Even as a child, I had a natural bent towards the warrior role of “mother”. I find strength in compassion and I know I’m not the only one. In fact, when I began to dig into the folklore around mother figures, I found some fascinating stories, especially those revolving around the idea of the “Mother Bear”. Archaeological findings dating back to ancient times, suggest that in particular the Lion, the Bear and the Elk tend to be the symbols of “mother”.
Stories of the Great Bear Mother have been traced from the earliest times throughout the colder northern hemisphere, from Finland to Siberia to North America. She even has a constellation in the northern sky called Ursa Major. Moscow’s coat of arms also includes a She bear who carries a double axe. In Britain, based on this early veneration of the Great She Bear, we find the mythic hero-king Arthur, named from the Welsh Arth Vawr – Heavenly Bear. He was believed to be the spouse of the Celtic goddess, Artio – the Great She Bear. The Ainu of Japan, who are descendants of early Siberian migrations, still retain their veneration of the Bear in both legend and ritual. We see her roar fiercely in the ancient writings of Hosea and for Native Americans the Bear is one of the guardians of the Four Directions.
The stories go on and on as she continues to make her appearance with different names throughout history. The ultimate theme in all of these stories is that the Great She Bear, advocate and protector, whose animal fur, skins and body gave warmth and food was revered as an awesome Ancestor Mother of human beings.
Everyone has a mother, love them or hate them. Some have been abandoned by their mothers and some scorned. For those downtrodden baby bears, the Great She Bear roars. You know her, she’s the neighbor, the teacher, the grandmother, aunt, coach or older sister that stands in the gap, raising the standard and setting the example. It’s a beautiful gift. For many of us this instinctual compassion is a tender response to a broken world.
However, there is a very real temptation for all of us who feel this natural tendency towards Mother Bear, to take this very precious gift and distort it into something wholly unnatural and damaging. Where instead of understanding this role as a ‘collective’ we decide that our will is more important than that of any other Mother Bear. Believing that we are “THEE” Mother Bear, we manipulate and interject our will upon a baby bear irregardless of whether that child already has nurturing from their own mother.
In Twisted Thinking Transformed, Author Jerry Price, calls this an ownership attitude; where one person believes they have the right to take ownership of another person, place or thing that does not belong to them because they believe they deserve it. This sort of thinking creates endless examples of double standards and confusion. It’s the same attitude seen in the Hebrew story in which King Solomon of Israel ruled between two women both claiming to be the mother of a particular child.
The story recounts that the two mothers were living in the same house, each the mother of an infant son. One of the babies died. Each adamantly claimed the remaining boy as her own. In order to settle the dispute they went before the King. The King called for a sword and declared his judgment: the baby would be cut in two, each woman to receive half. One mother thought the ruling fair, but the other begged Solomon, “Give the baby to her, just don’t kill him!” The king declared the second woman the true mother, as the true mother would surely give up her baby if that was necessary to save its life.
We don’t know all of the back story as the scene really focuses in on the Kings ruling. However, we do see that these two women lived with each other, so they were in some sort of relationship, maybe even friends or relatives. The woman who had an ownership attitude was so distorted in her thirst to be “THEE” Mother Bear that she was even willing to sacrifice the child so that the other woman could not take her rightful place.
How many times have we seen this story replayed, where a mother bear who is actively trying to nurture her baby bear encounters another mother bear and finds out that the person she deemed an ally, someone who could support and uplift, was betraying that trust, maybe even with good intentions.
It is so important for each of us to honestly recognize the temptation to tether with another’s baby bear and God help us if we ever overstep our position in another child’s life and thus cast a shadow on that mother/child relationship! It’s true, many of us have been the victim of this sort of betrayal but it also true that many of us have been the betrayer. It is crucial to the collective whole that we all be bona-fide about our own missteps and seek a better way. It will take humility, a healthy active ability to really listen to one another and a promise to be for one another.
And so, from one Mama Bear to another, I propose a treaty.
This is a promise to all the She Bears out their nurturing their baby bears. It is written in first person perspective in hopes that you, as a reader, will identify yourself as the Mother Bear and make the pledge also. If you agree with this treaty, please sign in the comments. If you find that there is a heart-felt promise that you’d like to add to the treaty please feel free to add it in the comments.
THE MOTHER BEAR TREATY
To all fellow Mother Bears, from every tongue, tribe and nation. I promise that I will be for you and not against you.
I promise that if I encounter opportunities to come alongside your baby bear that I will understand that position as supplemental, not primary.
I promise that, as a fellow mother bear, I will work to engage with you without judgement and will look for ways to encourage you in your primary role.
If I have no baby bear of my own, but resonate with the collective Mother Bear, I promise that any encounters I might have to come alongside your baby bear will be seen as supplemental, not primary.
Whether I agree with your parenting style or not I promise that I will not manipulate your baby bear with jabs that threaten the foundation of your relationship. Rather, I will try to find ways to build your relationship up.
If your baby bear comes to me with a complaint that involves you, I promise that I will listen without bias and will encourage your baby bear to make every effort to reconcile with you.
I promise that if my good intentions towards your baby bear falls short and you take offense, that I will be open to hearing your heart and to owning the pain I may have caused, making every effort to reconcile with you.
Likewise, if you, with good intentions towards my baby bear, fall short, I promise to communicate the impact of that pain openly and allow room for you to make amends. If you make amends, I promise to not harbor any bitterness.
If my baby bear hurts your baby bear I promise that I will hold my baby bear accountable and do everything within my power to bring my baby bear to a place of remorse and guide him/her towards reconciliation with your baby bear.
If your baby bear hurts my baby bear, I promise that I will hold your baby bear accountable and will make every effort to communicate the damage to you. If your baby bear approaches with humility to apologize, I promise I will also listen with an open mind and move our babies towards forgiveness.
It may be that we or our baby bears are just not going to get along, in that case, we will walk away graciously and hold no grudge.
I promise that I will not use my words to condemn or shame you. I promise that I will not speak about you to other Mother Bears with any sort of mallace or ill intent.
I promise to uphold this treaty, to protect the sanctity of the collective Mother Bear, and once again, to be for you, not against you.
Jana Holland, just one Mama Bear in the collective whole.