death and rebirth.  In all these ways I have sought to express Her wisdom through my art.

For many years, as I grew to maturity, my paintings both expressed and integrated Her power manifesting in the world through me, through us all.  This painting, Aphrodite Dancing, celebrates my/our sensual, sexual female nature.  It speaks a loud “YES” to the beauty of our sexuality.  It is a response to the “NO” which has been imposed on our sexuality by patriarchal religions and world views for so many, many centuries.

An expression of Goddess power burst forth with my installation, The Shrine of the Bird Goddess, in the late 80’s.
bird goddess 72This central piece, The Bird Goddess, is a very large painting – 6′ x 10′.  The painting and installation was inspired by the work of Marija Gimbutas, amazing archaeologist who uncovered the ancient artifacts of a harmonious, pre-patriarchal Goddess-worshipping Neolithic Old Europe.

the olive tree,painting by Judith ShawIn more recent years The Goddess has come through me in the form of my many tree paintings.  This painting, The Olive Tree, is seen by many as a dancing woman.  Quite unconsciously I painted in the opening in the tree without realizing that it was vulva shaped. The shape takes you into and through the tree, allowing passage to another realm, in the way that a child is born through woman, coming from the before space into the now space.

the mother tree,painting by Judith ShawOften times She even appears in the tree.  In this painting, The Mother Tree, you can see Her in the trunk.  She also appears in the trunk of The Tree of Life.

sacred geometry tree of life painting by Judith Shaw

I also call on Goddess for help and healing when my sadness and pain over the ongoing destruction of our natural environment gets too hard to bear.  I long to get on a soapbox and yell at the world to wake up!  But not having that kind of platform open to me, I return to my studio and do what I can do, paint – in the hopes that on some level my paintings will touch people and open their hearts to the Goddess, our Earth Mother.

Yemaya Heals by Judith ShawAfter the BP oil spill, I turned to Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess, who is known as the Mother of All Fish. The ocean is Her domain.  She came to the Americas with the African diaspora and continues to be worshipped in many places.  These two paintings, Yemaya Heals and An Offering to Yemaya, are prayers to Her for healing of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The affects of that massive oil eruption are ongoing and pervasive.  A recent article by David Kirby explains how not only are the waters still damaged by the oil  but the chemicals used in the “clean-up” continue to cause serious problems.

Yemaya, Yoruba Goddess painting by Judith Shawof the Sea

A couple of months ago I was listening to a report on the radio about the persistent crisis of toxic radioactive releases at Japan’s Fukishima power plant which was badly damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Gaia Wields Her Justice painting by Judith Shaw

I felt so angry at the stupidity of the perpetual patriarchal approach to controlling and using nature that this fierce Goddess appeared in a painting.  Gaia Wields Her Justice expresses my belief that She, our earth, is alive, is conscious and is now fighting back.  Her power is so much greater than anything we can fathom.  Though She created us and loves us, ultimately she will not allow us to completely destroy life.   She has put up with centuries of abuse but She is now rising, like a dragon who has awakened from a long sleep.

In this world of interconnectedness She responds to our out of balance actions in a way that will return us to balance.  With ever increasing wild weather incidents – floods, droughts, massive forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, bug infestations of our forests and so much more – She creates blocks to our current path of destruction.

Yes, those who embrace control and destruction continue to rule but She is awakening in our many hearts.  More and more voices sing out every day with the words form Libana’s Goddess chant, “There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings.”  Women and men together, from the Middle East to the Midwest, are spreading their wings and demanding a return to balance. From the fast food workers’ walk-outs and calls for a living wage to the masses rising up to say no to the Keystone XL Pipeline our wings are spread and our hearts are open wide. The Goddess is reborn. Her justice might at times be difficult for us to endure but it is wielded with love and it is inescapable.

Summer Solstice – Sulis, Celtic Sun Goddess

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the the year,and I find myself reflecting on my love of the long, hot days of summer.  The bliss of lying on a beach caressed by the kisses of sun and breeze, with the promise of the cool inviting embrace of the sea by my side, is one of my most favorite forms of relaxation.  Though the ozone layer has thinned and I can only indulge this desire in small doses now, I still love the feeling of the sun on my skin as She paints colored visions in my mind’s eye.

