I admit that I struggle between aspects of my deeper cultural self, wherein lies a battle between Deep Earth Celtic woman, mother, & elder-goddess centered spirituality and the message of Jesus Christ, which was brought to my people through bloodshed and domination by the Catholic Church, but also through early radical Christian communities that were deeply socialist and even communist, including artistic monks who interpreted their old Serpentine religion into a reading of early scripture called The Book of Kells.
It is also not at all a fantasy to remember an association to the image of the sweeping woman, the true Peasant Goddess, not a magic woman at all, but one deeply connected to healing and to food and to community, to one so Loving that she was a danger to all institutions because no institution can be more powerful than the Mother.
No Queen can claim the loyalty of the Mother over her sons and daughters, nor anyone she has truly fed.
But you don't hear me, though. If you are overwhelmed, as I sometimes am, by a seemingly perpetual drone of hatred and of violence, of capital and of waste, I ask you to join me in acknowledging that horrible ongoing din as the wreckage we are swimming in, but also, conversely, the scream of the Mother to her child, a voice that constantly wails: we must come closer to our Mothers and the Mothers must come closer to one another, for coming through the Mothers is the only way out of the mess we are in.
And we must not forget that the sweeping woman (whether she sweeps the hearth, the sky, or the Ocean, the archetype exists in working class culture all over the world, in Africa, The Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands, And Europe). She is in the Caribbean and she is in Ireland; she is in West Europe and in West Africa. She emerges from both with different features, but in all she exists as a warrior against the demons that impact the working class.
I shall not apply my meaning to a description of her deeper purpose in cultures other than my own, but to my knowledge, she sings and dances, she cleans, and in her own way she fights, for the broom has two sides, one for sweeping, and the other, the handle of the broom, the powerful wand with which she may choose to fight. And of course, we know SHE RIDES, representing the sexually liberated woman, the ultimate threat to patriarchy and gender oppression.
In the Celtic tradition, this sweeping woman knows so much more than how to fly by night. She knows seeds, berries, the fruits of the forest, broths, the timing of the natural world, and she also knows city, trade, politics, birth, death, and community. Her knowledge directly threatens institutions because her power cannot be controlled, monetized, captured. She refuses to be authenticated. She certifies herself. She is willing to burn. When the flames come, the night brightens. Again, she flies.
And let's remember that the sweeping woman is also the mother, or can be. She is only depicted as the crone because they had to separate her from youth, the oppressive construct of beauty as youth, and sexuality. She is separated from her children for the same reason they separated her from the Christ image; they were too dangerous together, for together, they were stronger than capitalism, stronger than the falsehood of the church, stronger than money, stronger than gender, than age, and stronger than hate.
And those who would judge me, ask yourselves once more, did not Jacob wrestle with the angel? Do you mistake Christ for the opposite of the Mother? Do you mistake Christ, in his humility, for a rule follower? In his pacifism, do you mistake him for weak? Could you open yourself to the reality that all description is language we use to try describe the reality of God, though most of us just sit here scratching our nails against the cavernous walls, hoping for that breakthrough?
Could you open yourself to the reality that sweeping woman is still the representative of God--she who sweeps at Walmart, she who sweeps at Costco, she who sweeps at the mall, she who sweeps her classroom, she who sweeps her kitchen at night, the children in bed, she who sweeps is the real savior, and she who prays while she sweeps, the priest.
What is the role of the sweeping woman tonight, in the dusk of the steaming planet? Can she sweep away the parking lots, the single-use plastics, the Amazon of plastic packaging? Can she sweep away the hatred, the racism, the division? Can she aim her handle at the corrupt systems, while cleansing and preserving the sacred community? Can she plant the seeds of resistance? Can she still represent deeply-rooted Loving community? Can she still heal her suffering brothers and sisters, those already poisoned by the apocalypse? Can she fly tonight, powered by the sacred spirit? When she burns, will she still flicker in the night, will she flirt, once more, with the stars?
Photo by Kay Boyd
Susan Anglada Bartley is an author, educator, and activist living in the United States.