January 2017
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Traveling to Wisdom
A Sun-Wise Journey Begins ...

“The journey we begin as we answer the call is long, and filled with all that we have been and all that we will become.”  ~ Cairistiona Worthington, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

New Year's Sun
New Year's Day 2017 - Photo by CJ Shelton

As a new year begins and one season has flowed into another, it is easy to see how the unique spiral of our individual life-course interweaves in a constant dance with Nature. Our daily rhythms are ruled by the sun, our future activities are planned monthly with the waxing and waning of the moon, and the fuller cycle of the year is steered by the slow wheeling stars above. A new year is like resetting a compass for the changes and travels in our lives, a map on which to plot both external and internal voyages.

The freshness and potential of the many dreams that occur during winter’s long dark nights makes January a starting point, a re-orientation as the old year is reviewed and a new one contemplated. With the bustle of the holidays over, these first few weeks are hushed and quiet, expectant of something new and exciting about to happen. Like seeds lying deep beneath the ground and blanketed with layers of ice and snow, we too are full of anticipation, waiting for exactly the right conditions for things to begin germinating.

Four Friends on the Journey
Four friendly shadows at Island Lake - Photo by CJ Shelton

I was delighted to start my New Year with a beautiful wintry forest walk in the company of good friends. It was filled with the promise of many blessings to come. The brilliant sunlight and snow laden trees casting their sparkly baby-blue shadows in elongated patterns across the white drifts were glorious omens. The feeling was a bit like “First Footing”, an old Scottish custom where the first person to knock at a home’s door becomes the fate-deciding factor for that family’s fortunes in the coming year. In a similar way, I find that whatever activity I am engaged in on New Year’s seems to set the tone for the year's journey ahead.

The Irish also have a beautiful understanding of the sacredness of cycles and the need to mark them. The word turas (pronounced TU’ras) means “journey” or “pilgrimage”. It refers to the circular, spiraling prayer and meditation practice engaged in by Celtic peoples as they walk sun-wise around a sacred site.

Castlerigg Stone Circle
Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick in Cumbria, England

Nature’s rhythms are a turas as well and the changes we witness in her cycles often reflect back to us the changes we ourselves are undergoing. Sometimes these changes are dramatic and path-altering or can feel like obstructions. More often than not though, they are simply marking the slow, quiet progress that occurs almost imperceptibly, day by day.

On our personal turas, each step and turn on the path may seem insignificant by itself, but when viewed as part of a bigger pattern is seen to have indeed been essential to the whole. By living in awareness of the dance between Nature's year and our own life, we find ourselves gradually traveling towards wisdom.

As we make our way we need to remember too that the physical world is not the only realm with which we interact. Just as real is the “Otherworld”, the world of Spirit, which we experience through our soul senses. For Celtic people, the spirit world is just as influential and worthy of notice as any other aspect of life. The intricate and interwoven over-under knot-work patterns found in their art skillfully demonstrates how they view the Spirit in all things as an ever-flowing and interdependent force.

Celtic Triskele Mandala by CJ SheltonWithin the complex Celtic patterns there is always a stabilizing centre point, whether obvious or merely implied. Similarly, in the heavens above there is a “pole-star”, a prominent star which lies directly above the earth’s North or South Pole and acts like an anchor for the wheeling solar year. As above, so below, as the wisdom teaching says… and just as every Celtic knot has a pivotal centre point around which everything else turns, so there are core values, a purpose, or some other constant by which we measure our lives and maintain our centre.

In the physical world, the term “pole-star” usually refers to Polaris, the North Star. Ancient peoples called it the “the nail of heaven” because it was a single and unchanging aspect of the sky which sailors and other travelers could rely on as an unfailing guide, even on the darkest night.

As one of my favourite Celtic writers Caitlin Matthews says, “discovering our own true north as the compass point of our soul’s direction is a worthwhile enterprise on our spiritual path. Our true north may not be an actual belief system or ideology, religious figure or archetype. It may be something that is nearer to an instinct or feeling of traveling in the right direction, something that we sniff in the wintry air or intuit from the glancing rays of the sun through the leafless trees. Our true north is a homing instinct innate to each of us, privileged information that defines the nature of our goal – even though we may have no clear idea of that goal or of an otherworldly locus.”

Pulsar Mandal by CJ SheltonOur own pole-star or true north needs to be clearly identified and acknowledged in order to keep us on track, regardless of what others may think or say to the contrary.

Even if we feel our ideas changing over the years or the need to discard something because it not longer “fits”, it is in all the experiences we have along our personal turas that our spirituality develops, grows and matures. In order to live our lives fully and walk our spiritual path truly, we cannot leave out any part of ourselves or our experiences – every single bit of who we are and what we do has to be included in order for our map to be complete and our compass to function.

So, as the year gradually lengthens into its own sun-wise journey, I would like to leave you with a few questions to ponder and dream on throughout these cold January nights:  who was the first person to cross your home’s threshold at New Year’s and what fortune did their presence seem to foretell? What omens did you take note of as the Great Wheel slowly re-set us back to true North and eased itself into winter? More importantly, what is your personal pole-star, your guiding light? I hope that considering these questions assists you on your own travels to wisdom as well as sheds new light on our collective sun-wise journey over the next twelve months.

