Sunday, 10 May 2009

Why Do We Celebrate Mother’s Day?

Mother's Day has become a very important affair nowadays. Well, important commercially and socially. Rather often it's ignore at your own peril.

How do people in different cultures celebrate Mother’s day? 
  • Is it the same day of the year in different cultures? 
  • Is Mother’s day an old custom or a recent trend fostered by shopkeepers? 
  • Is Mother’s day a relic of the ancient worship of the Goddess? 
  • Do you really need to buy expensive things only once a year to show that you care for your mother or for quieting your guilty conscience?

Origins of Modern Mother’s Day

Photo source: Wikimdeia Commons 

The ancient Romans had Matronalia on 1st March, when husbands and daughters gave gifts to the mother and wife and offered prayers for them. 

The modern MOTHER'S DAY was born when Anna Marie Jarvis and her mother first organized women into public health brigades, by founding "Mothers Friendship Day" to reconcile communities torn apart by the U.S. Civil War and to end war.

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The Mother’s day proclamation of 1870, by Julie Ward Howe is feminist, revolutionary and anti war. She also wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
 Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
 Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
 all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
 … "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
 As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, 
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel…. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
 Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
 whereby the great human family can live in peace,
 Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
 But of God. 
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
 that a general congress of women without limit of nationality
 may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient

US President Woodrow Wilson signed Mother's Day into law in 1914 and Canada in 1915. In 2008, the Unites States Congress voted unanimously to support celebrating Mother’s Day.

Currently Mother’s day is placed on the calendar: 

  • on the second Sunday of May in most of the European Union countries, China, Japan, and other countries alphabetically down to Zimbabwe. 
  • In Ireland, Nigeria and UK it is the fourth Sunday in Lent (usually in March). 
  • In Norway, it is on the second Sunday of February 
  • Last Sunday of November in Russia. 
  • In Japan, it was originally the birthday of Empress Kōjun, the mother of Emperor Akihito but has become rather commercial and spread widely by giving carnations and roses to mothers.

Commercialization of Mother’s Day

Only in the USA, people spend $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on gifts like spa treatments to pamper mother and another $68 million on greeting cards. About 8% of the US jewellery industry’s annual revenue in 2008 came from Mother’s rings given on Mother’s day.

Being never married and with no children, Anna Marie Jarvis died in poverty after having spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life resisting this commercialization, which she considered an abuse of the celebration. In 1923 she threatened to sue New York Governor Al Smith over his plans for a large Mother's Day celebration, fought with the American War Mothers Association over their use of Mother's Day in their fundraising campaigns and she even attacked Eleanor Roosevelt on this issue. 

"A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!" were her pert comments on the day she came to create.

Ancestry of Mother as Goddess

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The recorded history of the human race shows that we have had religions with mother goddesses for about 70% of the time humans have been around. 

As Mother Goddess we have: 

  • Isis from Egypt
  • Ishtar from Babylon
  • Asherah the Semitic Mother Goddess of the Hebrews
  • Prithvi or Earth as Mother Goddess in Hinduism and early Buddhism
  • Yaochi Jinmu or The Queen Mother of the West in ancient China. 
  • Even pre-Islamic Mecca had its own share of goddesses, Uzza, al-Manāt and al-Lāt, who were known as the “daughters of God”.

From even earlier times, we have the voluptuous “Venus of Willendorf” statues, which are about 24 000 years old. 

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Then we have the grave of the 15 000 years old Natufian woman shaman from Lebanon to remind us of the high time of the Goddess and how a Shaman(ess) is ceremoniously buried like a royal.

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Patriarchy Suppresses the Mother Goddess A very interesting phenomenon started to appear in almost all the great ancient cultures, India, Sumer, Hebrew, Persia, Egypt – the rise of patriarchy. It was a simultaneous and ruthless international “Down with the Woman” movement. Omnipotent male deities started dominating mother goddesses, who sank in rank. There is a wonderful story in Hebrew cosmogony about this sinking of woman.  

Adam, Lilith, and Eve,c. 1210 AD, Base of trumeau, left portal, West Façade, Notre Dame, Paris.

Photo source: Wikimedia commons

In this myth, the creator God created Adam as a consort for Lilith of Lilitu in Sumer. Adam and Lilith got involved in a power struggle immediately. 
'I will not lie below,' said Lilith and Adam responded
'I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am designated to be the superior one.' 
The angry Lilith replies, 'We are equal as we were both created from the earth.' 
Eventually Lilith got exasperated and flew away into the air. 

When Adam gets Woman 2,0 or Eve, Lilith briefly appears as the serpent and tricks her into eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge and Eve gets the blame for the “downfall” of humanity. Sounds familiar?

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Do you have any ideas on how would you like to celebrate Mother’s day without being too commercial or a cheapskate?

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