Celebrations of mothers and motherhood occur throughout the world; many of these have histories can be traced back to ancient festivals….
There is evidence of mother goddess worship in the ancient world, dating back as far as 6.000 BC, and many mother goddess shrines could be found in ancient times inAsia minor.
Ancient Greece imported the Mother Goddess cult from Asia Minor, in the form of a festival to Cybele, a great mother of Greek gods. It was held around the Vernal Equinoxaround Asia Minor. Originally they identified Cybele with Rhea, the mother of gods. The details were not recorded, and we only know that the goddess was attended by galli.
Ancient Romans appropriated the cult to Cybele/Rhea in order to absorb culturally the Greeks and the habitants of Asia Minor, honoring Cybele in the Hilaria festivals, from theIdes of March (15 March) to 18 March. But the Romans were horrified by the Greek celebrations; they quickly associated the cult to the Roman version of Cybele and they made up their own customs. They also made a separate festival in April dedicated to Magna Deorum Mater Idaea, a version of Cybele that was even further separated from Greek customs. The two goddesses, Cybele and Mater Idaea, were eventually merged into a single entity that was completely Romanized, although they kept using galli.
The festivals of Cybele evolved into the Christian festival of Mothering Sunday, honouring the Virgin Mary and your mother church (the main church of the area) It’s now a long standing tradition, part of the liturgical calendar in several Christian denominations, including Anglicans, and in the Catholic calendar it is marked as Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent.
Children and young people who were “in service” (servants in richer households) were given a day off on that date so they could visit their families (or, originally, return to their “mother” church). The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place them in the church or to give them to their mothers as gifts.
Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into a secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers. This festival survived in the UK and Ireland for longer than in other European countries, and it was repopularised in the 20th Century. Most people are unaware of its historical origins, and regard Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day as the one and same festival.
Ancient romans had a different unrelated holiday, Matronalia, that was dedicated to Juno; it was intended to favor the fertility of married women. Married women, independently of whether they were mothers or not, made private parties where they prayed for happiness in their marriages and prepared dishes for their female slaves. The husbands gave money and gifts to their wives and prayed for their pregnancy. It was complemented by the Saturnalia festival, where male slaves were given freedom and wives gave presents to their husbands. It was celebrated when the harvests were planted.
So, to all women out there how are Mothers, want to be mothers and are soon to be mothers…
Happy Mothers day!
Dates around the world