On the Rio Grande

The Rio Grande - upriver from Pilar - where the wild version rushes and winds its way down to the meandering river near my home in Albuquerque.

Even up there the it wasn't very wild as the drought has given us a very low river. But still beautiful!

rio grande river

rio grande river, river cliffs,

Crane Spirit Guide

Crane – Guide to Royalty, Longevity and Balance

published September 23, 2019

Cranes, seen gliding over the water, searching for food in muddy wetlands and flying overhead in beautiful formations, are graceful, elegant birds – masters of three worlds – air, land and water.

Crane is truly prehistoric with Miocene fossil evidence dated back 10 million years ago. Cranes, with their long necks and legs, are the world’s tallest flying birds. Fifteen species of crane found everywhere except for Antartica and South America live mainly in wetlands, marshes and swamps. Some make a permanent home whereas most migrate almost 10,000 miles from far north to more temperate areas for the winter.

Crane Spirit Guide

Royalty, Grace, Patience, Balance

chinese robe Crane rank badge

Chinese robe rank badge

The Chinese revered Crane as lord of feathered beings, believing that the souls of wise ancestors rode in crane-drawn chariots. Crane images on robes of top-ranking officials reflected importance. The Anishinaabe tribe of North America believed Crane to be a great orator – symbolic of leadership.

Unlike many birds who flit from perch to perch, Crane lives peacefully, walking gracefully or standing balanced on one leg. Crane can maintain this stance for hours, patiently peering into the water waiting for prey – then pouncing. Crane’s beautiful dancing also speaks to its balance and grace.

Longevity, Vigilance

The average lifespan of cranes is 15 – 30 years. However, a Siberian crane lived for 83 years in captivity.

In Ireland it was believed that a solitary crane had lived on Inis Kea since the beginning of time. The Japanese believed that Crane lives for 1000 years. They gift 1000 paper origami cranes to newlyweds, wishing them 1000 years of prosperity.

2 vigilant cranesTo the Chinese Crane is the embodiment of longevity. Its wings were used as a talisman for endurance and perseverance.

Cranes, fierce defenders and skillful predators, are very territorial and will fiercely protect their homes. Yet they do not rush into conflict preferring privacy and security over aggression.

Lugh of Celtic myth, used a crane-prayer (corrghuineacht) to inspire his troops and curse his enemies. To do this he imitated a crane’s pose – standing on one leg with one eye closed. The Celtic War Goddess, Badb also took this stance. 

Call on Crane for protection from your adversaries and for the gift of endurance.

Fidelity, Communication, Wisdom, Secret Knowledge

Cranes are monogamous, choosing their mate between three – five years old. Before mating, juvenile cranes travel together in “bachelor flocks.” In India they believe that if one of a crane couple dies, the other will starve itself to death.

Crane loves to dance and dancing is important to its pair bonding. Its exuberant dance is a response against aggression, relieves tension and strengthens the couple. Cranes of both sexes and all ages dance.

Crane builds its nest on shallow wetlands. Both sexes gather the materials but the female builds it alone. Both share equally in the incubation process. Known to paint themselves with mud for nesting, thus becoming less visible – they are ever secretive when nesting.

With a reputation for being noisy, cranes employ a full vocabulary of calls. Their richly evolved communication system is used to keep the family together, to strengthen the pair-bond and to signal danger.

The Greek Hermes and Roman Mercury were inspired to create their alphabets by watching cranes in flight.

Wisdom comes with age and with wisdom comes esoteric knowledge. Crane, symbol of secret knowledge, was attributed supernatural qualities by the Celts. It was believed that through watching the bending of Crane’s legs, Celtic Ogma created ogham – the sacred alphabet of druidic tradition. Druidic teachings are often called “crane knowledge.” St Columba, a famous 6th century Irish monk whose early training was in Druidry was called a crane cleric.

Crane calls you to stay loyal to and to protect your family, to maintain good communication with loved ones, to keep your affairs to yourself and to call on the wisdom of experience to guide you in both worldly and otherworldly matters.

Happiness, Good Fortune, the Sun
Crane, who soars high in a sun-filled sky, stands peacefully in wetlands, and dances with abandon, must have seemed like the essence of happiness to ancient people.

The Chinese have many paintings depicting cranes gliding through the sky, symbolizing happiness and good fortune. Some Native American tribes also associate Crane with good fortune.

The Red-crowned Crane of Japan is depicted with the sun – symbol of life and abundance.

