Benebell Wen’s “Mother Wound” Tarot Spread was the first deep dive into this “Mother Wound” and “Negative Mother Complex” that I wanted to tackle. I was going to do it yesterday, but my courage and energy had dried up by the time I was physically ready to do it.
I want to preface by saying that I wrote very little in the way of lead-in, and some of the things I mention could be a bit triggering with anyone who has a history of domestic abuse, drug or alcohol abuse. Unlikely, but possible.
I’d also like to note that I am no longer involved in a toxic or abusive family situation, and that I do not need to take legal action at this point. My situation growing up was less than ideal; many people have it worse than I did, and many people have it better. I am also seeing a professional.
I have reached a point in my healing where a lot of things in my past can be discussed as “fact” and I am not looking for pity or even sympathy. Rather, a reaction like “oh, that happened,” and moving on – a neutral reaction – is best for me at this point, as reactions that are full of sorrowful emotion, pity, sympathy, etc tend to make me feel uncomfortable and like I should have hidden or minimized the situation.
Also, if anybody feels the need to tell me “this didn’t happen the way you’re portraying it” I would like to tell you the following: this is the way that I remember it, and this is the way that I am reacting to it emotionally. We may remember it differently. Your comment does nothing to heal any emotional or mental traumas that I have experienced, and actually makes the situation worse. Memories do not stay perfect, complete, or unchanged in the brain and actually mutate slightly over time. Again, this is how I remember it, and it may be different than how you remember it, and neither of us needs to be wrong or right.
I think I have covered all of the bases, so let’s hop into my first intentional engagement with my festering mother wound, wherein lies much trauma.
Note: this post has been updated since it’s original posting.
1. What did my mother hope for me?
Four of Swords
I can only think that this means my mother wished for me to have a calm, restful life. From what I know of hers, it was one big chaotic mess after another, and it still is. The calm after the storm has passed, a bit of peace among all the chaos. Truly, that’s what every parent would – and should – want for their children.
2. What did my mother have to sacrifice because of me?
Ace of Pentacles
Stability, abundance, and careers all make sense here. My mom was young when she had me – she had barely turned 19. The thought of myself at 19 having a child, and not only that but this being the second pregnancy… it’s just laughable. She was still a child! She’d just miscarried twins! And yet, here she and my dad were starting a family, when at 19 I was trying to find my own feet in the world of adulthood.
As a child, I don’t remember my mother ever having a successful career. I don’t even know what she had wanted to be as far as her career! She had some intermittent jobs, pizza shop or restaurant, as well as her own house cleaning service, but ultimately none of them were long term careers, nor did they ever seem to last longer than a year. My mother did have to give in order to be home and raise myself and my sister. If she did have a job, she ended up needing to leave it because of her responsibilities as a parent and after prompting from my father.
3. What lesson did my mother learn because of me?
I haven’t been in close contact with my mother since I was 15 – 13 years ago, now – so I in no way will be able to reflect on who she is as a person now. So my interpretation here will be more self-focused. Also, my unfamiliarity with this card is definitely a limiter here, and during this reading I’ve found myself referencing Biddy Tarot a lot more than usual to get a better, deeper understanding of what may be going on.
Some things that definitely hold true for me and mesh with Hierophant Reversed: I am very much internally driven, I am very independent and learned very early on that I wasn’t going to get the external approval so I did things my own way. The status quo didn’t work for me, and as a child I would challenge that – what five year old would rather have tea with grandma than play with kids her own age, after all? I’ve never been a traditions person, and I’ve always been very focused on my own personal power. The Christian Church wasn’t IT for me partially because it was so external-focused, but also because I wasn’t allowed to ask questions. My mom was around for the first little bit of my rejection of Christianity, and I’m sure that she saw some of the really early days of my beginner baby witchcraft as I talked to my plants. I have always been very rebellious rather than following the crowd, especially when I didn’t think that something was right or it didn’t align with my values.
Is it possible that my mother ultimately started thinking about leaving my dad because of the budding strength I had as a teenager? How well do I really know her motives for leaving, especially when I’ve heard it through my dad’s words and my own pain for so long? Yes, my father told her that she needed to stop drinking and doing drugs, and get her alcoholism under control, or she would have to leave… and in the end she did leave… but how much of the leaving was in her mind already? I remember being pulled aside by her numerous times over the years, probably as young as 7 or 8, and being asked “would you live with me if me and your daddy split up?” And every time I told her no.
4. What is the best quality I inherited from my mother?
Knight of Pentacles, Reversed
If these are lessons I’ve learned and qualities I’ve inherited by observing someone or something that I did not want to become, I’ll agree. I had to learn how to run a household, exist in the day to day routines, and figure out how to make a secure life for myself because my mother wasn’t (mentally) there. As an adolescent I dedicated myself to obtaining self-discipline and upholding my commitments because my mother had modeled a life with neither; routines are greatly sought after because I have never known a routine and my life was chaos. With this negativity, though, comes some good: if the opposite of routine and schedule being spontaneity, I did inherit some desire in deviation from the routine. Still, I have worked endlessly on creating a stable and secure life for myself, I commit to something and do my best not to deviate, and I definitely pride myself on my impulse control and ability to control myself in almost any situation. Thanks, mom, for modeling “what not to do.”
