Part One: What Is The Feminine? Why Seek It? How?
When it comes to the topic of “the feminine,” most of us will readily accept that it is a highly convoluted idea with many interpretative possibilities and not a little controversy. But when it comes to the notion of the mythical goddess, to whom this idea of the feminine is attached, it becomes more difficult to reach a consensus. My personal view is that the very notion of “the goddess,” any goddess at all, is a labyrinthine one whose significance seems to be primarily academic. The truth is that as regular women in the world, we cannot discover the goddess anywhere. We can only find her in trite and tired superficial attempts, tying shawls around our waists and lighting candles. We usually reach for tribal symbolism as though that is all there is of the goddess, her tribal aspect. We barely even try to move beyond the popular, even grossly sexualized, symbols of her toward the terrifying, the inscrutable, and the obscure where she resides. Perhaps one reason for this difficulty in accessing clarity around the feminine, or the goddess, is that these ideas are archetypal in nature while their representations in the world are concrete and formulaic. As contents of the collective unconscious, archetypes are amorphous, primordial, and unknowable, yet, ultimately, very real. They are responsible for the unstoppable creative reality of the psyche. In fact, they create consciousness as we know it. But they become something entirely different when brought into common consciousness. C.G. Jung says that: “. . . primitive tribal lore . . . myth, and fairytale . . . are no longer contents of the unconscious, but have already been changed into conscious formulae taught according to tradition” (Jung, 1936/1969, p. 5 [CW 9. pt. 1, para. 5]). He further states that “the term archetype refers . . . only to those psychic contents which have not yet been submitted to conscious elaboration and are therefore an immediate datum of psychic experience” (Jung, 1936/1969, p. 5 [CW 9. pt. 1, para. 5]). In other words, Jung’s assertion is that archetypes are no longer archetypes once they have been translated into definitions and molded into recognizable traditions. They are, by their very nature, amorphous, meaning they have no knowable forms. They are psychic emanations which point to misty feelings and can only be approached through images and even then, as James Hillman has complained, the mind’s capacity for defining and categorizing often kills the archetypal image, capturing it with words, the way a hunter captures and kills a wild deer, robbing it of its primal vitality. It is no wonder then, that we cannot locate the goddess anywhere since the goddess has undergone so many intellectual transmutations, iterations, and redefinitions that she is no longer recognizable. We cannot find her anywhere, not even within ourselves, because we have lost our connection to the archetypal unconscious, the vital source of the creative soul, right along with every other useful part of ourselves. Our mystically archetypal myths, the stories which nurtured, nourished, and guided our souls have long ago been replaced with dictates, orders, and unnatural rules. We are left with imitations and bumper sticker cliches which leave us feeling bereft, sad, and incomplete.
In her book Descent to the Goddess (1981), Sylvia Brinton Perera calls the return to the goddess a quest “for renewal in a feminine source-ground and spirit” (p. 7). Accordingly, my work seeks to approach the mystery of the goddess and the archetypal nature of the feminine utilizing a reimagined, preverbal, mythical attitude that conjures her within the depths of the collective unconscious to which my consciousness (feminine or otherwise) also belongs. “Myths are first and foremost psychic phenomena that reveal the nature of the soul” (Jung, 1936/1969, p. 6 [CW 9. pt. 1, para. 5]), therefore a properly oriented mythical attitude is primarily interested in the psychological dimensions of the goddess archetype as an expression of soul. The goddess is lost to me, therefore my project is hunting for a practical pathway back to this deeper feminine wisdom that, as a woman, I am told I naturally embody yet cannot connect with in any meaningful way.