Renewal/Rebirth, the Otherworld
Cranes of Europe and Asia fly higher than any other bird – up to 32,800 ft. This ability connects Crane to the divine – the eternal realm of spirit.

Crane was sacred to early Celts. Albeit most associated with women and goddesses, Annwn, King of the Celtic Underworld, could shape-shift into Crane – three cranes guarded the entrance to his Underworld.

Though the Celts often associated Crane with treachery, war and evil women, Celtic mythology places Crane as guardian of Otherworld secrets.

Goddess Aoife, in mortal guise, was transformed by a jealous rival’s curse into a crane. There upon she flew to the underwater realm of Manannan mac Lir in which form she lived for 200 years. When she died, returning to the eternal, Manannan created the crane bag with her crane skin, hiding his magical talismans there.

Where there is death there is rebirth. The items in the crane bag were most likely mystical tools of transformation – tools hidden within the crane bag – the body of the Goddess.

With one foot in the temporal and one in the eternal the “corrghuineacht,” (cursing stance) was possibly also used for blessing.

Several cultures practiced the Crane Dance as rituals of rebirth and renewal.

In Japan the 1000 year old Crane Dance is held every April to honor the belief that cranes who lived on the Isles of the Bless transported souls to the Western Paradise. Many still believe cranes carry their spirits to heaven.

The Greeks recorded their first performance of the Crane Dance (Geranos) as being by Theseus and his companions after their escape from King Minos. He received it from Ariadne whose thread led him out of the labyrinth, freeing him from the Minotaur. The Minoans must have performed the Crane Dance for centuries before. Crane and the Labyrinth were associated with rebirth.

Crane, who flies far and high during both day and night, is associated with both the Sun – the bright abundance of day – and the Otherworld- the twinkling of spirit. Crane knows the way to the Otherworld – threading the path between the mundane and the divine. Crane sounds the call when a change is in the air, a new beginning is around the corner – offering assistance during life transitions.

When Crane enters your life you are being called to recognize your own worth, to learn patience, to focus and move forward with knowledge and wisdom, to keep your secrets, to remain a loyal protector with good communication and to seek balance.

Crane offers protection from adversaries and the gifts of endurance, happiness and good luck. Crane draws your focus upward and inspires you to trust spirit to provide.

Sources: MystieuriousExemploreJapanese Mythology and Folklore,  Independent.ieLewellyn- 2010 CalendarMaryland ZooLe Origini della DanzaALISSAACSTORYTELLER,  A Druid’s Cave,

The Power of Intention

The Power of Intention
published on August 2, 2011

I believe this is what has happened for me – I’ve reached a plateau where the sustained consciousness and information is now energy which is becoming matter.

For my whole life I’ve know that one of my main purposes in life is to create art which expresses the beauty and oneness of everything.

Every time I’d start to move in the direction which allowed me to actually make my living as an artist, I’d break away into fear.  My intentions to create art remained the same but my choices of how to spend my time (energy) shifted because of the fear.

Of couse the energy would then shift too and I’d find my material world full of a different energy than that of an artist.  I’d see materialized the energy of a waitress or a teacher or a video producer over and over again.

Any one of these things are fine in and of themselves.  They just aren’t fine for me, as my soul seems to shrivel and lose its shine in direct correlation to the loss of time for painting.  I know it’s archaic, but what’s a painter to do.

It’s now been five months since I decided to no longer consider myself as unemployed but to claim my power as a self-employed artist.  Some days I’m not sure if I’ll be able to pay the next bill but then I take a deep breathe and return to my intentions, belief and choices which then brings in the energy which then materializes. And then I pay my bills, staying on my new plateau, manifesting in the world as an artist.  I maintain a state of gratitude to my Angels for their help.

It’s All Connected

It’s All Connected – I Mean Really – It’s All Connected

I heard an interview with the scientist and environmentalist, David Suzuki, on the radio a few days ago.  He gave an amazing description of how we’re all connected.  In the Pacific Northwest it all comes down to the salmon and nitrogen.

The salmon, who run up the rivers to spawn, bring lots of nitrogen with them.  It’s stored in their bodies from the food they eat in the oceans.  Bears and eagles and other critters eat the salmon and then leave their poop, filled with nitrogen, on the forest floor, which feeds the trees and helps them grow.  Of course the salmon need the trees also, to keep the rivers cool and to provide their food.

A quick miniature canvas of a little birdie.

Even more amazing is that the part of the salmon the bears leave behind gets consumed by flies who then lay their eggs.  These eggs, loaded with nitrogen hatch in the spring just as birds from South American are flying north to have their little birdies.  So now the nitrogen is in the birds who will eventually head back down South and leave some of it there. Plus many of the salmon die in the river, leaving behind a rich layer of nitrogen on the river bed.

