I just read a fascinating article about the Heavenly Mother. The author does a good job in laying out known references for a Heavenly Mother, both in modern and ancient text. I had no idea there were so many references to her in the Old Testament. There is enough in this article to blog about for a lifetime, but the one thing I am thinking about right now is the symbol of the tree.
God's wife or Heavenly Mother, known as Asherah, in ancient Hebrew has many different symbolic words, epitaphs, metaphors and such associated with her, such as Happiness, Blessedness, Sanctuary, Breasts-and-Womb, Fertility, and Lady Wisdom, but according to scholars and archaeologists the tree or sacred pole or stump of sacred tree, has been the way in which she was both worshiped and idolized.
When you look at our scripture cannon, there are so many trees: the Tree of Life (in the Garden as well as the one in Nephi's dream), the Tree of Knowledge, numerous olive tree references, fig trees, the sticks (wood) of Jesse and Judah, and many more.
When God commands Adam and Eve with regard to childbearing he says, "be fruitful," using the tree analogy. Trees are also a symbol of the earth in general. On Earth day we plant trees. We refer to the Earth in the feminine, as Mother Earth. In his article, Barney shows that the Hebrew translations of the Old Testament suggest that the Mother in Heaven was present and aided during the creation of the earth. Thus, the term Mother Earth feels even more appropriate. (p. 14)
Whether one goes in for scholarship or not, I think we can all appreciate the idea of having something to represent our Heavenly Mother. His article specifically denounces idol worship, but just as we use, hymns, art, and other things to edify us and remind us of Heavenly Father, Jesus, the prophets, and holy women in the scriptures, I think it totally appropriate and even necessary to have some way of honoring our Mother in Heaven.
One of his suggestions for how to honor her, which I think is appropriate at this time of year is to change our association with Christmas trees and think about Heavenly Mother as we are thinking about the birth of the son of God.
He also suggests that we can have art that represents Her and our love for her. I have a beautiful piece of art on my wall, by an artist named Jackie Brethen Lieshman. Her work is mixed media, photography and collage and this particular piece is of a tree. She photographed many trees and sewed and glued the different pieces of photography together to make this collage that all hinges from the trunk of one tree. It is one of the most precious things I own. I look at it every morning and think how blessed I am to have such a beautiful piece of art. Now it has even more meaning to me.
Another thing that I am thinking of is how after my daughter was born, I bought a tree and planted her placenta under it. I thought this was a lovely symbolic gesture of giving back to the earth and using the placenta, which nurtured her, to nurture the tree which would then bear fruit and nurture her again. I never thought of it, then, but it is also a way to symbolically honor the Heavenly Mother.
How has your understanding of the Heavenly Mother changed with pregnancy/motherhood, if at all? I'd like to hear about it.