As we approach December at rapid speed, it seems now more than ever, that we need to surround ourselves with our ancestors. The tradition of Mothers Night is most well known because of a book written by Bede.
Although he was a Christian man his book documents several old traditions from the Anglo Saxon age, and is probably a good resource for gleaming some light on old dates and traditions.
He says about Mothers Night: “They began the year on the 8th kalends of January [25 December], when we celebrate the birth of the Lord. That very night, which we hold so sacred, they used to call by the heathen word Modranecht, that is, ‘‘mother’s night’’, because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night.”
-Page 156, Section 15: English Months. Beded: The Reckoning of Time, translated by Faith Wallis. Liverpool University Press
Author R Simek attested that it is possible this festival or “mothers night” in particular goes back to an earlier Germanic festival:
As a Germanic sacrificial festival should be associated with the Matron cult of the West Germanic Peoples on the one hand, and to the disablot and the Disting already known from medieval Scandinavia on the other hand is chronologically to be seen as a connecting link between these Germanic forms of cult” -(Dictionary of Norse Mythology, Angela Hall, translator)
It is possible this celebration has been going on for a long time, and could be linked to the ancient idea of a “female” centered view. I have watched several compelling arguments including a great video called: “When God was a Girl” that shows common links to an ancient mother cult that was central to several places. It is likely as well, that our ancestors in the North had a long history with feminine goddess held in absolute equal to the male gods.
A fabulous article about this holiday and the sacred connections it is linked to is by Winifred Hodge who wrote:
“More than simple votive stones have been found, however: in some areas there were large cult centers, temples and monuments, especially along the Rhine. Some of the largest were in Pesch, Nettersheim, and Bonn. The temples, monuments and votive stones show that the following were important to the worship of the mothers:
-burning bowls of incense
-sacrifices of fruit, fish, and pigs,
-imagery of fruit baskets, plants, trees, babies, children, cloths for wrapping
babies, and snakes.
Images of the mothers generally show them in a group of three, though occasionally two or one are found; usually at least one of them holds a basket of fruit, and often a baby is held. Often all of them have clothing and hairstyles or head dressing indicating their matron status, though sometimes the middle figure is shown dressed as a maiden, with her hair loose. Interestingly, many of the votive stones and monuments were dedicated by Germanic soldiers and sailors, legionaries in the Roman Empire, rather than by women, though frequently the stones were set up on behalf of the soldier’s entire family or his clan . Many times, though, it is clear from the inscription that the soldier inscribed it for his own sake, asking the mothers for protection, health and well being, and perhaps luck in battle, or often thanking them for having already provided it. Indeed, many of the monuments and stones were thank offerings for what the mothers had already given, indicating the mothers obvious ability to respond to their believers prayers! Apparently the worshipers made vows to the matrons, to set up a stone for them if the mothers granted their prayers.”
I recommend anyone interested in expanding their knowledge on women in heathenry visit this site: http://www.friggasweb.org/matrons.html and read all that is there. Winifred wrote some amazing articles that enlighten us all on the history of the feminine in heathenry.
For myself, mother’s night provides me with a time to remember my family, and my ancestors. My mother died two years ago on New Years Eve. Her death brought me a sharp stinging reminder of how life is short. It reminded me to look within myself and to become aware of what my mother had been to me all my life. Once she was gone, I learned a lot about her, that she was bipolar and had been my whole life. This eye opening revelation allowed me to finally understand why my childhood seemed so dysfunctional and why we had so many ‘extra family members’ around. To find out that people shielded you, your entire life, show the level of love and commitment a family can mean and be. When she died, it granted her peace. Peace from mental illness and an addiction that took her life, and after her death, I felt her with me…telling me, its ok honey, I am ok now. I feel she is with me every day. In her sober and stable moments of my life, she taught me how to cook, sew, be a good mother, listen, be strong, diligent, and grow to be who I was. So, I still to this day light a candle for her, to say, I love you mom.
And that’s what this night means!! It means to open our hearts, to remember our ancestral and tribal mothers, the fierce women who pushed boundaries to make a life for us. Women nurture life, they stoically carry death, they are there at the beginning, middle and end and remind me so much of the aspects we hold dear. In every mortal woman, is the lines of a mother figure that runs back to the beginning. When you consider women in your life, see that they are aspects of the gods to whom we hold sacred, treat them with the respect they deserve. They are life, they hold it in their bellies, rock it in their arms, and slowly cradle it into the earth…..they hold it all, in delicate and yet strong hands, worn from time and worry. There hair greys with every moment that they thought about their children, their partners, their community. It all was on them.
To look even beyond the act of childbearing, mothers are important. Even if you just see this as a non-traditional role, the concept of being a mother is just as important. To nurture anything, to create anything, to bring people hope, comfort and joy is all part of the mother. As I write this article, I am inspired by what not only the mothers from my own line have done, but to all mothers. To anyone that had to forge a life from nothing, who had to work hard at whatever they did, traveled to new lands, were captainss, merchants, warriors and more.
So, women of heathenry, I challenge you to share with us your inspirational prayer for the ancestral mothers!!
What would you ask for? What would you pray for? And note I use the word pray liberally to mean words spoken in sincere reverence or regard.
Lets show the world, how valuable our tribal mothers are!
For the entire month of December, I will post a poem a day up to the 21st of December! Each for our mothers!! This will be the Fabulous Female Fridays POETRY month! I would encourage my fellow heathen ladies to share theirs. On the 1st of January, I will collect all the poems and put them into a free downloadable eBook for The American Asatru Association’s website, and select 3 women to get a printed copy as a gift for lending your voices.
Friday: Today is Frigga Day!
Remember the struggles of our ancestors today,
remember the family,
and our loved ones,
for today is certainly a day for mothers of all kinds!
Embrace the Day! Hail Frigga, Silent One!
By: Larisa Hunter