No single universal symbol for mother exists – that would be impossible. The Mother can be found everywhere, from the heights of the planets down to the Earth’s surface. Each person and creature on the Earth have a mother, making it reasonable that we each would have different, distinct ideas about what characterizes them.
Symbols are unique and personal to each of us, so there are no right or wrong interpretations. Because of this, the symbols associated with her are seemingly infinite. However, some are more common and prevalent than others, which are detailed below.
The triple spiral, also called the Triskelion symbol, is an ancient Celtic symbol with many spiritual aspects to it. However, the mother is definitely one of the strongest, as the branching out of the spirals is strongly indicative of the phases of womanhood: maiden, mother, and crone, all of which are connected.
As a young maiden, a woman experiences her innocent and pure state before progressing onward to her time of motherhood. During motherhood, a woman acts with compassion and as the primary nurturer. As is the nature of life, one must grow old. For a mother, this phase is symbolized by a crone: the wiser, more experienced feminine state.
Another popular personified symbol of the mother comes in the form of goddesses. Depicted as a full moon with a crescent on either side, the Mother Goddess also focuses on the three aspects of womanly development (maiden, mother, and crone). This interpretation comes from the ancient Greek astrology, who associated each phase of womanhood with a different goddess: the maiden phase with Persephone, the mother with Demeter, and the crone with Hecate. Like the triple spiral, these moons, too, symbolize the different phases of a mother’s life and the traits that she exudes during each of them. Furthermore, the three moons may also represent the natural life cycle of birth, life, and death that all things experience.
In Hinduism, Lakshmi is considered the mother goddess. Beautiful and benevolent, Lakshmi is considered the goddess of light and good fortune and luck: the mother of all kindnesses. Represented by the lotus, Lakshmi and her yantra facilitate all that is good and progressive in one’s spiritual life. In this way, she is nurturing our spiritual and mental faculties.
To the Hopi Native Americans, Kachina symbols are very sacred spirits that make their presence known on Earth during the winter and summer solstices. The Kachina associated with being a mother is thought to be a crow who appears with a basket full of sprouts to symbolize seed germination- a miracle if it occurs in the winter. Like other maternal figures, she is nurturing, loving, and offering.
The Hopi also use the Tapuat to symbolize maternal energy. It is depicted as a labyrinth in order to represent the attachment of a fetus to its mother, the stages of life, and a path of moving and growing up. In the center (or the amniotic sac), we begin our journey through life as our mothers’ bodies work endlessly to nourish us. From there, we extend outward through the maze, finding our way with the help of her maternal guidance.
Other Native American groups recognized maternal properties in the turtle. In many Native American folk legends, the turtle is the physical manifestation of Mother Earth, who is honored for saving mankind from a Great Flood. She is stoic and silent, moving gently and gracefully, demonstrating a calm demeanor while channeling a sound intuition. As the immortal mother in the body of a turtle, she carries the heavy burdens of life on her own, just as a mother tries to do for her own children. Additionally, some believe that the thirteen sections of the turtle’s underbelly correspond to the thirteen moons and, as we know, moons are extremely feminine and maternal in nature.
As with all symbols, interpretation is subjective. If something speaks to you of maternal energies, listen to it.