For as long as I can remember, two figures in mythology/ religion/ history have held particular interest in my ever spindling imagination- Amazon warriors and angels.
Odd combination, right?
Amazons have been portrayed as fearless warrior women, statuesque in physique and cold hearted towards men. Muscular but feminine, skilled in hand to hand combat and with weapons, and slaying men that got in the path of the hunt, all while maintaining a society with nothing but women- seems intimidating. In pop culture, these women are always brusquely beautiful, streaked with mud and the blood of the kill, eyes shining with ferocity beneath the muck. In Greek mythology, their image is slightly different (but no less threatening). The practice of cutting off their left breasts to better aim a bow and arrow was a common assumption in the legends. The translation of their queen’s name? “Unbridled mare”. This society was protective of their own and relentless to outsiders.
Angels, on the other hand, have a starkly contrasted image in pop culture. Cherub faced, rolls of baby fat on the arms, leaning over clouds- angelic. Another popular image is the saintly angel, elegant and ethereal, surreal in appearance, with a glowing aura of purity and light. Massive wings of white feathers sprout from their backs as they sing of the glory of God.
The images of the Amazon and the angel don’t really, what’s the word, mesh, do they?
There is a painting of Michael, the arch angel of God, raising a mighty sword to stab Satan, whose face is shoved under Michael’s foot. While I don’t agree with the imagery wholly (I think it will be God, not an angel, that really kills the red devil), he looks terrifying and breathtaking, all at once. There are many Bible verses that refer to angels inciting fear in those that see them; others refer to them as the warriors of God. Personally, I like their duality in how they are portrayed. I find great comfort in it. Even though pop culture has decided that angels should be “angelic”, they are truly fierce and vigilant, watching over the constant battle between good and evil, ready to smite the threats that cross them.
Changing gears now- the modern mother is portrayed in pop culture as somewhere between an Amazon and an angel. She is healthy, strong, an expert juggler of tasks and time, saintly and protective for her children, a vixen for her husband, and a regular Martha Stewart in the kitchen.
The “modern mother” seems more unrealistic to me than angels and Amazons, btdubs. But this post isn’t about the fantasy of these iconic images.
There is a lullaby I sing to Fletch just about ever night (and have since we brought him home from the hospital). It’s by Jewel and the lyrics are:
All through the night I’ll be watching over you
And all through the night I’ll be standing over you
And through bad dreams I’ll be right here baby telling you
Everything is going to be all right
And when you cry I’ll be right here baby telling you
You’re never nothing less than beautiful
Don’t you worry, I’m your angel standing by
This has been one of my favorite songs since I was eleven or twelve (since the first Jewel album came out), and while I’ve always liked the melody and the lyrics, it wasn’t until I really reconsidered the image of an angel that I understood the song.
The idea of an angel (or a mother) standing guard at an infant’s bedside is comforting. Maybe your brain took you a step further, and the angel (or mother) is watching the child with a smile of affection, sweeping wispy tresses of baby hair away from the child’s eyes. A bad dream awakens the baby, and the angel (or mother) picks up the child, cradles him, and kisses away any tears before replacing him in his crib. The imagery is peaceful and sweet.
But angels, and mothers for that matter, have a lot more to fend off than bad dreams. There is true evil that lurks out there, and while it may not be Skynet ready to wipe my baby off the face of the Earth, there may be a whole host of people with bad intentions, or simply “not good” intentions, for my child.
And I’ll be darned if I’m not armed to the teeth to protect him.
Ok, ok, I sound a little too intense. Yes, we have to let our children “fall” so they can learn to “stand up on their own”, and yes, there are some things from which we cannot protect our children. But while they are young, I believe it is important, nay, crucial, for our children to believe that we are impervious. To instill trust in us- trust in our judgment, trust in our strength, trust in our absolute ability to protect them- children must see us as pillars. Why, you ask? Without a leader in their lives, children grow up insecure and unsure of authority, often assuming those in control are inept or incapable of holding a position of power. As adults, children with weak parents (or without parents at all) tend to show poor relationship skills, a general lack of trust, and a higher likelihood to have addiction.
For those that don’t know, I have a tattoo of angel wings across my shoulder blades. A little tacky (ok, really tacky), and it was a bad decision when I was 19, but when my boy sees them, maybe he will stop to wonder. I want my child to see me as a woman that stands somewhere between “Amazon” and “angel” – a loving mother with strong arms (and a tan. I’d also like to be tan in this mental image) who will shield him from any harm, who is poised for battle, and ready to sprint relentlessly after any bad dream (or anything else bad) to chase it away. I want him to know that the song I sing to him every night is absolutely true, and that he is absolutely safe.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea! Let me know if I’m totally crazy or spot on.