RELIGION

These Sacred Mothers Show Us The Power Of Women's Spirituality

Religion as we know it today wouldn't be the same without these moms.

Mothers are an important part of the origin stories of many religions, but they're often relegated to the sidelines. Indeed, the world's most celebrated religious figures -- people like Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad -- are often male.

It's a pattern that has consequences for women in religion today: Although they've started to crack the stained glass ceiling, women hold just a small minority of leadership positions in American religious congregations.  

And yet, religion as we know it today wouldn't exist without the sacred power of mothers -- not just because of their ability to bring life into the world, but also because of their independence, resilience, and courage. 

In honor of Mother's Day, Huffington Post Religion is highlighting mothers in sacred texts as a reminder of the roles that women have played and can play in world religions. From Mary, the young rebel, to Mahapajapati, the mom who boldly insisted to the Buddha that she was worthy of ordination, these sacred mothers have much to teach us about the unstoppable force of women's spirituality.

  • Durga: The Mom Who Is Fiercely Compassionate
    In the Hindu tradition, Durga is <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=pNmfdAKFpkQC&amp;pg=PA217&amp;lpg=PA217&amp;dq=de
    Education Images/UIG via Getty Images
    In the Hindu tradition, Durga is one of the most common forms of Devi, the Supreme Mother Goddess. She’s a warrior whose divine anger is directed towards evil. She rides into battle on a lion and carries a special weapon on each of her eight to 10 arms. According to stories in the Devi Mahatmya, a sacred text, she was the only divinity powerful enough to slay the demon Mahisha. Writer Laura Amazzone calls Durga a divine female role model and a reminder of the nature of divine love. In a blog for The Huffington Post, Amazzone writes: “The fiercely compassionate divine feminine nature will help free us from the afflicted ego and return to the penetrating wisdom of divine love. Goddess Durga may not solve all the world’s problems at the moment, but …. she is the impenetrable place of calm within our hearts from which we can choose actions that promote harmony and unity rather than selfish harmful acts.”
  • The Great Mother: The Mom Who Plays Many Roles
    Many Neo-pagans and Wiccans consider the Great Mother to represents the phase in a woman&rsquo;s life that is full of growth,
    Jewelee via Getty Images
    Many Neo-pagans and Wiccans consider the Great Mother to represents the phase in a woman’s life that is full of growth, fertility, and the acquiring of knowledge. According to Pagan writer Patti Wigington, “[The Mother] is fulfillment -- sexual, social, and emotional -- and she is represented by the full moon. Springtime and early summer are her domain; as the earth becomes green and fertile, so does the Mother.” But the Mother doesn’t stand alone -- she is actually the second face of the Triple Goddess, who is represented as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The Mother’s presence in this divine trinity is a reminder of the many roles women play over a lifetime.
  • Yemaya: The Mom Who Is Resilient
    Yemaya is a <a href="http://www.aboutsanteria.com/yemayaacute.html">mother goddess</a> in <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/relig
    ADALBERTO ROQUE via Getty Images
    Yemaya is a mother goddess in Santeria, a syncretic religion that emerged out of the slave trade in Cuba. Over the centuries, belief in Yemaya and other gods of the West African Yoruba religion was slowly melded into Roman Catholicism. She is now associated with the Virgin of Regla, one of the many titles associated with the Virgin Mary. Practitioners of santeria believe life on earth wouldn’t be possible without Yemaya. She is said to be a protective, wise, and brave mother who rules over the seas. Yemaya’s legacy is a reminder of the fierce resilience and strength of women.
  • Sarah: The Mom Who Laughed Through The Tough Times
    Sarah was the first Jewish matriarch who, according to the Torah, was both chosen and named by God. She was a seer whose gift
    Godong / robertharding via Getty Images
    Sarah was the first Jewish matriarch who, according to the Torah, was both chosen and named by God. She was a seer whose gift of prophecy is said to have been greater than that of her husband, Abraham. When she heard the prophecy that she’d bear a son in her old age, she responded by laughing. Rabbi Elizabeth Dunsker, who serves as the rabbi for Congregation Kol Ami in Vancouver, WA, sees this as a reflection of her joy. “Sarah’s laughter seems just as joyful and faithful as Abraham’s,” she writes. “She laughed for the joy of receiving the blessing of a child after being denied for so long. She laughed at the miracle this birth would be. She laughed at the idea of the sexual experience she would enjoy with her husband conceiving this child. And she laughed at her poor old body experiencing pregnancy so late in the game.” Sarah is an example of a woman who learned how to search for joy in tough times.
  • Mary: The Mom Who Was A Rebel
    Both Christians and Muslims honor Mary for being the mother of Jesus. According to the <a href="https://www.biblegateway.com/
    ginosphotos via Getty Images
    Both Christians and Muslims honor Mary for being the mother of Jesus. According to the Christian Gospels, when an angel told Mary that she’d been chosen to be the mother of God, she accepted the message with a great deal of faith -- even though she knew she risked being accused of adultery. Mary is known for her Magnificat, a song in the Bible in which she praises God for bringing down the mighty and exalting the humble, filling the hungry and sending the rich away empty handed. Rev. Broderick Greer, an Episcopal priest, calls Mary’s Magnificat her “rebel anthem.” “Often when we think of Jesus’ nature we emphasize the divine part of Jesus," Greer said in a video about the mother. "It may be worth our thought to think that maybe the revolutionary, prophetic side of Jesus was inherited from his mother.”
  • Mahapajapati Gotami: The Mom Who Wouldn't Give Up
    Mahapajapati Gotami is &nbsp;Siddhartha Gautama&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/05/2009_41_thu.shtml"
    John & Lisa Merrill via Getty Images
    Mahapajapati Gotami is  Siddhartha Gautama’s adopted mother and maternal aunt. She raised him after her older sister died. According to tradition, after Siddhartha became the Buddha, Mahapajapati went to him and asked to be ordained into the Sangha (the Buddhist community) as a nun. The Buddha initially refused. But Gotami wasn’t deterred. She and several of her female companions cut off their hair, put on yellow robes, traveled by foot to where the Buddha living and repeated her request. This time, after some convincing, Buddha agreed. Because of her persistence, Mahapajapati is remembered as the first woman to be ordained into Buddhism. She is a woman who wasn't afraid to stand her ground.
  • Khadija: The Mom Who Broke Gender Boundaries
    Khadijah bint Khuwaylid was the wife of Prophet Muhammad, and mother to six of his children. <a href="https://www.huffpost.co
    Grant Faint via Getty Images
    Khadijah bint Khuwaylid was the wife of Prophet Muhammad, and mother to six of his children. Islamic tradition teaches that Khadija was a sharp and successful trader who held her own in a business world primarily dominated by men. She used her wealth to lift up the poor. She was the one who asked for Muhammad's hand in marriage and the first person in the world to convert to Islam. Writer Yasmina Blackburn calls Khadija "Islam's first feminist." "She is one of the people that I think about when I face or debate issues surrounding women today," Blackburn wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post. "If I can at the very least, continuously strive to emulate her character, I will consider myself a success in life."
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