Seeking a viable connection to the archetypal goddess requires a willingness to contact and commune directly with the unconscious itself since it is the source of her existence. Perera calls this space the “affect-laden, magic dimension and archaic depths that are embodied, ecstatic, and transformative . . . preverbal, often pre-image, capable of taking us over and shaking us to the core” (p. 14). For Perera, a descent to the inner, unconscious realms of the psyche is the prerequisite for recovery of a whole feminine self. Fortunately, Jung devised an ingenious method, based on ancient vision quest practices, for talking directly with the unconscious. He called this method Active Imagination. Active Imagination is essentially a way for the conscious ego to connect and dialogue with the archetypal contents of the unconscious through their only method of communication—images. By observing and studying the images the collective unconscious presents us with, predominantly through myths and dreams, we can do what Jung did in his Liber Novus (2004), which is to study “the myth-creating function of the mind” (p. 19) thereby gaining access to a vast store of information and knowledge hitherto buried and unreachable. Interacting with this “myth-creating” function, speaking with it, expressing its message through art, all these provide us with a method for understanding the self, understanding the world in which we live, for making meaning out of our experiences, and for expanding consciousness, including the dual consciousness of masculinity and femininity, god and goddess. As creative products of the unconscious, myths are a symbolic discourse on the interior actions and dramas of the human psyche and are intimately connected with dreams and imaginal figures. They can manage a psychic breakthrough into new meaning, unearthing unconscious contents and bringing them into consciousness by acting as a projection screen for the psyche. Indeed, this myth-creating function of the psyche is, according to Jung, the very source of consciousness and the ability to speak to the figures inhabiting this mythical landscape can facilitate life-changing transformations.
A keen awareness of being entirely disconnected from the feminine opens for me an urgent doorway for engaging in this type of endeavor. I tend to feel a sense of shame and embarrassment when the goddess is mentioned. My simmering rage and general unhappiness, strange bedfellows whose torment I’ve endured for years, born of unpleasant paternal and childhood experiences, impel me to undertake a journey similar to that of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, the central figure in the ancient Sumerian myth, The Descent of Inanna. This descent, as it is described in the myth, is the pathway to my fullest embodiment of a self rescued from the dysfunctional clutches of a one-sided, logos consciousness, for I am what Perera calls a “good little daughter of the patriarchy,” living my life with a consciousness given to me by the Fathers, my mythical lens operating with an “animus-ego.” I have a growing awareness of having been hoodwinked, captured, and degraded by the narrative of the male-dominated worlds in which I was both raised and continue to live. The myth of Inanna teaches us that just as the soul must descend into the body, the differentiated ego must descend into the unconscious where a “ . . . sacrifice to and for the repressed, undifferentiated ground of being . . .” must take place “. . . with the hope of gaining rebirth with a deeper, resonant awareness” (Perera, 2008, p. 14). We go into the dark abyss of the unconscious and there, sacrifice our modern, supreme, acquisitive egos along with the ever varied achieving-woman-soccer-mom identities they come with in order to find our softer, and perhaps even our more terrifyingly honest, irrational, and autonomous selves.
