“To make love is to become like an infant again. We grope with our mouths toward the body of another human being, whom we trust, who takes us in their arms. We rock together with this loved one. We move beyond speech. Our bodies move past all the controls we have learned. We cry out in ecstasy, in feeling. We are back in a natural world before culture tried to erase our experience of nature. In this world, to touch each other is to express love, there is no idea apart from feeling, and no feeling which does not ring through our bodies and our souls at once. This is eros. Our own wholeness. Not the sensation of pleasure alone, nor the idea of love alone, but the whole experience of human love.” Susan Griffin (Pornography and Silence excerpt)
Aah, the lusty month of May! This is the season of love, of birth, of blooming. Now the world north of the equator is in high season, with nature making love in an infinite array of color, sound, and scent. All aspects of the natural world are happily procreating, and as I stand in the middle of all this love, I am opened and touched profoundly.
“Mother carry me, your child I will always be. Mother carry me, to the sea.” This little chant was part of a beautiful Mother’s Day gathering we had last Sunday. My friend Diane leads these weekly gatherings, a modern version of a kind of church service. She invited me to help build an altar for last Sunday’s gathering in honor of The Divine Mother. I agreed and so we brought artwork, pastel cloths, candles, stones and many beautiful flower arrangements to the room where it was to be held. Together we carefully created a beautiful alter in which to honor the Mother of us all.
On Sunday morning a group of about twenty or so people gathered in the space, greeted each other with smiles and warm hugs, and then took our seats in the semi-circle with the altar as the focal point. Diane graciously welcomed everyone, and then spoke for a little while, of the divine feminine spirit in us and of her importance in all of our lives. She reminded us to keep our hearts soft, to protect them from hardening so that we cannot fully give or receive love. Then we sang some chants, heard some poetry and lovely flute music, said silent prayers, and so on for the next hour. It was a beautiful way to honor the Great Mother on the day that we in America have set aside to honor mothers.
When you hear the word Mother, what comes to your mind? It is a big question, isn’t it? We might think of our own mother, or of our children if we are ourselves mothers, or our wives or partners if we are men with children. Of course there are certain ideas which naturally appear in relation to the word: nurture, care for, love, gentleness, grace, beauty, and so on. There are archetypal energies which most humans associate with the concept of Mother and mothering. The idea of the Mother is sacred in basically all cultures on earth. Even the sound or word Ma is quite universal. Ma, mom, mother, mor, mama, are all variations of what has to be one of the oldest words in human consciousness.
There is the personal mother, and the universal. And there is Woman. One aspect of woman is as mother; they are so entwined with each other that we cannot really separate the two. Whether a woman ever becomes a mother herself or not during a lifetime makes no difference. The Mother archetype lives in all women,inherently. Women naturally mother, whether it is a child, a partner, a pet, a garden or an entire community: it is part of our nature to nurture. We want to help, to attend, to pet, to care for. It is a beautiful aspect of the feminine, and all humans have the potential to develop this sensitive side of our natures.
Some of us, particularly those raised within a Christian culture, may have a concept of the Great Mother as something pure and untainted by man, especially in a sexual way. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was according to some stories in the Bible, a virgin who had an immaculate conception, giving birth to Jesus from God himself’s seed. She was untouched by a man, and yet brought forth a god in the form of a human baby into the world in order to save it. This story, which millions of people the world over believe to be true, is a version of the virgin goddess archetype, and the most popular in our modern world. But there are other goddesses, other concepts of the Great Mother, in which sexuality and pleasure of the body are revered and sacred, such as in Hindu religion with the feminine aspect of God as Shakti, Shiva’s consort. Sexuality is an important and blessed part of divinity to millions of people in the world who do not embrace the split between spirit and the flesh. This is an important point to recognize, because the idea of the spirit being holy and the flesh, in the form of woman (and mother) being somehow stained, dirty or evil, has been a key concept in the furthering of violence done to both human women and to the Earth itself, over the course of the past millennium.
Marilyn Sewell, the editor of Cries of the Spirit, a compilation of women’s poetry, writes, “Can we not envision a world in which both men and women honor the flesh, refusing to separate it from spirit, cherishing the earthly as holy stuff? Can we not envision a time when caring for and nurturing both the earth and one another become more important than dominating and conquering? Can we not look forward to the day when we regard all living things as part of the creative matrix, from which we cannot divorce ourselves and survive?”
To me, the essence of the Great Mother has to do with what is sacred. Sewell describes what is sacred as, “that which moves toward wholeness.” Women’s intimate connection with the flesh, with creating and sustaining life, is part of the sacredness which the Divine Mother brings to humanity. Sewell writes, “The sacred is not in the sky, the place of transcendent, abstract principle, but rather is based on this earth, in the ordinary dwelling places of our lives, in our gardens, kitchens and bedrooms. The sacred is fueled by eros, by desire. It is about passion. And compassion. And love. Always love.”
My own viewpoint is that there is no separation between the Mother, Eros and what is sacred. In the spring of the year we humans come alive, make love, which often leads to creating new life and then motherhood ensues with all that it encompasses. It is a circle, a spiral dance of the joy of the body, soul and spirit intertwined and growing together. It is the dance of passion, of life itself.
I call upon your soul to arise and come unto Me.
For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe.
From Me all things proceed and unto Me all things return.
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning,
And I am that which is attained at the end of desire.
(Goddess prayer by Starhawk, excerpt)
As often happens when I am writing a blog, once I begin finding images, then I also find fascinating websites and blogsites which delve more deeply into the subject. I will return again soon to this subject of the Great Mother in her various guises. If you, Dear Readers, have comments or insights into the Divine Feminine, please feel free to share! As always, I welcome your thoughts here.
- The Great Mother vs. the Terrible Mother: the dual nature of the Jungian archetype. (jenniferlinton.com)