May 2021 WATERritual

“Remembering our Many Mothers”

By Diann L. Neu with Anali N. Martin

Listen to the audio of our May 2021 WATERritual here.

Preparation: Have near two candles, a small bowl of salt, a bowl of water, and a quilt, blanket, or shawl. 

Call to Gather

Having a mother is an experience uniquely common to people of all classes, races, and nationalities. It is an encounter that forms who we are; therefore, we each need to take time to integrate this relationship in our lives.

This season of Mothers’ Day is a time to remember the mothers in our lives–mother(s), grandmothers, ancestors, aunts, godmothers, women role-models, and mother-friends.

This time can bring a mix of emotions: love, pain, grief after losing a mother, expectation, anticipation about becoming a mom, joy from a shared experience, sadness about unresolved hurts, disappointment, fulfillment, and so much more. It offers an opportunity to connect about joys, hurts, struggles, mislaid dreams, and good times. Our mother most likely has more influence on us than anyone else, and we are marked by this relationship for better or worse.

Mothers’ Day is the result of more than one hundred years of women’s activism that coincided with women’s suffrage and labor movements around the turn of the 20th century. These efforts of calling women to political resistance and pacifism form the foundation of our commitment to assure respect and safety for women and girls worldwide. This Mothers’ Day season we are called to active resistance once again. As Hillary Clinton said, bringing the audience to their feet at the Gloria Awards in 2018, “Resist, insist, persist, and enlist. That is what we will do.”

Let us think about what it means to relate generation to generation to the female lineage of our families.

Candle Lighting

We light two candles: one for mothers, the other for daughters.

Let us think about what it means to be in relationship to the mothers of our families. Recall the female lineage in your family. Think of the names of your women lineage as we acknowledge ourselves as their descendants. For example, I am Anali, daughter of Brenda, grand-daughter of Doris and Rosella….. Name your lineage out loud in your own space, even though we are all muted.

Mothers who have given us life, be here with us.

Our time is now.

Song: “Everybody” by Ingrid Michaelson, from Everybody, 2009

Hm hm hm hm
Hm hm hm hm

We have fallen down again tonight
In this world it’s hard to get it right
Trying to make your heart fit like a glove
What it needs is love, love, love

Chorus (x2): Everybody, everybody wants to love
Everybody, everybody wants to be loved
Oh oh oh
Oh oh oh

Happy is the heart that still feels pain
Darkness drains and light will come again
Swing open up your chest and let it in
Just let the love, love, love begin

Chorus (x2)

Oh, everybody knows the love
Everybody holds the love
Everybody folds for love
Everybody feels the love
Everybody steals the love
Everybody heals with love
Oh oh oh oh
Just let the love love love begin

Chorus (x2)

Just let the love love love begin
Everybody, everybody wants to love (everybody knows the love)
Everybody, everybody wants to be loved (everybody holds the love)
Oh oh oh (everybody folds for love)
Oh oh oh
Everybody, everybody wants to love (everybody feels the love)
Everybody, everybody wants to be loved (everybody steals the love)
Oh oh oh (everybody heals with love)
Oh oh oh

Chorus (x2)

Listen to a Mother’s Day Proclamation – Julia Ward Howe, Boston 1870 from Reminiscences, 1819-1899

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience… 

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe our dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

Women of the world, “resist, insist, persist, and enlist,” be here with us.
Our time is now.

Listen to Mothers Speak

“Above all, I rise today with a sense of gratitude for all those upon whose shoulders we stand. For me, it starts with my mother, Shyamala Harris…And knowing my mother, she’s probably saying, ‘Kamala, what on earth is going on down there?  We have got to stand up for our values!’ So in the spirit of my mother, who was always direct, I cannot mince words.”
– Kamala Harris, her maiden speech on the US Senate floor, February 16, 2017

“I want them to see a mother who loves them dearly, who invests in them, but who also invests in herself. It’s just as much about letting them know as young women that it is okay to put yourself a little higher on your priority list.”
– Michelle Obama, Prevention, January 31, 2012

