Reflections on mothers and matriarchs

… give them to all the people who helped mother our children. … I don’t want something special. I want something beautifully plain. Like everything else, it can fill me only if it is ordinary and available to all. — Anne Lamott

Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are. – Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Just when you think you know love, something little comes along and reminds you just how big it is. – unattributed

Motherhood takes many forms… there are step-moms, foster moms, adopted moms, and moms who have been estranged from their kids. — Ryan Nelson

We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men… We are who we are because they were who they were. It’s wise to know where you come from, who called your name. — Maya Angelou

Songs about and for Mothers:

What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black
(Reflections of an African-American Mother)

(excerpt) — Maya Angelou
… So this I will do for them, If I love them.
None will do it for me.
I must find the truth of heritage for myself
And pass it on to them.
In years to come I believe
Because I have armed them
with the truth, my children
And my children’s children will venerate me. 
For it is the truth that will make us free!

From “understory” Craig Santos Perez
my daughter, i know
our stories are heavier
than stones, but you
must carry them with
you no matter how
far from home the
storms take your canoe
because you will always
find shelter in our
stories, you will always
belong in our stories,
you will always be
sacred in our ocean
of stories…

OF MOTHERS

We are born of love; Love is our mother. — Rumi

What shall I tell my dear one, fruit of my womb, Of how beautiful they are … — Maya Angelou

Motherhood takes many forms… there are step-moms, foster moms, adopted moms, and moms who have been estranged from their kids. — Ryan Nelson

You know, there’s nothing damnable about being a strong woman. The world needs strong women. There are a lot of strong women you do not see who are guiding, helping, mothering strong men. — Ginger Rogers
 
… these old photos of our mothers feel like both a chasm and a bridge. The woman in the picture is someone other than the woman we know. She is also exactly the person in the photo — still, right now. Finally, we see that the woman we’ve come to think of as Mom — whether she’s nurturing, or disapproving, or thoughtful, or delusional, or pestering, or supportive, or sentimental — is also a mysterious, fun, brave babe. She’s been here all this time. — Edan Lepuck

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. — Abraham Lincoln

Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face. — George Eliot

For when a child is born the mother also is born again.—  Gilbert Parker

OTHER MOTHERS: SPIRITUAL PARENTS
… my main gripe about Mother’s Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat. I am the woman I grew to be partly in spite of my mother, and partly because of the extraordinary love of her best friends, and my own best friends’ mothers, and from surrogates, many of whom were not women at all but gay men … — Anne Lamott  

Our images of God, then, must be inclusive because God is not mother, no, but God is not father either. God is neither male nor female. God is pure spirit, pure being, pure life — both of them. Male and female, in us all. — Joan Chittister

I know how lucky I am to have such a wonderful woman and heroine in my life. Also, I do recognize that not everyone has this blessing. This is why Mother’s Day can sometimes bring out many different emotions in people. Some women have lost their mothers, women who have absent mothers, women who are desperately trying or have tried to have a baby and become a mother themselves, and women who are single mothers having to be a mother and father to their children. The list goes on. We all know women like this or are those very women ourselves. So this year and every year let me suggest something. On Mother’s Day, let’s not only celebrate our mothers and the mothers of the world but let’s celebrate the women in our lives who have helped us become the women WE are today…
         These women are everywhere. Maybe they are your favorite teacher, your aunt, your grandmother, your stepmother, your neighbor, or a friend. We all have “mothered” someone and have shown them love and support in their time of need. So, let’s thank and celebrate those women in our lives too. To me these women are not only my mother, they are my Aunt Barbara and my dear friends who for years have given me unwavering love and support. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
         So again, on Mother’s Day I want us to celebrate not just mothers of the world, but the women that helped you become the strong and beautiful woman that you are.  — Nina Spears

God as Creator: Source Code of Grace— Nadia Bolz-Weber
In the beginning, all there was, was God. So in order to bring the world into being, God had to kind of scoot over. So God chose to take up less space—you know, to make room. So before God spoke the world into being, God scooted over. God wanted to share. Like the kind-faced woman on the subway who takes her handbag onto her lap so that there’s room for you to sit next to her. She didn’t have to do it, but that’s just who she is . . . the kind-faced subway lady’s nature is that she makes room for others.
Then God had an absolute explosion of creativity and made animals. Amoebas. Chickens. Crickets. Bees. Orangutans.
Then God said, “Let us create humans in our own image and likeness.” Let us. So, God the community, God the family, God the friend group, God the opposite of isolation, said, “Let us create humanity in our image and likeness. Let there be us and them in one being.”
So God created every one of us in the male and female image of God. Then God gave us God’s own image —something so holy that it could never be harmed, and never be taken away. A never-aloneness. An origin and destination. A source code of grace…

