Myth and Legend – Guides for Transformational Times by Judith Shaw

Cerridwen, Celtic Goddess, painting by Judith Shaw

Night becomes day, winter becomes spring, children become adults who become elders who become ancestors – transformation is a theme that appears again and again in our myths, legends and natural world.

But transformation is not easy as it requires us to let go of the old, the comfortable, the familiar and make way for the new and unknown. We can look to myth and legend with their many instances of transformation for guidance through these difficult moments. 

Continue reading “Myth and Legend – Guides for Transformational Times by Judith Shaw”

Rainbow Crow – A Native American Story Retold by Judith Shaw

Now that my Animal Wisdom Oracle is out in the world I’m delving more deeply into the stories and legends associated with the animals I’ve learned about. Though many legends of animals are strongly associated with goddesses and gods, there are also many that focus solely on animals themselves. In both cases these stories help us understand our place in the world and teach about living in balance and harmony with all beings – a cornerstone of feminism and goddess spirituality.  

As winter nears its end, I’d like to share my re-telling of a story with you about Crow. It comes from the storytelling tradition of the Lenni Lenape – a Native American tribe whose traditional territory spanned what is now eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, lower New York, and eastern Delaware. This is a different kind of crow from the one we know today. It goes like this….

Continue reading “Rainbow Crow – A Native American Story Retold by Judith Shaw”

The Reindeer Goddess Seeks Help by Judith Shaw

Imbolc has come and gone. It appears that Punxsutawney Phil, the American version of animal weather prophets on that cross-quarter day, was correct. Winter cold continues. I’ll admit that I am getting pretty tired of the cold but it does help me to keep focused on the paintings for my winter fairytale – Elena and the Reindeer Goddess.

Though my work on this project will certainly continue into the spring and summer, this will be the last excerpt I post here at FAR. I know you will all be more interested in postings related to the growing times of spring and summer once the days are longer and warmer. This third excerpt picks up where my post from last month stopped. If you missed excerpts one and two you can check them out here and here.

Continue reading “The Reindeer Goddess Seeks Help by Judith Shaw”

From the Archives: Brigid, Goddess of Healing, Poetry, and Smithcraft by Judith Shaw

This was originally posted on January 31, 2013

Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Healing, Poetry, and Smithcraft, begins her reign on Imbolic, February 2, the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox. On this day the ancient Celts held their Fire Festival in honor of Brigid and the growing light. In Scotland, as recently as the mid-twentieth century, houses were cleaned and the hearth fires rekindled on February 2, to welcome in  Brigid.  Remnants of this festival are found in America today on Groundhog Day.

Like the Cailleach, She existed in many places and  was known by many names.  The Irish called her Brighde; she was Bride in Scotland,  Brigantia in Northern Britain, and Brigandu in France.  Some called her Brid, Brig or Brighid.  Later she was transformed by Christianity into Saint Bridget.  Her older name was BREO SAIGHEAD.   Her name has various interpretations, many relating to fire – “Power,” “Renown” “Fiery Arrow of Power ” “Bright Arrow”, “The Bright One”, “The Powerful One”, “The High One” and “The Exalted One”.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Brigid, Goddess of Healing, Poetry, and Smithcraft by Judith Shaw”

Grandmother’s Story by Judith Shaw

The past few years have been way too busy. Every winter I longed for quietness and solitude – for time and space to see and feel the strong bones of tree trunks and branches standing sharp against the sky and to gaze in awe into the fathomless winter night.  And yet responsibilities and duties continued to yell at me for attention. The quiet gifted by Winter slipped away and soon I was on the treadmill of action offered by Spring and Summer once again.

Continue reading “Grandmother’s Story by Judith Shaw”

Elena and the Reindeer Goddess by Judith Shaw

The mad pre-Christmas rush of activity has passed and we find ourselves again in the quiet, dark and cold of winter. Winter Solstice, the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, occurred last week. With a gain of only a few seconds of daylight each day in the ten days after Winter Solstice, we can take advantage of the stillness offered to seek within ourselves for the seeds laying dormant, waiting to be recognized and nurtured into fruition and manifestation. 

Bright Solstice Night by Judith Shaw

Having just finished all the pre-press and pre-order fulfillment of the first of the Animal Wisdom Oracle decks, now is the perfect time for me to work on seeds of my own – another project that has long been in the works. This project has gotten back burnered every spring for the past couple of years as I seem to need the dark of winter to complete the art. It’s a folk tale inspired by the ancient stories of the Reindeer Goddess. It’s a tale that honors the Sacred Feminine. The story is written and now I have the illustrations to complete. Here’s a little taste of what’s to come:

Elena and the Reindeer Goddess

Just before dawn on a cold winter morning, Grandmother woke up with a smile on her wrinkled face and a feeling of hope in her heart. She had had a dream, one that had come from her ancestors, and from her own deep knowledge. It was a dream of prophecy.

