Birth and Creativity

I’ve often said that being a mother is the bravest thing that I could ever imagine doing. From the process of pregnancy to birth, to the ensuing life of an entirely new being (with all its ups and downs), it’s hardly surprising that many mothers – yes, including mine – appear a bit bonkers. A young mother friend of mine once said that you either have a nervous breakdown the first time you lose sight of your child in a shop, or you get over it and get on. I heard a story this week of a poor child being bullied in school because at age 10, his over-protective mother still won’t allow him to look after himself. It’s a tricky balance, and despite the amount of advice on the bookshelves, I doubt there’s really a ‘How To’ manual that’s actually relevant or useful. And I love those reports that come out periodically along the lines of ‘if Wife/Mother was a job, its salary would this much.’ We can never value those hard-working ladies enough.

The image of the Mother, both in life and in Paganism, has been on my mind lately. My 36th birthday looms (vast dotage indeed), and many of my friends and family members have youngsters in various stages of schooling or upbringing. My sister-in-law queried a while ago whether I intended to have kids, enthusing about how wonderful it is, fulfilling etc – before having to deal with my screaming 3-year old nephew and demanding 1-year old niece. My brother has asked for ‘piece and quiet’ for Christmas; possibly ‘a lie-in’.

I’ve never felt myself to be the mothering type. I’ve still yet to feel those mysterious urges of ‘broodiness’. Not having children with my now-ex husband was an extremely wise decision, but my views haven’t changed. Despite others telling me often that I’d make a good mother, I just have never felt brave enough to undertake the staggering life change that having children involves. Also, there’s surely enough children out there who need a good home? Who am I to add to that, when I could surely help those without?

Yesterday, I found an rather odd article in ‘The Independent‘ (also of the type that is reproduced periodically depending on the level of newspaper pages to fill) that brought this to mind again. Is it society’s fault? Is it an outdated religious ethic, that as animals we must breed, to perpetuate the species? Surely not. Are we not free enough to make our own decisions, as individuals and couples?

Yet I’ve heard the comments as well. ‘You’re not a proper woman unless you have children.’ ‘Oh, you’ll regret it when you’re older.’ Or the assumption that there’s something wrong biologically.

I fully understand and agree that parenthood is a difficult job. Yet, given that it prides itself on its return to traditional ways of life, diversity and eclectic practices, how far does Paganism support the societal view that to be a Mother is a natural – if not essential – step in a woman’s life?

(Apologies to the chaps out there reading this; I’m hopeful that you’ll consider my words as they are meant. I’m absolutely in favour of equality, so bear with me – I’m pretty sure you’ve been short-changed here too…)

Maiden, Mother, Crone. Is that it? The wonderful SageWoman magazine printed an article a while ago about ‘The Queen‘, filling in the space between Mother and Crone, noticing that it’s a time when much can still be accomplished – you’re not just stuck at home with the housework anymore. But what if you don’t want to be a biological Mother?

It’s tickled me in the past in ritual or other such Pagan settings. ‘Oh, you know how kids are,’ happily chirped a young mother during some Reiki training that I was helping with. My reply – a simply ‘No’ – brought her up short so fast, I almost laughed at the shock on her face. Because she was in her mid-20s with a brood that would do a hen proud. Clearly something was wrong with me!

My Goddess is so much more than a biological Mother. Motherhood is the giving birth, the creative act as a whole – not just reproducing children, but the lives contained in the multitude of inspirational sparks of Awen. From art, to feeding others, to building a home, to maintaining a garden… every aspect of life that requires that first initial Go! is given birth.

So… surely I do this already, in my own way? I’m doing so right now, kind of: putting thoughts into words to inspire and provoke thought. I’ve run a household since I left University; I care for my partner and animal family as much as I would any others that I love and live with. The basic idea that leads to a book involves a writing process often compared to pregnancy, with all of its pains and joys.