ACKNOWLEDGING HURT

We can’t pretend like Mother’s Day is a cheery holiday for everyone. It’s not. If you’ve experienced mom-related trauma like abuse, addiction, mental health issues, abandonment, or death, this is a time when people … grieve something they lost or never had. … people … struggle with motherhood or have been hurt by this relationship … — Ryan Nelson

The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the world passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. ― Anita Diamant

Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha! Every woman’s path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers. I say that without judgment: It is, sadly, true. An unhealthy mother’s love is withering. The illusion is that mothers are automatically happier, more fulfilled and complete ... I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure … — Anne Lamott

PRAYER — Hannah Kardon
To the Moms who are struggling, to those filled with incandescent joy.
To the Moms who are remembering children who have died, and pregnancies that miscarried.
To the Moms who decided other parents were the best choice for their babies, to the Moms who adopted those kids and loved them fierce.
To those experiencing frustration or desperation in infertility.
To those who knew they never wanted kids, and the ways they have contributed to our shared world.
To those who mothered colleagues, mentees, neighborhood kids, and anyone who needed it.
To those remembering Moms no longer with us.
To those moving forward from Moms who did not show love, or hurt those they should have cared for.
… honor the unyielding love and care for others we call ‘Motherhood,’ wherever we have found it and in whatever ways we have found to cultivate it within ourselves.

Reflections on journeys that involve struggles with our demons plus healing ourselves, our loved ones, and strangers

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. —  Buddha

…  however diabolical the act, it did not turn the perpetrator into a demon. We had to distinguish between the deed and the perpetrator, between the sinner and the sin, to hate and condemn the sin while being filled with compassion for the sinner. – Desmond Tutu

Be kind to people and don’t judge, for you do not know what demons they carry and what battles they are fighting. ― Vashti Quiroz-Vega

Maybe demons are defined as anything other than God that tries to tell us who we are …  So if God’s first move is to give us our identity, then the devil’s first move is to throw that identity into question.― Nadia Bolz-Weber

Maybe that’s all demons ever are. People like us, doing things without even knowing what we’re doing. ― Orson Scott Card

Bible Project videos (spiritual beings series):

SONGS about DEMONS & DEVILS:

SONGS about ANGELS:

SONGS about HEALING:

Link to poet’s readings and full text of more poems from Call Us What We Carry: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/12/13/from-call-us-what-we-carry-poetry-by-amanda-gorman


CALL US — Amanda Gorman

Grant us this day
Bruising the make of us.

At times over half of our bodies
Are not our own,

Our persons made vessel
For nonhuman cells.

To them we are
A boat of a being,

Essential.
A country,

A continent,
A planet.

A human
Microbiome is all the writhing forms on

& inside this body
Drafted under our life.

We are not me—
We are we.

Call us
What we carry.


LUCENT — Amanda Gorman

What would we seem, stripped down
Like a wintered tree.
Glossy scabs, tight-raised skin,
These can look silver in certain moonlights.
In other words,
Our scars are the brightest
Parts of us.
* * *
The crescent moon,
The night’s lucent lesion.
We are felled oaks beneath it,
Branches full of empty.
Look closer.
What we share is more
Than what we’ve shed.
* * *
& what we share is the bark, the bones.
Paleontologists, from one fossilized femur,
Can dream up a species,
Make-believe a body
Where there was none.
Our remnants are revelation,
Our requiem as raptus.
When we bend into dirt
We’re truth preserved
Without our skin.
* * *
Lumen means both the cavity
Of an organ, literally an opening,
& a unit of luminous flux,
Literally, a measurement of how lit
The source is. Illuminate us.
That is, we, too,
Are this bodied unit of flare,
The gap for lux to breach.
* * *
Sorry, must’ve been the light
Playing tricks on us, we say,
Knuckling our eyelids.
But perhaps it is we who make
Falsities of luminescence—
Our shadows playing tricks on stars.
Every time their gazes tug down,
They think us monsters, then men,
Predators, then persons again,
Beasts, then beings,
Horrors, & then humans.
Of all the stars the most beautiful
Is nothing more than a monster,
Just as starved & stranded as we are.