“The Reindeer Goddess returns,” Grandmother whispered to herself.

She threw back her quilts and rose, shoving her cold feet into soft wool slippers, and hurried to wake her granddaughter, Elena.

She rushed into Elena’s cozy little room, then leaned over her and shook her gently, saying, “Elena, Elena, wake up. Quickly Elena, there’s no time to lose!”

Elena opened her eyes and yawned. “What’s wrong Grandmother? What’s happened?”

“It’s more about what will happen,” Grandmother said. “Come, let’s put on our coats and boots and while we walk I’ll explain everything. I need your pure heart, your quick wit, and your strength.” 

Elena and Grandmother bundled up against the cold and stepped outside. They began to trudge through the snow lying thickly on the ground, past little puddles here and there, glinting hard as stone in the light from a million stars.

Grandmother gathered her coat more tightly around her as she began telling Elena the story, her breath puffing out like mist in front of her.

“Long, long ago in the northern lands of snow and ice – the Old World of our ancestors – the Reindeer Goddess was alive in the hearts of the people. It was she who took flight on the Winter Solstice bringing understanding of the power that lies in darkness and of the hope that spring would return.

“Our people knew her as Reinna. Sometimes she was seen as a woman who flew through the skies in a chariot pulled by reindeer. At other times she was seen as a flying reindeer herself.

Flight of the Reindeer Goddess by Judith Shaw

Look for more excerpts over the winter months and discover how Elena helps the Reindeer Goddess accomplish her very important mission of love. The book should be ready for the printers by the end of summer – early fall 2024.

Reindeer are the only deer species in which the females grow antlers. And the females’ antlers are larger and stronger than those of male reindeer. So who was Santa Claus really and who were his flying reindeer?

As our ancestors were well aware of the need for balance, Stag – the male red deer indigenous to the UK – is also celebrated at this time. Stag, who grows a massive rack, is symbolic of the masculine power of regeneration, a messenger from the spirit world and one who leads humans to spiritual enlightenment. Males are called bucks in other deer species.  

The racks found on bucks from other deer species during the fall rut are also impressive. I was lucky to see many mule deer during my Thanksgiving stay in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. Deer who wander into town are protected and thus not afraid of humans. This allowed me to get very close to this magnificent buck and capture his photo. He was not at all interested in looking at me so it took awhile to get this shot from just a few feet away.

And finally I’ll share my painting of Stag with you all again.

May the Reindeer Goddess continue to nurture you with her love and gifts of abundance while Stag guides you to spiritual enlightenment.

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. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.

After almost 5 years of work Judith’s new oracle deck, Animal Wisdom Oracle, has just come out. You can order it here. Experience the wisdom our animal kin have to offer.

The Celtic Goddess Oracle Deck is still available. Order your deck here.

From the Archives: Turkey – Abundance, Gratitude and Connection to Mother Earth by Judith Shaw

This was originally posted on October 25, 2020

In the United States turkeys are equated with Thanksgiving. But there is so much more to Turkey – a gentle creature who forms strong attachments. Reputed to be dumb, Turkey is in fact quite intelligent and curious, with the ability to solve problems. Turkeys have an excellent understanding of the details of their location which makes them so successful at feeding themselves. They also love to play and to cluck along with music.

photo by Tony Castro

Turkeys, indigenous to North America, evolved over 20 million years ago and share a common ancestor with grouse, pheasants and other fowl. Two species of wild turkey exist today – the wild turkey of eastern and central North America of which there are 5 sub-species and the ocellated wild turkey of the Yucatan.

Yet why is turkey named turkey? Strangely enough it was a mistake. English colonial settlers thought turkeys were a type of guinea fowl which England imported from Turkey – thus the name. The Spanish word for turkey is guajolote which is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec) name huexolotl.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Turkey – Abundance, Gratitude and Connection to Mother Earth by Judith Shaw”

Listening to Animal Wisdom by Judith Shaw

Throughout these years that I have focused on animals and their spiritual meanings – often in ways that relate to goddesses – I’ve heard from many people about their own encounters with animals. It seemed that for me animals mainly showed up in images and words. But now different animals have been showing up in my life while out in nature. 

This past summer I was visited by Butterfly. A large Yellow Swallowtail graced my yard for several days on several occasions – a positive sign of ongoing transformation. In September a big colorful swallowtail caterpillar was chomping away at a parsley plant in my herb garden. Not long after a Black Swallowtail appeared with more Butterfly messages of joy and transformation.

