Embrace Your Death Mother Archetype to Fully Heal.
Many years ago, at the height of my struggles as a mother to my four children, I found myself visualizing the Goddess Medusa (no children were hurt while my Medusa was out), snakes coming out of my head, a crazed look in my eyes, and if you ask my children, a slightly scary disposition.
I would use humor at these times, often laughing and sharing with others that when I was struggling as a mother, I was channeling Medusa.
Though I made light of these times, I did not understand where this innate comparison with Medusa had come from. Medusa not reflecting the cultural image of the natural, all-giving Mother, yet somehow there seemed to be relevance in her image when I was challenged by motherhood.
At the time, I remember feeling suffocated by this ideal Mother image, struggling to be the mother my children needed, the all-sacrificing mother our culture places on a pedestal. At the time, I had no idea I was acting from the energy of the internalized Death Mother archetype.
This archetype is as scary as it sounds, and the reason I am sharing this story is that as womxn and mothers we need to start dispelling the idea of what a mother is.
Medusa, originally a beautiful Gorgon, was seduced by the God Poseidon in Athena’s temple. Upon hearing what had happened in her temple, Athena, the goddess of war and power, cursed Medusa to a hideous form with a stare that would turn any person who looked at her into stone.
This myth is referred to in the Death Mother archetype, what Marion Woodman calls one of the most significant archetypes of this time.
The Death Mother believes that her child was born to serve her. A child raised by a Death Mother shapes themselves to fit in with the mother to make themselves more amenable and pleasing to the Mother, who is very critical, unpredictable and invested in building a co-dependent relationship with the child.
As the child grows with the Death Mother, they eventually internalize this energy which will rise as the voice that criticizes or puts the individual down as they grow into adulthood, eventually becoming the internalized Death Mother.
The Death Mother is a mother (can also be a father) who wishes for her child to be different, a part of that child to die or even the child die themselves. Death Mother energy is often inherited energy that comes from your motherline, fatherline, and from a culture that idealizes what mother is, creating deep wounds and traumatizing the mother as she journeys through motherhood.
We live in a Death Mother culture, where there are particular expectations, a forced and commercialized ideal and image of what a mother is. A total lack of services and support for womxn and their children and under a patriarchal system that preaches productivity over connection and compassion, it is little wonder that womxn are struggling to mother in a way that is honest, open and authentic.
Mothering has become a bankable commercial venture, with new ways of parenting, the latest toy, premium pram and designer outfit for both mothers and babies that feeds and perpetuates this image of the ideal mother.
Though what I see in this Death Mother culture is that more and more womxn and mothers are feeling isolated and unsupported, the demand on the family unit so high that family units are fractured and failing. Children with mental health issues are on the rise and the Death Mother energy is very well and thriving in our global community.
I believe that the Death Mother energy is the most corrosive part of what I see as the Mother Wound. It diminishes creativity and vitality, creating fear around change and concretizing this fear within the body.
If Death Mother energy is not confronted and identified within, this inherited legacy is projected onto others around the person who has the internalized Death Mother energy, including colleagues, friends and partners.
This subtle but very frightening energy is identified as a trauma response, freezing within when you are confronted with your internalized Death Mother, Death Mother herself or Death Mother energy, much like the look of Medusa who kills her victims by looking into their eyes.
Death Mother energy can be healed, but it is a long and committed pathway of identifying Death Mother energy in your life and cultivating compassion around its debilitating effects.
For me, identifying my internalized Death Mother happened some 25 years ago, though I hadn’t heard of the name then. The work of healing my Mother Wound for close to 20 years has brought me to see the Death Mother not just as debilitating, but as a shadow part of what it is to be a mother.
The whole idea that as mothers we need to be perfect is why Death Mother energy is on the rise, why womxn compete against each other, why the patriarchy still holds power, why we are struggling as womxn and mothers to feel seen and heard. For us to fully heal from our Mother Wound, we must embrace Death Mother, not turn from her and pretend she and our shadow does not exist.
Death Mother is in all of us from time to time through personal and cultural influences, it is not something we talk about but it is an integral part of who we are as womxn and mothers. To be fully connected women and mothers, we must learn to walk in both shadow and light.
Until we claim the not-spoken-about parts of mothering, we will always be suffocated by a Death Mother culture and Death Mother energy that tells us to be less or more, but not who we are as ourselves.
We need places and spaces where we can be open and honest about mothering, and particularly the stuff we feel too guilty or ashamed to talk about. Death Mother lives in shame and secrecy, and the best way to deal with her is to bring her out into the light so we can cultivate self-compassion and self-love.
Be more connected mothers and womxn and feel the riches and joy of what it is to be a whole mother, and when our Medusa comes out to play, we can meet her with openness and love.
Briony Montgomery is the founder and creator of The MotherWay, a bodyworker, coach, healer and teacher. She guides unmothered and motherless womxn to root themselves powerfully in belonging. She is currently writing a body of work that is the culmination of 20 years’ experience personally and professionally for mothers and daughters who feel they were not mothered well. For women seeking belonging and for mothers who search for a way to mother their children better than their own mother, The MotherWay Course is due for release in September, 2020. A qualified life coach, energy healer, aromatherapist, Reiki Master and natural therapist, Briony resides in the Byron Bay hinterland with her husband and four children, where she actively practices her philosophy that women are the heart and center of their families and communities, restoring Elder wisdom in her motherline with the focus on cellular healing and belonging. You could contact her via her website.