A Special Kind of Mother

Peace-of-Eden Series, no.1, 2006

‘To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.’ Simon Weill (philosopher, 1991)

It is important to be rooted within the foundational context of a relationship with a parent, a family and a place. There is a lion in the Serengeti called Kumunyak. He was found mothering an oryx calf – a baby buck. He ambushed the buck and kidnapped her from her natural birth mother. As rural Masai Mara tribespeople watched, Kumunyak and the calf began to starve – the lioness because she would not waiver from her motherly duties to hunt, she would not let the calf wander from her attentive eye, and the calf because she had no mothering buck teat from which she could drink milk. The two lie down together or wander aimlessly, the oryx calf intent on finding his mother, and Kumunyak intent on not letting this little calf out of her sight! But why would a lion mother an oryx calf?

Apparently this lioness lost her pride when she was still a youngster. Her need for the cuddling, playing, feeding and hunting life skills her mother would have provided, and the care of others in the lion pride, went unmet, but the longing still remained. As with many human children who have been removed too early from their ‘mothering place’, Kumunyak attempts to meet this deep need to be rooted with a mother and a pride, by trying to give what she never had to the oryx calf. This unusual relationship between the lioness and her cross-species calf was compromising their own natural species-specific ways of surviving. As with human children who have not had good enough mothering, Kumunyak attempts to gain more mothering and pride caring in immature and inappropriate ways. Her unusual behavior touched a deep cord in my heart as I very visually realized how deep and fundamental that need for mothering love and affection and a sense of belonging within one’s own pride or family is for any youngster born within a lion pride or a human family.

It is Lynda Wheelwright Schmidt, Jungian analyst and author, who agrees with this sentiment when she explains that most of us in westernized societies experience a double ‘abandonment wound’: '… the pain and anxiety of abandonment caused by children being separated too early from the 'safe place' with their mothering person (female or male)…Psychotherapy and other forms of psychic healing have moved into this breach, with their methods of providing a safe place, a re-creation of the original 'safe place' with the mother person (male or female). From this safe place clients can explore and find healing for not only the wound particular to their own life, but also the abandonment wound everyone shares.'

By the ‘abandonment wound everyone shares’ she is pertaining to the fact many of us no longer live in close contact with ‘Mother Nature’, and she continues: ‘Entering the wilderness and its microcosms - (even) gardens and parks - gives us an opportunity to rest our fragile psyches from the exhaustion of trying to stay intact in the civilized world, which is so alien to many of us. Merger with a therapist can heal our primary abandonment wound, but merger with nature can reconnect us to the ancient roots of the Self as well.'