Butterfly – Soul Transformation by Judith Shaw

Recently I lost that positive feeling of joy and the promise given by transformation –  feeling instead a sense of stagnation, of not having achieved my goals and wondering what I needed, to create change and revitalization. With no answer in sight, I activated my go-to cure for the blues – a bike ride in the Bosque – Albuquerque’s cottonwood forest growing along the Rio Grande.

It was a glorious autumn day in the cottonwoods – hues of green turning, turning turning into orange, yellow, gold – sun-white grass heads shimmering in the sun, framed by a deep turquoise blue sky.

Stopping by the river, Dragonfly lit on a stalk of grass, swaying over the water. It remained. I photographed it – moved in closer. It remained. Breathe… wait…. look…. It remained. Suddenly Dragonfly darted – up, down – left, right – circled round – quickly, quickly and then returned to the stalk. It remained. Same sequence repeated ending on the stalk. 

Still it remained. I spoke with Dragonfly while gazing at its huge eyes. Eyes that lead to true sight. “Dragonfly,” I said “Show me the way to a positive transformation, give me a sign. With your true sight lead me to an answer, a resolution to my dilemma.” 

I repeated these words several times as Dragonfly remained – a few times flitting about – yet always returning. Dragonfly was still perched on its stalk when I finally moved on. 

Returning to the cool shadows under the trees, I trekked along. Arriving at a spot where the trees opened up to the banks of the river was a downed tree – a good spot for a river view.

Shortly I noticed a lone bird, standing tall on a small island in the far side of the river  It stood and it stood – same position – same spot. It was tall like a crane – many are arriving now. But no, something was different – it wasn’t a crane. It was grayer with fringe-edged feathers around its neck. With the help of my phone camera I discovered it was a Great Blue Heron. I was amazed!

“Ah ha!” I thought. “So this is my sign. Blue Heron has the wisdom I need now”

Not yet having investigated Great Blue Heron I had to wait until I got home to my computer and the wealth of information on the internet. What I discovered was not what I was hoping for.

As I had been struggling with what I needed to instigate the changes wanted, all I could focus on was who to connect with, what action to take, what project to start….  But Great Blue Heron delivered a completely different message.

Blue Heron brings messages of solitude, of standing still and waiting patiently for what you need to come to you. This is how Blue Heron hunts. Blue Heron encourages calm while watching for opportunities to arrive. Blue Heron says that only after calmly waiting, will opportunity arrive – which you must catch quickly or it will disappear.

Dragonfly, embodiment of transformation and true sight, led me to Blue Heron who then informed me that my usual way of doing and fixing and forging ahead would not work. Blue Heron called me to stop, to remain in my solitude and to wait. Now I can only trust that with patience and quiet meditation I will be able to flow with all of the forces active at this time and the path to the realization of my goals will become clear. 

A week later, while on a bike-riding break from working on editing the stories for the Animal Wisdom deck, Coyote popped up in my path a mere 25 feet away before hightailing it across the way. I suppose I should expect the unexpected in this time of calm waiting. 

I hope you too can find meaningful messages from the animals that appear in your life – messages that help rediscover the wisdom of our ancestors and support the reemergence of the feminine principle in your life.

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. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.

Judith is currently in the pre-press stage for her new oracle deck – Animal Wisdom. To learn about a soon-to-come, pre-order special, sign up to receive her newsletter on her website.

The Celtic Goddess Oracle Deck is still available. Order your deck from Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Deer – Inspiration For Liminal Times by Judith Shaw

We have just passed another marker in the cycle of the seasons –  Fall Equinox – the second moment in the circle of the year in which day and night are of equal length. It is a time to begin our quiet reflections on the growth experienced during the previous periods of the year; a time when a greater understanding of balance is sought; a time when our hearts are filled with appreciation for the bounty offered by Mother Earth while at the same time feeling trepidation about the approaching winter.

Continue reading “Deer – Inspiration For Liminal Times by Judith Shaw”

Whale Continues Singing to Me by Judith Shaw

The mystery evoked by Whale continues to fill my heart as Whale images fill up papers laid out on my drawing table.

Continue reading “Whale Continues Singing to Me by Judith Shaw”

Whale – Lord of the Sea by Judith Shaw – Part 2

Whale, a bridge between the spirit world and the physical world, breathes air but dives deep into the sea, reminding us to embrace duality while seeking balance and our highest truth.

Continue reading “Whale – Lord of the Sea by Judith Shaw – Part 2”

Whale – Lord of the Sea by Judith Shaw – Part 1

In the deep waters of Earth’s soul, Whale – Lord of the Sea – lives long, dives deep and emerges within a cascade of sea foam to greet the day . Considered divine beings by some cultures and demons by others, this enigmatic being inspires both awe and fear in the human heart.

