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Hathor the Cow Goddess: Maternal Superhero


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So let's just jump right into the dream...in a Cowgoddess Culture, homebirths become commonplace, medical interventions into birth decline, and women gain much needed self-confidence in their health and the health of their children...Consultation with a health professional would, of course, be paid for by barter, with no family paying more than they are capable of giving. (As a matter of fact the insurance companies would have to be the first to go)...Breastfeeding would become the norm and a bottle would be looked on in sympathy. Breasts would be everywhere, happy children nursing contentedly on every surface of the earth. There would be quiet as the sound of crying babies slowly left the planet...
So begins the first essay in The Milk of Hathor, the latest compilation of lac-tivist (lactation activist) cartoons by Heather Cushman-Dowdee, aka Hathor the Cowgoddess. Heather has a vision of a world where attachment parenting goes hand in hand with clean air and water, organic whole foods and cooperative economics. She calls it the Evolution Revolution. This vision comes alive in the 100+ cartoons and five essays collected in her second book, where she presents loving and humorous insights gained from her life as an extra-crunchy mom of three in 21st-century Los Angeles.


The persona of Hathor the Cowgoddess emerged when Heather was attending graduate school while simultaneously becoming a new mom. Mothering gave her ample material (though not much time) for her work. The first cartoon in the new book gives the recipe for Breastmilk Bread, which harkens back to those heady days when she organized her first Bake-In. In a gallery turned kitchen she enlisted the help of 150 visitors in mixing, kneading and forming dozens of breast-shaped buns made with real breastmilk. These days she looks at her whole life as performance art:

"It can be the serene way you walk through the grocery store, and lovingly address your children. All of you who wear slings know that the sling is wonderful theater, especially when someone sees one for the first time."
Hathor is a maternal super-hero, i.e. a goddess. Based on the Egyptian goddess of mothers, midwives and music, Hathor also suckled the Pharaohs and carried the dead on her back to the other side. She was usually depicted as a cow or with a cow headdress, but NOT, Heather insists, a genetically-altered cow. Far from it.

Hathor's threefold mission is revealed in the cartoons: to give practical and empathetic advice about attachment parenting; to stand up to anti-breastfeeding propaganda put out by culprits like Real Simple magazine, the town of Chandler Arizona, Fisher Price Toys, and the American Association of Pediatrics; and lastly, to remind us to notice what's beautiful and real about our time with children right now.

She calls upon her special goddess tools to execute this mission: silliness, sarcasm, education, outrage, political action, empathy, and awe.

Hathor's cartoons can be found on her frequently updated blog, and in zines from Texas to Finland, Australia, and France. Heather is a popular chat host on Mothering.com, and speaker at La Leche League conferences. The Milk of Hathor, like her first book, The Birth of Hathor, is self-published. It contains most of Hathor's comics from their beginnings in 2002 through 2006.

The last essay in the book "Being Human" is a silent dialogue with her second daughter at four weeks old, nursing and sleeping in her arms while she sat in a university lecture on "The Body and Technology." It is sprinkled with quotes from the unnamed lecturer ("Mr. Leave the Body Behind") such as: "as an expert in the field of human technology I have seen the exciting studies that show a future when we don't age, never get sick, and live forever...."

Heather mulls over these ridiculous premises and worries that they are being promoted as inevitable and desirable. In her loving exchanges with her daughter, readers see living proof of the vast, innate power and wisdom of the human body right in front of us. In a Cowgoddess Culture, everyone will see it.

Comments

I have known of (sort of known in a roundabout way, i suppose) heather/hathor for about 4 years now - perhaps longer? i'm not really sure. I found out about her on TCOYF - which then became ovusoft.com. i had one child and was trying to get pregnant with the second. it was wonderful to read what she had to say and to see her cartoons. at the time i was living in sonoma county where people like her were surrounding me. i had a ton of support for my way of living and bring up my child/children. i'm now in a very conservative state and am appalled by so many formula feeding families. it's a delight when i can show some of the cowgoddess culture to them. my son is no longer nursing, nor is he worn, but we're still co-sleeping and letting the children be children.

thanks for bringing heather to the forefront of people's minds.

Posted by: kristen on March 23, 2007 8:47 AM

I am a big fan of Heather's work. She has definitely influenced me, and I think in a subtle yet radical (if that combination is possible) way, she is influencing the world!

Posted by: Julinda on March 23, 2007 9:07 AM

Oh, if only! Hathor the Cowgoddess is a touchstone for me,a mom of three fighting the powers of big business trying to convince me my babies need only minimal contact with me but tons of contact with plastic (baby carriers, portacribs, bouncy seats, swings, bottles, "lovies" binkies and Barbies.) She addresses the issues in such a timely manner that I don't feel like there's no one out there paying attention,and it comforts me.
Bring on the Cowgoddess Culture!

Posted by: Nancy on March 23, 2007 1:36 PM

I suspect you all might find me to be too enamored of consumerism, but perhaps you might take heart that Hathor and others life her have inspired me to be unapologetic in my bfeeding and to speak out in support of bfeeding (most recently and successfully at my allegedly pre-bfeeding Peds Clinic that has many pamphlets on formula, but none on nursing). The comics are hysterical (reference intended—we can take back that word) and inspirational.

Posted by: CaLi on March 23, 2007 7:36 PM

hathor the cowgoddess is my hero.

Posted by: I-dra on March 23, 2007 8:30 PM

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