The Mother Archetype

Mother is a primary Archetype.

In the triple goddess expression of Maiden, Mother, and Wise Woman, Mother symbolizes fertility and growth. Jean Shinoda Bolen, in her 1984 book “Goddesses in Every Woman: A New Psychology of Women”, delves into the seven feminine archetypes based on Greek mythology. Each Goddess – Hestia, Athena, Demeter, Aphrodite, Hera, Artemis, and Persephone – represents one primordial personality.

Archetypes are universal patterns, or “an unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way…like a black hole in space: You only know it’s there by how it draws matter and light to itself.”1

We find the Mother Archetype in maternal goddesses – Demeter or Ceres (Goddess of the Grain), Isis, Tellus, Cihuacoatl, Kwan Yin…Other examples – Mother Theresa, the Old Woman in the Shoe, Mother Goose,  Mother Mary, and of course Gaia or Mother Earth. The Mother Archetype is certainly universal and timeless.

In Tarot, the Mother is seen with The Empress and the Queen of Pentacles. The Empress is about the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, fertility, intuition, nurturing, creating, and maternal instinct. The Queen of Pentacles, an Earth element and material world card, is protection, pragmatic, and procreative.

For some women, the Mother Archetype is experienced through motherhood, either biologically or via adoption. For other women, it is expressed in their creative projects and other endeavours. The focus is on her offsprings, whether human or otherwise.

The Mother is about (pro)creation, nurturing, empowering, and releasing – the cycle of life itself. These are qualities of the positive pole. Balancing between the positive and negative poles is not an easy task, living in duality.

Many people, for example, find it difficult to say no to others. Guilt about hurting someone else’s feelings is common. Knowing your boundaries is part of the yin-yang of life. Being too yang and forcing your opinions onto others pushes them away and drains your own energy. Being too yin and allowing others to breach your boundaries also drains your life force and likely creates resentment on some level.

This is seen in the maternal energy where an overexuberance of nurturing and caring can turn into smothering and domineering. The release part of being Mother is a struggle for most. The gift of the Mother is unconditional love.

Some women feel rejected by their own children and can withhold their love, for fear of further rejection. This can leave children insecure and precarious. If this is done at crucial developmental stages, it can leave emotional scars and traumas. Think Mommie Dearest.

The relationship with Mother is the first in our lives and a foundation stone in all relationships to come. She is the giver and the taker – a truly powerful role – in our life.

As much as separation from her child is difficult for a mother, becoming independent can be tenuous and scary for a growing child. Living our own life, anchoring our own energy, learning our own lessons, and realizing our own desires are part of being alive. We need to be separate, to learn the lessons of duality and wholeness and growth to integrate back to the fold. The process of being released by and releasing from Mother figures strongly in how we manage our aloneness.

The Mother Archetype is complex. From self-sacrificing and defending to nurturing and compassionate to destructive and abusive, it has many faces. No matter if Mother epitomizes calm or chaos, working with the Mother Archetype empowers us. Its energy lives not just in the relationship between Mother-Child but throughout existence.


1 Introduction to CC Jung by Geoerg Boerce
Goddesses in Everywoman – Powerful Archetypes in Women’s Lives” – Jean Shinonda Bolen
Understanding the Four Primary Archetypes and How They Operate in Our lives – interview with Mary Ovenstone (Odyssey Magazine)