Women today live in a world which is rapidly self-destructing even as it devours our bodies and our children. The images we have to support us mostly involve the degradation of the feminine as seen in the preponderance of pornography which turns female sexuality into the plaything of men, and in a gargantuan media machine that teaches us to value a superficial youth at any cost. All feminine qualities are judged in relation to how valuable they are to masculinity. But even more than that, we partake in our own degradation by upholding these values in our everyday lives since they reside in the very depths of our mythical consciousness which has been hijacked and overtaken by the mono-myth of a heroic, patriarchal lens. As Perera (1981) makes painfully clear, our conundrum as women is a tragic one:
We have grown up as docile, often intellectual, daughters of the patriarchy, with what I call “animus-egos.” We strive to uphold the virtues and aesthetic ideals which the patriarchal superego has presented to us. But we are filled with self-loathing and a deep sense of ugliness and failure when we can neither meet nor mitigate the superego’s standards of perfection. (p. 11)
Growing up in a logos-centered world, we are taught early on to observe the requirements of decorum and propriety, identified for us by our fathers and grandfathers. We are put into ridiculously frilly clothes, segregated from the boys of our age group, and taught to observe silence. When sexual awareness begins to flower, we are taught to guard our “modesty” and not to dishonor our families with our filthy desires, because female virginity is a prize sought by many hunters, it is worth something to the male ego, it belongs to him! Our natural femininity is defined as sinful and dirty and we are shamed into obeying our fathers, uncles, grandfathers. Our mothers are reduced to manufacturing centers for food and children, their locale firmly established in the kitchens and the backrooms of the home. If we are raised in families that value education, we are taught to work hard and outperform the men, but not by too much, and not too frequently. Even when we are high achievers, we are still condescended to by our professors, our lovers, and our husbands. At work, we must either adopt an entirely masculine, often ruthless set of guiding principles or be ostracized if and when we exhibit “feminine” qualities such as crying or compassion. We are aggressively discouraged from, and punished for, exhibiting any of the darker sides of a feminine nature, even by other women, even by our own mothers. Here, again, Perera is instructive, showing how we must be: “. . . the good, nurturant mother and wife; the sweet, docile, agreeable daughter; the gently supportive or bright, achieving partner” (p.12) if we wish to be accepted and if we wish to succeed. She goes on to say that “. . . this collective model (and the behavior it leads to) is inadequate for life; we mutilate, depotentiate, silence, and enrage ourselves trying to compress our souls into it . . . .” (p.12).
In my view, there is no question that Perera is correct in her assessment of what happens to a woman’s psyche when she is forced to adhere to these unnatural-to-her standards. In my forty something years on earth, having had access to multiple cultural vantage points, I can only see a world in which women and girls are raped, abused, imprisoned, enslaved, manipulated, shamed, taught they cannot live on their own without men, told they must marry if they wish to “be happy,” taught that their sexual desires are filthy, told they are whores and prostitutes if they do what they wish with their bodies or if they have multiple sexual partners, forced to uphold abhorrent values such as murder for personal gain, war, and greed, taught to deride and compete against one another, and seen their naturally occurring metaphysical qualities defined as witchy, dark, and satanic. Here we can see just how a mythical structure can dictate the outcomes of practical reality. It shows us how much it matters which myths are dominant. It seems clear that new ways of understanding, accessing, and empowering the feminine within ourselves and around the planet are not only sorely needed but should be propitiated and propagated with fanatical urgency. An empowered, feminized population would not put up with the kinds of systematic abuses women and girls face on a daily basis. Indeed, an empowered, psychically balanced population would not put up with any of the injustices that have become standard practice in our world.
Part Two: The Goddess as Pathway to My Feminine Self
Taking direct inspiration from Mary Beth Edelson’s goddess themed work Woman Rising (1974), receiving wisdom about the nature of the goddess from Christine Downing, reveling in the prehistoric sand dunes of time found in the mysterious myth of Inanna, and working with C.G. Jung’s definitive and transformative method of Active Imagination, I have woven a personal tapestry of words and images which I hope will point to her and her locus. I have striven to live inside the deepest parts of my soul these past few weeks, holding ideas of her in my heart, meditating, reaching for states of devotion, continuously begging to be allowed in, to be shown the way. I have worked with Jungian methods for knowing: the shadow, the animus, the archetype of Self, of Mother, Sister, Father. I have let my ego be shattered, watched it scream as it drowned. I have learned to question and let go of what I think I value and know. I have walked and slept and dreamt and spoken with these amorphous beings of the unconscious as best I know how. As a practicing artist, I have reminded myself again and again that the uninterrupted connection with my own source of infinite creativity is the feminine, how can I ever have lost her? How can I have betrayed her within and without me so utterly? This line of inquiry leads me to the moments of wounding against which I rage, and I discover all my male counterparts there. They give me shame, violence, hatred, jealousy, and the destruction of my unbridled feminine joy. In these moments, I also see them capture, mutilate, and kill my once unstoppable fountain of creative energy. As I look on, behind these cruel moments I see a tall and powerful figure in the wind, gently observing.
