The Goddess Way: Ancient Stories for Modern Hearts

Judith Shaw both paints and writes about the Goddess, great symbol of life, death and the natural world. For the past few years she has focused on the Celtic Goddesses, whose stories are explored here in The Goddess Way.

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Grainne, Sun Goddess/Winter Queen

In the ancient Celtic world the Goddess was the One who expressed Herself through the many. Grainne is such a one. She is a Solar Goddess, welcoming the rebirth of spring and the fullness of summer and the Winter Queen/Dark Goddess, nurturing seeds through winter. 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. 

Grainne is a part of the triple goddess formed by Herself and Her two sisters, Fenne and Aine. Both Grainne and Aine were beautiful, golden-haired goddesses who visited their fields and hilltops to protect and nurture the land, people and animals.

A Sun Goddess and master herbalist, Grainne rules herbs, knowledge, the sun, and fire.

Call on Grainne for help with the conscious expression of your dreams and desires. Grianne leads the way to growth, health and personal power. 

Grainne is best known from the tenth century elopement story of Diarmaid and Grainne which echoes an earlier proto-Celtic story in which Grainne, the bright Sun Goddess, embraced the darkness with her love of Donn, God of the Underworld. Their union brought together the duality of opposites through love. Their union brought the gift of grain to the people. This joining of opposites is echoed in the elopement story - Grainne says in Her sleep-song for Diarmaid “To separate us two is to separate children of one home, it is to separate body from soul…”

Diarmuid, also called Diarmuid Donn, would suggest that he was the son of Donn, God of the Underworld with a mortal woman. This similarity of names is another link indicating Grainne’s more ancient association with Donn. 

In the elopement story, Grainne, daughter of the High King of Ireland, Cormac Mac Art, had scorned all her possible suitors. Finn Mac Cumhal, the Fianna's aging commander, wanted a suitable wife. His companions suggested Grainne, the most beautiful woman in Ireland. In an older version of the story Grainne tried to avoid marriage to the older Finn by setting him an impossible task. In newer versions she accepted the offer merely as a marriage of convenience.

But in either case, at the pre-wedding feast, Grainne began to cast her eyes about, hoping to find one who would warm her heart in a way that the aging warrior did not.

Diarmaid, one of Finn’s strongest and most loyal warriors was also at the feast. He was know for more than his fighting skills. He was also called the master and charmer of women, for he had been born with a magical spot, the Bol Sherca, in the middle of his forehead that caused all who saw it to fall in love with him. Diarmaid, wanting to avoid trouble, tried to hide the spot by covering it with his hair. 

As Grainne continued to look around the room, her eyes fell on Diarmaid at the exact moment that he tossed back his head, revealing the magic spot. Instantly She fell in love, resolving to run away with him. 

Grainne gave a sleeping draught to everyone with the exception of Diarmaid and three of his friends. First she asked those three if they would go with her. They refused. When she asked Diarmaid he could not refuse because he was under a geis, (a sacred vow/magical obligation) to never refuse a woman with particular circumstances such as Grainne possessed.

Diarmaid, though loath to betray Finn, could not violate his geis. So the two left together with Finn soon in pursuit.  
Now Aengus, God of Love, was Diarmuids’ guardian from the Tuatha Dé Danann. What better aide could a fleeing couple hope for?  He gave the safety of his protective cloak and advised them which paths to follow. He told them that "where they had slept once, never to sleep again”; they would have to keep moving to avoid Finn and the Fianna.

The two lived roughly, taking shelter in great beds of stone all the while pursued by Finn. Today these stones are known as Giants’ Graves or Giants’ Beds. As legends grow with time, these stone beds became known as spots which could endow fertility on barren women and cement love between lovers. 

Much time passed in this way. Diarmaid refused to make love to Grainne, wanting to remain loyal to Finn. He always left raw meat at their stone beds as a token of his abstinence. But finally her taunting convinced him and the two came together in love. 

The chase continued for many years during which the couple had four sons and a daughter. Finally Aengus negotiated peace between Finn and the lovers. Grainne and Diarmaid were able to settle down and raise their family. A few years later Diarmaid was gored by a wild boar while hunting with Finn.Though Finn could have saved him he remembered Diarmaid’s betrayal and lingered too long in delivering aide. Darmaid died. 

Some versions of the story recount that Grainne mourned Diarmaid for the rest of her life. Others say that she reconciled with Finn and married him.

When Grainne calls your name, know that you have the power to make your own choices, to claim your sovereignty. Trust that your soul choices, though sometimes difficult, will bring abundance. Feel the truth of the unity from which our world of duality springs; the unity of dark and light.





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Judith Shaw, a New Orleans native and graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has always been interested in myth, culture and mysticism. Her work, inspired by the goddess, nature and sacred geometry, combines whimsy and the esoteric - whimsical tree paintings which often look like women dancing are intertwined with esoteric symbols such as those found in sacred geometry. After graduation, while living in Greece, the Goddess first appeared in her artwork. The Divine Feminine, in all of Her manifestations in this world, continues to inspire Judith.    Judith has also lived in Mexico and visited France, Italy, Turkey, China, Guatemala, and Jamaica. She now lives in Albuquerque where she divides her time between painting, writing, yoga, gardening, bee keeping, and hanging out with friends and family.  She is putting the final touches on a deck of Celtic Goddess cards which will be published soon.  


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