Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Mother archetype in Art, Astrology and Tarot: Part 1

Last time I wrote about the archetypes found in the Tarot, I left it at "La Papisa" (The Popess or High Priestess) archetype in Latin American Art and History. Before we continue discussing this fascinating topic I consider it of vital importance to understand the primal archetype that gives birth to all others. Since the following archetype to be explored is " La Emperatriz" (The Empress) or the Major Arcana III and the previous card, "La Papisa" related to the feminine Lunar Principle, it makes perfect sense to reflect on "The Mother" archetype which can be found in more than one Tarot card including the ones just mentioned.

Patrick McGrath Muniz
   Inmaculate Immplants (2008)
Oil on Canvas triptych 72" x 36"
Available at Galeria Antigua

If you missed the first two articles concerning "El Loco" (The Fool)  and "El Mago" (The Magician), you can click on either them to see what we are dealing with here. This research is based on the study of the Tarot and how the archetypal figures represented in the major arcana cards relate to historical figures from the Americas. In the past I’ve been studying patterns of colonization and the role of globalization and corporations in a new wave of economic neocolonialism that affects Latin America. But as things progressed with my work and studies I felt compelled to open up the discussion to even larger global issues than those affecting one region of the world. By using the symbolic language in the Tarot, Astrology and Art History, I intend to shed light into global issues that affect our lives today. Of course I do not pretend to encompass it all in this blog and therefore I’m more than open to suggestions and comments from all of you who wish to contribute to this discussion.

Patrick McGrath Muniz
Four of the Major Arcana "Mcolonial" Tarot Cards (2012)

From Prehistoric times, to our Global Age of Information Technology, "The Mother" archetype has transcended time and space changing forms from culture to culture but remaining the same in essence. Her essence can be traced to the stars and that is why we have archetypal astrology to study the patterns and behaviors of archetypes. 

 Gromyko Semper
Our Lady of Perpetual Abandon
Ink on Paper 12" x 18"
To View more of this artist's work click here

In many religions around the globe, the "Great Mother" or Heavenly Queen has occupied a sacred space. This is quite evident in the importance the "Madonna" or Virgin Mary, Mother of God has been given by the Catholic Church. With the Counter Reformation, conquest and conversion of the native peoples of the Americas, the devotion for the "Mother" was heightened, often equating her to the Church itself and bride of Christ. 

 Manuel Garcia
Escudo de Monjas

The feminine archetype, container of all life, the "Primium Mobile", Anima Mundi and Magna Mater Matrix, She is the Greek Mother Earth Goddess Gaia.  In Buddhism we see her as Queen Maya, Buddha's mother. In China, Kwan-yin, the goddess of mercy is also associated with many of the same motherly qualities that define the Christian Madonna. In the Afro Caribbean Yoruba religion she is called Yemaya, She is the Ocean, protector of Children and prime representative of Motherhood. In Classical Mythology she is Ceres or Demeter, goddess of fertility and grain.  These are just but a few of her many faces. 

  Hans Sebald Beham  
Venus, from The Seven Planets with the Signs of the Zodiac, 1539 

From an astrological view, she may be found in the Moon, Venus and our own planet Earth. Being Lunar in nature, she presides over the Amniotic fluid, milk, oceans and basically all liquids as they all posses Yin receptive energy qualities. Being Earth-like she obviously presides over all minerals, geological, plant and animal life. She is Mother Nature, nurturing matter allowing it to evolve and grow and also die. Soil, rocks and even money (coins derived from minerals) are considered to have Yin receptive qualities. 

  Hans Sebald Beham  
Luna, from The Seven Planets with the Signs of the Zodiac, 1539

Being Venusian she is the the embodiment of love, beauty and art. Perhaps this explains the amazing amount of artwork related to her. It would take very large volumes to document the many expressions of this archetype in art through the ages. Interestingly most of the Mother's Day celebrations around the world are held in spring (around May) which is associated with Taurus, the Bull ruled by the planet Venus. The bull, a fertility symbol with horns that look like a crecent Moon comes to us from Antiquity. From Ancient Egypt to Modern India, bulls, cows and cattle in general have a sacred place in religion. They represent wealth, abundance, fertility and selfless giving, the same attributes hold for the great "Mother Archetype".

 Felipe Rivera Ortiz
Alimento de Vida (2013)
To view more work from this artist click here

Just think of all the goddess from around the world, from Ishtar to Lakshmi, from Ēostre to Yemaya, in all goddesses there is a mother to be found. We should also be reminded that this archetype like all others has both a light and shadow sides to it. More obscure goddesses like Kali, Durga, Lilith or Hecate contain a darker destructive aspect of the "Mother" archetype. 

 Liba Waring Stambollion
The Godess Energy as Re-Incarnation,Pro-Creation and Transformation
To view more work from this artist click here

With growing ecological awareness, the image of the "Mother Earth seems to gain more presence in contemporary culture. The mother being a female archetype becomes associated with the cycles of life and death as with the Moon or the Seasons. Change is constant while the term “container” often comes to mind when discussing this archetype. We might see her as a sacred container and nurturer of all knowledge, matter, forms, life or the Cosmos.

 Robert Place
Strength from the Sevenfold Mystery Tarot
Available for purchase at: 

In a Social context, not only do mothers sustain life at home and hold families together, they have become independent workers and active participants in many positions at work, in the government and Church among others where patriarchal power has long denied them an opportunity. A recent Pew Research Center reported to NPR that now mothers are primary breadwinners in 40% of US households. 

 Carlos Barberena
Palestinian Mother and Child
To view more work of the artist click here

As an artist I find it impossible not to be captivated by this archetype. We all have a deep subconscious and conscious connection with her. After all we are all born of a mother and the mother/child bond represents our first relation coming into this world. To be inspired by motherly love is to be inspired by the most noble and beautiful love of all. To give and do good without expecting anything in return. Perhaps this is the greatest lesson we must learn from the "Great Mother of all". It would heal humanity, our environment and all life if we all adopted this compassionate attitude more often.

Patrick McGrath Muniz
Nuestra Senora del Altisimo Capital(2012)
Oil on wood triptych 24" x 18"

I personally feel quite optimistic with the future as women's rights gain momentum in most parts of the world, even if it is slower than we might wish for, but just think of how women and mothers in general were portrayed in TV shows from the 50's or go further back to the nineteenth century when women were kept out of the public discourse. Things are certainly changing for good. Social media and the internet are making a difference in awakening the collective consciousness on social and environmental injustices committed around the globe as they are documented and made visible to all. As we enter a new age of social and environmental awakening, the Great Mother archetype shines her light upon us and encourages us to realize our fullest potential as a species in this motherly planet.