STRUGGLING with our DEMONS

People can change, learn, and grow, and it’s better to face your demons instead of perpetually running away from them. — Jessica Rothe

Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. — August Wilson

Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself. — Lao Tzu

If you don’t deal with your demons, they will deal with you, and it’s gonna hurt. — Nikki Sixx

I feel that people are basically trying to do their best in the world. Even when you see people making mistakes, you understand why they’re making a mistake. Everybody has flaws, everybody has demons, everybody has ghosts, but I think you watch people and you see everybody trying to do their best. — Jason Katims

We all carry extreme heartache and demons. Instead of pretending like we don’t, I like to be honest and real. — Ashlyn Harris

Being mentally tough is having to battle those demons and push yourself out of your comfort zone and force yourself to be the person that your mind is telling you you aren’t. — Michael Chiesa

My demons, inner strengths and physical battles have guided me through life. — GG Allin

…  however diabolical the act, it did not turn the perpetrator into a demon. We had to distinguish between the deed and the perpetrator, between the sinner and the sin, to hate and condemn the sin while being filled with compassion for the sinner. – Desmond Tutu


Human beings, we have dark sides; we have dark issues in our lives. To progress anywhere in life, you have to face your demons. — John Noble

We try so hard to block out negative or dark thoughts, but sometimes embracing your demons is the most vitalizing thing you can do. — Oliver Sykes

Indeed, our sins—hate, fear, greed, jealousy, lust, materialism, pride—can at times take such distinct forms in our lives that we recognize them in the faces of the gargoyles and grotesques that guard our cathedral doors. And these sins join in a chorus—you might even say a legion—of voices locked in an ongoing battle with God to lay claim over our identity, to convince us we belong to them, that they have the right to name us. Where God calls the baptized beloved, demons call her addict, slut, sinner, failure, fat, worthless, faker, screwup. Where God calls her child, the demons beckon with rich, powerful, pretty, important, religious, esteemed, accomplished, right. It is no coincidence that when Satan tempted Jesus after his baptism, he began his entreaties with, “If you are the Son of God . . .” We all long for someone to tell us who we are. The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. ― Rachel Held Evans



Be kind to people and don’t judge, for you do not know what demons they carry and what battles they are fighting. ― Vashti Quiroz-Vega

Now I am as uncomfortable as the next … with the notion of exorcising demons. When I get to that part in the New Testament, I’m inclined to take the sophisticated approach and assume the people who had demons cast out of them were healed of mental illness or epilepsy or something like that. But lately, I’ve been wondering if this leaves something important out, something true about the shape of evil which is not merely an absence of good but the presence of a dark and irrational power. — Rachel Held Evans


I don’t always know what to do when it comes to talk about demons in the Bible.  Especially when the demons talk and have names and stuff like that. I’m never sure if back then they had the exact same things going on that we do, but they didn’t know about things like epilepsy or mental illness so they just called it all demon possession …
            Or if we do actually still have demons and it makes it more understandable and controllable for us if we use medical and scientific terms to describe the things that possess us. I honestly don’t know…
            But I do know that many of you, like myself, have suffered from addictions and compulsions and depression – things that have gotten ahold of us, making us do things we don’t want to. Or making you think you love things, or substances or people that are really destructive. So maybe if that, in part, is what having a demon is, maybe if it’s being taken over by something destructive, then possession is less of an anachronism, and more of an epidemic…
            So, in conclusion, are demons forces that are totally external to us who seek to defy God? Are they just the shadow side of our own souls? Are they social constructions from a pre-modern era?
            Bottom line: Who cares. I don’t think demons are something human reason can solve. Or that human faith can resolve.
            I just know that demons, whether they be addictions or evil spirits, are not what Jesus wants for us.  Since basically every time he encountered them he told them to piss off.  And here’s the thing: the authority to do just this –  the authority to face what tell us lies, to face what keeps us shackled, to face what keeps us out of control, alone and in pain and tell it in the name of Jesus to piss off is an authority that has been given to us all in baptism.  — Nadia Bolz-Weber

They are not demons, not devils… Worse than that. They are people. ― Andrzej Sapkowski

But she had known, better than anyone else, what demons he had faced, had known how hard he had fought to free himself from them. That he had lost the fight in the end made the struggle no less honorable. ― Donna Woolfolk Cross