In Women Dreaming Into Art (2006), Patricia Ariadne describes how Mary Beth Edelson, with her modern artistic reinvention of ancient goddess rites and rituals, wanted to overturn the stereotypical notion that women did not have “direct gender identity with the sacred” (chapter 5, para. 2, loc. 1218). Mary Beth Edelson was interested in expanding awareness around the universality of womanhood and the multiplicity of feminine consciousness with all its various expressions in the world, including the day to day activities of being a woman, such as cooking and child-rearing. She wanted to explore, define, and to some extent create, a new consciousness that was devoid of stultifying cultural norms and the many limits of personal and spiritual experience forced upon women living under patriarchal rule. The ancient mythical goddess mutates herself, in Mary Beth Edelson’s work, into a powerful instigator for the cultural and social transformations we need and seek, exhibiting one of her many psychic potentials. Christine Downing, in her pivotal book The Goddess (1987) explains a further, perhaps even deeper, role of the goddess as a “giver of dreams and omens, of the understanding of the hidden” (p. 13). The vital truth of the goddess, her non-transcendent, earthbound and creative nature is examined and connected to the profound recognition that the goddess is both creator of food for life, and is food herself. As she changes blood into milk in her body, the transformative nature of her creative power then rightly corresponds with the realm of the mysteries of life, so “the food associated with the feminine is food as mystery, food as transformed substance” (p. 11). In other words, the goddess and her feminine attributes are the very sources of necessary psychospiritual transmigrations which all consciousness requires regardless of gender.
The goddess has been torn asunder and all her psychic variety differentiated, qualified, and the unacceptable parts of her banished to the underworld. In The Descent of Inanna, a pathway is provided for this differentiated goddess to regain wholeness. As women, and feminist men, we must follow this pathway, for we too are torn apart, our “hated” parts banished into the depths of the unconscious where they fester and complain and rage. Inanna begins as a young girl who rejoices in her beauty and feminine sexual vitality. She embarks on a journey to test her powers, marries the correct man, but eventually realizes that she is incomplete, that half of her is banished and that she has yet to experience the darkest aspects of life and of womanhood. She knows she must recover the lost parts of herself, she hears the edict of the soul: “Expand consciousness!” deep in her heart. She descends to the dark unknowable realm of the unconscious, leaving behind all her achievements and belongings, reaching the underworld where her sister, Ereshkigal, the symbol of the repressed aspects of feminine nature, resides. There, her differentiated, imbalanced state is judged, her ego is shattered and brought low, and in death, she is worked upon by the regenerative and life-giving forces which are beyond her power and which must be procured for her by others and by magic. Inanna undergoes this excruciating transformation willingly and this appears to be yet another requirement for the blessings of wholeness, one must suffer willingly. In time, she is reborn and able to return to conscious life having been forever altered and now in possession of her full feminine nature which is light and dark, soft and hard, sun and moon. She is no longer differentiated, no longer defined in relation to one thing or the other, and certainly not in relation to the masculine. In my view, this is how the feminine is finally and ultimately defined. I have searched for an answer to the question: “What is the feminine?” and find the answer in its total absence of a differentiated consciousness, for the feminine includes the masculine. Christine Downing (1981) explains it this way: “The being of the goddess is related to her having a feminine body but it is not delineated by that. Indeed, the earliest traditions seem to have imagined her as parthogenetic and thus androgynous. She is feminine—and masculine” (p.13). The preverbal psyche is not gendered. Light is born from the depths of the darkness. So, if anything, the masculine is born out of the the feminine.
