Search of the Mother Goddess

IN SEARCH OF THE MOTHER GODDESS
by Shekhinah Mountainwater
copyright 1980
All rights reserved

"Patriarchal religion declared war on pagan societies where motherhood was
once considered the only important parental relationship; where women owned
the land and governed its cultivation; and sexual attachments were made and
unmade at women's discretion... From a biological viewpoint, patriarchal
religion denied women the natural right of every other mammalian female: the
right
to choose her stud, to control the circumstances of her mating, to occupy and
govern her own nest, or to refuse all males when preoccupied with the
important business of raising her young." -from "The Women's Encyclopedia of
Myths
and Secrets" by Barbara G. Walker


We all come from mothers. We all know intimately the viscera, the blood,
the pain and the pleasure of the embryonic and birthing states. We all know
the longing for our mothers' love and the terror of being refused. The mother
connection is one of the most highly charged of all relationships. Yet in
patriarchy this intensity is often the most repressed aspect of our memories
and emotions.

To be a mother today is to span the most bewildering of contradictions. It
is glorious to raise a child, to know the closeness of profound intimacy with
one who emerges from our own bodies, who grows and eventually becomes their
own, a complete and separate person. Yet the world expects us to nurture
invisibly, to have few needs, little of importance to say, and no lives of our
own. Childcare or compassionate nurturance is one of the lowest tasks on the
pay scale. Mother's tasks are needed by everyone, yet valued by few.

Into this arena comes the lesbian mother, who must span the same set of
contradictions and take on a new set as well. She will know the ancient
freedom
of raising her child as she chooses, and she will know the ostracisim of a
society that deplores gay parenting. In many cases her own sisters will
use/reject her mothering energies and she may find herself even more isolated
than
the heterosexual mother.

The ancients dealt with these things differently. In Goddess-worshipping
cultures people understood the reproductive cycle of sex, blood, pregnancy,
birth, lactation, menopause and death as sacred, and therefore mothers were
treated with great respect and reverence. In such a society a mother's
sexuality
was accepted, regardless of the gender of her lover or lovers. She would
not end her life in lonliness and abandonment and a poor self-image, as many
mothers do today. She would feel proud of herself and the life she has given.
She would still have a place in the community as a wise crone and as a
person with a life of her own.

The mother-daughter bond was also highly valued in ancient times, and was
the force of social connection and continuity. Rituals to acknowledge the
stages of this relationship (birth, growth, separation, reunion) were integral
and enacted regularly. Today mothers and daughters must betray one another to
meet the demands of the patriarch. Mothers will train their daughters in his
ways, daughters will compete with their moms for the few powers and
attentions allotted to women by men. Ultimately, daughters will reject their
mothers, fleeing from the trapped and lonely lives they themselves will face in
the
years to come.

During the Burning Times, when thousands of people were burned as witches,
daughters were called upon to denounce their own accused mothers. It was no
different during the Nazi holocaust, when children were forced to "inform" on
their parents. These are extreme expressions of daily patterns in our
"ordinary" times, when children are taught to deny their mothers more and more
as
they grow older. The rejection of the mother in our society goes hand in hand
with the rejection of woman, of the witch, of the lesbian, of the female
energies in nature, of the Goddess Herself. All of these are about female
powers that are simultaneously used and despised.

As Jeannine Parvati says (in her book "Hygieia, A Woman's Herbal"), "the
wound reveals the cure." It is precisely in the victimization and denial of
mothers that the patriarchy reveals its sickness. Therefore it is precisely in
the healing and loving of mothers and of the Mother Goddess that a new and
positive reality is created.

This healing can happen if we awaken to the sacredness of our mothers, and
of the mothering principle in ourselves. There is a "click" of realization
that can come if we can see that the entire universe *is* a mother, birthing,
feeding and nurturing us... taking us back into Herself when we die... that
all of life undergoes this same cycle again and again... that all matter is
consciously blinking in and out of existence- being born and reborn from
mother-source... that the moon dances through the same phases each lunation..
and
that we ourselves are producing the same phenomenon every time we create
anything.