She –  how can I personify the sun as She when from across the world we hear only of Sun Gods and Moon Goddesses?  Yet hidden deep in mythology one discovers that long, long ago the sun was worshipped as a goddess. From Aditi – Hindu Solar Goddess from India to Uelanuhi – Cherokee Goddess of the Sun, the sun Goddesses symbolize, with female imagery, the power and life force of the sun. Aditi was seen as the  keeper of the light that illuminates all life and ensures consciousness. She was the source of all, giving birth to the universe and the heavenly bodies. Uelanuhi was responsible for dividing time into units. She was aided by Grandmother Spiderwoman’s web to capture the sun’s warmth for humankind.

Sulis, Celtic Sun Goddess painting ny Judith ShawLikewise, before the ultimate life-giving power of the sun shifted from the Goddess to the God my ancient Celtic ancestors worshipped a Sun Goddess.  Sulis, a Gaulish and Brythonic goddess, has the iconography of a solar deity. The name “Sulis” has a complex etymology, with various overlapping meanings. Her name may be related to the proto-Celtic word for sun, from which the Old Irish súil (eye) was derived. which probably leads to one of Her title, “The Bright One”.  Her hair radiates around her face like the sun surrounded by sun rays.

Click here to read the rest of my article on Sulis at the Feminism and Religion blog.

Creiddylad, An Enigmatic Goddess

Creiddylad, Celtic Goddess painting by Judith ShawMay Day/Beltane (Calan Mai to the ancient Celts) is almost here and our hearts turn to thoughts of love, flowers and the bounty of our Mother Earth. Both Beltane and Halloween/Samhain (Calan Gaeaf) were liminal or threshold days, considered to be outside of normal time. These sacred, mystic days were more important than the solstices in the Celtic world view.

Creiddylad, Welsh Goddess of Flowers and Love, is celebrated at this time. (Her name is pronounced cree-THIL-ahd)  She is the eternal May Queen, always seeking peace and stability.  She remains eternally constant in the face of all change.  She is the promise of love, golden glowing moon-flowing love, enduring through all hardship and despair.  Creiddylad also shows us the necessity of self-love. Only by truly loving ourselves can we love another.

Creiddylad is mentioned only briefly in The Mabinogion but her symbolism reveals that she is surely an ancient and important Goddess, whose original stories have been lost to the mists of time.

Read Creiddylad’s story in my post on the Feminism and Religion blog.  Be sure to scroll down and view the lively discussion she invoked.

Rhiannon, Celtic Goddess

rhiannon celtic goddess painting by judith shawFor the past few weeks I’ve been surrounded by love as I have explored Rhiannon, Celtic Welsh Goddess of Birds and Horses.   She is a Sovereignty Goddess, know as the Queen of the Fairies, who the king must wed to legitimate his rule.  A Goddess of Transformation, she uses her powers for love of others or self.  She shines in our hearts as an example of true love and beauty. She appears in both the first and third branches of the Medieval Welsh stories, The Mabinogion, a narrative which grew out of the ancient myths of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses.

My painting shown here is my interpretation of Rhiannon, riding her glowing white horse when she first appeared to Pwyll, King of Dyved, the man she chose for herself.

To read more about Rhiannon and the power of love she brings to the world click here to read my post in the Feminism and Religion blog.

The Power of Intention Revealed

Inanna in Her Garden, painting by Judith Shaw

Inanna in Her Garden, oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″

Once again I am amazed by the truth of how our emotions together with our thoughts create our realities.  This truth was revealed last weekend while participating in an art market with the Santa Fe Artists Market.  Since it’s still winter and no one really wants to set up and display their work outside in the cold, SFAM had organized an indoor market for us: a two day show held in the Hilton Santa Fe.

But Mother Nature decided to remind us that the climate is changing.  She delivered a beautiful, sunny warm weekend.  Our visitor traffic was slow on Saturday and almost non-existent on Sunday, as locals and tourists were outside enjoying the day instead of seeking shelter from the cold by wandering in and out of shops and artists markets.

