Darkness and Light by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photo“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” – Theodore Roethke

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

In some ways these two quotes seem to be at odds with one another. Roethke expresses what the ancient Celts and many other ancient peoples knew to be true, that darkness and light are complementary parts of a single whole. King’s words seem to equate darkness with hate and violence. But looking more deeply into King’s statement one can see that he was addressing a world out of balance; a world of ever increasing violence and hate; a world in which we find ourselves once again. 

Light in the Darkness, painting in progress

It was this night devoid of stars which I felt on the day after the U.S. presidential election in November, 2016. I reeled around all day trying to get some work done on my computer but was lacking focus or the ability to think much. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach.

Finally I took refuge in my studio with paint brush and canvas. I had a canvas already prepared with a glaze of alizarin crimson on which I intended to paint something related to bees. At first I could do nothing but apply dark, dark colors with no form. I thought that I’d have to let the “bee” concept go and just delve into the darkness I was feeling about the state of America and the consciousness of her citizens. But oddly enough as I worked the feeling lifted a little and I started to feel a glimmer of light. By the end of that day the bees had come back into the painting, bringing with them a bit of light.

woman-protests-trumpSince that day in my studio, the world has moved on. Donald Trump was inaugurated as president of the United States, bringing with him a new and deepening darkness of hate. And yet the world seeks balance and the resistance is strong.  Many, many of us remember that in the deepest, darkest of winter nights, the seeds lay dormant, their light within, waiting for rebirth in the spring.

When I’m feeling more positive, I think that all which is happening now – Trump elected to be President of the United States, the rise of autocrats and nationalist regimes world wide, the increasing acceptance of bigotry and misogyny, and the violent march of fundamentalism in all patriarchal religions – is part of a great unfolding. Albeit painful, this unfolding is exposing to the light of day the horrors created by a worldview which places humans, especially male, white humans, above all of creation; a worldview in which one is concerned only with oneself and one’s tribe/family. Ours is a world out of balance which the previous decades of ever increasing prosperity through credit hid from view. But the extremes the world is going to now allow us to see clearly where this journey of domination over the Earth and over one another has brought us. Now we must shine our own light brightly on that darkness. Only light can conquer an out of balance darkness.

I have continued to work on the painting I started the day after the election, through the dark of winter, up to the dawning spring. It’s finished now (though I must admit that if a painting is left in my care I could go back into it at any time). That being said, it is finished for now and it definitely has more light than darkness. Though the road might be long – very long – which brings us back to that balance between darkness and light, I have faith that we will get there.

Golden Bee Light, oil on canvas 16″x20″

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life.  Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork.  She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time.  She is now in the editing stage of her deck of Celtic Goddess Cards, which should be released this summer. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!


Author: Judith Shaw

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of her manifestations, which of course includes the flora and fauna of our beautiful Earth. Judith has exhibited her paintings in New York, San Francisco, Mytilene Greece, Athens Greece, New Orleans, Santa Fe NM, Taos NM, Albuquerque NM, Houston TX and Providence RI. She has published two oracle decks - Celtic Goddess Oracle and Animal Wisdom Oracle and is hard at work on an illustrated fairytale - Elena and the Reindeer Goddess.

21 thoughts on “Darkness and Light by Judith Shaw”

  1. We started as a human tribe and we defended the tribe against other tribes. The reason we clung together was survival in a cruel world.
    Modern research has traced the first push of homo sapiens out of Africa to about 100,000 years ago. Our evolutionary baggage is still with us
    although religion and civilisation have pointed to a better truth.
    Go to any football match to see tribalism in action ; sometimes violent even resulting in death over a game.
    Donald Trump is a natural tribal chieftain who rallies the troops. Many politicians have the old chieftain in their blood . The best carrot you can offer is the carrot of gain and the best message is to name those who are also grabbing the cake as enemies of your tribe.