And once realizing this we can awaken to the truth that She is personal, for
every atom and molecule is conscious and aware and sustained by love. She
loves us, and She is a She. Yes She is vast and incomprehensible too, and
that is the paradox we live with. She is both, and more, and as we evolve and
grow through the eons of all potential we can learn and we can come to
understand more and more of Her incredible and miraculous Being, of which we
are a
part... we Her children who are growing towards the stars to become Goddesses
ourselves.

This is the perspective that is missing in the phallocentric world of
"scientific objectivity," that creates the indifference that allows thousands of
people to live on the streets, that drops bombs on women and children, that
tortures Jews and Iraquis, that burns witches at the stake, that cuts out the
wombs and breasts of women (often unnecessarily), that denies the beauty and
power and passion and goodness of mothers. It is the rigid countenance of the
soldier who has learned to turn off all feeling, the better to kill
efficiently. It is the businessman to whom any atrocity is permitted in the
acquisition of wealth and power. It is the 19th century philosophy whose
assertion
that the world is a meaningless mechanism birthed the industrial revolution,
factory consciousness, wage slavery, and mass conformity. The farther we have
pushed away the love of the mother, the more destructive our society has
become.

With all my ranting, I am no less subject than the next woman to the dread
of being seen as a "mother" in this culture. This is no uncommon feeling
among sisters, for who wants to be treated as a loser, a victim, a prop and a
slave? There is one woman I know, who, in her late 40s simpers and lisps in a
grotesque parody of a little girl, just so she can avoid the horrors of being
slotted as a mother. I too am, among other things, a nurturer and supporter
and am looked to by others for these services. I too have anger towards
those who seek to use these parts of me without giving back, and without
recognizing my talents and powers, my maiden and my crone. The patriarch has
trained us well, either to raise our children as he dictates and keep to our
"places" as submissive mothers, or to turn off our mother feelings and impulses
altogether.

The irony is that we mothers often perpetuate our own oppression. We buy
into the Christian notion of martyrdom and self-denial. We allow society to
snatch our children away from us to be brainwashed by its schools, religions,
and values. We obediently train our daughters for the slaughter; submission
and self-sacrifice like our own. We squash our own powers, trivialize our
lives in gossip and materialism, live only through others and not for
ourselves.
Is it any wonder that mothers die ill, lonely and unable to love or nurture
themselves?

Again, the wound reveals the cure. It is within ourselves that we do have
choice, that we can begin to work for change. It is harder to change things
"out there," but "in here" is still our domain. We can change our attitudes,
affirm our beauty, our sacredness, our power... learn psychic self-defense,
develop our talents, promote sisterhood, raise our children as we see fit,
encourage a gift economy, and above all acknowledge the importance and
universality of the mothering principle. And in the process, if enough of us
catch
on, we will change society.

The ancient cosmology of Maiden/Mother/Crone can help. Here is a spiritual
and feminist alternative that can heal us both within and without, that can
tune us to both the personal and the vast qualities of the universe... that
can provide us with a model for our lives that is in keeping with the fact that
we are women, and that we are political as well as spiritual animals.
Maiden/Mother/Crone affirms all parts of ourselves, the young and strong-willed
daughter who is free to be herself, the warm and tender mother who is proud to
give, and the wise crone who can say "no" to the ills of society, and "no" to
being a mother, too, for that matter. Maiden/Mother/Crone allows us to be
mothers without becoming trapped in the role, for it reminds us that we are
also maidens and crones and can cycle freely through all our transformations at
will. MMC reminds us to treat mothers with reverence and to value the
energy that they give. And MMC reminds us to treat mothers as whole persons
who
are not only nurturers providing for our needs, but are also lovers, creators,
teachers, thinkers, playful maidens and intelligent crones.
******
This is copyrighted material; please contact Shekhinah for permission to
reproduce, share or excerpt:
_shekhinahmoon@aol.com_ (mailto:shekhinahmoon@aol.com)
(831) 423-7639

Suggested reading:
The Crone, by Barbara G. Walker
The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, by Barbara G. Walker
Of Woman Born, by Adrienne Rich
Mothers and Daughters, by Nor Hall
Dreaming the Dark, by Starhawk
Myth of the Kore, by Shekhinah Mountainwater

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