If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels. ― Tennessee Williams

Let me tell you a little bit about demons. They love pain and other people’s misery. They lie when it suits them and don’t see anything wrong with it. They corrupt and kill and destroy, all without conscience. You just don’t have the capacity for something as honorable as loving another person. ― Brenna Yovanoff

Everywhere I looked, demons of the future [were] on the battlegrounds of one’s emotional plane. ― David Bowie

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Culture, like science, is no protection against demons. ― G.K. Chesterton

Men who fear demons see demons everywhere. ― Brom

Be careful when you cast out your demons that you don’t throw away the best of yourself. ― Friedrich Nietzsche

I suddenly realized. The zebra. It is not something outside of us. The zebra is something inside of us. Our fears. Our own self-destructive nature. The zebra is the worst part of us when we are face-to-face with our worst times. The demon is us! ― Garth Stein

He who has rejected his demons badgers us to death with his angels.  ― Henri Michaux

People shouldn’t call for demons unless they really mean what they say. ― C.S. Lewis

It is only when a man tames his own demons that he becomes the king of himself if not of the world. ― Joseph Campbell,

All the demons of Hell formerly reigned as gods in previous cultures. No it’s not fair, but one man’s god is another man’s devil. As each subsequent civilization became a dominant power, among its first acts was to depose and demonize whoever the previous culture had worshipped. The Jews attacked Belial, the god of the Babylonians. The Christians banished Pan and Loki anda Mars, the respective deities of the ancient Greeks and Celts and Romans. The Anglican British banned belief in the Australian aboriginal spirits known as the Mimi. Satan is depicted with cloven hooves because Pan had them, and he carries a pitchfork based on the trident carried by Neptune. As each deity was deposed, it was relegated to Hell. For gods so long accustomed to receiving tribute and loving attention, of course this status shift put them into a foul mood.”
― Chuck Palahniuk

Your god, sir, is the World. In my eyes, you, too, if not an infidel, are an idolater. I conceive that you ignorantly worship: in all things you appear to me too superstitious. Sir, your god, your great Bel, your fish-tailed Dagon, rises before me as a demon. You, and such as you, have raised him to a throne, put on him a crown, given him a sceptre. Behold how hideously he governs! See him busied at the work he likes best — making marriages. He binds the young to the old, the strong to the imbecile. He stretches out the arm of Mezentius and fetters the dead to the living. In his realm there is hatred — secret hatred: there is disgust — unspoken disgust: there is treachery — family treachery: there is vice — deep, deadly, domestic vice. In his dominions, children grow unloving between parents who have never loved: infants are nursed on deception from their very birth: they are reared in an atmosphere corrupt with lies … All that surrounds him hastens to decay: all declines and degenerates under his sceptre. Your god is a masked Death. ― Charlotte Brontë

Never trust a demon. He has a hundred motives for anything he does … Ninety-nine of them, at least, are malevolent. ― Neil Gaiman

When you’re dealing with these forces or powers in a philosophic and scientific way, contemplating them from an armchair, that rationalistic approach is useful. It is quite profitable then to regard the gods and goddesses and demons as projections of the human mind or as unconscious aspects of ourselves. But every truth is a truth only for one place and one time, and that’s a truth, as I said, for the armchair. When you’re actually dealing with these figures, the only safe, pragmatic and operational approach is to treat them as having a being, a will, and a purpose entirely apart from the humans who evoke them. If the Sorcerer’s Apprentice had understood that, he wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble. ― Robert Anton Wilson

Our practice of the Dharma should be a continual effort to attain a state beyond suffering.  It should not simply be a moral activity whereby we avoid negative ways and engage in positive ones.  In our practice of the Dharma, we seek to transcend the situation in which we all find ourselves:  victims of our own mental afflictions- such as attachment, hatred, pride, greed, and so forth-are mental states that cause us to behave in ways that bring about all of our unhappiness and suffering.  While working to achieve inner peace and happiness, it is helpful to think of them as our inner demons, for like demons, they can haunt us, causing nothing but misery.  That state beyond such negative emotions and thoughts, beyond all sorrow, is called nirvana. — His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Since there is no notion of absolute evil in Buddhism (or indeed in any Asian religion), and all classes of beings, including beings of the lower realms such as demons, animals, and ghosts, may improve their karmic lot by attaining a higher birth in the human or divine realms, demons are not always and forever demons. They are troublesome but not catastrophic. They are obstacles to be overcome through ritual action, offerings of appeasement, and meditative detachment. Nevertheless, in normative Buddhist texts, the suffering of demons in the hell realms is invoked negatively to warn practitioners to be more diligent in their spiritual efforts—in part to avoid rebirth among these unfortunate beings. As representations of natural bounty, mystery, and fertility, demons threaten to exceed and overturn the human order. They must be controlled, and yet they must be respected, since they are an inevitable feature of that oscillating order. — Gail Hinich Sutherland


