It has been a descent. And in my descent I reach for the myths to sustain me.
I turn to Inanna, the Sumerian (Iraq) Goddess of Love, Fertility and Warfare. Inanna decided to descend to the underworld to pay respects to her sister Ereshkigal’s dead husband. She dressed herself as a Queen for the journey, in robes and jewels of lapis. During her descent she passed through the 7 gates of the underworld, each gate requiring of her to shed an item of her clothing, until the last gate she was rendered naked. Naked of clothing, of pride, of status, or her Queendom.
Her sister, Ereshkigal, was the Queen of the underworld and her bitter enemy. They were opposites, Inanna allowed to live in the light, frolic sexually and explore the arts of civilization freely. Ereshkigal presided over darkness, never allowed to leave and frolic with other ‘living’ deities, nor allowed visitors from the land of light. She is the symbol of winter, the non production, the fallow seasons.
On reaching the underworld, the seven judges of the underworld, the Anunnaki, fastened their eyes on Inanna and with one glance she is dead. They hang her corpse on a stake.
Inanna was prepared for this, and had instructed her faithful servant, or sukkal, Ninshubur, to rally the Gods to her rescue if she did not reappear after 3 days and 3 nights.
The God Enki came to Inanna’s rescue, sending two asexual figures before Ereshkigal to plead for her body, carrying with them the food and water of life. Ereshkigal insisted that someone must replace Inanna. She chose her consort Dumuzi, who had not mourned her while she was dead, and was still parading around in his fine clothes living the high life.
We fall in love with mythology because it speaks to the deepest stories within us.
On her descent, Inanna had to shed everything that held her captive in the world of light. Specifically seven layers. The seven deadly sins…pride, avarice, luxury, wrath, gluttony, envy, sloth. She was required to reduce herself to nothingness, passing through the seven gates, the seven mansions of St Teresa. Each gate maned by a gatekeeper guardian.
Finally, at the end of her descent, she meets her nemesis. Her twin. The dark to her light. The bad to the good, the winter to her summer. The sadness to her happiness. My hero and teacher, Bucky Fuller said, “Unity is plural, at minimum two.” Our world has become so obsessed with happiness, light, positivity, that to descend into the darkness, to be sad, to be unhappy, is to say that there is something wrong with you, or that you have failed. The rise of depression and suicide is in part a result of the suppression of all the colours of the spectrum, including the greys, blacks and darks.
The judges of the underworld, the Annunaki, are all the aspects of us that hold others (or self) in contempt, in criticism, ridiculing, humiliating, bullying, betraying. It is the part of us that see’s through our own self deceptions, our own lies. They are also the aspects of self that will no longer tolerate our lies, sabotage, small games, self destruction.
After 3 days and 3 nights of her descent, the alarm was raised. These same 3 days and nights live in the Christian traditions as Jesus lies in the world between. Three is the number needed to make a triangle. Three has a beginning, middle and end. It is the relationship between I and you, with the Universe or ‘it’ between. It is the ‘other’ that emanates from the tension between, the mythical third.
Inanna was prepared. Her faithful servant, her sukkal, called the alarm. We all have allies, faithful servants, people who pray for us, hold a candle for us to find our way in the dark. Sometimes these people are not well known to us, sometimes they are our family and friends. Often they appear out of no~where.
Enki called for two asexual servants, detached figures unable to be contaminated by the drama below, to carry the food and drink for restoring life. It was required that there be this form of delivery (asexual), avoiding any opportunity for seduction, persuasion, or loss of focus for the task at hand.
Finally, Inanna had to chose her replacement. She chose her consort, Dumuzi, for even in her death he had failed to morn her. He was a parody of a lover. The pretend lover, egotistical, shallow, lacking commitment. In order for her to return to light, she needed to give up the part of herself who played small and without true love of life.
In this story are many other parallels. Inanna is also Venus, the star, who lives as the morning star for about 9 months, then disappears into the sun, for a time, descending into darkness according to the human eye, then to appear as the evening star for about another 9 months.
The myth of Inanna is a parallel myth to that of Persphone,also Queen of the underworld.
In my personal descent, occurring over the last few years, and I believe reaching its apogee in this moment (well I hope and pray we have reached apogee) I have shed all the layers as I pass through the seven gates.
Earlier this year I wrote of my thirty days without fear. While this has been a powerful experience, I have recognised that fear can be a seriously good motivator, and when it is gone, or far removed, we have to find different motivations.
I have also shed pride in layers. The ability to feel shame, or be shamed. Any sense of humiliation. Greed, gluttony. I am not saying I have nothing of these left, however the apspects I do have left are mere shadows of what was before. I have called to the heavens many time….”how much more of me do you ask?” The answer is always, “no less than everything.”
I have fought. Struggled. Cried out. It feels unfair. It makes no sense. At some point it becomes a cosmic joke, and one simply has to laugh, for nothing else remains.
I have asked..”Why have you forsaken me?” And the answer, “We need you to break down so completely in order to rise, like the phoenix from the ashes, completely transformed.
The place I am at now is the celebrate the nothingness. To be grateful for everything. To embrace all aspects, light and dark, pain and freedom, lost and gain. This is far from easy. To love life exactly as it is. To completely surrender, let go, give up, stop the effort.
To really deeply fully soulfully trust.
This…this is the hardest of all.
I must fall in love with the darkness, with my twin sister, Ereshkigal to the point that we become one. I must know that my faithful servants are rallying the Gods to bring the food and water of life for my revival.
And on the journey back, I must sacrifice at the alter of death my egoic, shallow, vain self.
In my work I walk with many people as they embark on various levels of this journey of descent. It is a truly reverent experience, for which I am deeply grateful and completely honoured.
Our Earth is going through its own form of death/rebirth, decent. It is a mytholgy of our times.
It is no mistake that it is also the myth that carries the Goddess Venus, the female Goddess of love. For arising from descent is the salve of love in its female form. Beauty, art, music, grace, reverence, fertility, and life….in every colour.
If you dare, please share your own journey to the underworld and the gifts you brought back that have enriched your life and the lives of those around you.