Tuesday, 29 August 2017

When the cult of mother becomes a curse

Speaking of the oracles
Òrìà bí ìyá ò sí. This is a saying in Yoruba that is not that easy to translate without losing the fundamentals of meaning and context.
Òrìà in Yoruba is the core of the indigenous animist culture representing the supernatural, elemental spirits that are varied depictions of polytheistic deities, powerful, revered, worshipped and honoured. In the main, they traverse the early plane in legend as human and the heavenly plane as spirits, they are the mainstay of the deepest cultural identity of the Yoruba.
Only, a decade ago, I had to reflect on who the Yoruba were when I met two Cuban professors whilst on holiday who appeared to have more insight and knowledge of Yoruba myths, mythologies and legend than I ever knew. Steeped in superstition in what Lord Lugard dismissed as a ‘vague dread of the supernatural’, you probably would never understand the Yoruba without being Yoruba.
The enduring hold of our oracles
I might extend that to suggest the Yoruba influence that remains strong in the practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji suggests some fundamental underpinning of the mother culture has been lost to the influx of new religions that have in most cases branded these traditions as savage, uncivilised and inherently evil.
Yet, these beliefs have sustained people for centuries and endure in the spirituality of the peoples and their descendants of the new world who were trafficked in the malevolence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Òrìà bí ìyá ò sí. Indicates that the mother or motherhood usually as seen from the perspective of the child is the genre of elemental spirits worthy and possibly demanding of worship, adoration and adulation.
In the cult of mother
Recently, in watching a film and a television dramatization, I was exposed to an interesting dynamic between mother and child, the blood relationship persisted to serve the purposeful hold of the Òrìà mother on the worshipper child, but it was progressively damaged through abuse brought on by drug addiction.
A child desires of a mother love, attention, care, protection, maybe encouragement and even guidance, but some children get little of that because the mother’s capacity to mother in a somewhat ideal mothering situation is impaired by personal struggles that distract the mother from that objective.
In the one case, as in the film, Moonlight, the mother only seemed to come to, late in life whilst in rehabilitation and she profusely apologised for being less of a mother than she could have been. It was a time of tears, of hugs and of healing.
Breaking the cult of mother
In the television drama, it was the 6th episode of the 5th Series of Law and Order: UK, called Deal where a drug-addict mother could care less about her son, first blaming her 13-year old son who for years had been told he was responsible for her problems and then when she was owing money to her drug dealer, she sold her son to the drug dealer to abuse as he saw fit.
The Òrìà mother bond was kept strong with threats to kill the boy’s mother if he stepped out of line. It is not until he saw that his mother had indeed sold him that the wicked Òrìà mother – worshipper child hold and bond was broken.
The travails of mother and child
The Yoruba culture places great burdens of responsibility and duty on the worshipper child to serve and sacrifice to the Òrìà mother, which in many cases is a willing and honourable function in the life of a child who has had positive influences of the mother, mothering and motherhood.
We as child strive to do as much as we can to uphold that Òrìà – worshipper bond, yet, that bond can be broken, broken beyond repair by agency or acts of either or both mother and child. The addiction that belies incapacity does not have to be drugs, it could be any other activity that brings on the infirmity breaks that maternal bond.
At peace, away from mother
As I wrote in my blog on Moonlight, the case of my mother is an addiction to a syncretism that combines elements of Judaism and Christianity with African-initiated interpretations of scripture along with strange animist traditions enlivened by incantations of the Psalms, rituals and holy waters, the result of which has broken the Òrìà mother – worshipper child bond.
Whilst it pains me that there is no relationship of any note between us, I cannot help but see my mother through the prism of those other mother addicts with no prospect of a Moonlight ending, because somewhere down the line she sold that motherhood to her devotion, hoping my fear of it would bring me into line, like the drug dealer’s threat to the boy.
Coming to terms with this has meant that I have decided not to waste precious time trying to make peace, but as I learnt in a conversation with a dear friend, I must find ways to be at peace with myself. I write about these things because I believe I am not alone in this kind of experience, it is also my own personal therapy in resolving the deep conflicts of the heart.


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