First published in Matrifocus, Beltane, 2004
In a time before time, women wandered alone in the twilight of motherloss. Though everyone was born of flesh, no motherlight illuminated their barren ha lf-lives. By the time the red eggs came to guide them back home the women believed that mothers were merely sighing vessels of frailty. They never knew a mother’s two hands, one to give her children the limitless vision of themselves and the other to gallantly defend their new life until that potential can be born from spirit into skin. They never knew that it was a mother’s compassion that tore the land with raging volcanoes and quakes, then succored it into fertile valleys. They had forgotten that they were daughters at all.
Each egg was blood scarlet and fit snugly into a woman’s hand as she embraced it. No creature ever hatched from them, nor did they crack or the brilliance of their color dull. They seemed to originate from nowhere, yet they sudd enly appeared everywhere women’s minds strayed from the moment into themselves. An egg might materialize on a subway track just as a woman was gazing out the window or a gardener might unearth one where she had planted a bulb. Women visiting cemeteries many times found one tucked behind the headstone of a woman whose grave had been well-tended when new, but then had become overrun and battered by later generations.
The woman who finally brought the Mothers home was called Ana, though in later years she would be known affectionately and gratefully as the First Daughter. Ana’s first egg arose at a crossroads, its tip sticking up just above the gravel while cars whizzed over it. She knew what it was the first moment she saw it, but abandoned it so that it could be claimed by the more worthy woman for whom it must have been intended. When it was still in the same place the next day she ran through the traffic and gathered it up to save it for its owner.
In time she claimed the egg for her own and it became as precious to her as her own heart. When she pondered all the eggs that no one had ever come back for, she wept with amazement that she had found her mission. From youth into middle age Ana crossed oceans to collect red eggs abandoned by people who could not hold within themselves the bafflement of their mystery.
Ana stored the red eggs in a cabinet in her kitchen until they overflowed its wooden walls, then she dumped them by the barrel full into a shed in her garden. In time the eggs spilled out the door, rolling over the doorstep and across her feet. When the structure could hold no more, she ripped apart the shed’s nailed walls and pried off the windows, hurling the rubble away until a pyramid of eggs that had formed in the center basked in the no onday sun. Day and night, week after week, Ana kept vigil by the eggs to shield them from harm until hunger and exhaustion told her that she must build a temple around them instead.
Her temple, she knew, must be like the eggs, inviolable on the outside, yet nurturing to new life growing within. She molded an oval with a round hole in the top to let in the light. After the first layer was hardened other women came and began to bind to it symbols of what they wished to mother within themselves. Soon feathers and jewels and dirt from home, and photos, and letters and pieces of art all adorned the simple white frame.
When the temple walls could hold no more the women processed in and encircled the eggs, each adding her own red egg to the pile. Like Ana had done before them, the women kept watch around the pyramid, but now, when one grew tired or hungry, she left, sure that others would remain steadfast in her place. As the hours passed, twilight stole in through the top window and the eggs glowed and quick ened. In their shadow, a gathering of mothers took form beyond the ring of women, outside their circle, but still infusing it.
“Welcome back,” one of the spirit women said. “This place was the Home of the Mothers. In our time, Goddess was Mother and we were the women who were Her most perfect expression. Here we gathered when the love of the mothers created a universe, when mothers were called upon to defeat demons, when mothers were honored. Our inspiration was the Red Egg that has now been reborn, the symbol of the One Mother. By offering this mothering to you, we enabled you to invent agriculture, the arts of civilization, justice and religion and all that is the basis of your world, and preserved you from the cold, the wind, and the water, and the violence within your own nature.
“When it was time, when no one praised us anymore, we shattered the Red Egg into a million pieces. We scattered, some disappearing to wait and others to fulfill our roles as best we could alone and unsung. We hid the eggs around the globe and each spring you have remembered enough of the past to go searching for them. Now that you have brought the shards back together, look into them and see what you truly are.”
As each woman looked into the pyramid of red eggs, she saw herself as she had appeared to her flesh mother at her birth. At that first moment every woman could have any future she wished, could be anyone she wished, was capable of accomplishing any task she desired. When two moments of her life her life h ad passed, her choices began to be limited to only a facet of what was a moment before was infinitely-faced. She saw all the ignored opportunities that had been gently lain in her path, just like the red eggs, and she forgave herself. She relived all th e moments when the protecting light of the mothers had shone through the cracks in her dreariness and she had transformed devastation into initiation, and she rejoiced in herself.
When each woman turned her face from the Red Egg she saw all the other wom en as they had first been to their mothers. Still, to her they were not as infants whose souls were seeds of potential, but as the women they would have been had their mothering been limitless. In seeing themselves thus in one another’s eyes, they became those women and the Red Egg flamed ever more vividly.
The women processed out of the temple and everything they beheld was new. Trees surrounding the garden, insects feeding on the weeds, the most bedraggled marigolds and dame rockets and even the sun herself were both as they always were and at the same time one luminescent ecstatic being. It was a magnificence that the women, having experienced it, had no choice but to mother and be mothered by it. Ana and the women had finally come to their proper place in the world.
“This is what we were meant to do,” she whispered to the other women. “And now you are grown enough to do it,” one of the spirit women said.
“But you abandoned us!” Ana accused.
“We retreated, as all good mothers do when it is time for her children to grow up,” the spirit woman replied. “But now, after so many millennia, you are true mothers. You will mother one another and all you see, so you do not need us and we may rest.”
The spirit women passed on the flesh women the power of the mothers. It is a power that speaks the truth and demands to be heard. It is a power that joins with other motherforces on the planet, whether animal, plant, or mineral, to build a shell of safekeeping around all that is most dear and to crack the shell at the right time. It is a power whose vision reaches beyond a mother’s own children to the farthest reaches of perception. And so, “Mother Earth” became once more the “Earth of the Mothers” with the Red Egg at its core.