Our Lady of the Angels-Gone and the "Terrible Mother"

about two weeks ago I began to feel a strong wish of working in a piece about abortion. I got to make a nouveau-style illustration some time ago, but nothing close to this work I started to develop early last week and decided to call Our Lady of the Angels-Gone.

writing this post was very difficult, since many questions came to my mind, questions that lead to another to another to another… the ones who know me know that I am totally pro life, and it saddens me to know that this term today is associated to conservative and retrograde people. however, due to my spiritualist way of seeing life, it couldn’t be any different. without the limitations of materialism, your vision of things become kind of multidimensional. but that’s my own vision, and I don’t intend to push it toward others as the only truth. while science do not come to a conclusion about when human life starts, it will be hard to know the truth about things. even being so sensitive to this question, which makes rise in me a blend of compassion, revolt and sadness, I have concluded that it’s very difficult to approach such a delicate and contradictory subject. I then decided to make the work as a kind of “visual prayer”, not only for the spirits that have been interrupted in their reincarnation process but also for the mothers that for one or other reason were forced to interrupt that process – which never occurs without any pain of some sort.

as it always happens, the artwork takes control and I simply let myself to go with the flow. at first I had imagined a kind of enlightened entity, like a saint, who would take care of the little spirits and of the mothers in suffering. something like compassion personified. it didn’t work. the face that came up didn’t sound very soft, but even a little severe. she covers herself carelessly in a kind of dark cloth, through which we see her golden heart. I thought that it was so important to show her heart… because there’s no better judge for this type of question than love. another thing that came to me and sounded interesting was her hair… that appeared like huge roots of an old tree, or like tentacles, or still like serpents… running down two masked figures that seem to beg for shelter under the saint, or goddess, clothes.

in progress: Our Lady of the Angels-GoneAlign Center

there’s a myth that represents the opposite pole from the caring and donating Great Mother: the Terrible Mother. this myth symbolizes the domain of the instincts and of the unconscious powers that have not been controlled by Ego. the Terrible Mother doesn’t nurture or protect; she is the denier of the feminine in its positive pole, castrating, repressing and even killing her children. she is represented in different cultures as dark and destructive goddesses, like the hindu goddess Kali, balinese Rangda, or the gorgons. the stepmothers and witches of the fairytales are also related to this aspect of the Goddess. all of these goddesses are identified with reptiles, spiders or snakes (it’s funny how my figure reminded me of Medusa…) anyway, I ended up finding in her great identification with this myth and I’m still in doubt about her soothing character. maybe she should entirely reflect the negative aspect of the feminine. (notice that in the world of myths as well as in nature there’s no manichean conotation, nothing like positive = good and negative = bad. and that my attempt to discuss this matter in this post by no means intend to be accusatory, as if the Terrible Mother was the “bad girl” and the Creator Mother was the good one. both are aspects of the Great Mother and contain in themselves aspects of the psyche that are present in every woman.)

in progress: Our Lady of the Angels-GoneAlign Center

the relation of abortion with the Terrible Mother myth is quite intriguing. I believe that reflections on this archetype might turn possible bringing to light a little of the psyche of the women that for one or another reason deny themselves the development of the creative facet of the feminine (notice that this position does not relate to the therapeutic abortion, but the one that occurs for the mother’s free will, for a series of reasons.) I really respect the position of the women that don’t wish to have children, that don’t feel connected to motherhood (although I don’t think that that’s enough to justify abortion), but I think that the vision of many feminists about abortion and female freedom, about having control of our own bodies and sexual behavior is very dangerous. in one of my favorite books, Jung and Tarot – an Archetypal Journey, by Sallie Nichols, she speaks about something that, to me, is very revealing. in the chapter about the Empress, she explains that the destructive aspect of the Goddess becomes apparent every time that woman neglects her true realm, which is the one of relationship and love. her strength can then turn toward the desire for power, taking them to lose touch with the female creativity. thus, The Empress, to whom her kingdom was denied for too long, comes to the surface with infernal fury. “It’s understandable”, she says – and pardon me for the rough translation, since my book is in Portuguese, “that in the search for her true essence, woman appears under several aspects.”

for the ones who don’t know Tarot, the Empress is the arcane that represents the complete woman, emancipated and fulfilled, conscious of her creativity and a “governor for love”. the one who has all the goddesses balanced inside herself. my hope is to see someday woman coming to this condition of fulfillment… although I know that it does not depend entirely on her. there’s a whole system that favors the flourish of the Terrible Mother, stopping the Woman-Empress from taking control of her creative role.

3 Responses

  1. Some decisions are made with love and the reasons cannot always be understood, even by those who profess to know from experience. 5 months ago my baby was diagnosed with T18 which is a chromosomal difference that has a very high infant mortality rate (80% die in the womb 95% before 6 months of life). Those that do survive often cannot breath or feed by themselves and medical professionals consider it unethical to resuscitate these babies as their life is “futile”.
    I have spent time looking through internet groups trying to understand why, connect with other mothers and have been horrified by the bitter destructive war between the mothers that chose to end the pregnancy and those that didn’t. The dynamics are far from simple. What I do know is that every one of those babies was dearly wanted and the loss has caused devastation and absolute heartbreak. Are any of the parents who chose different paths better than each other? Did differing decisions change the eventual outcome for these babies? Were any of these babies less loved or missed because their parents chose a different option?

  2. dear Jasmine, I feel so sorry to know about your loss…. it’s heartbreaking, and so recent still, but I’m sure you’ve been supported in your sorrow and able to face everything with courage. you are absolutely right when say that some decisions are made by love although reasons cannot be understood, but in such case they are very clear, I think. that’s why, in the post, I excluded the called “therapeutic abortion”, or the ones that are done to preserve maternal health or because of fetal abnormalities. such decision is very delicate and difficult, but I am with you. my worries are really about pregnancies that are interrupted almost as a contraceptive method… for totally materialistic reasons. but even so I support the right to choose what you think it’s better for you, although it really breaks my heart seeing the human life being treated in such a frivolous way. many hugs of light to you!

  3. Thank you Ariel. I did understand your position and I agree that life is important, and that people have the right to choose. I have always supported freedom of choice but held disdain for lack of willingness to act responsibly (i.e. using abortion as another form of contraception). If anything my recent tragedies only makes me think that the legal time for abortion should be lowered. It seems horrific that a pregnancy can go to mid term and still terminated on a whim… But things are never black and white. I do know many women who have terminated pregnancies and always wonder about their lost children and how things could have been.

    I love your art. It is very powerful, very moving.

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