In one of the oldest written epics in the world, The Enuma Elish, a grandmother, Tiamat, is murdered and dismembered by her own grandson. He splits her in half “like a shellfish” in language that will form the basis for the first chapter of Genesis as Yahweh divides and orders the “primordial chaos” of the world.
The word used for that chaos in the bible is “tehom” which is derived from Tiamat. The primordial grandmother.
Why does granny have to go? Patriarchy, the drunken delusion of an agricultural people convinced they can triumph over the inexplicable, uncontrollable ways of nature, has no use for the post-menopausal woman.
Her body can no longer be “ploughed” and forced into fertility. Her fields are barren. She is useless–a mouth to feed, a gossip, a harpie, a hag, a crone.
She tells the young women things the men don’t want the to know. She remembers the old magic. The old chaos. She is the chaos. She is the dark mysteries of the deep. Patriarchy’s first act is to mutilate and demote the grandmother.
In reality, in nature, grandmothers are a stabilizing influence on packs and herds. Grandma elephants keep adolescent bulls from going rogue. The presence of a grandmother is the house is the single best predictor for a child’s health and well being.
But the priests (of all religions) need to demote the grandmother in order for them to assert their dominance and expertise.
Recently I was visiting a church and saw the young pastor talking about this or that from the pulpit. And in the pew were (mostly) old women: who had birthed children, kept children fed on no money, fought for their families, kept them house, stayed up all night nursing them through fevers, had buried children and lovers.
Who is the wisdom holder?
To whom should we turn for guidance?
Old women in our culture are disappeared and dismissed. Post-menopausal women hide their gray hairs and their wrinkles trying to assert their viablity in the cultural conversation.
Old men accumulate wealth and power and younger and younger wives.
Old women live at the edge of town with their herbs and their cats.
I pray the Hail Mary because it is the mantra of old women.
Old women midwifed these words into the world as a way of hiding their ancient devotion to the Great Mother in plain sight of the priest. To dismiss the Hail Mary as a “Christian” prayer is to let the priests win. Is to let Marduk win as he divides the young women form the old women and all women from their power.
The Hail Mary is a RADICAL invocation of the triple goddess. It is the witchiest of spells and the most ancient of magics.
Is it any wonder it is mostly old women who still pray it?
We can write them off or we can join hands with them and rebirth the power of the grandmother back into the world.
full of graces
thy lover is with thee
Blessed art thou
and blessed is
the fruit of they womb,
Grandmother of the Cosmos,
pray for us now
and at the hour of our death.
To pray the Hail Mary is to join forces with Tiamat…with Ningal, with Demeter, with Diana, with Isis and Nut, with all the forgotten mothers, named and unnamed who have guided us to this moment.
Don’t be ashamed or fearful of praying the Hail Mary. It is the most radical thing you can do in this patriarchal catastrophe.
*Image is from the remarkable Turkish TV series The Gift, which explores the relationship of maidens, mothers and grandmothers with deep and surprising wisdom. When, if I turn eighty, I’m getting this lady’s tattoos on my face.