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. 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 their 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.
Until next time, be well!