In the creative work presented with this paper, I have tried to show how I lived with the mysteries of the feminine and how, through creative practice, sought an explanation for the rage I have felt toward this world for the last few years. I am amazed and dismayed to find the extent to which I have willingly participated in my own psychic demise, and, as Perera states, the extent to which I have willingly “fled from the full-scale awe of the goddess” in order to “earn” my “striving, progressive, heroic” and “patriarchal stance” (p. 7) in the world. Finding myself suddenly shorn of this “striving” identity opened for me the psychic possibility for a genuine quest. In an online journal elucidating the details of the work called Woman Rising (1974) by Mary Beth Edelson, an explanation is offered for why women should approach the goddess through art and ritual:
In the image of the Mother Goddess—ancient and powerful—women of olden times found the reflection of their own deepest feminine nature through the faithful performance of the ritual prescribed in her service. Those faraway women gained a relation to their Eros. (p. 6)
By working with primal materials and the windy solicitudes of an early morning Sumerian desert, I sought to reach this “relation to Eros” by constructing intuitive images out of twigs and other natural objects which gave me a sense of a preverbal understanding of nature’s attitudes toward the day, the moment, or a lifetime. These temporary symbolic expressions created quickly and left behind, I photographed. I emphasized “doing without doing,” simply placing my mind on a feeling of womanhood, or an image of the goddess, which admittedly, I can neither define nor see clearly, but with an intention of being guided into allowing the creative urge to simply express itself. This natural undefined work without psychic borders and without definitions seems to me a very feminine action in its unconditional nurturing of the creative moment.
On August 7th, the day of the full moon and partial solar eclipse, I engaged in a quiet, personal ritual with the aim of approaching, sensing, and perhaps embodying the goddess by actively worshipping her. I stood in a grove of citrus trees and set up my tripod and camera. I spoke some words in my heart, I burnt some sacred leaves, I poured water, and I lit a flame. I shot some photographs that I hope express my awe toward the total mystery I encounter when I think of her. I have combined the twig symbols and the infinitely-mysterious goddess photos into a mosaic of interrelated images which, for me, symbolize the varied and unknowable aspects of the feminine goddess archetype and her three iterations, the young girl, mother, and grandmother. I am including the active imagination dialogues I held with Inanna and Ereshkigal. I cannot say that I used images from these sessions directly, only that the two goddesses guided my every artistic move because I allowed the unconscious to dictate the outcome of the work.
It is difficult to embark on a relatively short project on a topic as deep as the archetypal goddess and then to say definitively that something concrete has been discovered. I have not been fortunate enough to spend years studying this vast subject and can therefore only express myself subjectively. Nevertheless, two primary personal discoveries from this work come to mind as holding some significance: 1) The initial journey to the goddess is a solitary one that each of us must make on our own, and 2) The journey to the goddess is impossible without a reverent, almost religious, attitude. For me, as a woman living with the uncomfortable realization that I have been actively participating in a mythical narrative which imprisons me within a false sense of self and robs me of my feminine autonomy, this work has provided a practical pathway toward the deeper, quieter, and more mysterious sides of my feminine nature. For one thing, I find that I am striving to speak less, and I am growing very suspicious of my heroic desires. It is as though I am moving toward a deep and dark lake alone at twilight. I have left many things and people behind but I am not frightened. There is no great hurry, either, instead, a quiet confidence exudes itself. Like the slow but sure regenerative work of a corpse transforming into compost, the germs of new life are slowly eating away at my old mythical foundations, blowing in like a sand storm disrupting the long-standing statues of the Gods, pouring into subterranean chambers like endless flowing rivers, drowning old, outdated figures and disavowing unforgiving paternal voices. There is no way to outline definitive outcomes, but the work of creative psychic transformation has begun. I can see her and talk to her now when before I couldn’t even name her. The way I know that this infinitely creative conversation has truly begun again is the fact that I am once again painting and drawing with abandon, without fear, and without wanting or needing anything in return for my creative work. I am prioritizing being an artist again. My search for the feminine, for the goddess, has brought me closer to a place I once knew very well. I’m almost there, but not quite yet, which itself perfectly encapsulates the paradoxical nature of the goddess and the infinitely varied journeys to the self.
Ariadne, P. (2006). Women dreaming into art: Seven artists who create from dreams. Lakeville: MN. Galde Press, Inc. [Kindle edition. Retrieved from amazon.com].