Continue reading “Whale – Lord of the Sea by Judith Shaw – Part 1”

Sheep – Gentle Wisdom by Judith Shaw

Sheep – soft-footed, fluffy creatures – graze and amble along with frolicking lambs by their sides. Know worldwide as docile and friendly, sheep – in particular the female ewes and their lambs – have come to symbolize innocence, gentleness and peacefulness. The symbolism of rams takes on a slightly different, more masculine tone and will be looked at separately. 

Continue reading “Sheep – Gentle Wisdom by Judith Shaw”

From the Archives: Artio, Celtic Goddess of Wild Life, Transformation and Abundance by Judith Shaw

This blog was originally posted August 26, 2015. You can read the original comments here.

Artio, Celtic Goddess of Wild Life, Transformation, and Abundance, is one of the more obscure goddesses in the Celtic pantheon.  She is often shown with baskets of plenty and surrounded by animals.  Artio is frequently depicted as a bear. Her name comes from the old Celtic word for bear, arth(e), which the Romans Latinized to artos.

Artio arrived in western Europe with the Helvetii a Celtic tribe who migrated to Switzerland around 450 BC.  They worshiped Her as the “She-Bear”.

But Her origins could be even older than that.  Some feel that the bear is the oldest European deity as bones and skulls of bears have been found lovingly arranged on niches found in caves across Europe.  In 1840 in Ireland, during the restoration of Armagh Cathedral, ancient, small stone carvings of bears were found.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Artio, Celtic Goddess of Wild Life, Transformation and Abundance by Judith Shaw”

The Callanais (Callanish) Stones and the Cailleach by Judith Shaw

I felt compelled to visit Scotland without truly understanding why. I said I was called by my studies of Celtic mythology and by images I had seen of the land. I told people in Scotland I was on an artist’s journey. But now I see that Mother Earth wanted my attention – and in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands, Earth energy is strongly present.  From the start, a major part of that calling was the ancient Callanais Stones – pronounced like the English translation “Callanish” – located on the remote Isle of Lewis. 

Getting around the Hebrides and the Highlands was difficult without a car as bus access is very limited. Though a little restricting, it kept me connected to Earth as I walked and I walked. With every step I felt the call of Earth – from even before the human family began. 

It was a glorious sunny afternoon when I arrived by ferry on the Isle of Lewis/Harris. Next was a bus ride north to Stornoway, my base for exploring Callanais. Here I first learned of the Stones connection to the Cailleich, an ancient goddess whose origins are unknown. Her name literally means “the Veiled One” but has come to mean “Old Woman or Wife.” Yet she was all powerful and ageless.

An elder man spoke about Callanias and the Stones’ connection to the nearby mountain – “Cailleach na Mointeach” – Gaelic for “The Old Woman of the Moors” or affectionately called “Sleeping Beauty” as the mountain looks like a woman lying on her back with bent knees. He said you could see this mountain through the stones. His storytelling got me searching for more info on the Cailleach’s connection to the Stones.

Cailleach na Mointeach, Isle of Lewis

First, I learned of the extreme age of the islands and of the stones that make up the land. The Callanais Stones date back to 3500 BC but the rocks that created Scotland come from an inconceivable 3 billion years ago as the landmasses of Earth were created from out of the waters. 

Around 450 million years ago, at the beginning of the Caledonian Orogeny, Scotland, Scandinavia and North America were one continent with the now, non-existent Iapetu Ocean separating them from England, which was joined with the rest of northern Europe. This was a long geological period of continental collision and mountain building, that turned Iapetu Ocean into land and fused Scotland and England together. 

Quieter conditions occurred for several millennia, covering Scotland with layers of sediment forming various sedimentary rocks until 60 million years ago when Earth moved again and the continent split apart forming the North Atlantic Ocean with volcanoes erupting all along Scotland’s new western edge. 

These are the creation stories the science of geology tells us. But our ancient ancestors told a different story of the creation of Scotland and the other Celtic lands.  Long, long before the Celts arrived in Ireland and Scotland, the indigenous people worshipped The Cailleach, as both the goddess of creation and the goddess of destruction.  She became Calleach Bheur to the Scots. “Bheur” means sharp and she was credited with creating the sharp and biting winter weather, which helped to shape Scotland.

The Cailleach, Celtic Goddess, painting by Judith Shaw

The Cailleach, a Dark Goddess of nature, is one with the land. Sometimes depicted with one eye, she sees beyond duality peering into the Oneness of all Being. She is the embodiment of winter, clothing the land with snow. Sacred Stones are her special places. 

She leapt from mountaintop to mountaintop, dropping rocks to create hills, mountains and islands. She carried a slachdam – the Druidic rod, or a hammer with which she wielded power over the seasons and weather.