So the oceans are linked to the rivers and lakes, which are linked to the forest which is linked to South America.  It’s all connected.  It’s all one whole

Hearing this explanation reminded me that I had a dream vision a few months ago which I had jotted down in my journal.  My vision was one of trees and humans and other mammals all connected in one great matrix.  Now I’ve got rivers and fish and birds to add to this vision.  I feel a new painting about to begin.

Click here to view a video of Suzuki on this topic.

Winter of Our Souls

first published November 21, 2017

We are in the winter of our souls.
A cold wind blows across the land.
A bleak sky pours down.
The land is strewn with the dead,
mowed down by hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.

The gates of the Underworld are open wide.
And we must walk through to get to the other side.


Wild Things, goauche on paper by Judith Shaw

It might be long.
It might be hard.
It might be cold.
But winter will surely give way to spring one day.

Life Awakens, painting by Judith Shaw

Life Awakens, oil on canvas by Judith Shaw

Judith’s Blog

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The Reindeer Goddess – first published Dec 18, 2016

Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is the day of the least daylight and the longest night. Long before Christmas our Northern European ancestors celebrated the Winter Solstice, the moment that heralds the return of the sun and with it the promise of new life in spring. Without the comforts offered by modern technology, this time of year must have raised fears in the hearts of our ancestors; fear that the sun would not return to its summer glory, fear that there would not be enough food for the winter, fears that surface most easily in the dark. A celebration of light would have been most welcome and needed.

The longest night was called “Mother Night” as it was during this time that the Goddess worked her magic to nurture the seeds laying dormant in the dark womb of earth so that new life could emerge in spring. It is a time to celebrate the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Many of the elements associated with Christmas have their origins in our Goddess worshipping past: evergreen trees, holly, mistletoe, the wreath, lighting candles, and yes even our favorite Santa Claus and his reindeer who both have their origins in Northern European Sun Goddesses.

Saule, the Lithuanian and Latvian goddess of light and the sun, took to the skies on the Winter Solstice in a sleigh pulled by horned reindeer.  She journeyed with the aide of Her smith, who forged a golden cup in which to catch Her tears which then transformed into amber. During Her flight through the heavens she threw these pebbles of amber, like little bits of sun, and apples down to the world of humans below.  She was a spinning Goddess who used her skill to spin the rays of sunlight onto the world.

Saule, Sun Goddess painting by Judith Shaw

                                  Saule, Sun Goddess, gouache on paper by Judith Shaw

Saule ruled all parts of life, determining life, death and the well-being and regeneration of all.  She was the sun, riding every day in Her chariot across the sky. She also welcomed the souls of the recently departed into Her apple tree in the west.

Sami children with reindeer

Photo location: Jokkmokk, Swedish Lapland. Photo by Joyce Le Mesurier/National Geographic Photo Contest

Beiwe was a Sun Goddess of the Sami or Lapps, the indigenous people of the Nordic countries. The Sami were reindeer herders who relied on the reindeer for their survival. Beiwe, Sun Goddess, nourished them and their herds and helped Her people maintain mental health during the difficult months of darkness. She flew through the heavens with her daughter, Beaivi-nieida (sun maiden) in a ring of reindeer antlers flinging fertility and life back onto the land. On Winter Solstice Her people  smeared offerings of warm butter on doorposts to help Her gain strength for her flight high into the sky. Beiwe, like Saule was associated with spinning. Spinning wheels and flax were left as offerings on Her altars.

The Norse goddess, Frigga (Freya) was also a spinning goddess. She sat at her spinning wheel during the Winter Solstice weaving the fates of the year to come. This celebration was called Yule, from the Norse word for wheel. Christmas is often called Yule or Yuletide. The Christmas wreath was adapted from Frigga’s “Wheel of Fate,” symbolizing the cyclical nature of life.

Rozhanitza, Slavic Winter Goddess is also associated with reindeer and the Winter Solstice. She is Rozhanitsa, Deer Goddess embroiderydepicted as a horned Goddess with reindeer antlers. Folk art of red and white embroideries were made of Her for solstice celebrations. On Her feast day, December 26, cookies made in the shape of deer were given and eaten for good luck.