Downing, C. (1981). The goddess: Mythological images of the feminine. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press.
Edelson, M.B. (1974). Woman rising. Henri Gallery Exhibition Pamphlet. Retrieved from: www.marybethedelson.com/essay_WomanRising-Henri.html
Jung, C. G. (2014). Archetypes and the collective unconscious. In R.F.C. Hull (Trans.), The Collected Works of C.G. Jung: Complete Digital Edition (Vol.9, Pt. 1, pp. 5-6). Princeton: NJ. Princeton University Press.
Perera, S. B. (1981). Descent to the goddess. Toronto, ON: Inner city books.
Active Imagination With The Goddess Inanna
I’m walking in the desert. I have a white shawl around my head. I’m alone. The desert wind blows, the sun is high.
From the horizon, She rises up. She’s so huge she takes up the entire horizon line, vast as it is across the desert. A circle surrounds her hair, a headdress with sun rays. It is the sun itself.
Her hair blows and blows around her. Tears come to my eyes as we stand there, She floating, me standing, in awe and a puddle of tears. She is smiling and wondrous.
I bow down, I place my forehead on the hot sand. The sun is covered now, we are in the shade. She is wearing dark gray robes, I am wearing white cotton garments, like a Pilgrim's.
She just looks at me with gentle benevolence. She waits for me to tell her why I have crossed the desert to see her.
I: I’ve never known you. You have been kept away from me. I’m only discovering you now and I feel mournful and sad that all my life they have kept me from you.
She: Your body is very hot from all the years it has taken you to cross this desert and find me. I always knew you would find your way back to me. Soon I will take you to a cool place with life-giving waters where you can rest and restore your precious self. I am pleased by your devotion. You never forced yourself on me even though you have forced yourself on others and been forced upon in many ways.
I: Can you show me how to stay close to you now? I never want to leave you again. You and your sisters are my mothers and I have been very lonely out in the desert without you for a very, very long time. How can I know you and stay close to you now?
She: The goddesses are never far from you. You cannot lose us. You can only forget us. So where in your memories can you find us? For we are always there, just beneath the surface of man-made time and its speedy ideals. In my heart, I can see that as a child of the stars, your beautiful art-making abilities, and gifts—they come so naturally to you. What is nature? Nature is another word for the goddess, for me and my sisters. So the thing that comes naturally to you is a gift from the goddesses. How you stay close to me and my sisters is by doing and doing and doing that which comes naturally to you. You have recently made a monumental choice about the direction of your life from this time onward. I want to affirm for you that this is the right choice and it will bear many fruits for you and the millions you will come into contact with in the future through your art. Move forward into this new decision with ease and patience but with the easy confidence of a righteous goddess. I give this confidence to you. You have spent eons doubting yourself. It was very noble of you to put yourself through such difficult tests, but you needn't do that anymore. I have come to you today at the edge of time in Eternity’s desert to praise and love you and to tell you that even though you think you have been held back from us, we have always seen and known you and your precious and compassionate heart. We have seen the way you care for the smallest insect, the way you are always the only one to notice when a lowly beetle needs a hand, you save bees from drowning—all your life you have been working on behalf of all the goddesses tending and caring for the creatures of this world, for the trees and their leaves and flowers and even for the people, even though you have had your share of conflicts with them. But of course, that is perfect and natural and just as it should be. There is no growth without conflict. When I came back from the underworld I was a changed being. Now was I a woman and a true goddess. Once we see and learn the ways of the underworld we can never be entirely carefree again. Do not beat yourself up for your serious nature. Soon you will meet Artemis herself, you are her natural-born daughter. There is a place for a serious nature like yours. Your heart is on fire with passion and love. In the realm of the gods and goddesses that is the most priceless possession and you have it, you have always had it. Do not let Papa freak you out anymore. He is old and weak now, anyway. All the things he once believed in with such ferocity have melted away into the clouds of defiled memory banks. You are a fully grown woman now. You needn't fear yourself or others any longer. You have made it here, to my house! That is something not everyone can accomplish. I am very pleased with the new art you are making in my honor and your new decision together with your work will bring you and others closer and closer to me and my sisters. Go now, you must speak to Ereshkigal, she knows you are coming. You are blessed on this day by the Queen of Heaven. NEVER FEAR ANYTHING AGAIN, NOT EVEN HER. [An arrow points downward, indicating the "her" of whom She speaks.] I embrace you beautiful woman of the earth.
