What are the Symbols and Celebrations of Motherhood? Lets find out here below.
That time of year has come when we celebrate motherhood, honouring the role mothers play in our lives and in the human story, and the qualities associated with motherhood. It’s a time to celebrate the feminine principle and recognize the unique biological role of the mother and how this connects with our cultural conception of femininity. The mother plays a unique physiological role in nurturing a child during pregnancy, and this nurturing role and uniquely close bond naturally tends to play out beyond the birth of the child and through their infancy. The bond between a mother and child is the stuff of legends.
While the modern Mother’s Day holiday can be traced back to anti-war activists in the late 19th century USA, motherhood and its associated qualities have been celebrated across cultures throughout recorded history. This year, Americans are estimated to spend $25 billion over the Mother’s Day celebration. While capitalism may enjoy this phenomenon, it did not create it as the role of this holiday in our culture traces back far deeper into our history. It reveals something of our deeper nature that we feel a collective desire to show gratitude and reverence for mothers, motherhood and those associated nurturing qualities.
The qualities associated with motherhood and femininity include compassion, unconditional love, empathy and a desire to nurture and protect. These are not only qualities of mothers but aspects of ourselves that we express and experience in our personal relationships and life generally. We can also see these principles in action at different conceptual levels. For instance, we see the nurturing aspect of a community towards its members. For this reason, cultures throughout history have abstracted out the principles associated with motherhood and femininity. They have encapsulated them in deities or symbols which can then be used to explore and discuss the ideas, to educate and guide spiritual development.
There is a rich cultural tradition of associating femininity with water. The physical properties and behaviour of water can be seen to symbolically mirror the accepting, receptive and total embrace of the mother. Along with many traditional reasons for this connection, modern science even indicates to us that the ocean may be a mother to all life on earth and that our own evolutionary heritage comes from ocean life. This fits nicely with the existing symbolic framework and only serves to strengthen and enrich it.
This symbolic connection is an important one in the astrological tradition, where the Moon is associated with water and the feminine principle. The water sign of Cancer is seen to strongly embody the nurturing qualities of motherhood. We look at water and the qualities associated with femininity when symbolically breaking down a chart to form our interpretation. In the same way, we look at the other elements and the qualities associated with the masculine principle, such as assertiveness and intellect.
The purpose of making a symbolic distinction between the archetypes of masculine and feminine is not to assign one to men and the other to women. Instead, the two principles are seen as a duality, two halves of a whole which contrast and balance one another. This is the Yin and Yang of Taoism. Every individual embodies within themselves and their actions the qualities that both of these principles symbolise. We express some degree of balance between the two in every conceivable context. Examples of that are between thought and emotion, intellect and imagination, assertion and submission, resistance and acceptance, boundaries and openness.
The masculine and feminine principles are not just symbolic categories relating to people, but qualities that permeate nature. The feminine, for example, is a symbolic thread that we can follow through a range of diverse territory, from fluid dynamics, gravity and magnetism, to human emotion and compassion. By recognising these archetypal structures and ideas within ourselves and also in nature we can use this symbolic language to apply these principles we discover in nature, to ourselves.
We are able to apply insights about how things find balance in nature to our own personal development and behaviour. The many cultural and religious symbols of these principles exist not only to acknowledge their existence but also to help orient us towards manifesting them in a healthy and balanced way. Ultimately, everything is about balance. Water is essential to our survival, but with too much of it, we can drown.
In paganism, the rich symbolism of water is encapsulated in the image of the Cup. A cup can be seen to resemble a womb, and so the cup was used to represent fertility, gestation and intuition, among other qualities associated with the feminine in pagan cultures. This symbolic thread continued, though somewhat evolved into Christianity as the chalice holding the blood of Christ.
Some branches of Christianity also deify the feminine and motherly principles in their reverence for Mother Mary, the mother of Christ. From another cultural vantage point, this may take the form of reverence for the goddess Sophia. She is more commonly represented in modern times as Gaia or Mother Earth. Our beautiful planet and the life it has cultivated is a mother that we all share, and should all have reverence for.
A day like Mother’s Day invites us to focus on love, to give attention to these aspects of life and show our gratitude to the women in our lives who embody them. Mother’s Day invites us above all to be loving and remember the nurturing and healing power that sharing our love with others has both for others and for ourselves. Mother’s Day reminds us to value our family bonds and to put into words every once in a while that love and respect which can easily go unspoken.
Happy Mother’s Day!
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