5. What is the worst quality I inherited from my mother?
Queen of Swords
Cutting, sharp words. That’s the first thing this card makes me think of in relation to my mother. Yes, I have inherited that from her. I have a cold fury, and I will use that coldness to inflict wounds. If I disconnect from my emotions, I can go to that place very quickly and without realizing it. My search for and valuation of “truth” is such that I will act rashly, and charge forward in pursuit of it despite the feelings that I may be trampling over. I value the truth so much that I will choose it every time, despite my own feelings, and I will also tell you the truth…even if you don’t want to hear it. When I was living with my mother, I often had to shut myself out of my emotional life in order to survive. It always got to a point where I would have an emotional meltdown, resulting in hours of screaming, arguing, crying…and even blackouts. Sometimes these were very, very violent. (During one such event, the only memories I have are flashes of my mother pushing me down the stairs, and myself reaching up to grab her leg and pull her down with me. I was like 14 at the time. There is a lot of deep, deep trauma that I need to process here. I was emotion, and she was cold fury.)
I think the original positioning of this card was reversed, but recently I have been working on transforming these negative qualities and bringing them into my life as a more useful and healthy version of themselves. There are “good” associations with Queen of Swords, but none of them really apply to me…yet.
6. What lesson do I have to learn because of my mother?
Six of Swords, Reversed
“Let go of the past and move on,” is a lesson I have not yet learned. I’m working on it. Maybe that’s what this is telling me. It’s time to let it go. I know that. But I keep looking back. Every step I take towards letting go of this toxic relationship, I end up looking back and wondering “does this make me a bad person” and “is there any way I can fix this?” No – that is the answer to both questions. “Am I a bad daughter?” Maybe so, but I need to choose me for once. It’s time to choose me. I’m worried about so many things, including other people’s thoughts about me choosing to leave behind this relationship with my mother. I keep looking back and wishing things were different. Thinking, “what if,” thoughts. Well, “what if” doesn’t serve me – what if what? What if I could learn how to make this change and didn’t feel bad about it?
7. Optional – A message from my “Higher Angels”
What/Whoever my “Higher Angels” are, they’re definitely on my side here. Change, change, change. Thank you. I’m not resisting you anymore, I’m inviting you. When I was talking with my therapist about my “goals” relating to my work around my mother, I told her that I wanted to “get to a point where I can be neutral around topics that remind me of my mother’ – things like childhood memories no longer causing me great sadness or anger, hearing or seeing the word ‘mom’ and not having it trigger a festering wound to open in my gut and spew acid.
Two of the deities I’ve been working with this past year are Hel and Kali, and both of them come to mind here. A great change to overcome a great pain and achieve balance. A Death to the old me and the old hurts.
8. Optional – A message from my Maternal Grandma
The Tower, Reversed
Grandma Cora, thank you. I know that what I’m experiencing is a result of many cycles of abuse in our family. From what I’ve heard, you played a part in causing the hurts that my mother has received, and from those hurts she has passed them on to me. You, also, have experienced such hurts. We are generations of women that have learned so much about how to hurt each other, and so little on how to love each other. Thank you for the few moments I can remember with you where I was filled with joy. There were many moments that I remember that I was filled with fear, and they do impact me today. But I want to remember the joy with you. You were so artistic, and I was inspired to continue writing when I found out that you wrote poetry. I wish I could locate your poems now. It is a point of joy for me, and of pride that I shared this with my maternal grandmother.
The Tower, reversed, seems to be similar to the Upright Tower… though it’s different in that this is an internally stimulated change, upheaval and transformation. I’m choosing this work, and there’s going to be a lot that goes into it.
I asked on a Facebook group for other people to weigh in on the interpretations of this spread. I know my limitations, and I know that my experiences are coloring this reading. Susannah gave me a quick interpretation of this reading and while it’s still rough (this entire thing is rough. ouch.) it puts things together a bit more clearly, without going into each individual card. I’m uncomfortable doing this reading, and I’m uncomfortable sharing this reading, and I’m also uncomfortable sharing the interpretation and the stories that go into each of these. But. I’m sharing this process with you, vast void of the internet, because it’s a form of accountability for me. It’s also a convenient way to log everything.
This is what I said to my therapist when I asked to start this process: I’m not ready for this work. It’s terrifying. I’m afraid, and I want to hide and run away. But… if I don’t do it now, I’m going to call myself a coward. I can’t continue to live like this. I’ll be worthy of being called a coward! There are two things that, at the core of me, I know I absolutely am not: a liar, and a coward.
I am afraid of this journey. I’ve been dreading it, and I’ve been hiding, and I’ve been turning away when I should be moving forward. I’ve stopped and smelled the same flowers five times this year at least. I’ve ignored the signs from the universe for years because I’d rather experience the same cyclical relationships with maternal figures that cause me pain and are familiar than step into the dark and dirty work that is exploring the pain caused by this relationship with my mother and healing it.