The Archetypal Death Mother

I define the Archetypal Death Mother as harmful and traumatising energy which comes to us from a person, institution, culture, or nation state that we would naturally expect to nurture, protect and support us.

In its most extreme form, the archetypal Death Mother might consciously or unconsciously want us dead; in a less extreme form, feel ambivalent or indifferent about our existence, and/or want a part of us dead. 

Sometimes there is no intention to harm – rather the archetypal Death Mother arises because whoever, or whatever, should be doing the nurturing, simply doesn’t have the resources to do so. 

Regardless of the form which the Death Mother takes, the bottom line is that we are not welcomed into life by those we should be able to trust.

The archetypal Death Mother exists not only in the outer world of other people, institutions, cultures and nation states, but also in the inner world of our own minds and bodies. Sometimes the inner Death Mother comes to consciousness; more often than not it is hidden in the unconscious. Either way, we bring harmful and traumatising energy to ourselves, and are unable to be a trustworthy, supportive and nurturing presence in our own lives. 

An understanding of the Death Mother helps us to recognise and address this traumatising energy. 


(c) Daniela F. Sieff, February 2022.

To cite this please use: Sieff, Daniela F. Sieff (2022) “A Brief Introduction to the Archetypal Death Mother’ Last Modified February 28, 2022.  https://danielasieff.com/the-archetypal-death-mother/

I am now organising and hosting webinars, and some speak to the Death Mother.  Sign up to my mailing list if you’d like to get notice of these as well as priority booking and discounted tickets.

Click on any image to open the article or film

Maternal Negativity and Child Maltreatment: How evolutionary perspectives contribute to a layered and compassionate understanding

In Western culture most people believe that mothers evolved to love all of their children instinctually and unconditionally. In contrast, any mother who feels ambivalence or hostility towards her child is typically seen as unnatural, and a mother who maltreats her child is seen as behaving pathologically. This chapter draws on evolutionary research to challenge this widespread view of motherhood. The goal is to foster a more evolutionarily valid, nuanced and compassionate understanding. Such an understanding has the potential to contribute to clinical work with faltering mothers and also to programmes focused on preventing maternal maltreatment of children.

Confronting Death Mother – An Interview with Marion Woodman

Marion Woodman was pivotal in forging an awareness of the Death Mother, and the life-denying impact this force has on both bodies and minds. In this powerful interview, Woodman shares her understanding, drawing on Jungian thought, literature, and also her personal experience both as an analyst and as a woman facing her own internalised Death Mother.

Maternal Negativity and Child Maltreatment: How evolutionary perspectives contribute to a layered and compassionate understanding

In Western culture most people believe that mothers evolved to love all of their children instinctually and unconditionally. In contrast, any mother who feels ambivalence or hostility towards her child is typically seen as unnatural, and a mother who maltreats her child is seen as behaving pathologically. This chapter draws on evolutionary research to challenge this widespread view of motherhood. The goal is to foster a more evolutionarily valid, nuanced and compassionate understanding. Such an understanding has the potential to contribute to clinical work with faltering mothers and also to programmes focused on preventing maternal maltreatment of children.

Confronting Death Mother – An Interview with Marion Woodman

Marion Woodman was pivotal in forging an awareness of the Death Mother, and the life-denying impact this force has on both bodies and minds. In this powerful interview, Woodman shares her understanding, drawing on Jungian thought, literature, and also her personal experience both as an analyst and as a woman facing her own internalised Death Mother.

Maternal negativity and the Archetypal Death Mother: Evolutionary and psychodynamic approaches

In this conversation I discuss various factors which can contribute to a mother feeling negatively about her child. In particular, I describe some of the challenges that ancestral mothers faced throughout human evolution and how these impact us today. I also explore ideas about the archetypal Death Mother, inspired by the late Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman. I found it a rich and rewarding conversation and am grateful to John Wilks and Our Birth Journey Professionals for the opportunity.

Meeting ‘The Death Mother Archetype’

Meeting ‘The Death Mother Archetype’

In a wide-ranging conversation, Sara Avant Stover and I explored Death Mother from several perspectives. Sara’s own insights prompted me to move between different areas of my research, and our exchange encompassed trauma psychology, Jungian analysis, anthropology, evolution and personal experience

Trauma-worlds and the wisdom of Marion Woodman

Growing up traumatised our lives become rooted in a different reality – one I’ve called a ‘trauma-world’. Marion Woodman’s work can help us to bring trauma-worlds into consciousness. Additionally, the BodySoul Rhythms® approach that she developed together with dance educator Mary Hamilton, and voice coach Ann Skinner, can help us to move beyond trauma-worlds into a healthier reality.

Maternal negativity and the Archetypal Death Mother: Evolutionary and psychodynamic approaches

In this conversation I discuss various factors which can contribute to a mother feeling negatively about her child. In particular, I describe some of the challenges that ancestral mothers faced throughout human evolution and how these impact us today. I also explore ideas about the archetypal Death Mother, inspired by the late Jungian analyst, Marion Woodman. I found it a rich and rewarding conversation and am grateful to John Wilks and Our Birth Journey Professionals for the opportunity.

Meeting ‘The Death Mother Archetype’

Meeting ‘The Death Mother Archetype’

In a wide-ranging conversation, Sara Avant Stover and I explored Death Mother from several perspectives. Sara’s own insights prompted me to move between different areas of my research, and our exchange encompassed trauma psychology, Jungian analysis, anthropology, evolution and personal experience

Trauma-worlds and the wisdom of Marion Woodman

Growing up traumatised our lives become rooted in a different reality – one I’ve called a ‘trauma-world’. Marion Woodman’s work can help us to bring trauma-worlds into consciousness. Additionally, the BodySoul Rhythms® approach that she developed together with dance educator Mary Hamilton, and voice coach Ann Skinner, can help us to move beyond trauma-worlds into a healthier reality.