Blog: Excerpt from The New Return to the Great Mother
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Editors’ Note: In this updated edition, The New Return to the Great Mother: Birth, Initiation, and the Sacred Feminine, Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D. shares stories of women connecting with the power of the Great Mother, and has included information about the importance and power of initiations. It is through the discussion of the seven initiations of birth, puberty, menses, first sexual encounter, childbirth, menopause, and death that she sheds light on the life-altering effects that initiatory experiences can have on us. Like rungs on a ladder, each initiation can serve as a sturdy step upon which we feel supported as we climb upward toward greater awareness and understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. What follows is the Introduction to the book. You can pre-order the book here.
Isa Gucciardi holds degrees and certificates in transpersonal psychology, cultural and linguistic anthropology, comparative religion, hypnotherapy, and transformational healing. She has been a dedicated Buddhist practitioner for forty years and has spent over thirty years studying spiritual, therapeutic, and meditative techniques from around the world. Isa has worked with master teachers of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Sufism, as well as expert shamanic practitioners from a variety of traditions.
Isa is the creator of Depth Hypnosis, a groundbreaking therapeutic model that has won rave reviews from psychotherapeutic and spiritual counselors alike. Isa teaches and speaks nationally and internationally, and has published numerous articles, podcast episodes, videos, and the books Coming to Peace and Return to the Great Mother.
Open. Open. Open. This is the clarion call of the midwife to the birthing mother as she is encouraged to surrender to the new life moving through her. Childbirth is a sacred initiation that requires our full participation, mind, body, and spirit. We will meet ourselves completely—the parts we like and those we try to hide away in the shadows. But we are far from powerless in this process. In fact, there is a deep and unbroken source of power we can align with for support: the power of the Great Mother.
The Great Mother is the essence of all generative and creative power. Such power is perhaps most evident in nature, where the cycle of life and death is constantly in motion. This is why the Great Mother is so often depicted as an earth goddess. From Pachamama, the earth and time goddess of the Andes Mountains in South America, to the ancient Australian aboriginal mother goddesses Kunapipi and Eingana, and even the relatively modern Mother Mary from Christianity, we have been personifying and revering this great source of feminine power for centuries.
I first encountered the power of the Great Mother during childbirth. I have two children, and the birth of the first was very difficult. She and I were in grave danger at times. But it wasn’t until labor with my second child began picking up speed that I started having flashbacks from the trauma of the first birth. Just as I was losing emotional and physical steam, I became acutely aware of a brilliant, luminescent, mirage-like presence in the delivery room. This otherworldly light was exuding an enormous amount of power, which I felt directed toward me.
As this power flowed into me, it was like a warm, loving embrace. I quickly stabilized. And as I focused on what I perceived to be a tremendous female presence, she identified herself to me as the Great Mother. I kept my gaze on this presence for the rest of what turned out to be another challenging birth.
As I skirted the edges of danger once more, I became aware of all the places where the Great Mother had held my daughter and me in the first birth. She had been with us the entire time, even in the scariest moments. I am positive that without the support of this benevolent presence, I would never have had the fortitude to sustain myself, or my children, during childbirth.
The encounter made me curious about this presence. I wondered what it was and whether it worked with others in a similar way. What I have found is that the presence and power of the Great Mother is not unique to me. In fact, I have personally witnessed her at work during the many births I attended in my former role as a medical language interpreter. Without fail, the Great Mother was there to guide and assist each woman as the unique story of her child’s birth unfolded. The Great Mother’s presence was always unwavering. In some of the most intense situations I could feel her force sustaining the lives of mothers and children just as she had sustained mine.
In order to help women gain direct access to the power of the Great Mother, I have developed a simple meditation I call the Great Mother Meditation. This is a helpful tool for birthing mothers and their partners and for birth attendants and professionals. The simplicity of this meditation allows each of us to encounter the Great Mother on our own terms. We do not have to hold any set of religious beliefs or obey any culturally defined rules to encounter this power. In fact, we are free to perceive the Great Mother in any form that has meaning to us. I use the term Great Mother, because that was how she presented herself to me.
Since publishing Return to the Great Mother in 2013, numerous mothers, partners, and birthing attendants have come forward to share their stories with me and to express gratitude for helping them connect with the power of the Great Mother. Some are continuing to strengthen their relationship with this ancient and ongoing source of power, calling upon it whenever they are faced with situations that require them to step outside of their comfort zone and into a new way of knowing themselves or life.
Within this book, you will read these and other stories about how the Great Mother was there, always supporting—sometimes sustaining—the women and children as they moved through the sacred initiation of childbirth. In this updated edition, I have included information about the importance and power of initiations. While childbirth is the focus of this book, it is just one of seven key steps we take on the path toward personal growth. To assist in your understanding of the stages of your own initiations, I have also included some simple exercises for you to engage with in Chapter 4.
It is through the discussion of the seven initiations of birth, puberty, menses, first sexual encounter, childbirth, menopause, and death that I hope to shed light on the life-altering effects that initiatory experiences can have on us. Like rungs on a ladder, each initiation can serve as a sturdy step upon which we feel supported as we climb upward toward greater awareness and understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.
Unfortunately, in our busy, materially focused culture, the powerful teachings that initiations afford us tend to be lost completely or, worse, disempowering and even traumatic. In these cases, cultivating a connection with the Great Mother is even more therapeutic, so that we may begin to heal those hurt places within us, ideally before entering into the initiation of childbirth.
For too long, our culture has overly valued qualities largely attributed to masculinity, such as assertiveness, competition, and logic, while those related to femininity, like openness, harmony, and sensitivity, have been minimized or ignored entirely. The result is an imbalance in the systems and structures within the culture as well as the disunion of the masculine and feminine aspects within us. These disconnects can negatively affect our relationships to our bodies, our initiatory experiences, and our personal or spiritual growth.
In many ways the disconnection we experience on a personal, interpersonal, collective, and even on a spiritual level manifests globally as a disconnection from the ultimate giver of life, the earth. Sadly, as a society we are no longer connected to the earth or ourselves as we once were. Our fast-paced, always moving world discourages these bonds from forming and, as a result, we may carry in our heart a sense of disconnection or separation that we do not understand. This can look like anxiety, depression, or self-loathing. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
As we will discuss later on, the body is a template for spiritual growth. And of all the sacred initiations that we undergo, childbirth is one of the most potent in its requirements of us physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but also in its ability to change us.
My goal is to help prepare every woman for the initiation of childbirth by teaching her to connect with the Great Mother. She came to me and countless others in our greatest time of need and I know she will be there for you or the woman you are seeking to assist as she brings life into this world. The Great Mother is always there. All you need to do is call on her.
The New Return to the Great Mother: Birth, Initiation, and the Sacred Feminine – Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.