And this is where the guys come in too. There is no Maiden/Mother/Crone for chaps – why not? Yes, I know, God = Male by default for so many years, they’ve apparently had their go. But that’s an equally daft assumption. I don’t want to go too far the other way – this is about balance and reality combined with spirituality. While I’m obviously a girly and therefore can’t speak from experience, I’m pretty sure that men go through life seeking direction, archetypes and ideas in the same way as women. While it may appear they’re endowed with God-given (ahem) knowledge – you know, how to lead nations, run companies, never cry and understand the offside rule – at puberty, that may actually be as ridiculous as women gaining knowledge of how to be A Good Mother and Keep House at the moment of succcessful insemination.

To me, Druidry is ultimately realistic. It’s a spirituality with its mysteries, yes, but those are experiential – necessary to explore if you wish to learn, and worth so much more as a result. Just simply accepting something because it’s ‘traditional’ (actually less than a century old, if we’re referring to Wiccan archetypes) is as ridiculous as mindlessly accepting any other given truth.

‘God created the world’ – how? Not to provoke argument, I just actually would like to know the explanation behind this. But let’s assume that such a creative act as The Big Bang happened (we’re here, after all) and life has been sparking into being ever since, in all its form and wondrous variety. Coming from both men and women – as we understand it, as limited human beings – often working together.

We have to question our roles in life, to challenge, to explore. If not relevant, then we can (hopefully) be free to discard and find alternatives. One size of life does not fit all, and nor should it – how boring would that be?

Perhaps Maiden, Creatrix/Lady, Crone or suchlike might be better? And Boy, Creator/Lord, Teacher? Just basic ideas from the top of my head here, but let’s step out of our boxes, or feel free to relabel our own.

Establishing Pagan Traditions is one thing. Settling into Pagan Ruts is quite another. How much do we take for granted… and how much do we create? That’s surely a core tenet of Paganism, right there.

 

NB: I have intentionally left homosexuality unmentioned here, as I do not have deep personal experience of this and so do not feel qualified to speak on it. However, I see no reason for male/male or female/female balance to be in any way less valid that any other sort (including parenthood), and have seen it work a fair bit better on occasion! For those who can speak on such a basis, please feel free to add your thoughts, as always  🙂

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9 Comments »

  1. An interesting read. I always find it interesting when it assumed that because you are a woman you will have and want children. Now I admit that I am what people keep commenting “Good with children” I just do not believe I could do such a thing 24/7 simply because currently I could not offer the emotional stability I believe a child needs (and the obvious issue that I have with my genetics) Being bipolar I know there runs a risk of passing that onto any children I have, so this added to a fear of pregnancy, I am in a rather interesting position of being “maternal” but no wanting children of my own.

    Perhaps that makes me odd but I dont think it makes me any less because of a particular mindset.

    I’ll leave it there for now. Very thought provoking.

  2. Right with you Sister! How funny that you blog about this today, I am a 1000 words in on a similar post! Actually, I think it is a far braver choice in some ways NOT to have children. It flies so much in the face of the norms of our culture and society. The childless (intentionally or other wise) woman confounds expectations at every turn, encountering either deep commiseration and sympathy if you cant, or incredulity and disbelief if you’ve chosen not to. The reasons that I am childless are many, not least a deep environmental ethic that the world simply does not need more children and I consider my sister’s little boy to be plenty enough to ensure the future of my ancestral bloodlines. I adore him, but am always glad to hand him back. As I plough well in my 30’s, I find that my urge to procreate is no more strong than it was at 18 or 25, yet the rest of the world can’t quite understand that. Most weeks I am asked when it will be ‘my turn’, ‘haven’t you got round to it yet’, ‘don’t leave it too late’, and ‘you’ll regret it if you don’t’, and other such comments. Whilst I don’t wish (by any stretch of the imagination) to lump all mothers together, there is often the sense that having done it, you won’t know what it is to be truly ‘Woman’ until you have. I speak to so many women who tell me that in all honesty that whilst their children are the most wonderful gift, if they had their time to chose again they might do it differently, and envy that I have chosen to maintain my freedom. There is a deeply untapped well of womanhood, I believe, and that is the intentionally childless. A well of female freedom and power which is not diluted by the experience of motherhood. Neither is better than the other, just different expressions of being female. Of course I reserve the right to change my mind, that in itself is a woman’s mystery, yet I suspect that somehow I wont. And If I don’t, and I regret it, well it’s nobody’s fucking business but mine!

