In certain cultures, those we call “primitive” (although they may be more emotionally or spiritually advanced than our own), every grandmother has her own song. She sings this song to her people when they are hurting, Her song is imbued with magical qualities, It is comforting and soothing. Her song tells that she has been hurt in the past too, but she has endured.The family is the territory of grandmothers.
Grandmother’s Traditional Influence
Within a close family a grandmother has power and influence ‑‑ a place to teach and to share her wisdom and experience. Other cultures honor this. In the Bororo tribe of Africa grandmothers are called Umufasoni‑”Noble”‑ and attain the high point of their life when they are given that title. In other cultures grandmothers are accorded mystical powers. Grandmothers in Haiti claim spiritual powers and are called on to intervene when family members fall ill. People of the Ndembu religion in Africa believe that grandmother ghosts are in charge of conception. But where is today’s grandmother in Arnerica? Dr. Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, author of “Stories From The Motherline,” (Jeremy Tarcher Press) describes the power of grandmothers from a feminist viewpoint, in a recent article entitled, “Grandmother Consciousness.” “Grandmothers loom behind parents, casting shadows, evoking the mysteries,” she writes. “Less familiar, less everyday than the mother, a grandmother is a woman of othertime, telling stories out of long ago, when she was a child, when Mommy or Daddy was a child, when we of the present generation had not yet been dreamed of.”
Like many modern women today grandmothers are struggling with their identity. They’ve been given the ‘gift of time., How is this time to be spent? Caring for others? Certainly there are plenty of grandchildren, children, husbands, relatives, Living parents around to care for. Or working in the world? Or retirement? Or charitable deeds? How do grandmothers navigate between their 11 conditioning” ‑the teachings they were raised with‑ and the radical changes in thought, attitude, and social status brought about by their daughters?
How have these rapid changes, what Margaret Mead called the “acceleration of history,” affected “Grand mother Consciousness?” How is the modern grandmother to perpetuate what Dr. Lowinsky calls the
“Motherline?” She writes: “The psychological meaning of the grandmother is an aspect of an archetypal pattern that I call the motherline. A woman’s psyche arranges itself around a core connection to female continuity and the birth‑giving capacity of the Feminine. The woman who is both mother and daughter, grandmother and granddaughter, carries in her lived experience this central mystery of the Feminine, Women are the carriers of the species, the entryway to life. A woman’s soul, her sense of the sacred, is, as Irene Claremont do Castillejo said, …’imbedded in … her very body.. , “In other words, young mothers and young grandchildren need Grandmother to be a part of their lives, to be whole, to be connected. To make this happen is the challenge that faces the modern grandmother, How is ‘modern’ Grandmother going to negotiate between the pushes and pulls of her heart and her mind? Between self‑fulfillment and service to others? Between caring for tier loved ones, and fuffilling her private ambitions and dreams?What will to her “grandmother” consciousness? What song will she sing?
These are questions that every modern grandmother must ponder.
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