Hello Mamas! Lately, I have been thinking about maternal archetypes. Archetypes are collective and are influenced by social groups and culture as much as by individual experience.
Most of us if asked to describe “a mother figure” have a set group of characteristics that define the role of mother, this is the maternal archetype. From home to home and culture to culture this archetype will vary, but there are many universal commonalities. Off the top of our heads we can rattle off a few traits that describe most mothers: caring, nurturing, loving, etc. Many of these archetypes have remained remarkably unchanged throughout our history.
In ancient Mayan culture existed a belief called “La Ultima Madre”. During pregnancy Mayan woman were told of two types of mother, “Rainbow Mother” and “Nurturing Mother”. Rainbow Mother does not nurture her children but rather inspires them through the energies of art and dance. Nurturing Mother, on the other hand, raises her children and nourishes them by growing corn.
While browsing a book of quotes about motherhood I came across a quote by Lynn Andrews, an author and shaman, which really caught my attention. Andrews has taken the ancient Mayan belief and made it relevant to the present day mother. She describes two maternal archetypes that most women fall into; Earth Mothers and Creative Rainbow Mothers.
Earth Mothers nurture their children through feeding them and providing for their basic needs. Earth mothers thrive on their responsibilities as a mother. Meeting the needs of her children brings fulfillment to the mother as a person. This is the more iconic role of mother in our society.
Creative Rainbow Mothers, on the other hand, inspire their children without necessarily having meals on the table on time. These mothers nourish there children by inspiring them. Often the lives of the children are structured around the mother’s need to keep her creative energies flowing. For many Rainbow Mothers having a creative outlet is necessary to their general well-being and allows for them to be the best mother possible.
What comes to mind when you think about maternal archetypes and the “role” of a mother? Do you fit into one of these archetypes? Do some aspects of your personality fit more easily into the box you define as motherhood? I think many of us probably fall somewhere in the middle, carrying with us elements of both rainbow mother and earth mother. Over the last two years of raising Rita my personal struggle has been to find the right balance between my nurturing and creative sides.
Perhaps it is when we nurture our rainbow mother that our inner earth mother is able to shine. Be well!
We welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Mother to Mother Chat (3) by Jasmine Wood (Rita's Mom)
Mama Bear Wisdom
Hello Mama's! Many of us who have lived in the New Paltz area and frequented the woods over the years have been lucky enough to see New York State's number one charismatic mega fauna, the American black bear. (If you haven't yet, don't lose hope, their ranges are expanding and the local population is thriving. This being said, fear not, unlike there western cousins, the grizzly bear, black bears are docile (but extremely curious) and it is extremely rare that encounters with black bears become dangerous.)
I have always felt a special connection to bears, even spent two solid years of my undergraduate life researching black bears in the Adirondacks, but I wasn't able to truly identify with the mama bear archetype until I was pregnant with my daughter Rita. We have all heard folks speak of mother bears and their aggressive nature when defending cubs, this chatter usually depicts mama bears as a force to be reckoned with.
Once I began my journey through pregnancy nothing was more important than protecting this tiny little being and the home that she would be born into. It was like I had tapped into a part of myself that I never knew existed before. The internal sensor which goes off inside us moms anytime we are exposed to a hostile environment or find ourselves in a setting that seems like it could pose a threat and/or harbor danger for our family. I enjoyed this feeling! Perhaps, we can call it one of a mother's multiple super powers; This intuitive ability to steer clear of danger and defend our family if necessary, just like a mama bear.
Shortly after my daughter was born we were outside with her in her carrier on my chest, roaming our woodsy property. As we came to the middle of a bridge over a pond, we were surprised to see that on the other side of the pond were a mama black bear and her small cub. At first, she didn't notice us and went about her business of teaching her cub how to forage for food. Being a safe distance and separated by water, we were in a perfect position to observe this black bear family for a while. After a minute or two, tiny Rita let out a piercing wail, like only a newborn can, our position was discovered.
The mother bear immediately perked up both ears, and turned to face us. As Rita continued her wailing, the mother bear stomped both her front feet in our direction, a common movement in bears called, bluffing. She then proceeded to round up her cub and saunter back into the woods. Our hearts were pounding. Not from fear, but rather from total awe that is inspired by having an encounter with one of these majestic creatures.
I wondered what thoughts went through the mother bears mind as she looked my family over, carrying our fragile, wailing newborn. Was it a story woven together through centuries of man living with bears? Could she relate to me on a primordial level being a mother herself? I will never know. But, I like to think that sometimes when animals appear in our lives it is to bring us a message. I feel that this bear silently said words to calm a fellow new, young mother "Follow your intuition" and "You are strong".
Although, I have been able to tap into my inner mama bear, there are moments with my little daughter where I feel so vulnerable in this big old spinning world. So many dangers seem to lurk at every corner. It can be very overwhelming. These feelings usually start to take hold when I am feeling isolated and disconnected from my community.
It is at these times that I am reminded by strong women in my life, such as my grandmother or Mama Donna at New Baby New Paltz, that part of our strength, as women and as mothers is in our vulnerability. Our ability to empathize, to listen with compassion, and to give unconditionally is at the very core of our being. It allows women to look into the past, as well as the future to make decisions for the greater good. What benefits her family will benefit and support all families, human and animal alike.
An article in a magazine I like to read "Pathways to family wellness" entitled "Mama Bear Wisdom" outlines the story of this "intuitive knowing" that I have described in this chat. The article summarizes a book written by author Christiane Northrup called Mother Daughter Wisdom. If the idea of mama bear wisdom resonates with you, perhaps this book is the perfect read as we head into the long New York winter. It is definitely on my list of "must read literature", let us know your thoughts if you read the book.
So, whether you are having one of those days where you are tapped into your inner mama bear, feeling strong and courageous, or maybe it’s the other kind of day and you feel small and vulnerable. Take some time to reflect on your intuition, what is your gut telling you? But also, take some time to look at the world around, are you missing important messages that the universe is trying to impart to you? We are all connected. From my home to yours, may positive energy abound! Be Well!
We welcome your feedback! Tell us about how you emanate mama bear wisdom! Or maybe, you find yourself kindred with another animal, turtle or wolf mother, perhaps? Share with us your inner animal wisdom, have any of you created animal totems in which you can draw strength and clarity from in times of need?