Retrieving the Heart: Discerning the Death Mother from the Dark Mother Archetypes

    by Nandi Hetenyi

    The Death Mother is an archetypal energy coined first by Jungian analyst Marie Louise von Franz, then elaborated on by Marion Woodman.

    This energy is so, so very much alive today in our domination heavy culture, trickling down all the way into our own bodies.

    This energy gets confused with the darker aspects of the divine feminine expressed through the Dark Mother.

    They are not the same thing. Not even in the slightest.

    In order to begin to truly liberate the feminine archetypal energies, and heal the masculine archetypal energies as well, we must understand the difference between these two energies and how the death mother rules our unconscious realms.

    The death mother is the dark side of the mother, the shadow side that no one talks about.

    The cold mother. The resentful mother. The mother who didn’t want to have children.

    The mother who was not mothered herself. The addicted mother. The depressed/anxious mother.

    The rejecting or abandoning mother. The intruding mother. The very critical mother. A mother who has lost touch with her own soul.

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    The one who did not nurture or nourish or celebrate or love the way we are trained to think mothers are supposed to be.

    So much so that we think it’s our fault if this was our mother or that we are not worthy of love because she didn’t know what love was.

    This enters our hearts in such a deep way that when we have the impulse towards creativity, new endeavors, life transitions, more soul and life affirming expansion, she enters and pulls us back in and away from our true essence, the life meant for us.

    This is addiction. Depression. Anxiety. Patterns with unavailable people. Food and body issues.

    It is a search for a nurturing, soothing energy and returning to what we know instead…the death mother.

    She lives inside “sisterhood” – the comparison, competition and cutting each other down, energetic manipulation, gaslighting, popularity and control via resources.

    She lives through control…think Dance Moms or the moms who force their children to be something they are not or to perform and over achieve at an early age (all the reality competition shows with children breaks my heart). Mom’s who deny the emotional reality of their children.

    Death mother has had her heart cast into exhile and now she turns others to stone.

    We learn to do the same. To ourselves. And, each other. She helps patriarchal culture carry on, sometimes even under the ruse of the “matriarch.”

    This is the wounded feminine trying to have control and a voice in whatever way she can, even if it is masquerading as something she is not.

    She is at the heart of our creative blocks or that feeling of “life or death” if we emerge out of our shells to truly share that deep, deep part of us that we’ve tucked away in some remote corner of our psyche for too long that it hurts.

    We need to resurrect ourselves to stay sane, to thrive and this archetype wants to pull us down because of her rage and her own pain.

    The death mother is NOT the same as the dark mother, or the darker qualities of the divine feminine expressed in the Black Madonna, Kali, Innana or Lilith.

    The dark mother rules through love, holding, compassion, nurturing, holding and the transformative power of her clear love and fierceness that continually opens the heart.

    Her expression is compassion that wakes us up… she is life affirming in holding one polarity of life experience and offering a portal of grace.

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    She holds us in the dark times of grief, initiations, healing, Winters and pain.

    She is the wise Crone who offers her hard won wisdom to those who will heed her whispers.

    She holds the soul gates of the heart open with a fiercely gentle and tender love, viewing our forays into the depths of soul with compassion, kindness and love.

    She wields her compassion with clarity to reflect consciousness not serving and holds you as you grieve the pain and enter a new light.

    She is the dark womb that nurtures and helps you put yourself back together. She is ever tender as we lean in to understand the wholeness of our nature.

    This is not the death mother.

    We must not in our attempt to radically express our fierce nature confuse the two and perpetuate more of what we don’t want for ourselves.

    We can heal this.

    We can face the death mother, peer into this side of the feminine that is wounded and retrieve our power she has been holding on to.

    We can lean in to the journey into the inner forest where she lives to reclaim our life force energy and emerge holding flames of our true power.


    We become better parents to ourselves, heal our addictions to false sources of soothing.

    This changes our lives.

    This will change everything.



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    About the Author:

    Dr. Nandi Hetenyi is a shamanic healer, grief midwife, writer and mentor. She received her doctorate in clinical psychology from CIIS in addition to spending over 15 years studying and practicing Buddhism, yoga, meditation, dream work, shamanic journey, energy healing and personal growth, as well as recovering from her own addictions. She envisions a world where we feel comfortable in our own skins and are happy about being a human. You can follow Dr. Hetenyi on Instagram and find out more about her work on her website,


    featured image via Pexels



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