An Inclusive Definition of Mothering:
Celebrating Mother Earth this Mother's Day
Celebrating Mother Earth on Mother’s Day
Table of Contents
Do you know about the woman who invented Mothering Sunday?
I didn’t either.
Constance Adelaide Smith.
Ringing any bells yet?
Nope, me neither.
Another woman forgotten in the dusty bookshelves of history.
So, what did she do – and how is it related to Mother Earth?
The women who invented Mother's Day
Okay, perhaps she didn’t quite invent Mothering Sunday. This day become popular in the Middle Ages, when children working across the country in domestic settings (particularly daughters) were allowed to go home to visit their mothers and their ‘mother’ (or ‘hometown’) church.
But the day faded away. Until stirrings from across the pond. ‘Mother’s Day’ was established in 1914 America by Woodrow Wilson , after promotion by another forgotten woman – Anna Jarvis. Anna led the march for Mother’s Day to become a recognised celebration to honour her own mother, and actualise the wish she once made. Anna’s own mum (Ann – it’s a bit confusing) had once said in prayer that she hoped in the future a day would be devoted to mothers and the “matchless service she rends to humanity”. However, Anna become disillusioned with what Mother’s Day evolved into – even trying to cancel it altogether.
Swooping back to 1914 however, ahead-of-her-time Constance was inspired here in the UK.
Constance was not a mother herself, but believed that Mother’s Day should hold a broader, deeper understanding of mothering – one that acknowledges that mothering goes far beyond the remits of the biological. She campaigned for Mothering Sunday in the UK to encompass 4 main themes: Mother Church, Mary the mother of Jesus, ‘Mothers of Earthly Homes’, and Mother Nature. Weaving in threads from the Middle Ages into the 1900s. By the time she died in 1938, Mother’s Day was celebrated across every parish in Britain.
Perhaps three of these themes are pretty established in the Mother’s Day we now mark in the UK. But what about that last one: Mother Nature? Do we hold that in any esteem anymore – or has she been forgotten, cast aside, like Constance herself?
Mother’s Day can be really difficult if you don’t have a positive relationship with your Mum, never knew her, or if she is no longer around. Some would rather put their head under their pillow and sleep until the whole day is over. That is totally okay. But if you have any desire to reclaim this day, to honour it in another way – perhaps turning to Mother Earth can be a joyful way to do so.
Who is Mother Earth?
Nature, throughout numerous cultures, is seen as divinely feminine. Going by many different names, Mother Earth is the embodiment of fertility, birth, nourishment, creation, the wild. In Ancient Greek she is Gaia: mother goddess of all life, birthing the sea (Pontus) and the sky (Uranus). In Ancient Rome, she is Terra Mater: earth mother. In Lithuania, she is Žemyna: embodiment of fertile earth. For the indigenous people of the Andes, she is Pachamama: fertility goddess.
Archaeological evidence from the ancient world (such as statues and figurines) imply that Earth was venerated as being a female entity. Indeed, this reverence of womanhood, and the perception of Earth as a Mother, is thought to have been a widespread before the expansion of a patriarchal society in c.3000 BC.
Even since then, throughout literature, art, and all threads of culture – we can see the depiction of nature as inherently female. These include Pre-Raphaelite artists depicting seasons as female, romantic poets allegorising nature as female, pagan and wiccan ceremonies worshipping nature goddesses etc.
There are patterns between nature and women which seem intricately linked. The relationship between the moon, our moods, behaviours and menstrual cycles, for example. A pull to rewild women seeks to help us sync with nature, return to old rhythms and patterns that are based in being and feeling rather than producing and doing (a capitalist venture), relate to the more-than-human world around us (animal, plant, spiritual etc) and break free of the oppressive bonds that have kept so many women stuck or unfulfilled in limiting stereotypes.
However, you do not need to menstruate to identify as a woman. As gender identity becomes more fluid and inclusive, it is important to recognise a broader understanding of womanhood and mothering. Whatever your gender, divine female energy can be accessed at all times (i.e even if you identify as a man, you can still access your feminine energy).
This primordial female energy, reflected in nature, can be honoured this Mother’s Day. It does not matter the name you wish to call Mother Earth. It does not matter your spirituality, or whether you have any at all. What does matter, is the regard and reverence we hold for the Earth – a presence that can be felt so keenly if we wish it so
Simply opening a window and breathing in air; stepping onto the front path and feeling grass between our fingers, plunging into icy water and feeling cold explode across our skin. Nature gives so much, provides us with so much wonder, beauty, sustenance, nourishment, joy – the very building blocks of life. And yet for so many years now, we have abused, neglected and exploited her.
Mother Earth & Climate Change
In fact, some discussion between feminist scholars wonders: if the earth was seen as possessing inherently masculine energy, would we have mistreated her to this extent? Is there a link between the agendas of profit, industrialisation and capitalism that have dominated and destroyed the feminine energy of powerful, nurturing Earth? Is it because female energy is seen by a patriarchal society as something to oppress and exploit that this planet has been so injured? Is the very fact we call her Mother part of the reason she has been so mistreated? It’s interesting to consider.
However, for all of the ways we can list our abuses to Mother Earth, we can name ways we are supporting and helping her too. For each piece of litter, there are litter-pickers. For each piece of fast fashion depleting the earth’s resources, there are campaigners fighting for slow/sustainable fashion. Efforts are being made to plant trees and re-wild. Renewable energy is increasing. Entrepreneurs are conjuring ground-breaking green initiatives. People are buying/using less plastic. Communities are nourishing their green spaces. It is important to stay grounded in hope.
How to Honour Mother Earth Solo on Mother's Day
If celebrating solo this Mother’s Day, here are some ways you can celebrate, honour and reconnect with Mother Earth:
- Wake up with the sun, throw open a window and breathe in morning air
- Spend time listening to birdsong
- Take a mindful walk – no podcasts, phonecalls or music, just tuning into the sounds you hear around you
- Go litter-picking or volunteer at a local community garden
- Donate money to a tree-planting or other earth-friendly charity
- Try ‘grounding’ or ‘earthing’ – spend some time in your garden, park or local woodland barefoot. Walking barefoot is supposed to have a wealth of benefits for our wellbeing. Our body absorbs negative electrons from the Earth when barefoot, balancing the positive ions in the body and improving overall health. Certain pressure points are said to be activated too when we walk barefoot, helping us to re-energise
- Buy a house-plant for yourself, or tend to one you already have
- Give thanks for all of nature’s glory – the sunshine, vast sky, whimsical moon, spring flowers, wild ocean and so much more
How to Honour Mother Earth with your Mum on Mother's Day
If spending the day with your mum, here are some ways to celebrate her and Mother Earth simultaneously:
- Buy her a house-plant or bunch of wild/local/seasonal flowers
- Take a lovely walk together in nature
- Go for a wild dip or swim
- If your mum is a gardener, offer your help around the garden.
- Create a windowsill herb garden for her
- Buy her a present from a local crafter or small business – such a natural candle or gift box from our gift section
- Cook your mum a meal using local/seasonal fruit & veg
- Book yourself and your mum a spot at one of our sustainable, natural homeware workshops together (natural candle making and flower pressing)