Many of us were doing pretty badly in terms of sales.  By 3pm on Sunday I and many others had basically covered costs; some not even that much.  There was not even one visitor in the room looking at work as I and two other artist colleagues sat together, talking about energy and the importance of keeping positive.  We made comments like, “We might not be doing well this weekend but we are putting out our intentions and it will come back to us at another time – maybe next week”.  Or “It’s important to remain positive and trust in the universe to provide”.  Then we went on to share methods we use for keeping a positive outlook, even in the face of adversity.

As we continued talking in this vein, a woman walked into the room and made a straight line for my booth.  I went over to engage with her, not really expecting anything much to happen.  She began asking me about one of my small paintings.  The painting, Inanna in Her Garden, is one of my many pieces on the Sumerian goddess, Inanna.  I told her a bit about Inanna’s story and the painting.  Without further ado, she said “I’ll take it.”.   You can imagine my surprise at this turn of events.

The ripple effect of that energy change spread out to others.  Within 10 or 15 minutes other artists in the room made sales. Perhaps when the day arrives that I move from surprise about the power of intention to complete trust, my life will flow more smoothly.

Celtic Horse Goddess, Epona

Epona, Celtic Horse Goddess by Judith ShawI am so grateful to the organizers of the Feminism and Religion blog for allowing me space to continue my exploration of the many faces of the Goddess with images and words.  My latest post there is on Epona, the Celtic Horse Goddess.

Epona, Celtic Horse Goddess was worshipped by the Gauls (the Celtic French). Her worship spread to Britain and Rome from Western Europe. Hundreds of statues and shrines dating from between the first and third centuries CE have been found in France alone.

Today we can understand Epona mainly from her images, as few stories of her have survived.  She is often shown either riding a white horse side saddle or standing or sitting between two horses.

To read the full article, click here

The Story of Ereshkigal, Inanna’s Older Sister

ereshkigal drawing by judith shaw

Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld

In the Sumerian pantheon, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld is Inanna’s older sister.  Inanna is the Queen of Heaven and Earth but she does not know the underworld.  Without this knowledge she remains immature.  “From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below”.  Thus begins Inanna’s  journey into a deeper life with the knowledge of death and rebirth.

Ereshkigal was given the Underworld for her domain.  Here she eats clay and drinks dirty water.  She has no loving mother, father, brother or sister.  She has no friends or companions.   She longs only for her own sexual satisfaction.  She is unloving, unloved, abandoned, instinctual and full of rage and loneliness.

Ereshkigal can be seen as the other neglected side of Inanna, the side which feels all those feelings of worthlessness and abandonment.

Inanna's Descent, painting by Judith jShaw

Inanna’s Descent

She becomes enraged when she hears that Inanna, clothed in light and glory, wants to enter the underworld.  Ereshkigal commands her gatekeeper to remove her royal garmets as she passes through the seven gates in route to her Underworld Kingdom.  She wishes for Inanna to experience the rejection and loneliness which she lives with daily.

Naked and Bowed Low, drawing by Judith Shaw

Inanna enters the underworld “naked and bowed low”. The Annuna perceived her neglected parts, her shadow side.

“The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her,
They passed judgment against her.”

“Ereshkigal fastened the eye of death on Inanna.
“Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.” *

Ultimately, with the help of her spiritual servent, Ninshubur and her mother’s father, Enki, God of Wisdom, Inanna is rescued.  Though Ereshkigal ordered Inanna’s death she now moans in anguish, as she has killed the other part of herself.  Creatures created by Enki sympathize with Ereshkigal’s pain.
Now that Ereshkigal is comforted by others, she has released part of her pain.  As she grows spiritually, she is now able to release Inanna.

Inanna is reborn.  But no one leaves the underworld unmarked.  Inanna must

Inanna's Return, painting by Judith Shaw

Inanna’s Return

choose someone to replace her in the Underworld.  The connection between Ereshkigal of the Great Below, the unconscious, and Inanna, of the Great Above, the conscious, has been established and must be maintained.  Inanna must never again forget that part of herself which is Ereshkigal.

The ancient Sumerian story of Ereshkigal and Inanna illustrates the importance of owning all sides of ourselves – the light and the dark.   On this day of the winter solstice when the hours of light are the shortest and the hours of dark the longest, reflection and meditation on this story may help us integrate and understand our own inner pain and feelings of abandonment. Here, in the dark of winter, lay the seeds of our transformation into greater depth and understanding.

* Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.