“The woman I needed to call my mother was sacrificed before I was born.” Adrienne Rich
A story began a hundred years before I was born. It wove its narrative through the lives of my great-great-grandmother, my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother. I was ignorant to any and every part of this story. It was hidden like the bloody room behind the locked door in the Bluebeard story. The message Bluebeard gave his young new wife was that she could open any door to his castle except one. His wife had the choice and, in his absence, chose to disobey him. On opening the door, the room was full of blood and the corpses of his former wives hanging on hooks. Sacrificed women who dared to disobey the patriarch and walk through the forbidden door. My true ancestry was hidden behind just such a locked door and I had been told the hidden message never to go there.
The secret story I was born into was my story. It was in me but unrecognizable. It didn’t fit with the external narrative. I wasn’t who I thought I was or who I was told I was. I didn’t belong to myself.
The story was still alive. It ruled my mind, my heart and my spirit. It led me into scenarios that were echo chambers to the past. I was blind to why my life was playing out in the way it was – drugs, domestic violence, homelessness, difficulty mothering, marginality, poverty, cancer… It didn’t make sense at all. Where was the thread that led me here and how could I untangle myself and become free and me?
My soul was humming silently in every cell. Trying to get me to listen to it. I ignored it–deaf to it. A colonizer had taken my inner soil. My psyche tried again and again to replay the scenario in my life’s events so I would recognize the intruder. The intruder made me fearful and loathe myself. It had impregnated the mother with its message repeatedly – over generations. Only the colonizer existed. He stole each mother’s earth, generation after generation. Like a cuckoo leaving its eggs in another bird’s nest, the colonizer impregnates the land and the mother with his narcissism.
No empathy, no connection, no love, no other – only the colonizer exists. Two hundred years after my motherline’s land in the hills of Assam was colonized by the British, the spirit of the colonizer is still in my blood fighting with the mother of that land and its people that is also in my blood. It is my clan, my ground, my dirt.
India gained its independence in 1947, 18 years before I was born. My motherline is still colonized. I am still struggling to find myself in the liminal space between the ghosts that live in me, the colonizer and colonized. He whispers to my feminine reminding her that she is a bad mother, she has no rights. She tries to negotiate with him, to persuade him to ‘see’ her. If she stands up to him and connects with her power, she is terrified that he will take away her child.
He didn’t want the children he impregnated, he didn’t like them, he hated that dark part in them, the part he refused to acknowledge. The soil, the mother, the land, the body. He uses her love for them against her. She has no choice but to look him in the eye – in herself, in her mother, in her grandmother and so on until his camouflage crumbles and he is exposed for what he truly is – a gangster.
But she can’t look him in the eye without dying until she has decolonized herself enough to know where she comes from and who she really is. If there is one thing the colonizer cannot allow to happen is that she recognizes herself – for if she does, colonization of the motherline is no longer possible.
I hated my body, my mother hated hers, my grandmother let hers eat her away. My body wasn’t mine–it was his. He took it and used it, hated it, beat it, raped it, threatened it and betrayed it. My motherline became ‘evergreen content’ for the business of colonization. Nothing to do, the rewards come in by themselves. We have all internalized the colonizer, not just in our minds–he is in our blood. Reminding us daily how our bodies, our energy, our creations, our souls are his.
But there is one thing that the colonizer spirit didn’t count on and that was our soul. This can never be totally colonized. It comes through the women from the ancient grandmothers generation after generation. It is visceral, embodied – carried in our mitochondrial DNA for thousands of years. It has always been there waiting in the egg to be activated into life. It can’t be silenced. Colonization can stop us recognizing it. The colonization of mind and spirit numbs us to feeling – the soul speaks through feeling. Our soul does not think, we do not think our soul – we feel it and it feels us. It’s a wave of energy, of ancient and accumulated information – a living sensation felt in the body. It is life living through us.
Decolonizing the motherline reconnects us with our souls, our embodied aliveness, our connection to the ancestral grandmothers, our innate wisdom, our birthright, our sense of belonging to ourselves. We rediscover the pulse of life that anchors us to our story, to life, to the earth. I almost died searching for my soul, I looked everywhere. Desperately hunting for the piece of myself that was missing–a way home. I didn’t realize that both home and the way home were within me.
There were many layers to peel away before my awareness could feel her fluttering within me. Soul doesn’t shout, dominate, threaten to make herself felt. Soul flutters very gently within as if a butterfly flying through the body.
The human soul has been colonized for centuries. Colonized by our own minds, colonized by the collective spirit of patriarchy. Our colonized mothers and our grandmothers have done the work of colonization so well, teaching us from birth to believe our minds and not our bodies. To think and not to feel, to search rather than to tend.
I realize now my mother was lost before I met her. She, like her mother, wasted her precious life trying to fit into a space that wasn’t hers. Her colonized mind overrode her soul and led her to uphold the worldview that prevented her from belonging to herself, being herself, loving herself and all the grandmothers whose shoulders she stood on.
Emptiness is all there is when we are programmed to no longer feel, when we are stolen by a wounded, power-hungry narcissistic mindset. It is like a virus that enters the organism and turns it against itself. An auto-immune disease of the Self. We have let the enemy in, and it has taken over our systems, our minds. It has programmed us to deny the existence of the feminine, of the aliveness of our own matter, of the wisdom of our soulfulness.
It’s a long journey home. Decolonizing asks us to recognize what is ours and what isn’t. What is our wildest, innate nature and what is ‘socialized’ by a system that cares only for its power-hungry self. Patriarchy is a system that will and can never recognize soul because to recognize soul is to relinquish control to it. Soul naturally leads us through life, its accumulated embodied wisdom is the bedrock of being alive. All the soul needs is to be felt, recognized as life itself.
As my soul is one with all the ancestral grandmothers of my motherline, as I feel her existence within me, I feel it within them. Our lineage is cleared of four generations of colonization and our ancients can come through again as is their right, their role, their need. The feminine is rising through our motherliness. Be quiet, go within and feel her ascending though our bodies to finally partake and take her rightful place in the dance of life. She has her warrior gear on, she knows time is running out. We can’t heal the illness of humanity with the same system that wounded it in the first place. Don’t look for her in that crumbling old system for she is not there, she is busy expressing herself in the shadows, the dark corners of our psyches. She is asking us to partner with her and do our own house cleaning. She is holding our hands as we expose the gangsters, the colonizers, the patriarchs we have been sheltering within us. She reminds us that this is the work we must do. The inner work is where we must take responsibility, each of us. I cannot see my own mother, the woman I want to grieve, until I have done the work of decolonizing my motherline. I need to grieve for my mother and not the woman who was “sacrificed before I was born.”