Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dancing with My Mother (Rachel Bissex)

From today's Writer's Almanac:

Today is Mother's Day. Mother's Day as we know it — where we celebrate our own mothers, with flowers, gifts, and cards — is relatively new, but annual celebrations to celebrate motherhood are an ancient practice.

The motherhood festivities have historically been in spring, the season of fertility. In ancient Egypt, there were celebrations to honor Isis, the loving mother-goddess, who is often shown in Egyptian art with the baby Horus at her breast, much like Mary and Jesus in later Christian iconography. The cult of the great mother-goddess Cybele began in Turkey and soon moved to Greece and Rome, and she was worshipped in some form for more than a thousand years. Her priestesses led wild celebrations, full of drinking, dancing, music, and all kinds of debauchery.

As the Roman Empire and Europe transitioned to Christianity, the Church set aside the fourth Sunday of Lent as a day to honor motherhood. It was a day to celebrate the Virgin Mary, and for people to honor their "mother church."

In the 1600s, England declared an official Mothering Day for that fourth Sunday of Lent. It was a time when families were encouraged to get together, and servants or workers were allowed one day off work to go see their mothers, since many working-class families in England worked as servants on separate estates and rarely got to see each other. Mothering Day was also declared an exception to the fasting and penance of Lent, so that families could have a feast together.

When the pilgrims came to America, they stopped celebrating Mothering Day, just as they stopped celebrating most holidays that they thought had become too secular.

Mother's Day was reintroduced to America in 1870 by Julia Ward Howe, who wanted to set aside a day of protest after the Civil War, in which mothers could come together and protest their sons killing other mothers' sons.

But the woman who really created Mother's Day as we know it was Anna Jarvis. Her mother had held Mother's Friendship Days to reunite families and neighbors separated during the war, and when she died, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, worked to proclaim an official Mother's Day to honor her mother and celebrate peace. And so on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother's Day celebrations took place in Grafton, West Virginia, and at a church in Philadelphia. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday of May as Mother's Day.

But Mother's Day became commercialized very quickly, especially in the floral industry, and Anna Jarvis was furious. She said, "What will you do to route charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers, and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest, and truest movements and celebrations?" But flower sales and card sales continued to grow, and Anna Jarvis died in poverty and without any children of her own.

In the last U.S. Census, there were an estimated 82.8 million mothers in this country, and about 96 percent of American consumers spend money for Mother's Day.

It's midnight on Mother's Day... and it has been lovely, albeit exhausting - I actually spent most of the day with Michael McNevin, a singer-songwriter friend who played my concert series yesterday evening... and had a house concert today, which I drove him to/did merch for. Since my husband and daughter were out of town, it worked out okay - they had left me cards this morning... and I came home to a card and flowers from E, my youngest. All three of my children had chipped in to get me a gift certificate for a facial/massage - can't wait to redeem it sometime this week... and we'll do a family celebration in the next few days as well... :-)

Life is good - I have the most amazing children... and I am loved!

Here are my last two Mother's Day posts...

SONG: Dancing with My Mother by Rachel Bissex

BOOK: Undress Your Stress by Lois Levy

POEM: For A Mother-to-Be by John O'Donohue

Nothing could have prepared
Your heart to open like this.

From beyond the skies and the stars
This echo arrived inside you
And started to pulse with life,
Each beat a tiny act of growth,
Traversing all our ancient shapes
On its way home to itself.

Once it began, you were no longer your own.
A new, more courageous you, offering itself
In a new way to a presence you can sense
But you have not seen or known.

It has made you feel alone
In a way you never knew before;
Everyone else sees only from the outside
What you feel and feed
With every fiber of your being.

Never have you traveled farther inward
Where words and thoughts become half-light
Unable to reach the fund of brightness
Strengthening inside the night of your womb.

Like some primeval moon,
Your soul brightens
The tides of essence
That flow to your child.

You know your life has changed forever,
For in all the days and years to come,
Distance will never be able to cut you off
From the one you now carry
For nine months under your heart.

May you be blessed with quiet confidence
That destiny will guide you and mind you.

May the emerging spirit of your child
Imbibe encouragement and joy
From the continuous music of your heart,
So that it can grow with ease,
Expectant of wonder and welcome
When its form is fully filled

And it makes its journey out
To see you and settle at last
Relived, and glad in your arms.

QUOTE: "What a mother sings to the cradle goes all the way to the coffin." ~ Henry Ward Beecher

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