She is the guardian of the life force, finding and nourishing the seeds, commanding the power of life and death. The Cailleach personifies death and the transformative power of darkness, leading us through death to rebirth.

Our ancestors believed that the rocks on the Isle of Lewis used to create the Callanais Stone Circle were gifts from the Cailleach – from her acts of Earth building. These metamorphic gneiss rocks are among the oldest in Europe and are embedded with various types of crystal such as quartz, feldspar and hornblende. Perhaps these crystals in the ancient rocks create the energy field I felt so strongly on my visit – all coming from the hand of the Cailleach, a personification of the power of Mother Earth.

Archeologists theorize that the 5,000 year old Callanais Stones were a sacred site created for ritual and prayer, in particular from which to mark the 18.6 year lunar cycle – similar and yet more complicated than the yearly Sun cycle of Summer and Winter Solstices.

Callanais Stone Circle seen from Cross Entrance on East

Every 18.6 years, this moon cycle reaches Major Lunar Standstill with the full moon nearest the Summer Solstice. It is viewed through the Callanais Stones rising out of Cailleach na Mointeach – our Earth Mother. Being so far north it only skims the horizon then appears to set among the stones.

Two stones of the Callanais 13 stone inner circle framing Cailleach na Mointeach

It is hard for our modern minds to understand the awe these ancient people must have felt at the beauty and terror of nature during the Megalithic Era – when the human family was first beginning to settle in one place though had not yet discovered agriculture. 

Perhaps the ceremonies held at Callanais helped hold the terror at bay. Closing my eyes I can imagine being there on this short night, near mid-summer, for the ritual marking of the passing of winter –  I and my tribe had survived the season of long, dark nights. This was the special time that our tribal shaman knew how to mark. We all understood the precariousness of life and that marking the circuits of Earth and Sky provided invaluable knowledge for our survival. I can imagine feeling immense gratitude witnessing the cycles of life unfold as Earth and Sky and human minds interacted and the full moon rose out of our Earth Mother – Cailleach na Mointeach – and then set within the Sacred Stone Circle.

Further illustrating Callanais’ connection to Goddess, its original construction was comprised of 13 stones arranged in a circle – both number and shape are symbols of  Moon and Goddess. At some point an even-armed cross was added around the perimeter – symbolic of the sun and of the meeting place of the divine and the mundane.

It seems unlikely that such a magnificent structure was created for use only once every 18.6 years. Of course these people left no written account of their actions, but local legend and lore suggests the Callanais Stones were seen as a fertility power spot. Given the Stones connection to Moon and Goddess that is not surprising.  An old legend claims that Callanais is a promising spot to consummate a marriage or become engaged. In fact I overheard a couple of visitors while I was there claiming to have become engaged at Callanais. 

But what does a site like the Callanais Stones hold for us today? Can Mother Earth still speak to us there?

After a bit of a wander through and around the Stones, I sat and sketched. Slowly through that act of eye to hand to pencil to paper I began to feel the deep connection that always comes in when I attempt to translate 3D reality onto a 2D piece of paper.

Time passed and soon the only return bus would arrive so I stopped and just sat quietly, listening to the wind and feeling the energy. I felt strongly a sacred presence in this spot where long, long ago ceremonies for Goddess had been held. I heard the Cailleach’s calling – to an acceptance of our modern world and the difficult days of transformation the 21st century offers up. The winds carried her message –  a glimmer of hope that we can find our way back to living in balance with her natural rhythms of creation, destruction and creation. I felt her reassurance that though the geography of Earth changes and the epochs of humankind and the flesh and bones of all creatures pass away, the magnificence of life continues. The Cailleach touched my heart there at her Sacred Stone circle, reminding me that, though pain and suffering has been and will always be with us, life is a gift to be cherished.

Here are a few more photos of the Callanais Stones

Post Script – If you are interested in learning more about the 18.6 year moon cycle be sure to read “Moon Teachings for the Masses” by Dr. Judith S. Young.

Sources: Moon Teachings for the Masses, Callanish, Isle of Lewis, Eye of the Psychic, Edinburgh Geological Society,

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. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Wisdom. Originally from New Orleans, Judith 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.

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s website – click here. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Whispers of the Ancient Ones by Judith Shaw

Moving from town to town – by train, bus and ferry – I have walked and walked the ancient land of the Scottish Highlands. From Paleolithic to Mesolithic to Neolithic and on to Picts, Celts, Scots, Romans, French and English – many different people have walked these same paths.

Standing Stones, Cupmarked Stones and Pictish Stones along with medieval castles, monuments, graveyards to soldiers lost in centuries of battles and sheep, always sheep – pepper the landscape everywhere.

