A few days ago, beneath the towering mulberry tree in my yard was a small scallop shell left from a repotting, and next to it, a tiny broken finch eggshell. Ah, a natural altar to the Great Mother. I began noticing the Great Mother everywhere in the second grade after Sister Gertrude talked about the omnipresent presence of the Mother—and here She was, as the Tree, the Egg, and the Shell. I placed the fragile shell in the scallop and felt into their beginnings and teachings:
The shell came from the churning of the generative, deep ocean womb. Water and the sea are primordial symbols of the inexhaustible Mother (a quality manifested–in a microcosmic way–in laboring mothers, in homeschooling during Covid-19 shelterin-at-home). The Egg is a symbol of female creation, of something not yet born, latent—it may or not be it is a symbol of rebirth, like our own evolving, ever-potential individuation, e.g., the process whereby, during our personal development, the unconscious meets the conscious.
Before Neolithic peoples drew and sculpted the Great Mother, the Great Mother was–and is–eternal.
“In the beginning. . . was a very female sea. For two-and-a-half billion years on earth, all life-forms floated in the womb-like environment of the planetary ocean—rocked by the lunar-tidal rhythms.” (1)
The female principle is primordial. “In the beginning, life did not gestate within the body of any creature, but within the ocean womb containing all organic life. There were no specialized sex organs; rather a generalized female existence reproduced itself within the female body of the sea. Life is a female environment in which the male appears, often created by the female to perform tasks of reproduction. The penis first appeared in the Age of Reptiles 200 million years ago.” (2)
“The universe exists as sleeping darkness, unknown, unknowable, unknown, wholly immersed in a deep sleep. Does she dream in sleep or only when she wakes? We know not. She sleeps. And then in her sleep, the divine self appears with passionate creative power. She stirs, dispelling darkness. She who is subtle and full of desire, imperceptible and everywhere, now and eternal, who contains all created beings, wakes—then the world stirs. When she slumbers tranquility, the universe sinks into sleep. Thus she, the imperishable one—who seems always perishing, always changing—alternatively waking and sleeping, incessantly revivifies and destroys the whole of creation. . .”
–Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother(3)
For weeks, the Inanna-Pilgrims following their Call have just arrived in the Underworld. As Pilgrims seeking to know our true Self, we also follow in the footsteps of ancestors and bears who found sanctuary in Mother Earth’s womb, walking through the labyrinthine passages of the underworld and touched by shamanic inspirations, they painted the womb of the Mother with images of life, of her animals and humans. In primordial cosmology, the cave was a symbol of the whole world, a place where the dead may be reborn.
Many people are afraid of the dark, have been taught to associate the dark with negative connotations; collectively, we fear the dark and only seek the Light, feeling light and happy in pursuit of ego-driven dreams. However, “those who are fortunate enough to find and enter The Cave are forever changed. It is a place of potent power, acting both as a portal to another realm and space for sacred ritual and initiation.“ In the Cave, the inner Eye opens and we begin to see what we have not seen before, we see our true Self. “In esoteric teachings, the Cave is in the center of the Heart. Within its walls, the whispers of compassion and self- understand can be heard.“(4)
The Great Mother is omnipresent from the caves to the mountain-top. Mountains are seen the Goddess sitting on the earth, on her throne-womb, looking down on the land and people. We embody the Great Mother as Throne-Womb whenever we are seated, our broad hips and thighs become the lap for the child to sit, sleep, or nurse. (Symbolically speaking, when kings take the throne, they are symbolically sitting on the lap of the Earth Mother, the Great Goddess.)
In nature and as human mothers, we realize and embody the polarizing aspects of the Great Mother in her Containing and the Transformative energies.(5) When a woman is pregnant, she is not only gestating the child within her womb, but is herself gestating as Child-Mother; she is contained in the womb of the Great Mother. When holding a child, rocking a child, watching over a sick child through the night—we manifest the “holding” aspects of the Mother. The Great Mother is the body of all life. During the wild ride through labor and birth, we experience Her dynamic, transformative power; we embody the gift of Her “tsunami” and it forever changes us. When our bodies change from holding vessel to releasing life–none of which is by conscious control—every part of a woman is transformed—the body, mind, and soul.
Creating life, childbirth, and nurturing a child are among the most incomprehensible mysteries in life. It is a collective modern tragedy to have turned our attention almost exclusively to evidence-based information! Even so, we can acknowledge that part of Preparation for childbirth and the work of the Return requires us to sit in the lap of the Great Mother and listen to Her, feel Her, be in relationship with and in awe of the Great Mother.
- Helen Diner (1973). Mothers and Amazons . New York: Doubleday/Anchor. 74. Diner refers to Charles Darwin’s (1904) Descent of Man and Selection. (from Sjoo&Mor)
- Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor (1975). The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth. Harper and Row. p. 2.
- Ibid. p. 55
- Kim Krans (2010), The Wild Unknown: Archetypes Guidebook. New York: Harper Collins
- Erich Neuman (1955, 1963). The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Mother Archetype. New York: Bollingen Foundation.