I bow to the ground with my hands on my heart. I am filled with awe and reverence. My heart is thumping and the wind is howling now.
It’s evening. The stars have just come out. The desert is peaceful. She is walking slowly, with her back to me. She is waiting for me to catch up. Although I’ve been quiet, she knows I’ve come specifically to see her again.
Her long black hair sways behind her. She smiles at me, and her smile says: “I remember you.”
We walk for a while. We both silently enjoy the beauty around us. The desert is so clean and it sparkles and glints here and there, as though the sand is reflecting the starry sky above.
She turns and looks at me again. Stars fill the space around her beautiful face and her hair blows and billows in graceful waves.
She: But not everything is always graceful, you know that, right?
I: Yes, even though the lack of grace frightens me more than hatred and vengeance and murder. Lack of grace is worse than death.
She: There’s nothing in the world as lovely and precious as grace. But those other things have their beauty too. When you are Queen of Heaven and Earth, you love and protect all things, even murder and hate.
She watches me. I feel quiet and peaceful but the questions keep coming.
I: What can I say about you to the world? How can more people see you and feel you and revere you? How can we help each other so maybe we can learn to be kinder and gentler to each other, to the creatures, to ourselves?
She: Perhaps some things cannot be said with words. This is why we have images. Action of your Self in the world, plus the action of your images shared with the world, those two combined are how you can tell the world about me. Images convey meaning directly between souls without a need for the mind. This is the most efficacious way to communicate. Stars speak with their light and evoke such wonder and joy in the heart. Images do the same. With words, you can only get so far. You can use them to draw a map, but the map is not the territory. Only starlight can show us the way.
I: I wish I could stay here with you forever. The world is such a madhouse!
She: Our son of the desert moon and stars [she means the poet, Rumi] has said it best: Become a madman! Join in the madness gladly, this is the world, with all its beauty and all its horrors. Jump in and take delight in it all. You know from what I transmitted into your heart yesterday that nothing can ever truly hurt you and no one is ever really hurt. On one level, we are all inhabitants of a vast cosmic dream and even being stuck through with knives is just a dream. After the physical realm disappears, the cosmic realm arises in the soul and the journey continues. Death is only the beginning. This realm I am in is much larger than your universe! Do you truly comprehend infinity? If you do then you know that in infinity there is no pain and no sorrow. Nothing lasts forever in infinity. Nothing is real and there is nothing to fear.
People of your realm become occupied with the small details that make up a life but they sacrifice infinity and that’s when pain and suffering are born. With an umbilical cord made of stars connecting your hara to the realm of infinite magic, you go through life taking delight in both small details and in—words cannot adequately describe the vast, infinite, and multitudinous points of light in my realm. But you! You have spent the last few years untethering yourself from the smallness of things. Unwittingly, you have strengthened your astral umbilical cord and here you are! You can drop in to see me now in under two seconds. I know you have been speaking with my father, Father Enki. That is good, and he is genuinely beautiful in his balance of feminine and masculine. I say this because I know your own father has wounded you deeply. He is a shallow man who became very lost early on in his life. You must forgive him. He has not your courage, his fears are too frightening for him. Sing and dance and love and play, Gelareh! You are in such a beautiful time of your life. Make me and show me in your art.
I want to fly across a starry sky.
I want to cup the moon in my hands.
I want to sleep beneath a citrus tree.
