Society has long venerated the "goddess" ideal as the life-giving, loving, nurturing, and saintly form of the mother figure, most often personified in western culture by various depictions of the Virgin Mary. An unsullied, gentle figure, softly spoken and glowing in heavenly blue light, she appears quite detached from the earthly realm we inhabit. But this version of goddess energy strikes me as being far from unsullied; instead, it has the hands of many upon her to create something very much of human design, of fitting a specific mould. So when I think of a mother figure, of an energy that is nurturing and powerful, it is Nature that inspires me rather than any doctrine. And the mother of this realm is never shy to get her hands dirty, stir the up the seas, fuel the flames, or whip up a storm. She has many names; Kali, Pele, Lilith, Hekate, Nyx, the Morrigan, and Gaia, to name but a few, all of whom have the power to clear the way for the new. So whilst the Dark Mother exists, we have the opportunity to make good our mistakes, to learn and to grow.
The modern view of the Dark Mother has seldom been very flattering; just looking at films of the last few years like Mama, Mother!, and Gaia, nobody appears to come off well when encountering her. But again, this is only an exaggerated aspect of the Dark Mother you are about to engage with that has been stylized to suit a particular agenda. The Dark Mother has no agenda; she is the manifestation of the most significant creative force that exists—life itself. Step out into Nature, and you encounter this force; stare to the heavens, and you encounter this force; look into a mirror, or close your eyes to imagine or dream, and you encounter this force. Connecting with the Dark Mother in all aspects of your life improves your understanding of the cycle and death and rebirth, letting go of the old to make way for the new, improving your experience of life not by avoiding pain and trouble but by learning to cope with it and move through it. What follows are five fundamentals to embracing the Dark Mother.
One: Breathe Easy
Being able to master our breath is a wonderful tool to control and even change both our emotional and physical state. My husband used to teach Tai Chi, and when once asked by a very impatient pupil when would he be ready to fight, my husband replied that first, he would have to learn to breathe. All forms of emotional and spiritual alignment require an element of breathwork. To breathe is to live, so the following simple breathing exercise will not only help with those undertakings but also set you up to connect to the energy of creation. Start by sitting or lying comfortably somewhere where you are undistruded for 10-15 minutes. Next, close your eyes and take a deep, long breath through the nose, exhaling through the mouth. On the next in-breath, consciously count to four as you inhale through the nose and then exhale again through the mouth to the count of four. Now inhale again, through the nose, to the count of four, allowing your chest to fill, hold it in your chest to the count of four, then release through the mouth to the count of four. Repeat this last breath twice more, then gently allow yourself to fall into your regular breathing pattern for at least three more breaths. Then, gently rise and go about your day. This conscious breath technique allows increased oxygen into your body, a mindful focus on the movement of air, and a relaxing of all other muscle groups. Use it to reset in a moment of stress or if you are looking for focus. In that moment, the Dark Mother energy helps restore balance within.
Two: Still the Mind
Our minds are never truly at rest; we are always thinking about something, but too often, it can become a circus of ideas and to-do lists that get louder and more crowded until it's just chaos. A good way of working with Dark Mother energy to aid this is using a simple living flame meditation. All you need is a place to sit where you can light a candle. Once the candle is lit, look at the flame for a minute or two, and then close your eyes and see the flame with your mind's eye. Often it is coloured, maybe green or purple or white, entirely personal; the thing is to focus on that flame. You will have all sorts of thoughts pop into your head; just let them pass, and look at the flame. You may only see the flame for a moment or two, so open your eyes and gaze again at the living flame on the candle. Again, close your eyes and focus on the flame in your mind for as long as you can; again, allow any thoughts to come in, but just let them fade until all you can see and think on is the flame. Repeat the process for about 5 minutes the first time, working up to 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a week. This is a wonderful form of meditation that, in time, brings down stress levels and heightens clarity and vision.