The Callanish Stones – circa 3500 BC – Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Cupmarked Stone, Aberfledy, Perthsire
Pastures of Fortingall – a very small village in Perthshire, Scotland
Graveyard to soldiers lost to war, Fort William, Scotland

This land was formed millennia ago when Mother Earth first birthed herself from the waters of our beginnings. Through epochs of volcanic spewings, earthquakes, continents splitting, the ice advancing and retreating – change, always change, remains the one constant. Here in this high land, one is reminded of the smallness of our individuality.

Isle of Skye, East side of island formed by tectonic plate movement
Niest, most westerly point on Isle of Skye

Tales of goddesses, gods, faeries, giants, monsters and countless heroines and heroes inhabit the land.

After the ice receded – the Faery Glen, Isle of Skye
The Faery Glen – another view

All along this way the Ancient Ones have whispered to me – whispered through the rushing streams and babbling creeks, joyous bird song, waves murmuring, waves crashing against the shore, and wind howling through the air.

A beach on the Isle of Lewis

It has rained and rained and yet one day the sun emerged, revealing the vibrant green, green, green – everywhere green – temporarily lifting the blue grey mists and the brown, brackish swaths of horizon.

Every moment has been a joyous exaltation of our beautiful Mother Earth. And of course, along the way I was drawing. Here are a few sketches or dream remembrances.

Sheep, Birds and Trees
On the Banks of the River Tay
Seaweed and Rocks
Loch Dreams

And one day there was snow!

I’ll leave you with just a few more photos – big vistas, trees and small things – all parts of the beauty found in this ancient land of Mother Earth – our mother who sustains and supports us through all time.

Leaving Uig, Isle of Skye by ferry
Uig, Isle of Skye

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s website – click here. 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 art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Wisdom. Originally from New Orleans, Judith 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.

From the Archives: Grainne – Sun Goddess/Winter Queen by Judith Shaw

This was originally posted on June 24, 2015. You can see the original comments here.

In the ancient Celtic world the Goddess was the One who expressed Herself through the many.  Grainne is such a one. She is both Winter Queen/Dark Goddess, nurturing seeds through winter, and Solar Sun Goddess, welcoming the rebirth of spring.  She is Aine’s sister or another aspect of Aine. She, like Aine, was honored at the summer solstice and the first grain harvest of early August with bonfires and torchlit processions on top of her sacred hill at Leinster, Ireland.  Remnants of these festivals are still found in folk ritual today.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Grainne – Sun Goddess/Winter Queen by Judith Shaw”

On Ukraine, War and Goddess’s Protection by Judith Shaw

We have all been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine as we witness the brutal bombardment of not only military sites but also of civilians, neighborhoods, hospitals, churches, historical sites and nuclear power plants. It has been called the first TicToc war as these images fill up our computers and cellphones, leaving peace lovers challenged to maintain their belief in peaceful resolutions to conflict

Continue reading “On Ukraine, War and Goddess’s Protection by Judith Shaw”

Hawk – A Soaring Visionary by Judith Shaw

Hawk, beautiful and deadly, soars high in the air –  circling and circling –  its piercing eyes focused below. Spotting Hawk, one is amazed by its elegance and power while feeling a strange and ancient connection to this magnificent bird. Yet it strikes fear in the hearts of small animals.  

Continue reading “Hawk – A Soaring Visionary by Judith Shaw”

From the Archives: The Serpent and the Goddess by Judith Shaw

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We have created this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted January 26, 2020. You can visit the original post here to see the comments.

The otherworldly energy of Snake – it’s vitality, its uncanny ability to sense danger, and its ability to shed its skin and reappear as if reborn must have invoked feelings of awe in our ancestors. All across the pre-historic world one finds depictions of Snake and the spiral or meander as Snake’s symbols.

Creation, Primal Energy, Life Force
Snakes are mysterious, cold-blooded creatures –  slithering silently across the land, sleeping with open lidless eyes, hearing without ears but by feeling Earth’s vibrations, and using their forked tongues to smell in lieu of a nose.

Snake Spirit Animal-painting-by-judith-shaw

To the human imagination this enigmatic being is both chthonic and spiritual – tying together Heaven and Earth. Though no stories survive from the early Neolithic period of Old Europe, the preponderance of imagery leads us to the conclusion that the Snake Goddess, often appearing as one with the Bird Goddess, was felt everywhere – ruling earth, water and air – nurturing the world with the feminine principle – Mistress of life-giving cosmic forces.

