Whether it’s our species’ genes celebrating their eternal life through another generation; our mammalian compulsion to care for the helpless young; or simply that a baby is pure love incarnate,
there’s no denying the magic of birth – we humans are natural-born baby-worshippers! Their newly-forged spirits shine brightly, and we sense something so special about this new being.
The ancient Celts talked of thin places – places where the barrier is thin between heaven and earth. Samhain is a time when the veil is thin between the worlds. Birthing time is one of those special, thin times, too – the veil is thin as baby crosses over into this world.
Poet William Wordsworth describes newborns: “trailing clouds of glory do we come… Heaven lies about us in our infancy“
It’s hard to believe! A year ago, I was cuddling my tiny, fragile-seeming newborn, still just days old.
 I came across this idea in a blog post and love it – it has become incorporated into my own spiritual philosophy. I regret I cannot credit the woman who introduced me to the idea – her blog post is lost to me in a long trail of cyberspace history…
All Creation Waits, (c) Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com
Advent and the Universal Child
Then as an adult I learned that midwinter has long been associated with birth and birth legend, complete with deities and celestial wonders – in fact, because of this, in some cultures, solstice has been called Mother’s Night.
What a beautiful season for my own birthing time!
I realized that one of the reasons for the mass emotional resonance Christmas has, is that, perhaps, deep down we are recognizing the specialness of every child born when we celebrate this sacred birth - a celebration of the inherent worth and dignity of each of us.
 Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials: Yule: Rituals, Recipes, and Lore for the Winter Solstice, Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN, 2015.
Mary and the Universal Mother
I wrestled with the contrast between the cherished, celebrated newborn and the isolation and hardship the human journey can lead through:
because of my decision to have a baby, 50 years from now there could be a homeless man, perhaps mentally ill and estranged from his family. Or 80 years down the road, an isolated woman lying in a hospital bed…
It can break a new mom’s heart to think that I won’t always be there to help my child in her times of need. But that’s as it should be – every child needs their village, all through their life. But there are things I can do…
- I can give her the loving foundation that will help her all her life.
- I can help create the world that I want my child to be born into –
- I am surrounded by other mothers’ children (of all ages) everywhere I go – I can treat them with
I can honour the essential spirit in each of us, that shines so clearly at our births.
Through my fears, I met the comfort and practical love of the universal mother.
Anne Lamott writes, in her book, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, “it helps me beyond words to look at myself through the eyes of Mary, totally adoring and gentle, instead of through the critical eyes of the men at the Belvedere Tennis Club, which is how I’ve looked at myself nearly all my life. I don’t think the men at the Belvedere Tennis Club would look at this big exhausted, weepy, baggy, mentally-ill, cellulite unit we call Anne Lamott and see a beautiful, precious, heroic, child. But Mary does.”
Longest Night, (c) Jan L. Richardson. janrichardson.com
It’s amazing how the process just flows along, beyond my own volition, like watching a garden grow through the summer.
It was amazing to experience my body and hers spiral apart, in that ancient dance our bodies naturally knew so well.
Nature is the foundation of my spirituality, so it was very special to experience myself as part of nature in this new way.
While I was pregnant, for the first time I noticed how strange it is to call newborns “the new arrival.” I mean, who are we kidding? They’ve been here all along! (pats belly) It’s not as if they had to pack a bag for the flight (as sweet as the “stork” idea is).
I preferred to think of birth as a baby’s transformation from water creature to earth creature – taking its first breath.
But the idea of a journey turned out to be a powerful metaphor for me in birth. I saw a sea before me, with a distant shore, which I crossed over to in a little personal sized boat - to return together with the baby. The birthing waves carried us onward, along with a fair bit of rowing by me! It was archetypal – a hero’s journey, with no guarantee of a safe return for either of us.
It was an identity-transforming journey, in which I started to identify with the role of Mother - I learned new depths of my determination and resolve, and new heights of gratitude for the grace
that allowed me to bring my baby safely home.
Does it seem strange to you that I speak in such epic, legendary terms of an ordinary event that happens every day? But this is one of life’s beautiful mysteries – each of our lives, from birth to death – is ordinary… and legendary!
was a theme song for me during my approach to motherhood – it fit so well with the spirit of the advent season!