Motherland is Calling: world's largest female statue
a Jungian and mythological view
In September I was invited to give a talk at the public program of Olga Ghanza’s art exhibition ‘Motherland is Calling’. Olga, originally from Russia, created a beautiful art-book weaving her reflections, in images, memories and words about the gigantic ‘Motherland is Calling’ statue in her hometown Volgograd, Russia. She describes her experience of being faced with this horrifying figure as a child and growing up in the presence of such an archetypal mother figure.
“Motherland is calling is the name of an artistic research-based project by Olga Ganzha. The title comes from the name of the statue in Volgograd city (formerly Stalingrad) in Russia. The Motherland is calling statue is a part of a monumental ensemble commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad that was built in 1967. It is a gigantic woman – motherland – with a mouth wide open, calling her children to war, holding her sward high up. The whole territory around the sculpture is a monumental ensemble and a burial place for about 45.000 Soviet solders.
This place has a saint horror atmosphere and is perceived being sacred in Russian ideology. The same way it is presented in many related texts, songs, and films. The feeling of this saint horror [in front of the sculpture, in front of the motherland, in front of the mother (?), in front of war-related objects, in front of the ‘war’] was cultivated from the childhood, and is forming a part of soviet identity. The project evaluates onto this saint horror and brings attention to the questions of memory, identity, mother figure in hands of propaganda, female role in war cults... and motherland.” (Motherland is Calling, 2018, www.olghaghanza.nl)
The total height of this statue and its pedestal measures 85 meters and was declared in 1967 the tallest statue in the world. Today, it is still the tallest female figure in the world. The terror and horrifying glory of this enormous woman gives one chills and a strange curiosity towards her intense calling. Considering that this is todays largest female statue in the world, gave me enough food for thought and contemplation. Why is this image of the ‘terrible mother’ calling her sons into blood and battle the largest female figure in the world? What does this say about the time and the place it was build and perhaps amplifying our reflection considering it was recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records, what does it say about our collective consciousness as global citizens of the World?
THE GREAT MOTHER
I was asked to share a Jungian perspective on the Mother and the history of the Great Mother dating back thousands of years ago. Female figures and little statues have been with mankind for thousands of years. The Great Mother was revered from figures dating back 20.000 years ago until now, to what we mostly know today in the west as the female statues of Mary. The Great Mother and the later Goddesses were honoured in this way, through the use of clay, earth and soil, the Mother - in Greek ‘matter’ - was praised.
The Mother, associated with matter, the body, the earth and all of creation, was for thousands of years the image of Deity. This was the deity that was worshipped and to whom humanity turned for the crops to grow, to conceive and give birth, for the sickness to be healed and finally, the one to whom you turned during the experience of death. She was both the womb and the tomb, life and death were inherently part of the same Mother. This was a time known as the time of Lunar consciousness, the moon as the image of the eternal feminine. The waxing and the waning moon were symbols of decay, death and renewal and all was part of the same eternal cycle of life regenerating and degenerating itself in an ongoing cycle and rhythm.
In the tradition of Alchemy, this is symbolised by the Uroboros, the snake biting its own tail. A Primal Wholeness was what humanity lived by, a constant - though still unconscious - communion with the whole of creation including the cosmos, was natural and lived.
THE DAWN OF SOLAR CONSCIOUSNESS
About 4000 years ago, a great shift happened in the consciousness of humanity. The Solar Consciousness had started to be deeply anchored within humanity’s consciousness. Some mythologists can trace it back even 10.000 years ago, but the real anchoring and shift is visible from the coming of the mythological Hero. The myths of the time started to bring this new figure into the forefront: the man who becomes the hero by overcoming the monstrous dragon, or the poisonous and dangerous serpent; what Joseph Campbell called ‘The Hero’s Journey’ became the new story.
Here, we see slowly but surely that the masculine, solar consciousness is battling and overcoming the powerful instincts of the Uroboros, also termed as ‘the unconscious ocean’ or ‘primal mother’. He has to slay the pull of the unconscious to be able to step into a new spiral and evolve as ‘the new man or hero’. We can compare the sharp rays of the Sun to the sword of the Hero. Whereas the dim moonlight reflects a soft vision, a dim light in the dark and unknown deep of the sea, the rays of the Sun radiate a light and vision that pierce through those veils of darkness and start to make it conscious.
This sword, this consciousness, had a specific purpose. Humanity was given a solar consciousness so that it could evolve from an unconscious state of wholeness, into a new, evolved state of union. The previous circle of oneness had to be cut by the sword of differentiation, so old patterns would be broken and the duality that emerged could find its way to a conscious state of unity. The transcendent aspect of the divine became important, where as during the Lunar time, the immanence [the divine nature of creation] was emphasised.
