Monday, December 6, 2010
Mothers, Madonnas All
All right. In the spirit of the Virgin of the Day, I offer you this one. It is one I love especially because my daughter May put it together in a altar-to-go for me that she made in a cigar-box purse. There are even candles. And matches. And a cocktail-glass perching mermaid. And flowers. And seashells. And stars. Of course.
May is the sort of artist that everything she does I want to grab her and shake her and offer what she has just done as proof that she NEEDS TO BE AN ARTIST! NO! SHE IS AN ARTIST!
I feel quite certain that she will look at this picture and think, Oh Mom. Why are you such a MOM? Why that picture?
Ah well. I AM a mom. A mother. And I do happen to think that my children and my grandson are pretty darn special. All of them. That's what mothers do. We think all of our children are geniuses.
Of course, mine are. And I'm not just saying that either. They are.
And I'm having a hard time with this Virgin business. Oh, not the representations of the Holy Mother. It's that virgin thing. What the fuck? Why do need to believe that she was a virgin? Do a little research and you'll find that not only were other gods of other religions born of virgin birth, several of them were also born on December 25 and had shepherds attending their birth and died of crucifixion and arose on the third day as a living being again.
Do a little google search of Mithra for just one example.
What I'm saying here is that the story of Jesus, bless his heart, is hardly a unique one in the pantheon of saviors. Some of their stories are lost in history, some hang on as obscure pagan or other-religious myths, and one, well, He's the reason for the season!
And that's fine. I don't personally believe that Jesus was any holier or god-blessed than any baby born at any time anywhere in history although if what the Bible says is true, he had some good ideas, many of which are completely ignored by many of his followers today. But if it makes people's hearts feel more at peace to believe that if they believe in him, then they will be saved from whatever it is that they fear, that's just okay with me.
But that's not what I came here to talk about.
I came to talk about this whole virgin thing.
What is UP with that? Why do we need to believe that Mary was a virgin? Okay, I get the point that if she was indeed a virgin and she somehow managed to have a child without ever having had sex, then yes, it was a MIRACLE! Just like Jesus turning water into wine (yum!) and walking on water and raising the dead and all of those other miracles that he was reported (many, many years after his death, of course) to have performed.
Of course, I don't believe that Jesus walked on water and I don't believe he turned water into wine although that would be a very good party trick, and I don't believe he raised the dead or cast demons out of a leper and transferred them to a bunch of pigs who then jumped off a cliff (or whatever they supposedly did) and I really do not believe that he died and then was resurrected.
No. I just don't.
And if that means I'm going to hell, let me add that I don't believe in hell either.
And I do not believe that his mother was a virgin.
But that doesn't deter me at all from loving her image and I'll tell you why- it's because Mary is portrayed as such a loving mother. And if there is anything on this earth which represents what the true meaning of love is, it is the love that a mother has for her child. And if there is anything more miraculous than a baby growing from two cells, one maternal, one paternal, in a woman's womb and then becoming a human and then being born, I don't know what it is. Add in the holy milk which a woman's body makes which is perfect for her child and honey, in my book, you've got the great big Sacred Trifecta.
This painting, Maria Lactans by Andrea Solari is one of my very favorite representations of the Mother Goddess. That fat baby, obviously squirming at the breast, the way the mother and baby are staring into each others eyes as the child holds his foot in his hand- well, my babies all did that. And I held my breast in just that way to get the nipple in my babies' mouths. Now I have to say that my breast was never, even when I was a twenty-one year old mother, that high up near my collar bone, but whatever.
And I have no desire or need to look at that picture and think, "Oh boy. That's so holy because she was a virgin!"
Nah. Every nursing mother and baby are holy to me.
Every baby starts out the Buddha, starts out the Christ child. Every. Single. One.
Starts out that way, anyway.
Whether their mamas had to fight like tigers to conceive or whether the babies were born from a hot five minutes in a back seat.
The babies themselves are born as pure and stain-free as the insides of a box of Oxy-Clean. I don't buy original sin, either, by the way. I buy having been born with original human nature but that's different.
And so, I don't know that I want to use the term "virgin" anymore. As applied to the Madonna, at least. Girls back in the olden days had to preserve their virginity until marriage because if they had babies out of wedlock, there wouldn't be a guarantee of a man around to help take care of them.
Get the man to stand up and say he'll stick with you forever and you've got a better shot at being able to provide enough calories to keep your baby healthy.
At least in theory.
So that very common-sense idea turned into a sacrament and the next thing you know, having sex outside of marriage was nasty and dirty and girls who did it were, well, the opposite of Madonnas, and were judged as whores. Men wanted to fuck those girls, of course, and that was natural. But if a girl whose hormones were in as large and frothy a bloom as a boy's and she actually joined him in doing what nature told her to do and she got pregnant- well, she was a sinner, an outcast, a whore.
Mary was Joseph's betrothed. And she found herself with child. And there you go- it wasn't because she had had premarital sex with a man that she found herself pregnant, it was because the spirit of god had knocked her up.
Miracle set in place, old Testament prophecy made true.
Why didn't they just say that Mary was so pure she never peed or pooped?
Ah. That wouldn't fulfill prophecy. And men pee and poop. Even Jesus? Did he poop his little holy diapers?
The Bible doesn't say.
I suspect he did.
And his mother loved him and changed him just like mothers have always done. Not because he was the Son of God, but because he was her baby.
Her beloved baby.
Not necessarily a Baby. Just a baby.
Here. Here's another picture of the Madonna holding her baby. It's the Pieta by Michelangelo and one of the regrets of my life is that when I went to the Vatican, some mad man had taken a sledge hammer to that statue and busted it up and it was being repaired and I did not see it.
I did, however, see another lesser-known pieta by Michelangelo in some church in Italy and before I even knew who the artist was, the very sight of it, hiding in a dark nave of a church, sent me into great spasms of tears.
You want to talk holy? You want to talk sacred?
How about the art of Michelangelo? A man whose mother died when he was seven years old. Could her face, always-remembered in his mind, have been the model for this sculpture?
I don't know. But click on that picture. He carved those faces from STONE.
I just know that I love images of mothers. Especially nursing their babies.
Is no more sacred to me than this
Or this, either.
The love a mother has for her child is a freaking miracle. Whether the mother's name is Mary or Barbara or Lowland Gorilla.
And it's the reason we're all still here.
Virginity doesn't even enter into the picture to my mind and I have no idea why it should.
A mother doesn't need to be a virgin to be the mother of a miracle and a baby doesn't need to have a virgin as a mother to grow up to be holy.
And every mother is a madonna for awhile, at least, given the love and support she needs.
And I will celebrate that every day of the year.