I want to jump out from behind a bush.
I want to run through a wild forest at night.
I want to meet my sister, Artemis, on the full moon so we can share a blessing.
I give you another powerful blessing today. Your strong feminine nature is shedding its skin of insecurity and fear. You are combining the strength of many goddesses within your yoni, within your heart. My sisters and I can see your spirit rising up and reawakening to your true self. Your work is important, your work has value. Do not seek approval from the people around you, there is no guarantee in the thoughts of other people. Your heart is loud and clear. You must expel your father from the deepest crevices of your heart and soul. You must go and clean up in there, pour water, light a candle, burn sweet grass, write a new prayer and sing a new song.
Do it this full moon and after that, you needn’t ever think of him again. He has his own path, he will be taken care of and shown the right way, but it is not your concern any longer.
She brushes my hair aside. She caresses my cheek gently and smiles again. I can feel my heart swelling with joy. We sit together and watch the stars and the sand glinting and listen to the wind. I sense her walking away, but I am asleep, and when I wake up again, she is gone.
Active Imagination With Inanna's Sister, Ereshkigal
I’m swimming in the depths of a blue watery abyss.
All is peaceful, but I have goose bumps. I’m not afraid, exactly, but exhilarated—I feel so excited to meet Her. As usual, just thinking of her brings tears to my eyes. My heart pounds and I can hear it in my ears. I can feel vibrations of various intensity coursing through my body. I’m hot; very hot heat is rising up from my body.
She calls to me in the darkness, in the vast infinite abyss. I reach for her with my heart—my heart floats through the water, deep red against the deep blue.
She sits on a throne floating in midair. We’re beneath the ocean yet also inside some sort of infinitely dark blue cavern. She wears black robes and a black scarf over her hair. She’s calm and at ease. I approach her but I am only my heart. She doesn't give a hoot about the other parts of my body. She knows everything that matters resides in my heart.
A dais with wide stairs appears on either side and behind and in front of her throne. My heart floats in front of her and she watches it with mild curiosity.
She: Hmmmmm. I’m somewhat surprised, but don’t get excited because nothing surprises me in earnest. It's why surprise isn’t even the right word. But by now your heart should have fallen to the surface of the dais with a loud thunk. I even saw you think about doing just that, I saw you think to yourself: “My heart is heavy, I want to rest it on the floor.” But then another part of you said: “No, that's not true. My heart is no longer heavy, I no longer have a heavy heart and must let go of my past habits,” so you refused to let your heart drop to the floor before me.
And that is what is somewhat worthy of notice. Everyone submits to the heaviness of the heart when they come before me. Something has changed in you. This is why you waited until today to come and see me (you wanted to come see me two days ago but two days ago you were still green). You were unchanged and green until last night when you made a choice, and that choice has altered the makeup of your heart.
Here in the depths of darkness, few can withstand the urge to fall to the floor with mountains of water pushing them downward. Yet such a small choice, made almost by accident like you stumbled on a pebble and said: “Oh! I choose happiness!” and just kept walking—such a tiny thing yet the entire universe has shifted, entire planets have shifted and changed and all life is altered. You of all people, you, the bravest, most courageous of daughters, you, who have withstood immense sorrows and unspeakable horrors! Of course, it is you.
But don't smile so much! Your smiling is silly, don't get all puffed up, this is just one of many many tests you must pass. Yet, I cannot deny that I am impressed.
So you may kiss my hand and I will bestow the gift of sight upon you: you will never be lost in the darkness again but will walk through it with comfort and ease. You WILL walk through darkness many more times in your life, but you will never be lost there again for the darkness is my realm and in my realm, I have blessed you and given you my sight.
Da Dum, Da Dum, Da Dum . . . my heart pounds peacefully before her. She continues to watch me for a while.
The water begins to get darker.
The edges of space stretch outward.
She and her throne begin to recede.
“I love you,” says my heart.
“I know,” says She.
The Ritual Photographs