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musing on mothers, power, and influence

April 11, 2011

I’ve accepted that I’m in the third phase of my life, although perhaps earlier than most, but I haven’t yet figured out what I can do with it. Of course, I never really knew what to do with the second phase either: I’m not a mother, I never wanted to be a mother; I have felt nurturing, but it did not feel maternal to me.

The main goddess in my personal pantheon for the last several years has been Laima, a “midwife” goddess who oversees birth, death, marriage, and childbirth. So she is an analog to the Norns or the Fates, whom I’ve long been fascinated by. But I actually picked her because she is the goddess of weaving, and I am a weaver.

Whenever I’ve tried to approach Her as a mother, I have failed. I branched out to aunt or grandmother, also with no success. So despite her place as first among equals, she remains an enigma to me. And someone I feel utterly unable to ask for help.

I feel very deeply that for me the Divine is female, and yet relating to any of Her aspects as if we were in a relationship remains deeply problematic to me. Calling on a mother figure for help because she is a mother and I am a child (her child) stopped working in any meaningful sense around the time I turned seven. After that, I still called out, but I was ignored, or told my priorities were misplaced, or told I was selfish and I did not deserve help.

I have trouble with authority figures because they’ve rarely been any help to me, but they’ve often caused great harm to me. I have a love-hate relationship with power because it’s necessary to get things done, but so often misused and abused. I know I have inner power, but I don’t know where it comes from, or how to strengthen or amplify it. I yearn to be a leader, but I distrust leaders. How can I learn to be a good leader when I don’t even see the gods as leaders I want to follow?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2011 06:21

    I’d love to learn more about the goddess Laima. Are there any sources you recommend?

    I’ve actually been thinking about the ways that the “Divine parent” metaphor is problematic. For me, some of that is about my position in the relationship – I don’t want to be a child all my life. One of the beauties, too, of (soft) polytheism and panentheism is that by not focusing on deity as omni/omni, or as the embodiment of power, I can explore other kinds of relationships. Deity doesn’t have to be big-powerful-in-the-sky being, so that makes the parent metaphor less predominant, or less definitive at least.

    Have you tried brainstorming in terms of other relationships, including their different power dynamics? What would happen, for example, if you approached Laima as a more experienced fellow weaver, and wanted to learn some of her techniques? You may have already tried those terms, and I’m not saying that’s an answer, but I’d be genuinely curious where a perspective like that might lead you.

    • April 12, 2011 16:37

      Unfortunately I’ve found no sources of Baltic mythology in English. Perhaps this is the impetus I need to teach myself Lithuanian!

      Your suggestion of rethinking the parental metaphor was exactly what I needed! Years of having that metaphor impede my spiritual growth, but somehow I never thought of throwing it out, and starting over with something new. Friends give us new perspectives, and you’ve already made a big difference for me!

  2. syfr permalink
    April 12, 2011 15:39

    I understand intellectually that the (Christian) God I worship is neither male nor female, but I am very comfortable calling Him, “Father,” because my dad is the one who makes things better, who understands and nurtures me, who sees me as an adult who makes my own choices, and supports those choices (in general; if I became a drug addict or something, I’d get a talking to.). My mother is egocentric, and sees me as a sort of extension of herself. It’s weird; being a feminist I want to see God as female, but … my mother is so not a parental role model.

    • April 12, 2011 16:50

      My mother is also egocentric, but my father is cold and distant, so I’ve struggled all my life with parental models of the Divine. I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you.

      Do you have some role for the feminine in Divinity? not God if you’re Christian, but Mary, or a saint, or *something*? All that talk of “man was created in God’s image” explicitly excluded “women” in my Catholic upbringing. Being a girl was one tiny step above animals, but far below men. So I could never really relate to God the Father, or adult Jesus. I liked child Jesus, who avoided the problems of the Divine as Parent. But Mary was whom I always prayed to, because she had been a girl and a woman, so she knew what female life was like.

      • syfr permalink
        April 14, 2011 12:25

        Mary the mother of God, and Joan of Arc and Brigid of Ireland and Mary Magdelene. Growing up Catholic, I had saints to think about. One for caring, and one for fighting, and one for joy and generousity, and one for teaching and wisdon.

  3. April 14, 2011 18:05

    I yearn to be a leader, but I distrust leaders. How can I learn to be a good leader when I don’t even see the gods as leaders I want to follow?

    This jumps out at me as food for thought.

    What do you mean by leader and what kind of leader do you want to be?

    {{{Laiima}}}

    • April 15, 2011 09:13

      Thanks for the hugs, renniejoy. I’m trying to figure out what kind of leader I would like to be, but it’s difficult because my historical self perception has been that I’m passive and reactionary, which is surely the opposite of a leader. How does leadership feel from the inside? Tthat’s what I need to figure out next.

  4. April 15, 2011 12:13

    I wish you all the best. 🙂

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