When I was younger I thought transformation only happened once. Upon my first visit to the Underworld of Transformation, I remember walking that terrain as if in a daze. Where in the world was I and why was the landscape so desolate? Then I remembered the teachings of the Goddess and Her descent into the Underworld.
At that time I was in the midst of deep and sometimes painful changes. This was also when I discovered the Sumerian story of Inanna and learned of Her descent into the Underworld.
Inanna heard the call of the Underworld, which was ruled by Her sister, Erishgikal. She passed through the seven gates and entered Her sister’s realm, naked and bowed low.
Inanna, unlike Persephone, took that journey only once. She descended, died to her old self and was reborn; end of story. So I naturally thought that was the way it would be for me. Perhaps in those early days of the patriarchy it only took one time to get it right.
Well, times change, right? Consider Persephone, a legendary Greek maiden, who descended into the Underworld every year for 6 months. Bless her heart… she keeps going back in a continual cycle of death and rebirth. The story opens with Persephone, daughter of the Goddess Demeter, as an innocent young woman, who lived in the golden glow of her Mother’s love and protection.
But like all youth she was compelled to explore. Persephone was walking in a meadow one day and she saw the beautiful narcissus flower. As she reached down to pick the flower, the earth split open, and Hades, the Lord of the Underworld emerged. Hades then took Persephone, willingly or otherwise, in a Spiral Dance into the shadows of the underworld. Here she learned the power of transformation; from death to rebirth, from dark to light, lost to found, chaos to clarity, fear to transcendence.
But, what I didn’t understand about Inanna’s experience is that even though she returned to Her Realm of the living, she did have to send someone in her place. The process of transformation is cyclical and ongoing for everyone.
Times continue to change and we now seem to be in transformation hyper-drive. Sometimes it feels as if the old ways, the old structures are melting down around us at lightening speed.
I resist the season’s turn to winter with every step into autumn. I mourn the waning light and fear the approaching darkness. But once the winter solstice arrives, I relish the quiet of the long nights and the inspirations of winter dreams. The winter season is the perfect time to explore the terrain of transformation. The hours of sunlight are short; the dark and the cold are prominent. We are forced by nature to snuggle into ourselves and uncover the diamonds hiding in the dark coal.
Both Persephone and Inanna guides us during the winter season to look inside, to contemplate in stillness and to seek inner peace. They both teach us what it’s so hard to see; the loss of what is outmoded is in our best interest; we must die to be reborn.