"The death mother supports an inner and outer patriarchal system that haunts a woman with feelings of failure and worthlessness and oppresses men with feelings of depression and dissatisfaction with their lives (and themselves)." Massimilla Harris (parenthesis added by me)
In order for us to truly heal our relationship with the masculine energy that lives within us and find balance in the world, regardless of gender, we must tend to the death mother. The internalized death mother archetype we carry is a result of living in a patriarchal culture where she is transmitted through our conditioning. This complex is made more challenging if our own mother rejected, abandoned, feared, envied or disliked us because of her own wounding, not wanting to have a child or environmental circumstances. To a child, when s/he perceives the energetic rejection and dislike of mother, it feels like death and this archetype begins to weave its way into the cells of the body, emotions, consciousness and relationship with a higher power that is life.
Athena was the daughter of Zeus. Born out his head and a true daughter of the patriarch, she did not have a mother. She was revered and celebrated for her qualities associated with being successful in a patriarchal world. It's no accident that she is the Goddess of warfare and strategy, math, law and justice, civilization, courage and skill. She honed the qualities most celebrated in her society. But, not having a mother she was also deeply cut off from her deeply feminine nature. She, as Joseph Campbell points out, is also a symbol of the way the patriarchal culture has assimilated the Goddess.
Last night there were fireworks going off somewhere in the distance, noises that always send my fur friend into a deep terror. At first, it was subtle and I didn’t quite notice as she laid on my feet but then I felt this shaking and put my hand on her and she started panting hard. Getting more distressed, she was trying to get under the coffee table, the couch, or the bed. I did everything I could to soothe her. She eventually took up shelter deep in the closet, where I sat with her, holding her, singing to her and soothing her.
I noticed a subtle energy of soothing to try to get her to be okay again. But, she was in something and all I could do is just be there and love her. (Often that what we are trying to get to be “okay” again is our own feelings that arise when we are in a space with something intense or our meaning making of our pain). I laid next to her, kept my hands on her and just sang to her as she alternately cried and licked my face.
It hit something deep inside of me, a place of deep mirroring and recognition in my body of my own fear. Fear of being here, in a human body. A fear that many of us walk around with, mystics or not.
Emotional fear and hypervigiliance shows up in the body as a deep existential terror that we entered into such a long time ago it’s become like the water we are swimming in without realizing it. Our society is the giant sea we are swimming in.
When I stopped drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, I had an intuition that a lot of my addiction was related to mothering. It was then I began to explore not only my relationship to my own personal mother but what it is to cultivate a conscious relationship with myself. This is when I first encountered the archetype of the death mother, a representation of the oppression/abuse of the healthy feminine. She is also the shadow side of the Great Mother archetype.
Archetypes are universal energy patterns that humans have experienced through out time. It is also expressed within cultures, as well as personally in each of our lives. This forms the foundation of our internal mother, a combination of universal energetics, cultural expressions and our personal lineage.
The death mother archetype appears in other cultures as an archetype of the soul stealer; the soul ultimately being the feminine, embodied expression of the divine.
When I was finishing my dissertation, I constantly faced a deep frozen paralysis; an inability to trust the unique vision arising within me. It was so hard to say what I wanted to say. I was worried my way of seeing the data was crazy (turns out to be far from it).
I’ve experienced that kind of frozen fear for many, many years when I’d move towards writing or creating or making life affirming leaps forward. That slow steady feeling of frozen paralysis was there. Something bad might happen. I might die. My mind would go blank. I’d “sabotage” myself.
I tried all the things. I came to the resignation that this fear is par for the course in the creative process and that I need to fight my way through it, no matter what it took.
This frozen fear was in fact the grips of the archetypal death mother. She’d pull me back into what was familiar. She’d pull me into my addictions. Into self-doubt and projecting my fear and anger onto others, into myself and destabilize the trust I had in the world.
Death mother often stands between us and reunification with our souls. She’s this great grief that lives inside our systems that we are trained to avoid, even if it means going into trances to ignore it. And, we are all in a trance, especially if we are spending most of our time scrolling, numbing out, checking out or avoiding our real soul work because of the the change and feeling that requires.
Addiction is the antithesis of creativity or life-affirming, soul based work and love.
The death mother is an archetypal energy coined first by Jungian analyst Marie Louise von Franz, then elaborated on by Marion Woodman. This energy is so, so very much alive today in this domination heavy culture, as well as in our own bodies.
This energy gets conflated with the darker aspects of the divine feminine and they are not the same thing. Not even in the slightest.
In order to begin to truly liberate the feminine archetypal energies and heal the masculine archetypal energies as well, we must understand the difference and how the death mother rules our unconscious realms.
The death mother is the dark side of the mother, the shadow side that no one talks about. The cold mother. The resentful mother. The mother that didn’t want to have children. The mother who was not mothered herself. The addicted mother. The depressed/anxious mother. The rejecting or abandoning mother. The intruding mother.
The one who did not nurture or nourish or celebrate or love the way we are trained to think mothers are supposed to be. So much so that we think it’s our fault if this was our mother or that we are not worthy of love because she didn’t know what love was.
This enters our hearts in such a deep way that when we have the impulse towards creativity, new endeavors, life transitions, more soul and life affirming expansion, she enters and pulls us back in.
This is addiction and food issues. A search for a nurturing, soothing energy and returning to what we know..the death mother.