    • druidcat said

      Very well said, Red! 🙂 xx

    • Lia said

      When I say “I am not going to have children” I always get astonished looks (mostly from those people from whom I think they never really have thought about what having children would mean).
      You all mentioned reasons and explanations which also could be applied to me or I agree with. For me getting children was never a question, or well, when it was the answer was always the same (no).
      I dont have to have a baby with my gens. Why not adopt one little soul, who is already on earth, and for whatever reason has no parents or/and is on foster care and enable for this being a live with love, trust and all that it needs for a balanced personality. (my translation from German here might not be very good, sorry. I hope you understand)
      Sure, you dont have the 9 months time when the little one is growing in your whomb. But I am sure you can love a child as well as it might have been and be a mother with all that comes with it.

  3. Gwion said

    Well, you have at least one male who’s carried on reading! Perhaps not a representative one but how can anyone represent half of a whole species?

    I agree totally that no being should be forced into a stereotype dictated by others, so to not have a child is as valid a choice for anyone as to have one.

    But do I detect a tacit acceptance of the male stereotype here? Are you falling into the trap of accepting the image of males as not much caring about the aftermath of that first stage of the procreative urge? I realise that your post is from a woman’s viewpoint and about stereotyping women: I agree with what you say, but not all men simply want to set a few (well 3 – 4 hundred million at a time) sperm on their journey and then move on. Some/many (?) gain as much fulfilment from raising a child as women are stereotypically wont to do. OK they don’t have the morning sickness and labour but they can, and many do, share in all the rest and gain as much from fatherhood as mothers do from motherhood.

    This is not a criticism of your points and, to make them so well, I don’t think you could have written about everything – but here’s my plea not to force men into stereotypes any more than women.

    • druidcat said

      Thanks, Gwion – but it certainly wasn’t my intention to even imply endorsement of stereotypes! Hence my gentle mockery… I don’t know anyone, male or female, who likes to be identified wholly as a gender, race, colour, or anything other than an individual, and I’m quite happy to hold a relationship on that basis! I think most of the chaps I know do not go out of their way to oppress women, and wouldn’t appreciate being themselves oppressed in turn – basic respect should be a way of life these days, to my mind.

      Interestingly, this post was generally to challenge such tacit understandings, as you say, and how far Paganism DOESN’T… clearly I’m not alone in my opinion, but interesting to see how far new and growing/evolving spirituality chooses to reject or take on wider societal generalisations – whether they’re relevant or not.

  4. Yes, a thousand times yes! The limitations of the maiden/mother/crone trinity have bothered me since I first started exploring paganism. It seemed wonderful at first to discover a path in which aspects of femininity were explored and revered, but it didn’t take long for me to feel the need to move beyond that fairly limited trajectory. I have no idea if I ever will have children. Intellectually, I feel it might not be the right thing to do, for this already overpopulated planet. Emotionally, I am in the full throes of broodiness, approaching a landmark birthday… but, whatever happens, I can see that different joys, sorrows and accomplishments wait on each horizon, to be explored in their different ways. I grew up with my mother constantly telling me that there are some things I will only understand when (or if) I have children of my own; she is right, of course, but I also know now that there are some things that can only be learned from following that other path.

  5. It troubles me the focus on maid (pre breeding) mother (breeding) and crone (done with breeding) as the core goddess identity for so many pagans. All about popping out little ones. I have a child, I love him, he does not define me as an adult, a woman, a person, he does not define my gender identity, or anything like that. We never define men in the same way, and they are just as capable of creating new people. I think its a political issue. I also think not breeding is a valid choice that should not be questioned. It’s no one else’s business what you want to do, or why, on that score.

  6. […] It began in early spring last year (hence the slightly unseasonal references), got added to when https://druidcat.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/birth-and-creativity/ posted about a similar subject last year and got completed today when I recieved yet another well […]

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