"Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers. "
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Musings

By G. Krasskova

I am a keeper of the future; my love outruns my anger.
I am a keeper of the future; my patience outruns my pride.
I am a keeper of the future; my hope outruns my despair. (1).

For the first thirty years of my life “mother” was a four letter word. It brought to mind nothing but bitterness, pain, and a terrible anger. This impacted every aspect of my life, even perhaps most especially my spirituality. Oh, I honored Goddesses from the moment I consciously became a polytheist. I have a strong dedication to a specific warrior Goddess. I never, ever, called Them Mother though. In fact, I had an intense distaste for Goddesses Whose primary function was that of the dreaded “mother.” It took the Gods bringing me a second mother, one not related to me by blood but by heart and spirit, for those wounds to heal. It took the Gods sending me a woman who chose to adopt me legally as her daughter, even though I was an adult, because that is the bond the Gods created between us. Through that experience, I came not only to understand what miracles the Gods have wrought, but also what a miracle it is to have a mother. Through that healing, I came to understand far more fully how terribly important mothering can be, and what a profound obligation there is to do it well.

Years ago, I saw a movie (I don’t recall the title) in which a character says “Mother is the name of God on the lips of every single human child.” That line stuck with me through all the intervening years: our first and most enduring name for God is ‘mother.’ That is the power this figure has in our lives, our hearts, our psyches. Like those who cannot approach a God because the father-figure in their lives was cruel, abusive, absent, or inefficient thus damaging that bond, those who have never known effective human mothering may have trouble approaching Goddesses. As above, so below….what is out of balance in our human lives will in time affect us spiritually and vice versa. After all, the Gods are the ultimate parental/authority figures. What can one do when the entire idea of ‘mother’ or even ‘parent’ has been damaged?

Mothering isn’t necessarily a biological thing. Anyone who cares for someone else in any way has the potential to fill this role. Is it the same thing as a biological mother, maybe not; but I do not discount the importance of spiritual mothers (and fathers). We can hold this space for others when need arises and the Gods move us to do so. We can consciously commit to moving with compassion in our world, to heal ourselves through bringing restoration to others. I know well the anger one can have at a mother who is emotionally (or physically) harmful or negligent. That anger is an appropriate response. It tells us something is amiss, that important boundaries are not being respected. We can acknowledge that anger without allowing it to turn us into the very thing that we are angry at. We can use that anger to drive us into the arms of our own restoration.

We are called to service, to minister (which really means ‘one who serves’) in just this way: we can bring nurturing and nourishment to others through a profundity of passionate, mindful engagement. We can mother those who are motherless. There are so many people crying out, hungering, starving in fact to be told that they are worthy, that they have a right to take up space, that they are cherished, loved, worthy of love. These are the lessons a mother teaches…or does not teach. If I have learned nothing else, I have learned that even when our human mothers are too wounded themselves, we can choose a new family. We can choose our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers from those whose only tie to us is that of spirit, and a willing, loving heart.

Sometimes we have to do this and that’s ok. Those self-made families are just as sacred as many families of birth. I believe that most people do the very best they can. Sometimes people are too injured themselves, too broken, too scarred to parent well. Such people, like my own mother, are deserving of prayer and compassion. As a priest, I understand that even when the daughter in me cries out in anger and hurt. These people were not given the mothering they needed when they needed it and never learned to give it to themselves. Sometimes we have to do that too: the holiest task we may have to undertake is learning to mother ourselves wisely, lovingly, and well.

There are Goddesses who can teach this if we ask Them. I learned by asking the Goddess Sigyn for help. At one point in my life Nerthus stepped in and offered Her aid. Ancestral veneration is a very important part of my religion (Heathenry). Those who have hurtful relationships with their parents may struggle with this and yet our ancestors can be our most powerful allies in untangling the knotted, ragged threads of our family wyrd. We may have to go back several generations, to those ancestors whose faces and names do not bring pain, but doing so can be very valuable. When all else fails, each of us is entitled to call upon “the Mothers,” our most ancient, female ancestors, the tribal mothers of our individual lines. They are there, they can hear, they will help. There are secular sources as well: prayer and therapy can work very well hand in hand. The important thing is to know that are things we can do.

This may seem like a rather grim Mother’s Day message but perhaps it is a necessary one. It’s easy to honor the mothers who get it right. It’s not so easy to honor those that don’t; yet I think they too need to be honored. It is more than simply that bad parents show us how not to parent. They show us the tremendous and painful long term impact that poor parenting, poverty, neglect, emotional trauma, abuse can have generation after generation. They show us why loving parenting, healthy parenting is so important. It is what they have to bring to this table, the best they can give, coming as it does from their own devastation. As we honor the good, let us honor the injured who walk among us too. Then let us commit to doing all we can to seeing we never inflict that type of damage on another.

Grant me patience, O my beloved Dead,
To see the long view, and remember that what I do
Affects a million million souls I will never know (2).


1. excerpted from R. Kaldera’s “A Parent’s Prayer for Patience” from pages 16-17 of the forthcoming devotional “Be Thou My Hearth and Shield,” edited by Elizabeth Vongvisith, published by Asphodel Press.
2. excerpted from R. Kaldera’s ‘Prayer for the Ancestors” from p. 91 of the forthcoming devotional “Be Thou My Hearth and Shield,” edited by Elizabeth Vongvisith, published by Asphodel Press.


  1. This is a very beautiful post. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

  2. Thank you, Krei. This was reconstructed from a sermon I gave as part of the Mother's Day service at a local interfaith temple.

  3. Thankyou for sharing these thoughts. Very moving.

    (Incidentally--the quote you mention was used in The Crow, but it originates in William Makepeace Thackery's "Vanity Fair." Thackery is describing the emotions of a neglected child. The full quote is "Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children; and here was one who was worshipping a stone.")


  4. Hi, Mordant,
    THANK YOU. I couldn't recall the name of the movie. I didn't know it was originally a Thackery quote. The first time i heard it (in "the Crow") i found it chilling and incredibly moving.