A Hot Time in a Small Town — Thylias Moss
  In this restaurant a plate of bluefish pâté
and matzos begin memorable meals.  
The cracker is ridged, seems planked,
an old wall streaked sepia, very nearly black in
Tigrett, Tennessee  
where it burned  
into a matzo’s twin.
While waiting for a Martha’s Vineyard salad,
I rebuild the church with crackers,
pâté as paste  
as a flaming dessert arrives at another table
where diners are ready
for a second magnum of champagne;
every day is an anniversary;
every minute, a commemoration
so there is no reason to ever be sober  
to excuse incendiaries who gave up the bottle,
threw alcohol at the church,
spectacular reform  
in flames themselves ordinary—
there’d been fire in that church many times,
every Sunday and even at the Thursday choir rehearsals.
For years there’d been a fired-up congregation  
so seething, neighborhoods they marched through
ignited no matter their intention;
just as natural as summer.
There were hot links
as active as telephone lines
whose poles mark the countryside
as if the nation is helpless
without a crucifix every few yards;
pity they are combustible  
and that fire itself is holy,
that its smoke merges
with atmosphere, that we breathe its residue,
that when it is thick and black enough to believe in,
it betrays and chokes us;
pity that it is the vehicle
that proves the coming of the Lord,
the establishment of his kingdom,
his superiority because

fire that maintains him disfigures us;
when we try to embrace him;
we find ourselves out on a limb
burning. The meal
tastes divine, simply divine
and I eat it in the presence
of a companion dark as scab,
as if skin burned off
was replaced as he healed
with this total-body scab
under which he is pink as a pig,
unclean at least through Malachi.
In my left hand, a dash of Lot’s wife;
in my right, a mill to freshly grind the devil,
since fire is power
both the supreme good and supreme evil
are entitled to it;
most of the time,
what did it matter
who was in charge of Job?
Both burnt him.



An American Sunrise — Joy Harjo
We were running out of breath,
as we ran out to meet ourselves.
We were surfacing the edge of our ancestors’ fights,
and ready to strike.
It was difficult to lose days in the Indian bar
if you were straight. Easy if you played pool
and drank to remember to forget.
We made plans to be professional — and did.
And some of us could sing so we drummed
a fire-lit pathway up to those starry stars.
Sin was invented by the Christians,
as was the Devil, we sang.
We were the heathens,
but needed to be saved from them — thin chance.
We knew we were all related in this story,
a little gin will clarify the dark and make us all feel like dancing.
We had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz
I argued with a Pueblo as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,
forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America.
We know the rumors of our demise.
We spit them out.
They die soon.


Howl— Allen Ginsburg
I. I saw the best minds
of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning
for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high
sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness
of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities
contemplating jazz, who bared their brains to Heaven …
full poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49303/howl


Footnote to Howl — Allen Ginsburg
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy!
The skin is holy! The nose is holy!
The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody’s holy!
everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity!
Everyman’s an angel!
The bum’s as holy as the seraphim!
the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy
the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien
holy Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cassady
holy the unknown buggered and suffering beggars holy the hideous human angels!
Holy my mother in the insane asylum!
Holy the cocks of the grandfathers of Kansas!
Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop apocalypse!
Holy the jazzbands marijuana hipsters peace peyote pipes & drums!
Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements!
Holy the cafeterias filled with the millions!
Holy the mysterious rivers of tears under the streets!
Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the middleclass!
Holy the crazy shepherds of rebellion!
Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles!
Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria & Seattle
Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow Holy Istanbul!
Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time
holy the clocks in space holy the fourth dimension
holy the fifth International holy the Angel in Moloch!
Holy the sea holy the desert
holy the railroad holy the locomotive
holy the visions holy the hallucinations
holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the abyss!
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith!
Holy! Ours! bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!

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