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”
– Oprah Winfrey, Woman’s Day, 1988

“Acceptance, tolerance, bravery, compassion. These are the things my mom taught me.”
– Lady Gaga, speech at Glamour 2013 Women of the Year Awards

“My mother told me two things constantly. One was to be a lady, and the other was to be independent.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Tribute: The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and WRP Staff,”ACLU

“I cannot forget my mother. Though not as sturdy as others, she is my bridge. When I needed to get across, she steadied herself long enough for me to run across safely.”
– Renita Weems, “Hush, Mama’s Gotta Go Bye-Bye,” in Patricia Bell-Scott et. al., eds.,  Double Stitch: Black Women Write about Mothers and Daughters (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1991)

“It’s okay. You’re not failing. You’re strong. You’re resilient. And you’re doing your best to carry your family through one of the most difficult times in memory. We’re going to do everything we can to get through this, together.”
– Jill Biden, Parents, February 4, 2021

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.”
– Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (New York: Random House Publishing Group, 1970)

“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.”
– Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983)

Mothers who guide us, be here with us.
Our time is now.

Reflect on Mothers

Let’s share in groups of 3 or 4 for 10 minutes:
What did you hear in these quotes? What have you learned from the mothers in your life? How will you pass on this learning?

Renouncing Mothers’ Legacy

Some spirits of our mothers we need to renounce. We have shed many tears over them. Salt purifies, cleanses and neutralizes. It is said to repel certain spirits. Put salt into the water as you name aloud in your own space something that you want to renounce. This is an opportunity to let go, to give to the water something you don’t need anymore.

Reclaiming Mothers’ Legacy

Some spirits of our mothers we want to reclaim. This quilt represents roots and wings, comfort and healing. I have covered myself with it many times. Come, wrap yourself in a blanket and remember your family stories as we sing a lullaby.

Song: “Lullaby” by Cris Williamson, from Live Dream, © 1976 – Anali’s video

Like a ship in the harbor, Like a mother and child
Like a light in the darkness, I’ll hold you a while.
We’ll rock on the water, I’ll cradle you deep,
And hold you while angels sing you to sleep.

A Blessing for Mothers

Let us go forth with a blessing of mothers.

Blessed be mothers and caregivers everywhere.
Blessed be women who give birth, women who adopt, women who care for children, women who love with an open heart.
Blessed be women who cannot give birth, women who choose not to be mothers.
Blessed be societies that offer health care services and economic support to all mothers and children.
Blessed be those who create all kinds of loving families.
Blessed be mothers and caregivers. Now and forever, wherever we are. May it be so.

Take Action for Mothers

  • Do something special for the mothers in your life: make a card, send an email, make breakfast, thank her. Put flowers in a room she uses often: bedroom, office, living room, kitchen.
  • Take a walk with your mom and connect with the universe together. Look at stars, moon, sun, and give thanks.
  • Cook a beautiful, healthy meal together, or use one of your mom’s favorite recipes. Set an elegant table with tablecloth and candlelight and delight in that nourishment.
  • Lobby your senator and congressperson to give women equal pay, quality childcare, a living wage, affordable health care including reproductive services, paid sick and family leave, and flexible work schedules.
  • Learn about and donate to the National Bail Out collective which “coordinates the Mama’s Day Bail Outs, where we bail out as many Black Mamas and caregivers as we can so they can spend Mother’s Day with their families where they belong.” There are also specific Covid-19 Bail Out actions.
  • Give a gift to a charity in the name of the “mothers” in your life.

We rejoice in mothers!

Song: “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, from We Are Family, 1979

Chorus (x2): We are family

I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up everybody and sing
Everyone can see we’re together

As we walk on by
and we fly just like birds of a feather
I won’t tell no lie
All of the people around us they say
Can they be that close
Just let me state for the record
We’re giving love in a family dose

Chorus (x2)

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of this world’s delights
high hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight
No, we don’t get depressed
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no
This is our family jewel

Chorus (x3)

We are family

© 2021 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), from Stirring WATERS: Feminist Liturgies for Justice by Diann L. Neu