The Ancient History of Mother’s Day

The majority of countries that celebrate Mother’s Day do so on the second Sunday of May. On this day, it is common for Mothers to be lavished with presents and special attention from their families, friends and loved ones.


But it wasn’t always this way…


Did you know the (only recently dubbed) “Mother’s Day,” (the highly traditional practice of honoring of Motherhood) is rooted on ancient societies who celebrate Goddesses rather than actual Mothers?


The personal, human touch (flowers, gifts and cards) to Mother’s Day is a relatively new phenomenon. Only in the past few centuries did celebrations of Motherhood develop a decidedly human celebration.

Basically, “mother’s day” originated from ‘Goddess worship.’



Ancient Origin of Mothers Day


Goddess Isis – Early Egyptian Roots

One of the earliest historical records of a society celebrating a Mother deity can be found among the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honor the goddess Isis, who was commonly regarded as the Mother of the pharaohs.



So the story goes, after Isis’ brother-husband Osiris was slain and dismembered in 13 pieces by their jealous brother Seth, Isis re-assembled Osiris’ body and used it to impregnate herself. She then gave birth to Horus, whom she was forced to hide, or else he be slaughtered by Seth too. Horus grew up and defeated Seth, and then became the first ruler of a unified Egypt. This is how Isis earned her stature as the Mother of the pharaohs.

It is interesting to note that the Mother and Son imagery of Isis and Horus—in which Isis cradles and suckles her son—is strikingly similar to that of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.


Cybele – Ancient Roman Celebration

The festival of Isis was also celebrated by the Romans who used the event to commemorate an important battle and mark the beginning of Winter. Despite being an imported deity, Isis held a place at the Roman temple, and her festival—which lasted for three days—was regaled by mostly-female dancers, musicians and singers.


Yet the Roman root of Mother’s Day is perhaps more precisely found in the celebration of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, or Magna Mater (Great Mother).


Also known as Kybele, Magna Mater and the Mother of the Gods, the worship of this goddess spread throughout the Roman Empire. Originally Phrygian, she was a goddess of caverns, of the Earth in its primitive state; worshipped on mountain tops. She ruled over wild beasts, and was also a bee goddess.

Her festival came first on the Roman calender. Along with her lover, the vegetation God Attis, Cybele was worshipped in wild, emotional, bloody, orgiastic, cathartic ceremonies.


Greek Celebration of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods

In Rome and Asia Minor, Cybele was the major Mother deity most similar to Rhea, the Greek mother of the Gods.



In classical Greek mythology, Rhea was the Titaness daughter of Uranus (Sky Father) and Gaia (Mother Earth) in classical Greek mythology.


Rhea is the wife of her brother Cronus and is called the mother of the gods because she gave birth to the Olympians—  Demeter, Hades, Hera, Hestia, Poseidon and Zeus.

Cronus was fearful of his children, so he swallowed them, but when Zeus was born, Rhea fed her husband a stone instead, dressed as a newborn. When Zeus grew up, he destroyed Cronus with Rhea’s help.


Eerily similar to the Isis-Osiris, brother-sister-love (with hunted son growing up to destroy his father) chronicle, isn’t it?


About Denise

What is life? What are goals? What is family? What are friends? I am Denise Cabrero, an inquisitive writer hobbyist who wishes to answer questions through her writings.

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