In alchemical terms mother applies to prima materia because from it (her) came all things. This is equally seen in the Judeo-Christian creation story. “And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)
In Hebrew spirit is ruah, which has a feminine gender. Before any life forms emerged the feminine spirit of god moved upon the face of the waters of chaos, the prime chaotic matter. Meaning, God’s feminine nature was absorbed by these waters before any life arose from them.
The sound of objection is heard: but God is masculine. This is partly due to the fact that the New Testament was written in Greek which substituted the word pneuma for spirit, which has a neuter gender. But this no way meets the alchemical meaning of prima materia, which constituted the material that all things came from.
Prima materia has a feminine aspect: it is the moon, the mother of all things, the vessel containing the opposites, which has a thousand names, and depicted as an old woman and a whore.
As the Mater Alchemia it is wisdom and teaches wisdom. It contains the elixir of life as well for it is the mother of the Savior and of the filius Macrocosmi, and also is the earth, the serpent hidden in the earth, the blackness and the dew and the miraculous water which brings together all that is divided.
To this extent the ocean, which seems to contain the beginning stages of life, may be thought as the Mother’s womb. “And water, like love, was (is) essential to the life-forces of fertility and creativity, without which the psychic world as well as the material world would become an arid desert, the waste land.”
The food of the Queen Mother-peacock’s flesh and lion’s blood-consists of the Goddess own attributes, which is to say she eats and drinks of her own self. The Consilium coniguii formulates this as follows: “And so at length it sinks down into one content through saturation with the one ferment, water, for water is the ferment of water.”
This always comes back to the same idea that is best expressed by the concept of an uroboros, symbolized by a snake biting its tail. Although Jung states that this idea is pagan, meaning not originating only from Christian sources, he quotes from St. John Chrysostom, and others, that Christ was the first to eat his own flesh and drink his own blood presumedly as he instituted the Last Super.
In the Cantilena, the mythologem of the uroboros is unexpected, and most unusually, translated into the feminine form: it is not the father and son who emerge into one another , but the mother who merges with her own substance, “eating her own tail” or “impregnating herself” as the king in the Allegoria Merlini drank his “own” water.
This corresponds to the eating of the peacock’s flesh and lion’s blood; the queen or Goddess is able to nourish herself upon her own necessary substance.
The alchemists recognized this, even though many medieval alchemists were of the clergy, they knew the earth was the mother which supplied the resources they needed for their royal art.
This is seen in their description of metal, they thought all metals could become gold; the base metals just had not had enough time for nature to properly proportion them into gold.
They knew the ocean symbolized the Goddess, and so did the cave, each representing the womb, giving birth to their goal. Even though most were Christian, they could not ignore nature as their religion said. They knew through observation, if one looks at a pregnant animal one will see the image of the ocean and earth. A.G.H.
Jung, C. G. Mysterium Coniunctions. (Transl. by R. F. C. Hull). “The Collected Works of Jung” Vol. 14. Princeton, NJ. Princeton University Press. 1970. pp. 21, 307-308
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. New York: Facts On File, 1989. pp. 139-141.