      1. I have to agree with Carol. Much archeological and scientific evidence points to the fact that cooperation is a large part of human experience and has allowed us to survive in many difficult situations. There is even new evidence found on the plaque of Neanderthal teeth which suggest that there was co-mingling between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals. Sure there has been lots of hatred of the other through out history, but I do not believe it is written into our DNA. Also I continue to believe in human evolution – the evolution of consciousness. It is only through a change in consciousness that the world will change.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. There were several different lines of the genus homo which interbred leaving DNA traces in homo sapiens. Neanderthal was the most well known and they left Africa well before we did. We do not know when we became self conscious it was probably a slow process, but it meant we became self judgemental and the human conscience was born and the concept of good and evil. Unfortunately we often do not follow the prompting of the conscience preferring ambitious self gain. Freud brilliantly explained our situation : ‘we are at war with ourselves ‘.
          Steven Pinker the evolutionary psychologist makes a good case for our past baggage of violent behaviour which one unbiased look at the world reveals.


  2. Thank you Judith for sharing your process which resulted in your glorious painting, Golden Bee Light. I have felt similar emotions over the past two months, but like your painting I trust that something beautiful will emerge out of this latest dominator regression.


  3. Even if it is still in progress, your “Light in the Darkness” is absolutely exquisite, thanks Judith Shaw for this post. In my opinion the best abstract expressionists were mostly women, including Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, just to name a few. It’s a medium outside the conventional and without taking command, it just flows.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the women abstract expressionist also. Of course the married one’s were eclipsed by their husbands and while I also love Jackson Pollack’s work I can certainly live without all the female monster figures splashed onto canvas by de Kooning.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful paintings! Love the bee! Yes, even though the days are getting longer and lighter, at least cosmically (earthily?), we’re all still walking around in a darkness created, yes, by autocrats. It’s still scary and depressing. We gotta carry on.


    1. Right Barbara, We have no choice but to carry on. I have noticed that I personally am making a greater attempt to be nice to strangers who might irritate by cutting in line, being rude, etc.


  5. Exposing the violence/hatred etc will not change the way people see the world until we can stand what we see, what we’ve become. This act of witnessing horror opens the door to light that is securely grounded in its own roots that include darkness as a necessary part of the whole.


    1. Right Sara, darkness is a necessary part of the whole. I believe that the world we find ourselves in now is out of balance and so the darkness has ascendency over the light. Perhaps as you say this extreme of darkness might make us finally open our eyes to see how disconnected we have become.


  6. Love your bee, Judith! I planted lavender for them around my patio – heard they like it. Seems there is always something negative happening in our world. The question for me is: “What will I do with it?” My response is the only thing I can really control. Be calm. Resist. Educate. Plant lavender and encourage bees.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yipee for lavender! The bees love it! I’ve even stopped cursing all the dandelion weeds i need to pull in my yard as they provide much needed pollen for my bees at the end of winter, before spring blooms in full.


  7. Hi Judith,

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts. It has been particularly nourishing to read them today, as they’re echoing a lot of what I’m struggling to express myself at this time: “darkness and light [as] complementary parts of a single whole,” and “exposing to the light of day the horrors created by a worldview that places humans, especially male, white humans, above all of creation; a worldview in which one is concerned only with oneself and one’s tribe/family.” Yes, yes, yes.

    I’m glad you’re working with the medicine of the bees. Just seeing that image lifts my spirit considerably. Is that one or any replica of it something that you’ll be making available for purchase?


    1. Shomriel,
      I’m so happy to hear that my words have brought your own thoughts into focus.

      I love seeing the bees from my hive – little golden orbs buzzing around, gathering pollen and creating honey in their dark little hive. Yes all of my work is available for sale, both the originals and as prints. I offer reproductions as small photo prints and as larger giclee prints. You can always contact me privately through the contact form on my website at http://judithshawart.com.

      Thanks for appreciating my work.


  8. Your commentary is like so many other like minded individuals. We felt the descent of darkness, or the tipping of the scales into further imbalance and it was painful. Your artwork is astounding, I am in love with Golden Bee Light! Something just “fits” when I look at it, it grounds me and prepares me for greater flight into mystery all at the same time.


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