The Matriarchs

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Eye for Ebony

By Jo Mooy

Mother is the supreme female archetype revered in every culture.

Fifty countries around the world set aside one day to honor mothers and the role she plays in the family. Mother’s Day is a fairly new holiday. It first entered consciousness in 1872 when pacifist, abolitionist, and suffragette Julia Ward Howe appealed to the women of the world to unite to stop wars. She asked them, “Why do you mothers of mankind not interfere in these matters to prevent the waste of human life of which you alone bear and know the cost?”

Howe was followed by Anna Jarvis, whose mother said, “There are so many holidays for men, but why none for mothers?” After her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis launched a 35-year long campaign to fulfill her mother’s wishes. She wrote a stream of letters to Presidents Taft and Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, as well as prominent businessmen in the community, asking that a day be set aside to honor mothers. Merchant John Wannamaker heard her plea. When he opened an auditorium in Philadelphia for a Mother’s Day service in 1907, the auditorium could only seat one-third of the 15,000 people who showed up. Finally, in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Mother’s Day holiday into law.

Who is this Mother? She is the supreme female archetype revered in every culture. She’s the lineage holder for all the women who form a long procession through the ages. She’s the keeper of their stories. She records the important events that affect the family or tribe. She governs with wisdom while dispensing sage advice to the younger ones. She is often the figurehead ruler of the family though she may not necessarily be the one who birthed you. She is the Matriarch.

But she’s more personal than that. She’s mom, mama, mommy or ma. She’s the one you call when experiencing stress or you’re desperate and in need. She’s a nurturer and referee, and a nurse and doctor when you’re young. As you get older, she’s a teacher, counselor, and a highly adept drama diffuser. She’s a banker who doles out loans knowing they will never be repaid. And if you’re very lucky, she’s not only your friend but also your greatest fan.

And so it goes until one day she’s gone. It could happen suddenly or after a long illness. The counseling and phone calls stop. You remember things you should have said or done. Or things you can no longer share with her. The empty space she leaves behind is cold and hollow. You realize how much you leaned on her. You expected her to always be there for you. After all, she’s your mother. But now you’re an orphan.

It may take a year or more to ease the grief. Or it may never ease. But the passing of time allows you to see with different eyes what your relationship with her was about. The arguments you had don’t seem as severe as when the angry words were hurled. You realize all the times she told you no, you can’t do that, was for your own good. Instead, the little moments of joy you shared become epic events. The remembered sound of her laughter fills you with tears.

This introspection makes you examine your relationship with your own children. One day your daughter calls about a problem at work and asks for advice on how she should handle it. You remember how you once called your mom for advice on similar problems. It’s a Deja vu phone call. As you listen to your daughter and figure out what to tell her, the Mother-Torch is passed to you. With the grandmother now gone, you’ve just become the family’s “mom.” You are now the Matriarch.

There’s no preparation for this archetypal role shift. Yet, it’s instinctual and feels profound. There might be some genetic code that activates when the Lineage Matriarch transfers from one generation to the next. Siblings recognize it. When my mother died, my sisters and I were cleaning out her house. Taking a rest by lying on her bed, my youngest sister leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You’re the mom now!” It was inconceivable to even consider such a thing, so I denied it. She simply said, “Yes, you are!”

I didn’t accept the role all through the grieving process. In truth, I didn’t accept the role at all. That is until a Deja vu phone call from my daughter triggered it. My mom was no longer there physically to give me advice. But I was expected to know what to say and how to counsel my daughter with wise words born of my own experiences. I rose to the occasion because my mother was still there in me.

Recently, my grandson in college caught Covid and was quarantined for two weeks. My daughter called me with the news. Though my grandson texted me every few days on his progress, he was calling his mother several times each day as his symptoms worsened. (He recovered.) My daughter suggested what I should or should not say to him during his ordeal. I had a quiet chuckle because it reminded me I had done the same with my mother when she was going to interact with my daughter, her granddaughter.

Without any counsel, my daughter was now in training for when the Mother-Torch is passed. We’ve never discussed the role of a Matriarch in the family. She’ll figure it out just like I did and all the mothers through time have figured it out. The maternal lineage once worshipped as Inanna and Devi, Isis and Gaia, is intact. For when one lioness departs, another is there to take her place in raising the next generation of mothers through the cycles of life. It’s what the Matriarchs do!

Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to or email

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