Continue reading “From the Archives: The Serpent and the Goddess by Judith Shaw”

Andraste, Celtic War Goddess – a Non-violent Approach, by Judith Shaw

Mythology can be a helpful lens through which to view the march of history. The goddesses and gods are archetypes, illustrating the many facets of human experience for us, while at the same time lighting the path of connection between all Earth’s creatures and Earth herself – helping us understand ourselves and our place in this beautiful, yet often difficult, world of duality.  

Continue reading “Andraste, Celtic War Goddess – a Non-violent Approach, by Judith Shaw”

Stag – Majestic Messenger of Light by Judith Shaw

The seasons turn and again we reach the Winter Solstice – the longest night which marks the sun’s return to light in the northern hemisphere. Stag, in all his antlered majesty, symbolizes the return of the sun’s life-giving rays. 

Continue reading “Stag – Majestic Messenger of Light by Judith Shaw”

Seal – a Soulful Clown by Judith Shaw

Seal – ever curious – stands up in the water gazing about with her dark, soulful eyes before diving again into the enigmatic, mysterious sea. Seal initiates us into wonder by her extraordinary presence filled with playfulness, adaptability and deep emotions. 

Continue reading “Seal – a Soulful Clown by Judith Shaw”

Elephant – Earth’s Gentle Giant by Judith Shaw

Elephants amble along through forest and savannah in unity with each other, generally causing no harm. They have long symbolized intelligence, power, wisdom and loyalty. 

Continue reading “Elephant – Earth’s Gentle Giant by Judith Shaw”

Spider Wisdom – Creation and Destruction Part 2 by Judith Shaw

In addition to being viewed as a Creator Goddess and a Destiny Weaver, Spider is associated with many other aspects of life. Some of these aspects fall into what we would consider the light – the good – and others are dark dangers – the dark side of life. 

Spider Wisdom by Judith Shaw

Patience, Resourcefulness/Protection, Good Fortune
Though spiders have eight eyes they have very poor eyesight. Instead they have infinite patience, waiting quietly in their webs for prey.

Spider is credited with inspiring King Robert the Bruce of Scotland with its patience. A 14th century legend tells of a time when Bruce had suffered various military defeats against the English. While hiding in a cave he observed a spider trying and failing repeatedly to climb its silken thread. But it persevered and eventually reached its web. Bruce was inspired. He decided to persevere in his efforts, came out of hiding, and eventually won Scotland’s independence from England. 

Spiders are important to our gardens. They eat more insects than both birds and bats.

Long ago people used spider webs to stop bleeding. Now science has discovered that spider webs contain Vitamin K – a coagulant which stops bleeding. 

The Torah recounts a story of how Spider protected David, before he become King of Israel. As King Saul’s soldiers pursued him, David hid in a cave. A spider built a huge web across the cave entrance. The soldiers saw the cave but did not investigate, thinking that no one would crawl through a spider web to gain entrance. 

Similarly a story from Islamic tradition depicts Mohammad hiding in a cave from pursuing soldiers. Here also a spider spun a web across the opening, protecting Mohammad.  

A Hopi legend about Spider Grandmother tells how she protected a village by spinning a magical web over the whole village, which when doused with water gave protection from being burned down by its enemies.

Spider Woman of Dine (Navajo) mythology helps and protects her people. She helped them to destroy the monsters that roamed the land as they emerged from the third world into this world. She chose the top of Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly – the Dine ancestral home – as her home. Children were warned that misbehaving would make Spider Woman angry. She would cast her web like a net, as some spiders do, to catch the naughty child, bring him up to her home and devour him. It was said that the top of Spider rock is white because of the bleached bones of those naughty children. 

By RyderAce – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The Celts saw spider as a helper and believed that killing one would bring bad luck.

Spider appears frequently in Chinese legends as lucky beings, bringing happiness and wealth. Spider charms are worn for good luck.

Wisdom, Interconnection, Transformation
A Hopi legend tells of Spider Woman helping Tiyo on his journey to the underworld. He begins with a visit to Spider Woman who gives him a serum to subdue his enemies. Then she accompanies him to the ‘Far-Far-Below River’ to offer advice during his trials. With her help Tiyo completes his journey successfully and returns to his people with greater wisdom and knowledge.

Egyptian Creator/Spider Goddess, Neith, often depicted veiled, wove this veil at creation to hide herself from humanity. As humans are not capable of understanding the fullness of divine mysteries the veil offers folds and strands that are thinner, allowing humans a glimpse at divine source and higher understanding. 

African and some Native American stories portray Spider as a trickster god whose tales are part of a rich storytelling tradition which convey wisdom and moral lessons. 

Spider symbolizes Maya (illusion) in Hindu Mythology. Vedic philosophy characterizes Spider as the weaver of the veil of illusion, hiding the ultimate truth of reality. In addition, Indra’s net, envisioned like a spiderweb with jewels at each vertex, illustrate the belief that all things are connected.

