Father God, Mother God, Lover God
Father God has been drummed into our heads aplenty by the patriarchal dogma of Judaism and Western Christianity. Mother God and Lover God are lesser known deities, but they do exist. Mother God stems from a feminist undercurrent rippling within the patriarchal religions: you can find evidence of Her everywhere. I think of my own grandmother and her allegiance to the Blessed Mother; she prayed more to her than Christ himself. My grandmother belonged to the Legion of Mary and attended meetings and prayer groups; she said the Rosary every morning. I can still see her lying on her back in her bed, her lips mouthing the prayers, the beads wrapped around her gnarly fingers. She put herself into a trance every morning, a communion of sorts with the Catholic version of the divine feminine.
Recently I’ve started revising a novel I thought I finished two years ago. It’s a part historical/part contemporary read featuring polygamy in nineteenth century Utah. In my research, I stumbled upon a feminist text that reports an undercurrent of feminism within the oppressive bounds of polygamy. Sister wives were bonded to one another through the Female Relief Society, a society that incorporated feminist ideas, not only in spirituality, but daily life as well. Joseph Smith organized the society himself, under the helm of one Eliza Snow, who wrote poems about a Mother God. The society was modeled after the priesthood in that members could practice sacred acts such as the laying on of hands to heal the sick. The Female Relief Society had its own publication called the Woman’s Exponent where women could voice their frustrations with men. Here is an excerpt from Blanche Beechwood, a.k.a Emmeline B. Wells, the editor:
I know we are taught that Eve was the first to sin. Well, she was simply more progressive than Adam. She did not want to live in the beautiful garden for ever, and be nobody—not able even to make her own aprons.
Here’s another excerpt, showcasing true feminist thought, from an entry titled “An Old Maid’s Protest” addressed to the “Lords of creation,” i.e. men:
I have no doubt but that you will greet this with a cynical smile, as your conceit and vanity are developed to such an extent as to prevent you from accepting it as truth. But such it is. You may call me “Woman’s rights advocate,” “Blue Stocking,” or any other tender epithet; I care not. I am independent and not afraid because I am a woman to express my views on any subject. You may think I am only joking; but I warn you not to test the truth of my remarks by proposing to me, for I have such an utter detestation for the whole sex that it is with the greatest difficult that I can treat the men with common civility. And don’t think I have been crossed in love either, for I haven’t.
The once editor of the Woman’s Exponent, Emmeline B. Wells, was active in the women’s suffrage movement while still being a proponent of polygamy. She believed that plural marriage afforded a woman personal freedom and independence to exercise her rights because her sister wives helped in the chores and child rearing.
I’m excited about incorporating this research in my novel. I believe it will supply some depth to the chapters that needed a bit more oomph. The research served another purpose for me, though: I realized it was okay to want a divine female counterpart in God. Mormon women both contemporary and historical are/were vocal in their need for a divine being they could relate to. I realized I felt the exact same way and that this was a very natural thing. You didn’t have to reject a patriarchal religion altogether, as I have been doing; you could voice your conflict with it and make necessary adaptations.
While rewriting the novel, I revisited my book of readings by woman mystics to further be inspired (I have a character who is a Mormon mystic). The mystic shows up in every religion; she’s that person who pushes the boundaries of doctrine and is fueled by passion—more than conformity and fear—and sees God not only as a divine parent, but a lover. In my research I’ve encountered the term “coniunctio” defined as the conjugal bond between the soul and God. Catherine L. Albanese, author of “Mormonism and the Male-Female God: An Exploration in Active Mysticism,” describes this bond as “erotic” and “sexual.” I found this idea fascinating, how the mystic yearns to be one with God as a lover yearns to be one with her beloved. Here is evidence of coniunctio in the poems of Mechtild of Magdeburg, a thirteenth century German mystic:
A Song of the Soul:
Lord, You shine into my soul
like the sun glows on gold,
and when I rest in You,
what rich joy I have.
In fact, You clothe Yourself, God,
with my soul.
You are her most intimate piece of clothing against the skin.
God’s Singing Response to the Soul:
God as Lover of the Soul says:
“When I shine, you glow.
When I flow, you grow wet.
When you sigh, you draw My divine heart into you.
When you weep and long for Me, I take you in My arms and
“But when you love, we become one.
And when we two are one,
we can never be separated.
Instead, a joyful sort of waiting
We are tempted to say we know this love through sex with a beloved, a person one loves and wants to join oneself to. But sex can be divisional; we get too focused on bodily sensation and pleasing one another. I feel like I know this grander type of love on an unconscious level; last night I dreamed of an old crush, and in the dream, my crush had a twin who was dating my friend who happened to look like me (Jung would have a field day with this). I remember the euphoria of being held by him; it was not a sexual type of union; it had nothing to do with body desire, and yet he had strong muscles and was regarded as the handsomer twin. I felt like I had achieved something, that there was a struggle to move through and then a reward—his magical love that soothed me and made me feel like all was right. He was a safe-haven of sorts. My “crush” was almost god-like in that way.
I wrote this poem before I had these thoughts about a Mother and Lover God. But it fits. Maybe it was a premonition of sorts:
If I say the world Love
do I mean it?
Judgement and Scrutiny back me
into a corner, where I sit
until I can't stand it anymore.
But with Her, I can run
or sleep in the soft snow.
We will rest in Winter's
Womb--the rabbit, the fox
and us. I feel it-- Elation.
Eleison. A cloud of Yes
about my ears. Yes! Yes!
The God is singing in the bell
tower. His love child with
every man and woman is born
again and again.