From eternity I was weaving, from the first, from the beginnings of the earth. -Proverbs 8:23 (alternate translation)
My earliest memories are steeped in mother-loss.
Around the time I was 18 months old, my parents took us all to see E.T. in the movie theater (I fell asleep) and then told us they were getting a divorce. Soon afterward, my five older siblings and I packed into our family car with my dad and drove away from the most important source of security and love I had ever known–my mother.
I spent the next several months (or was it years?) crying myself to sleep nearly every night… “I want my mommy… I want my mommy… I want my mommy…” I believed everything would be OK if I could just have my mother back. The only things that made my pain bearable were the constant presence and mothering of my older sister and the loving efforts of my paternal grandmother who took our wounded souls into her home and heart. Other wonderful women also helped raise me as mother figures.
About nine years ago, I found myself sobbing, thinking and pleading over and over, “I wish I had a mother.” I longed for a mother I could call for advice in dealing with some struggles I had been having–a best friend kind of mother who would always know what to say, someone from my imagination. It was like I was that 2-year-old little girl again, crying for her mommy. Those deep wounds from my toddlerhood resurfaced with a vengeance causing me intense emotional and even physical agony. My entire body hurt as I sobbed uncontrollably into my pillow.
I have always found it such a tender mercy that the fatherless can turn to their Heavenly Father. As I cried, “I wish I had a mother,” I found myself aching with a deep intensity for my Heavenly Mother, but then I cried all the more because she is so hidden, removed, and seemingly inaccessible. I felt such a sense of injustice that I, in my despair at being physically “motherless,” could not even gain access to the divine Mother of my spirit. I sobbed for quite some time after that mournful realization and couldn’t seem to pull myself out of my agony until I finally succumbed to sleep.
I don’t doubt that some wonder what all the fuss is about, wonder why some Mormon women are so fixated on the Divine Mother, why they can’t just be satisfied with the occasional mention of Her existence. But, you see, I know Mother-ache. I know it in every crevice, cell, and hidden place in my body and soul. Mother-loss was the crux of my existence, defining and shaping everything from the beginning of my life. Finding my Mother in Heaven is something I feel driven to do, not just because I am a Mormon woman but because filling the Mother-shaped hole(s) in my heart has been the central quest of my entire life.
My favorite fairy tale has always been Sleeping Beauty. Until now I never considered why I felt so drawn to this particular story, I just always loved it. An infant girl is taken from the home of her birth to be raised by other kind women. Eventually she discovers who she really is and finds her true mother. Ha. Of course my motherless little heart would love it. Today I learned something new that adds another layer of significance to this particular fairy tale.
Baptist Biblical scholar and expert on the Great Mother, Margaret Barker, has spoken and written extensively (often at Mormon scholarly conferences) about the Mother in Heaven and the imagery, names, and symbols she shares with Mary. This particular passage struck me today:
A papyrus of the Infancy Gospel of James, dated to the end of the third century, is the oldest known complete gospel text. The Infancy Gospel of James tells how Mary was given to the temple when she was three years old, like the infant Samuel (1 Sam.1.24). The priest received her and sat her on the third step of the altar, and she danced at his feet in the temple. She was fed by an angel, and grew up in the temple until, at the age of twelve and the onset of puberty, she had to leave. A husband was found for her, Joseph, who was a widower with sons. When a new veil was needed for the temple, seven young women were chosen to spin the wool and to weave. Mary was one of them, and while she was spinning, the angel told her that she would give birth to the Son of God Most High. Mary spinning the red wool as the angel speaks to her became the ikon of the Annunciation. The little girl in the temple, dancing before the high priest, is exactly how Wisdom was described in Proverbs 8: playing and dancing before the Creator. Like Wisdom, Mary is depicted in ikons as seated in the holy of holies, being fed by an angel. She left the holy place to give birth to her child, like the woman clothed with the sun appearing through the opened veil of the holy of holies. Whilst she was weaving the new veil, the symbol of incarnation, she was pregnant with her child, and in ikons, she is shown holding her spindle, the ancient symbol of the Great Lady (Source).
Weaving, spinning, and spindles were associated with the Mother in Heaven (more on that HERE). Isn’t it interesting that all of the spinning wheels and spindles in the kingdom were destroyed when Aurora lost her mother? Isn’t it interesting that when Jesus Christ was killed, the veil of the temple, woven perhaps by Mary herself, ripped apart? And isn’t it interesting that I started a weaving project to include in my birth space without even realizing that I was connecting with this powerful Mother symbolism as I did so?
My search for Her continues. I will keep asking, seeking, and knocking. Please share any insights and resources you may have found helpful in your own searching.