Mandala making is a type of "turas", a way to express and visualize internal journeys in external form. My upcoming Mandala Painting Day offers an opportunity to  create your own Celtic design like the one in this newsletter. Other creative journeys you can take is Colour Me Red,  or my new winter-themed watercolour workshops. All will have you appreciating winter in a whole new way. For those not so artistically inclined, there is my new course Journeying Through the Tarot that will help you apply the wisdom of this intriguing tool to your own life. So which of these journeys calls to you and what voyage to new shores are you ready to embark on this winter ...?
May you enjoy the dance!

CJ Shelton
Artist, Instructor & Facilitator

Dancing Moon Designs
Illuminating the Creative Spirit through
the Symbol of the Circle ...

Spread the news ... share 'The Dance' by forwarding to a friend to enjoy!
THE STORY BEHIND THE PIECE ..."Four Worlds Celtic Knot"
“Making the rounds” or walking “turas deiseal” (deosil = sun-wise) is still a common practice in Ireland. It is typically enacted around holy wells, graves, crosses and other sacred sites like stone circles. Since the sun is perceived as making a southerly arc as it travels across the sky, the turas deiseal is, in effect, imitating this cycle of movement on the ground.

The Celtic Four Worlds design above is from the archives of my own artistic and spiritual practice and one of my favourite pieces. This little mandala (only 5" x 5") pays homage to the idea of turas but owes its inspiration to the larger scale interconnections between different realms of the physical and spirit world, something Celtic people understand intuitively.

Of course, I couldn't resist putting a bit of a “spin” on these ancient Celtic concepts - literally! The active light and energy emanating from the centre of the design's "pole-star" enhances the already inherent movement found in the traditional knot pattern.

Original For Sale $90. Cards with this image are also available
"INTO THE MYSTICAL" Learning & Sharing Circle
Moon Quest
Share spiritual wisdom, experiences and all things of a mystical nature with like-minded souls at this monthly gathering of 'friends on the journey’. Circles are held each third Thursday of the month. PLEASE RSVP or email to be added to the notification list


Thurs. Feb 16, 7-9 pm
Thurs. March 16, 7-9 pm
Thurs. April 20, 7-9 pm

FIRE & ICE FESTIVAL @ The Alton Mill Arts Centre
Sat. Jan. 21
Sun. Jan. 22
I will be hosting "Tales of Courage” this weekend during the Fire & Ice Festival. Come meet my painting of a horse named "Courage" and share your thoughts on what story he is telling. You can also contribute your thoughts to a group mandala. This is a free activity in my studio on on the upper floor. All are welcome to join in anytime throughout the weekend.
Book your own custom session anytime to fit your schedule. For groups of two or more. Great for families, girls-day-out or wedding groups. Discounts for large groups. Please email for more info.
DRAWING LESSONS - "Seeing With New Eyes"

Sun. Afternoons, 1-3 pm
Wed. Afternoons, 1-3 pm

Student DrawingBuild your drawing skills and learn to see the world through an artist's eyes. Newbies and more advanced welcome. Start anytime. Pay as you go.
These are great sessions for both those new to watercolour and those who have painted before.

Sat. Feb. 18, 2017
1- 4 pm, $75 per person

Winter Wonderland

Sat. March 11, 2017
1- 4 pm, $75 per person

March Landscape Watercolour

Celtic MandalaSat. Jan. 28, 2017
10 am to 4:30 pm (all day)

Join me for this fun day of designing your own unique circular “mandala” design from scratch then painting it with acrylics and metallic inks on a 12”x12” canvas.
$135 per person
The Fool Tarot CardSat. Feb. 4, 2017, 10am-4 pm

This is the first session of a new four part course that will guide you on your own amazing journey to uncover secret wisdom. The amazing visual and psychological tool known as tarot cards has a strange and mystical history ... and learning those mysteries is a journey in itself!
$95 per person
COLOUR ME RED - Expressive Arts Mandala Workshop
Colour Me Red MandalaSat. Feb. 11, 2017, 1-3 pm

Gift your beautiful self with immersion in the colour red. Indulge your senses and your spirit by joining me for some creative ‘red-time’ during the heart of our white winter.
$45 per person
$40 each. 10 different designs to choose from. Drop by the studio to purchase or email your order.

Daron Wheel Pendant
"Dragon Wheel" Design
Shamanic Consultations & Spiritual Mentoring
Are you in search of answers or experiencing a challenging life transition? 1-on-1 sessions can be booked with me at the Alton Mill to help you find solutions.

MARI® Mandala "Soul Symbol" Interpretation
Explore the 'language of your soul' in a 1-on-1 self-discovery mandala making session with interpretation and a symbol 'reading' that lets your inner wisdom shine through. Sessions by appointment at my studio. Visit my website to learn more.
"O where will i get a gude sailor,
To take my helm in hand,
Till I get up to the tall top-mast,
To see if I can spy land?"

~ From a Scottish Folk Song, "The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens"
Copyright © 2017 Dancing Moon Designs, All rights reserved.

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