Three: Walk the Line
This exercise requires you to be outside in Nature, on a beach or somewhere where you can easily mark the ground. Find yourself this space and talking a stick or sorts mark out a spiral about 5 meters in diameter. Start in the centre working outwards. When you have done this, you are ready to walk the line back to the start. Follow the line slowly and surely with arms outstretched, one palm up and one palm down, and imagine all the creative life force of the Universe entering your upturn palm and flowing through your body as you walk around, and then when you reach to centre, that same energy leaving your body through your downturned palm into the earth below. If you feel the need, you can sit in the centre for a while; before you leave, shake both your hands to release any excess energy.
Four: "Altar" Your Perceptions
Creating an altar is personal to you, something you can return to time and time again, as and when you wish to draw support and creative inspiration or be with your thoughts. You will need a small area set aside somewhere quiet, and as it will house things of value to you, it should not be in a place where it may become a temptation to others. First, wipe surfaces down, then energetically "clear" the space using a small handheld bell by agitating and moving the energy with sound vibration. Next, add single items to represent the four elements, like a black candle or pebble for earth, a feather or white candle for air, a red candle or piece of amber for fire, and moonstone or blue candle for water. Then add something that connects you to your ancestors, like an old ring, watch, scarf, etc., and if this relates to long-ago ancestors or deities, then a little statue perhaps. And last but not least, something about you could be as abstract as a colour (something blue or red or green), or even a photo of a child (you as a child or a picture of your child), or something you hold dear.
Now place all your items exactly where they are safe and look and feel right to you. You can invest as much or as little of yourself in this process as you choose; you may want to talk with each item as you place it down. Remember, this is somewhere where you will come, in good times and bad, to reflect on or to draw upon. So, the more time you take to set it up with reverence and consideration, the better. You have created a space that invites in and "holds" energies of the elements, the directions, your spiritual heritage, and what you hold dear now. It is, in effect, a tiny, living temple to you! Come to this place whenever you feel a need to connect to all that it represents; you may have questions, concerns, want to share ideas, or shed a tear…there is nothing that you cannot bring before this space, the Dark Mother will be there to support you.
Five: Give Thanks
Gratitude is both an action and a state of being. When we are truly grateful for something we have been given, especially a second chance, it is to the Dark Mother that we should turn, and the reason for this is simple: she makes it possible. Her association with death and rebirth allows us both the space and energy and, in a very physical sense, the resources to continue, to try again, wiser and stronger in our resolve. A very real manifestation of this at work in many people's lives today is through what most see as the destructive powers of the natural world, and a spectacular example of this is volcanic eruptions. They are first feared and fill us with foreboding, but what their path of destruction leaves behind is a fertile opportunity for life to flourish once again.
The Polynesian diety Pele encompasses this most poetically; her presence is both feared and revered by those who benefit from the fertile earth she produces. But we don't all live in the shadows of volcanoes, so we often encounter this energy in the changing of the seasons. And more personally, when something in our lives ends, the chance for a new beginning presents itself. To give thanks for what we have, when we have it it just as important as remembering it when it is gone. One of the simplest ways is in daily prayer, or just setting time aside each day or each week to be fully present and take stock of all you have and all you are to be appreciative of. You can do this by setting time aside, say once a week, to sit somewhere quietly, either inside or outside, and closing your eyes just breathe steadily in through the moth, out through the nose and when you feel ready and relaxed, say either aloud or within, "I am grateful for all the gifts of life; my body, my soul, my loved ones, my home, my talents, my trials, and the opportunity to change or improve any aspect of my journey." Repeat it twice more, then take three deep breaths before going about your day.
In all of what we do, when it comes to working with the Dark Mother, with the creative force of life itself, the key thing to remember is that you are not detached from it, ever. It is not a deity to be worshipped from afar, pledge allegiance to, or give all your worldly goods to; it is a part of you that you just need to connect with. Encountering the Dark Mother is about acknowledging all that you are and all that you are capable of and putting that to the most positive use. All of us are born of a mother, and from that very moment, the cord that once kept us alive within her continues to be extended to us in life through the energetic drive to live and experience all that this journey has to offer us. Yes, we will fall, we will have pain, and we will experience suffering, but through our acceptance that we can move on from this, we will rise and smile and create again.