"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.
Peace of mind will come from calling your heart home.
The inner nourishment we seek via the purest of inner freedom It will come when we stop enslaving the heart to the mind; using the mind as the body's task master and the primary source of our conscious focus.
The body is the container of the subconscious mind.
The mind constantly repeats what the heart has not released.
Fear, scarcity and negative thoughts will be soothed and transformed in the most miraculous way when we recognize they are reactions to flags being sent from the body, the subconscious, so we will pay attention to our hearts. These flags are the inner self-fragments vying for your loving attention, seeking a mother who will finally offer them what they need so that the wounds, the stuck emotional energy, the tension patterns can release and you can finally be free.
When we are born, our bodies are tender, undefended and deeply open in the most innocent and visceral way.
A baby’s first emotion is grief; a wailing for leaving its symbiotic union with the mother and entering a world filled with open spaces, objects, people, sensations and experience for which it must rely on others to keep it safe and alive.
It is our body that feels this wound of separation the most profoundly, a body designed to be relaxed and open to the flow of life.
All matter of things disrupt this flow upon arrival into this earth school. Many things, subtle and not so subtle, happen that start to harden the body, create patterns of tension and defense needed for survival. These patterns can become rigid over time.
No matter how unalterable our divine consciousness may be, this consciousness is woven into the fabric of our body on every level and every experience we have ever had, good and bad, ancestral and present day life, known and unknown…all of it takes us residence in the body.
The emotions from childhood (and adolescence) we were never able to process become rigid pathways of tension in the shoulders, lower back pain, a stiff spine, a chronic hip tightness, jaw pain, heart palpitations, digestive issues, or an ever present tightness in the chest.
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.
A big barometer of self-love is how well we are able to parent ourselves through difficult times, mistakes, disappointments, grief and other challenging emotions.
All too often, this is where our wounds are triggered and we enact ways of being that perpetuate the cycle of wounding within our psyches. If we keep treating ourselves and our inner worlds the way we internalized, the way we learned to treat ourselves, then we continue the cycles of pain in our lives without realizing it.
This is the realm of the death mother and one I see most common in clients and my own soul life.
Grief is a very common reaction not only to loss but heartbreak or rejection or disappointment. We make mistakes. We are human. Life has its ups and downs. Things happen. We feel things in response to it.
The death mother sits on the shadow-y end of the Mother archetype. Archetypes are energies that represent certain patterns that contain the totality from shadow to light. Every archetype has this journey, including parental archetypes. The shadow resides within the death mother/father, negative parents, absent parent, to the good enough mother, nurturing mother, present mother and the great, divine mother. herself. One pulls us away from life. The other connects us more deeply into life-affirming principles that give freedom to the soul.
The way we parent ourselves is the backdrop of everything as we move through our lives. It is the way we treat ourselves emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. It is the way we nurture ourselves. It is the way we hold ourselves when we are experiencing difficulties, struggling with dark or challenging emotions, facing addictions or relationship patterns or our human condition. It seems so common that in emotional struggle and life difficulties, we have the hardest time loving ourselves. This is the inner parent at work.
What this looks like is a desire to get rid of the pain, criticizing ourselves, judging ourselves, numbing out the pain rather than seeking soothing, a hatred towards our own inner wounding, bypassing our wounding with spiritual affirmations, using our thoughts to control our deep pain, fear of turning inwards towards ourselves, a feeling of choking when wanting to express truth, a draw to things that on the surface appear soothing but are actually toxic, or seeking for something outside of ourselves to be our source of love.
Living in a world that values what image we project over who we really are, what we can produce over what we express, how we look over how we feel is a culture that is emotionally and spiritually neglectful. It is a culture that values the external to such a degree that we have become codependent this culture, a death mother, in an attempt to receive the nourishment our psyche is so deeply craving and getting ourselves lost in the process.
We have been split in two...our inner nature and our rational nature. Animal and divine has become animal OR divine. The splitting creates a deep chasm in the in-between, a place that rests in our hearts...where we are actually meant to embody the in-between...to be both instinctual and divine, logical and filled with the creative loving energy of eros; to hold a safe container, respect knowledge and wisdom equally and to navigate through the world fully alive in our cells with feeling, wisdom and grace. We should feel safe to be whole. Yet most of us do not.
This is the essence of the soul wound, the split between our two sides; logos and eros, masculine and feminine, animal or spirit, spiritual or science, dark or light, love or hate, good or bad...and on and on.
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.