Chapter

Maternity and Meaning

Susan Starr Sered

in Priestess, Mother, Sacred Sister

Published in print December 1996 | ISBN: 9780195104677
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853267 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195104677.003.0004
Maternity and Meaning

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Religions, like all social institutions, tend to address individuals through only one or two of their possible identities. In male-dominated religions, women are defined primarily as wives. In addition, male-dominated religions relate to women as daughters, especially in the sense of daughters whose virginity must be guarded over. In female-dominated religions, neither wife nor daughter is the most salient aspect of women's identity (which is not to say that women are never addressed as wives or daughters). Instead, women receive attention primarily as mothers, grandmothers, or sisters. In women's religions, childbirth is not merely a biological event, Motherhood is vested with important cultural significance, and rituals express and validate the emotional and symbolic meanings of motherhood. In many women's religions, theology and ceremony provide women with some measure of control over fertility. Motherhood—culturally constructed in various shapes—does not impact upon religiosity in a uniform manner.

Keywords: women; religions; mothers; motherhood; religiosity; fertility; rituals; childbirth; daughters; grandmothers

Chapter.  8140 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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