Reindeer are the only members of the deer family whose females have horns and are stronger and larger than the males. The males shed their antlers in winter, leaving it to the Deer Mother to fly through the long, dark night of Winter Solstice. The Reindeer was a sacred animal to our ancient ancestors of Northern Europe. The doe was seen as the giver of light and life. Their horns were associated with the tree of life and often times they were depicted carrying the sun, the giver of life, in their horns.

Reindeer Goddess, painting by Judith Shaw

                                             The Reindeer Goddess, gouache on paper, by Judith Shaw


Deer Stones, Photo by Karin Sofie

Esther Jacobson in her book, The Deer Goddess of Ancient Siberia, concludes that the deer images found throughout the early nomadic and semi nomadic cultures of the vast steppe and mountainous regions of Eastern Europe and Asia are evidence of a Deer Mother as the source of life and death. Monolithic “Deer Stones” are found through out this region, carved with stylized depictions of reindeer as if in flight.

Horned Goddesses are found in the Celtic world also. Elen of the Ways, in Her most ancient form was the Guardian of the Leys, the ancient track ways. In Her guise as the Horned Goddess, She led the way on the migratory tracks of the reindeer.

With time the reindeer became the deer in many Celtic myths. Elen of the Ways also opened the pathways for the red deer in the forests of Northern Europe. Flidais was associated with the deer who she milked to provide sustenance for Her people.  As more time passed the deer became the cow. From Brigid to Boann, many Celtic goddesses are associated with a sacred cow.

We can learn from the wisdom of the past, a time when humans understood more clearly our tiny part in the cosmic web of life. and the necessity of honoring the earth and all its life. At this time when the shadow side of human nature once again seeks dominance through naked self-interest and the promotion of fear and hatred of others, let us remember and honor the Ancient’s belief in the Reindeer Goddess, the Sun Goddess and the Mother’s Night when She both flies high in the sky and dives deep into the earth to nourish and promise a renewal of life in the coming spring. Though it may be dark now, the light will return.

Sources: Gather- Wild Food/Magical CookeryShamanic DrumWinter Goddesses and TraditionsWe Are Star Stuff,


The Mysterious Art of Painting and the Tree of Life – first published September 7, 2011

sacred geometry tree of lifeSometimes I  wonder how the paintings I paint finally emerge into the world.  It’s a back and a forth, a finding and a losing; ultimately there’s an image that remains. Later I ask myself  “Where did that come from?”  At times I feel I’m a channel through which these images flow.  I always have to remind myself to sign my paintings, as I’m never sure that they are truly “mine”.

I recently finished a painting which illustrates the mystery in which a painter can find herself.  After the painting, The Olive Tree, sold I went into mini-mourning, feeling it’s absence in my home.  A new tree called to me, the Tree of Life.

I dove into this painting.  Not sure what form it would take, I first envisioned it as full, full, full of foliage. And so it started .  But soon after, I felt the need to lose much of the foliage, anguishing that I was letting go of painting a tree of life.  Then I added the Seed of Life embedded underneath the middle of the tree

More foliage was lost and the stylized leaves made their appearance.  By this time I was in an unstoppable rhythm.  With each new color or form I added to the painting, it spoke to me, telling me what was needed next.  Once again the thought “what would would make this a Tree of Life” surfaced within my rhythm.

The Tree of Life is one of the most ancient symbols of the awareness of the one source, the descent of the divine into the manifest world, and methods by which the divine union may be attained in this life.  It symbolizes unity and love. The structure of the Tree of Life is connected to the sacred teachings of the Jewish Kabbalah but can be seen 3,000 years earlier in Egypt, as well as being found in Christianity, Hermeticism and Paganism.

I decided to do an internet search for a Sacred Geometry symbol for the Tree of Life.

Flower of Life

Seed of Life

Kabbalah Tree of Life

The symbol of the Tree of Life is derived from the Flower of Life. It is composed by highlighting ten  centers of the circles of the Flower of Life and the Seed of Life.  Along with the Seed of Life, it is believed to be part of the geometry that parallels the cycle of the fruit tree. This relationship is implied when these two forms are superimposed onto each other.

A quick sketch of these two forms together and I was back at my easel.  I added the circles that make up the Tree of Life in the correct places on the Seed of Life, whose further expansion implies the Flower of Life.   I stepped back from my canvas in amazement.  The branches of the tree in my painting were crossing intersection points, the circle centers, on the Seed of Life, exactly where the Tree of Life circles were added.

sacred geometry tree of lifeOnce again I asked myself, who is really in charge here.  Without consciously knowing what I was doing I had already positioned this tree correctly to be a true Sacred Geometry Tree of Life.  Very mysterious, wouldn’t you say?