As with many things that are given to humanity, this new solar consciousness lost its purpose in most of the worlds civilisations. So many swords were used to kill, conquer and were taken into the battle fields as a power-object. The sword of consciousness and differentiation became the sword of divide and conquer. The grand achievements in industrialisation and civilisation led to desecration and pollution of the earth, once known as our Great Mother. We put ‘mind over matter’ and decided we no longer need to praise the immanent Goddess, the sacred nature of the earth to grow our crops and heal our sickness. The experiment of solar consciousness has come to it’s peak of destruction where we are now facing the very ecological structures of the earth in great danger together with the loss of entire species.
We can analyse this statue in various ways. One of the first things that we notice is the enormity of this figure. It was - when it was built - the larges statue in the World. The Russians wanted to make sure it would be larger than the Statue of Liberty (including its pedestal) and they succeeded with a total of 85 meters. Today, it is still the largest female figure in the world. In Jungian Psychology ‘size matters’. When we encounter huge figures in myths or dreams, it means that we have encountered a very large complex or the collective bundle of energy (archetype) of the complex. Looking at this gigantic mother figure, we could state that this is a collective image of the ‘terrible mother’ who calls her sons into the battle-field.
She has a wrathful look, a mouth that is shouting, wide open, her sword raised; ready to kill. The mouth has been an important aspect of the female deity. In ancient times, when the ‘good and giving mother goddess’ was shaped in clay, we see a returning image where she has no mouth. The mouth was known as the symbol of the ‘devouring mother’ who would draw you in her tomb when your time had come. The ‘benevolent and nourishing’ aspect of the mother, was therefor sometimes made without a mouth. If we look at Motherland is Calling from this perspective, we can see that she represents this terrible side of the mother, that calls and draws the bodies and blood of her sons into the battlefield of death.
“A significant symbolic feature of some of the primitive images is the absence of the mouth - which was already typical for the Primordial Goddess. The mouth as rending, devouring symbol of aggression is the characteristic of the dangerous negative elementary character of the Feminine.” (Neumann, The Great Mother 1955, p. 122)
The sword - a symbol of solar consciousness - is used here for battle, conquer and killing. The size of the sword (33 meters) is also noteworthy as it is over half the size of the figure herself (52 meters). Here we can see how the mother archetype has emerged in her ‘terrible side’ in a shadow role where she is using the sword as a tool for her devouring pleasures. If we consider that this statue was decided by political men to be build, later designed by a male sculptor and build by hundreds of men, we can carefully say that from a Jungian perspective, Motherland is Calling is an image of the (negative) Anima figure of the time and the place. The Anima, according to Jung, is both a personal complex and an archetypal image of woman in the male psyche. The negative or sometimes called ‘demonic’ Anima is the shadow side of this archetype in a man’s unconscious psyche. Considering it is the largest female figure in the world, we can even draw this line further at a global scale and ask ourselves if this negative Anima could be a representative of a collective shadow of our world. We often associate war and combat with the shadow-side of the patriarch but perhaps this gigantic symbol is calling our attention towards a deeper layer; can we say that the one who calls for battle, war is the negative Anima within the depths of those 'men of reason’ who have cut themselves off from the instinctual and natural feminine Soul?
An important and humorous note is that the model for the sculptor of this statue was no one less but his own wife! The concept of the negative Anima is [unknowingly] projected outwards by the creators of this statue becomes very evident and clear in this last rather humorous note!
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” (Jung, CW 13, 1967, p. 265)
We might have succeeded in our modern world to put our ‘minds over matter’. We have found ways to survive and grow our crops without praising the Great Mother. We have even found ways to live longer and to have comfort and security against the terrible moods of the weather gods and many plagues and illnesses. In many ways, we have ‘mastered nature’ with the piercing light of our minds. But to what cost has this happened? What have we lost along the way and more importantly; are we really safe from the terrible side of the Great Mother, which we have feared and tried to control? Looking at this statue from a symbolic perspective as the largest female figure in the world, we can see her terrible side is still very much alive and running the war-thirsty politicians and soldiers of our modern time. This devouring side of the Mother has now become repressed into the deep unconscious, not serving the cycle and rhythms of life any longer, but regressed into a barbaric state that is turned against life. The split between the benevolent mother and the dark mother is one that is crying out for our attention. In many ways, we have cut ourselves off from not only the dark and terrible side of the feminine, even the benevolent and nourishing mother archetype is not anymore praised and appreciated as before. To quote Jung:
“The development of Western philosophy during the last two centuries has succeeded in isolating the mind in its own sphere and in severing it from its primordial oneness with the universe. Man himself has ceased to be the microcosm and eidolon of the cosmos, and his “anima” is no longer the consubstantial scintilla, spark of the Anima Mundi, World Soul” (Carl Jung, CW 11, par 759)
the great turning
what would happen if we invited the Great Mother to turn around towards us again? In her full glory and terror, embracing the dual nature of the feminine within us in service of life and of the evolution of consciousness. is it too late or can we make this great turning?
— The Dream of the Cosmos by Anne Baring
— The Great Mother: an analyses of the archetype by Erich Neumann.