Embody the Qualities of Mothering — Including the Divine Feminine
By Susie Weller
Mother’s Day celebrates the gifts of biological mothers, as well as those who nurture us in other ways. We also honor the Divine Feminine within who encourages and comforts us.
“Motherly” love can be expressed and experienced in a variety of ways not limited by biology. We appreciate all those who express the feminine gifts of listening, compassion, kindness, and holding the space for all that is becoming — but is not yet. Even if we did not experience these qualities from the woman who birthed us, let’s express appreciation for the ways others nurture us.
My mom was impacted by mental illness and died on Mother’s Day when I was 23 years old. As a result, I have often felt like a motherless child. Recognizing that I still needed some mothering, and our children desired a grandmother, I formally asked my Aunt Jane fulfill both of these roles. Thankfully, she agreed! Our family felt truly blessed by her extra love and support for us. Jane served as a healthy role model, and reminded me that I could intentionally create supportive mothering relationships in my life.
Even though I felt abandoned by my biological mother, I felt comforted by verses such as Isaiah 49:15-16. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will never forget you. See, I have carved you on the palms of my hand; I will never forget you.” I’m grateful that Jesus used feminine images to describe God as being like a “mother hen” who gathers, protects, and nourishes. These verses comforted me to realize that I am never really alone—the Divine Feminine within can soothe my soul.
Growing up in a devout Catholic home, and attending Catholic schools, I also experienced another form of mothering that honored “Mother Mary”—the mother of Jesus. As a native Californian, I was strongly influenced by the Hispanic Culture. When I was 12 years old, my younger brother and I lived with a Mexican family in Mexico City for six weeks. We visited the shroud of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral. I noticed that her darker facial color, miraculously created on the inside of Juan Diego’s cloak, looked like those of the local indigenous people—not the lighter-skin color of the Spanish Conquistadors. This mother had also experienced the pain and suffering of her child being tortured and killed.
As Mother Mary, she is accessible as the Feminine Face of God. Throughout the world, she is often revered as the Black Madonna. I have enjoyed making pilgrimages to Spain and France to experience the power of dark-faced Madonna statues at Montserrat outside Barcelona, and Our Lady of Rocamadour in Southern France. Similar to pre-Christian goddesses, the Black Madonna is associated with the earth and fertility, seated on a throne and holding a divine child on her lap. In Asian cultures, she is appreciated as Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion.
Another expression of the Divine Feminine is Mary Magdalene, a leader in the early church and known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.” Philip’s Gospel refers to her as Jesus’ companion who is loved more than the other disciples. Similar to his Mother Mary, she witnessed Jesus’ pain while he was dying on the cross. Both Mary’s were willing to be fully present to a loved one’s pain—even when they couldn’t fix it. Mary Magdalene was the first to witness the Risen Christ and to share this good news with apostles. She provided comfort and leadership to the early Christian community to transform fear into courageous actions. Together, both Marys remind us of the feminine face of God who is always present—even in challenging circumstances.
On this Mother’s Day, let’s honor all those who have nurtured and encouraged us. We give thanks for the multiple ways the Feminine Face of God is expressed to us, and through us to uplift others. We embody this “mothering” by being a listening presence that holds the space for all that is becoming.