“We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff,” astrophysicist Carl Sagan famously stated in one episode of his 1980’s series, Cosmos. These ideas set my mind on a voyage through eternity filled with vast darkness illuminated by billions of specs of light.
Scientists have come to the conclusion that the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen which make up our bodies, along with all other heavy elements, were created in stars 4.5 billion years ago. The oldest stars consisted of only hydrogen and helium. When a star exhausts its supply of hydrogen it dies in a violent explosion, a nova. A massive star creates a Supernova when it dies, throwing a cloud of dust and gas into space and dispersing the heavy elements throughout interstellar space.
“It’s a well-tested theory,” said Chris Impey, professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona. “We know that stars make heavy elements, and late in their lives, they eject gas into the medium between stars so it can be part of subsequent stars and planets (and people).”
Astronomers at the Sloan digital Sky Survey in New Mexico have analyzed the composition of 150,000 stars across the Milky Way looking for the prevalence of the building blocks of life, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur. They found that the center of the Milky Way has the most of these elements with lesser amounts scattered throughout the whole galaxy. These essential elements make up 97% of the mass of our bodies.
Yet what do any of these scientific facts have to do with spirituality or how we make any sense of our lives. More and more scientists and theologians are coming to the understanding that science and spirituality not only can co-exist but can inform one another.
The understanding that we are made of star stuff further boosts the understanding that we are all connected; connected beyond Earth’s realm to the realm of the infinite. And pondering the infinite creates a sense of awe in our hearts. Awe fills us with great spiritual gifts – experiences of reverence, gratitude and humility.
This painting of mine from many years ago when I lived in Greece was my attempt to express that connectedness. From the Heart of Deep Space was the painting where the goddess first appeared in my work. She’s in the sky – blessing the connectedness of land, sea, and sky.
Our ancient ancestors understood our connection to the heavens albeit a non-scientific understanding. They had no knowledge of heavy elements being dispersed throughout stellar space by Supernovas. Yet they revered the heavens in the same way they revered Earth. This understanding is revealed in the propensity of Star, Sky and Sun Goddesses and Gods – from the Egyptian Sky Goddess, Nut, to Arianrhod the Welsh Star Goddess, to the Greek Uranus, Sky God and Asteria, Star Goddess, to Ataentsic, Iroquois Sky Goddess, and many, many more.
In addition this knowledge can be seen in the worldwide symbol – the Tree of Life. All around the world the the Tree of Life or the World Tree has been revered as the bridge between Heaven and Earth. With its roots reaching deep down into Earth and its branches reaching up to the stars, The Tree of Life has become the ultimate expression of the connection between the cosmos and life on Earth. In the same way that contemplating the infinity of the stars creates a sense of awe, the contemplation of trees move us into a place of awe and wonder.
Remembering that connection between trees and stars opened my mind’s eye to a resolution of my painting from last year, Star Tree Goddess. Something seemed off about it but for a long time I could not figure out what. Then it hit me – the color scheme was all in blues which indicates the heavens. But where was the indication of the earth. And so I brought in the green.
Trees, born of stardust like all of physical creation, continue to inspire our world and to promote the understanding that Heaven and Earth are forever entwined. We all come from star stuff but our bodies are forged in the womb of Mother Earth. And here on this tiny, spinning blue and green globe, we live our brief, awesome lives before departing yet again for the heavenly realm.
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is now in the world. Let the Celtic Goddesses guide you on your path to connectedness. Available on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
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. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts. 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. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.