Ancestor Mother: The Story Is Sacred Medicine. {poetry}


In her book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer shares the story of Sky Woman, a creatrix of our world in the tradition of the indigenous peoples of Great Lakes region of Canada.

Sky Woman as an ancestor mother offers her story as compass to life’s journey for her descendants, and it is a tale of generosity, of cooperation, of abundance.

An ancestral gardener, Sky Woman co-creates the world along with the animals and plants she sows into the new land that supports her. She seeks relationship and the grace that’s found in her dependency on the non-human beings that share our planet.

The story is sacred medicine. The children to whom this rich myth is told “know in their bones the responsibility that flows between humans and earth… the story is a deep bowl of celestial blue… holding our beliefs, our relationships…”

What medicine have we imbibed, those of us born into a Judaeo-Christian tradition, from the ancestor mother story we are told as children, of how Eve was cast out from a garden for befriending a serpent and feasting on an apple? Of how, for this, she was forced to wander alone in the wilderness? Of how she lived in exile, ‘passing through on her way to heaven’ as Kimmerer puts it?

How does it feed or impoverish our vision, our imagination of what’s possible for our relationship with the world?

I’ve been walking with the Eve creation story, the one I was told in Sunday school, finding the ways in which she has sung through my voice.

As we claim each other’s kinship across millenia, I’ve grown intimate with a more fruitful Eve, an Eve who knew exactly what she was doing. A woman who fell deliciously, like Sky Woman, purposefully, joyfully. Woman as adventurer and hunter, dancer and mother. Earth as whole, abundant, fruitful. All life as a sacred web, eternally spun together.

I choose to navigate by her compass.

“We too are always falling… the gifts of the world stand by to catch us.” ~ Robin Wall Kimmerer

Ancestor Mother

She was born of no man’s rib bone
but of hip bone of downland hill,
curved recumbent beneath a scudding sky.
Or of the unfathomable depth of an inky lake
encircled by mountain girdle.

She was born not mute
but roaring her longing
for life itself, the very breath of it.
For the pulse of earth pushing wind
through high summer oaks.

She was born ravenous for the musk of damp earth,
drawn to lay skin against trembling leaf.
To push fingers into warm wild honey.

Snake was in her every movement,
serpentine tides coursing strong
through every sinuous limb,
she was rapt in simple seduction
of Sun by Earth,
for the slow dance of clay
under moon’s light,
The rapture of DNA.

Held in the fork of her tongue
A billion stars still flickered,
The Word giving birth,
Pouring forth.

This is my ancestor mother.
No cowed consort, she,
half-lit by history,
but fire-fueled star
blazing phosphorescent
down every bloodline
that lays claim to my heart.


Catherine Pawson is a writer living in South Devon, UK. Her work is inspired by the miracles of daily life with her family, and the beauty of the land around her.


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