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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Artio, Goddess of Wild Life, Transformation, and Abundance

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 Roman’s Latinized to Artos.

Artio arrived in western Europe with the Helvetii, a Celtic tribe, who migrated to Switzerland around 450 BC. They worshipped 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.

Further evidence of Artio’s ancient origins is found in the first written sentence from the “Old Europe Script”, invented around 6,000 years ago, long before the Celts arrived. It reads “The Bear Goddess and the Bird Goddess are the Bear Goddess indeed.” 

In Northern Europe the bear was always associated with transformation and shape-shifting. The female bear conceives in the fall, going into hibernation pregnant. She journeys in the darkness and emerges in the spring, symbolizing rebirth and a shaman’s return with new wisdom and insights to share with the world. 

Jospeh Campbell also explores Artio’s connection to the heavens by connecting Her and the long line of bear cults to the constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the Great Bear and the Little Bear (more commonly known as the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper). The brightest star in Ursa Major is Arcturus  which is Greek for “bear watcher” or “guardian of the bears.”

Campbell writes of these constellations - they are “revolving forever as constellations around the Pole Star, axis mundi of the heavenly vault”. In the same way Artio was perhaps seen as strong and enduring - as the center and the connection between Heaven and Earth.

As the years moved on and Christianity took hold in Europe, many Goddesses changed their form to that of saint. It is very possible that Saint Ursula, whose name is the Latinized form of the Saxon ‘Ursel’ (‘She Bear’) retained elements of Artio in the hearts of Her worshippers. Saint Ursula’s feast day is celebrated on October 21 which coincides with Artio’s association with an abundant harvest.

Artio, like a mother bear who fiercely protects her cubs, protects wild animals and the natural world, bestowing the abundance of nature on us, her human children.   

When Artio calls your name, know that you are protected. Know that the universe always provides what you need. Take time for introspection. Feel your knowledge transform into a full understanding of the power and abundance of the natural world. Stay calm and feel the power of the Earth and the unending love She provides.

Artio is part of my soon to be released deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards. Pre-order yours or select another perk on my Indiegogo campaign page.  And please share, share, share!

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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.  


  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Wednesday, 11 October 2017

    Can you tell us more about the Old Europe script?

  • Judith Shaw
    Judith Shaw Wednesday, 25 October 2017

    Hi Thessel,
    Sorry but I do not really know much about the Old Europe script except for what I referenced here. I'll see if I can find out any more info.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Tuesday, 27 March 2018

    Judith, lovely article, thank you. Mother Bear protects and nurtures me, so it was wonderful to read your view of Her. As a little girl, I read a fairytale about a generous little girl who kindly gave water to someone thirsty. As a reward for her generosity, the girl’s water-ladle flew up into the sky and became the big or little dipper, I can’t remember which. I went home and asked my mom, who was a traditional Italian witch, if the story was true. Goddess bless mom for saying, with a completely straight face, that the story was true. I believe in fairytales, and I believe in Mama bear taking care of me. Judith, blessed be.

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