On Motherhood

May 11th, 2008

Carl Larsson. A studio idyll. The artist's wife and their daughter.

My wife, Rev. Lady Bella Sundancer, wrote a deep, insightful guest post for Hawk’s Cry on motherhood as a counterpart to my previous post On Fatherhood. Consider it her Mother’s Day present to Pagan families. I trust you will find it as enlightening as I have.


My three children test me in ways I never thought possible before giving birth to them. I thought I was a strong woman who could translate that easily into being a strong mother but the Great Mothers had other plans and my children, each in their own way, have given me a run for my money in testing the limits of being strong and still being compassionate. It is important, especially, for the mother to pass this on to her daughters, to help them become strong mothers when they have children, whether biological or adopted. A strong mother provides sustenance, teaches the child to sustain, says no when she doesn’t have enough to give, kicks the child out of the nest when the time is right. With this foundation in place, the child can love and care for herself-Perfect Love and Perfect Trust create confidence. The child knows boundaries through understanding her own weaknesses. This comes from the mysteries of form and the physical, being able to extend without losing cohesion of the self. She can share with herself and others, can create grace, beauty, truth, knowing, compassion, mercy. This is the art of letting go and allowing the old parts to come back to you in a new form. The secret to this resolution is seeing that the child is her own person. She may come from you but is not you. She needs to make her own way and can become more even than her mother was. You can love and trust all children because they can become more, multiply, carry on the next generation, have a purpose and be ok with it and who they are. If you as a mother are at home in your own skin, you can protect and shield others, know what is a part of yourself and what is part of the child, what belongs to you and what belongs to the child. On a deeper level, this translates into performing the symbolic sacred sacrifice of offering up the child in the form of parts of yourself to the world and the gods.

A weak mother lets the child feed off mother’s sustenance when they are grown. She never says no and never kicks the child out of the nest. The children become parasites and can even turn on mother, saying “you never believed in me, you don’t know me.” The child never knows boundaries and thus feeds on self and others and takes advantage of them. The mother needs to nip it in the bud as early as possible and deny sustenance to children who don’t need it or it becomes meekness, pity, softness, blindness. This is the art of holding on even when old parts and burdens of carrying are too much to the point of killing the child, and the mother by default of the connection, through stagnation and decay. A weak mother is secretly afraid her children will leave her permanently and through their absence she will be less than she is and have no purpose. In her dominating need to preserve herself, she overprotects the child, feeding her own needs instead of theirs because as the mother and the older one, she must know better. This may sound very insidious, and it is. It is an eating apart from the inside, which is one of the most difficult processes to turn in the other direction. If a building’s foundation is rotted, there isn’t much to be done to preserve it except tear down the old rotted foundation and build up a new one.

A strong, balanced mother teaches her daughter to be a strong woman and mother. She passes this gift on by teaching her how to make her own nest, her own place of safety, love, trust, and nurturing, and giving her a piece of the nest to have within herself. The daughter is then no longer dependent on the mother and the relationship is transformed into symbiosis or benign rather than parasitic. The daughter can be confident that she’ll always be enough and have enough to give to herself and others. She’ll always know herself and be true to herself. She’ll know things will be ok and she can be caring. Even through the hard and lean times, she can endure and carry on. If there is a good foundation, even with many children, many mouths to feed, many bodies to clothe and keep warm, she can love, trust, care, shield, protect, and sustain them all. The Lord of the Rings illustrated this gift of nurturing very well through the wasting away of Arwen the elven-maiden, daughter of Elrond and Celebrian. Arwen and the power of her beauty is dying, and no one can figure out why. Her own mother is not a part of her life in Middle Earth. She needs the hope of Galadriel, her Grandmother, who is the living Mother of the elven race in Middle Earth. Galadriel gives the star light of hope, a light when all other lights go out. Through her care, giving gifts to sustain in the darkness, even to one so small as Frodo, who is not even elvish, allows all her children to carry on, even Arwen who seems past all physical restoration.

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