The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. -W.R. Wallace
I first sat down to write this article intending it to be about the history of Mother’s Day, thinking there must be some deeper historical meaning, beyond an annual trip to Hallmark or call to the florist. But research quickly reveals it is mostly a ‘hallmark’ holiday. Annual recognition of this day started in the U.S., around 1908. Although some say it’s origins can be traced back further, to the U.K., from the days when servants (often young kids) lived with and worked for wealthy families 6 days a week – but Sunday – or “Mothering Day” was one Sunday a year that the child servant could return home to mother.
After this glimpse behind the Hallmark curtain, I went to Plan B, and I thought I would write an article about the world’s Great Motherhood Spiritual Traditions, quoting history’s spiritual leaders, etc. But interestingly, it turns out that motherhood has not been a major topic of the modern world’s great spiritual leaders and teachers. There are a lot of references to special women, like the Virgin Mary, Hindu or Buddhist Deities, and even Greek Goddesses, etc., but not a lot of rich information on Motherhood.
Except one reference from Ohiyesa, a Dakota Indian, kept coming back and standing out. Ohiyesa – also known as Charles Alexander Eastman – wrote a book called “Soul of the Indian” in the early 1900’s to give voice to the spiritual vision and ways of the Native American people. His book provides many references to both the sacredness of Mother Earth and to the intertwined importance of the role of the mother in their society. (Ohiyesa had many accomplishments, among them; he was a physician, lecturer, Native American activist, help to found the Boy Scouts, and received a degree from Dartmouth in 1887, and an M.D. from Boston University in 1880.)
Ohiyesa wrote this about Motherhood:
The Moral Strength of Women
In the woman is vested the standard of morals of our people. She is the silent but telling power behind all of life’s activities…Possessed of true feminine dignity and modesty, she is expected to be the equal of her mate in physical endurance and skill, and to share equally in the arduous duties of daily life. But she is superior in spiritual insight. She is the spiritual teacher of the child, as well as its tender nurse, and she brings its developing soul into the world. It is her responsibility to endow her child with nature’s gifts and powers, for we believe that from the moment of conception…it is her spiritual influence that matters most.
There is nothing artificial about her person, and very little insincerity in her character…. She is, in fact the moral salvation of our people.
And Ohiyesa’s writings are not dissimilar to really early (Paleolithic and Neolithic) beliefs, which reference great respect for the Clan Mother, or Earth Mother, and Great Females, who give birth to humans and all other beings and things, who is responsible for the cycles of nature, and on whom we all depend on our life. It seems that prior to the introduction of our modern, organized religions, women and mothers, were honored and revered for our unique feminine power. (In fact, there’s plenty a PH.D paper on the web making the case that the men who wrote our modern Bibles intentionally left out this ancient wisdom, but that’s another topic…)
Today, it IS clear that we have lost the power of the mother. When you look at our culture and media, there is no question why bullying has come in (even look at our presidential debates.) Consider climate change, our wars, and the male domination in everything from video games to the sports we play. There is obviously an absence of the mothering intuition and female spirituality in our culture because we stopped living and teaching our essence.
Perhaps the Feminist Movement did move us off course. When we put on our suits and marched into the meeting room, we followed men into THEIR way of being. We can be more successful at work – and at home – by reclaiming our deep spiritual feminine power, and our natural connection to Mother Earth and her cycles. The world would be well-served if we put our female intuitive – or mothering way of being – back into power, to build up our families, and to teach men (and especially our male leaders) our way of being. It’s our collective intuition to care for others, for the world, and for this planet.
As Ohiyesa wrote, in the 1800’s, this is a massive responsibility, but it is our nature. And as the Dali Lama said in 2009, “The world will be saved by the western woman.”
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone out there Mothering – a way of being in the world, of nurturing and cultivating the highest within you, so that you can bring that to your family, your friends, and the planet.
For some great Mother’s Days events, check http://www.glad.is/events
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