Though spiderwebs are stronger than steel, by weight they don’t usually last very long. Sometimes spiders destroy their own webs. Spider, with it eight (infinity symbol) legs and eyes symbolizes the infinite cycles of transformation as Spider continually creates, destroys  and creates again, reflecting the essence of our natural world and its infinite cycles of birth, death and rebirth.

Dark Dangers – cunning, deception, intrigue, death
Only a small number of spider species are dangerous to humans with venom that can cause localized pain to a person. Further, there are only about 25 spider species with venom that can cause serious illness in humans. And yet arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is one of the most common fears worldwide.

Many folktales and myths warn of the dangers associated with Spider. 

Athena, Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Handicraft was a skilled weaver. Arachne, a mortal and gifted weaver, got carried away with her talents and boasted that her work was better than that of Athena. Athena was furious and a contest was arranged between the two. Not only was Arachne’s weaving beautiful it also depicted the gods in a bad way.  Athena destroyed Arachne’s work in a rage. 

Arachne, ashamed to see what her arrogance had wrought, hung herself. Athena took pity on her – turning the rope into a web and Arachne into a spider. Through her death and transformation, Arachne was able to weave her beautiful tapestries for eternity. 

Japanese mythology tells of the Spider Princess, Jorōgumo, who transformed into a beautiful woman and entraped men with her deception.

To Christians Spider symbolizes the Devil as the Devil prepares its trap for human souls like the spider prepares its web for prey.

When a spider is finished with its web many species roll it up and consume it. 

In ancient Indian tradition Brahma, the creator of all things, was seen as a spider weaving the web that is our universe. Sacred text says that one day she will devour the web – our universe – and then weave another.

Spider calls you to transform – to imagine your world anew. A time of creativity is at hand – a time of magic – a time to manifest your true destiny. Spider reminds you that with patience you can best reach your goal. 

At the same time Spider calls you to recognize the dark side of life – the ways in which you or others might be deceptive, or engaged in intrigue. 

Spider reminds you of the eternal cycles of life, death and rebirth. 

Spider awakens your memory of the interconnection of all life, allowing you to integrate problem areas into a more wholistic perspective on life and reminding you of the system of interdependency in which we live.

Sources: Ancient Origins, Cultural Depictions of Spiders, Britanicca, UniGuide

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s website – click here. 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 art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Wisdom. Originally from New Orleans, Judith 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.



Spider Wisdom – Creation and Destruction, Part 1 by Judith Shaw

Spider, the eternal weaver of webs, has symbolized creation since people first began storytelling. Cultures worldwide have associated Spider with the Creator Goddess, weaving – and through association with women as they were the weavers who spent endless hours creating the fabric to clothe their communities, and feminine power.

Continue reading “Spider Wisdom – Creation and Destruction, Part 1 by Judith Shaw”

Remembering Karolina by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photo

Early in the morning of July 15, 2021, I was sitting amid the chaos of boxes in my new home which I had just closed on a week earlier. I had woken at 5 am to a leak in the new roof and was feeling very tired and somewhat dazed by all the work to be done. Then I got a text with the news that Carol Christ had passed away the previous day.  It took a few minutes for that reality to sink in past my state of overwhelm and exhaustion and then the tears and the memories flooded through me. 

Carol and I became friends in 1987 when we both had begun living on the Greek island, Lesvos, in the village of Molyvos. At that time Carol was mainly using her Greek name, so for many years I called her Karolina. As the months wore on we discovered our mutual interests –  in Goddess, in social justice, in living a life more connected to nature and in the desires of younger women to kick up their heels and have some fun. We became constant “parea” (company) for each other. 

Continue reading “Remembering Karolina by Judith Shaw”

Are Bees Begotten from Bull? by Judith Shaw

At first glance the ancient belief that bees were birthed from dead bulls seems odd. But if we delve deeply into pre-historical artifacts we discover the mythopoetic roots of this idea.

Continue reading “Are Bees Begotten from Bull? by Judith Shaw”

Bull, Oracle of Strength and Prosperity by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photo

Bull, with its components of aggressiveness, stubbornness, virility, and ferocity, is emblematic of masculinity. But Bull is also associated with fertility, abundance, strength, and determination. Viewed by some cultures as a solar symbol – in the oldest myths, we find Bull connected to the moon.

Continue reading “Bull, Oracle of Strength and Prosperity by Judith Shaw”

Wren, Herald of Dawn by Judith Shaw

Wren, the first bird to sing at dawn, is known as the Herald of Dawn. It calls out its joy as each day begins. 

Continue reading “Wren, Herald of Dawn by Judith Shaw”
%d bloggers like this: