Thursday, 5 July 2012
Review: Journey to the Dark Goddess
The Dark Goddess, Goddess of Death and Destruction, is often shunned in fear even by many who honour other pagan deities, but those seeking deep spiritual wisdom have sought her out since ancient times because she also holds the secrets of transformation and renewal.
I'd been eagerly awaiting the publication of Jane Meredith's latest book, Journey to the Dark Goddess,ever since I attended her workshop on Persephone in London last summer. The full title of the book is Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul and it offers a series of rituals to embark on your own journey into the Underworld, to meet the Dark Goddess of Death, and to return to the land of the living. It primarily follows the myth of Inanna, the ancient Sumerian Goddess of Heaven and Earth who decided to visit her sister Erishkigal, Goddess of the Underworld.
Inanna travels through seven gates as she descends into the realm of the dead and at each gate she has to give up one of the things from which she derives her strength. When she finally reaches her sister, Inanna is naked and powerless. Erishkigal turns her deadly gaze on her, and she dies.
Yet that is not the end of the story. Tiny creatures from the land of the living creep into the Underworld to look for Inanna. They find Erishkigal, who is moaning in suffering, and they comfort her. In thanks, Erishkigal lets them take away Inanna's dead body, which they magically restore to life with crumbs of the bread of life and drops of the waters of life. Inanna returns to the land of the living, reclaiming her former powers and gaining some of the powers of life and death.
The idea in Journey to the Dark Goddessis that by following that story through ritual we can meet the Dark Goddess as she manifests in our own lives - as grief, depression, unhappiness, illness, addiction and so on. By confronting these things and learning the lessons they have to teach us, we can move on and reclaim our lives, stronger than we were before.
Publisher Moon Books says on its website: "Discover the powerful secrets of the Dark Goddess and transform your depression, grief and pain into healing and integration. Journey to the Dark Goddess will lead you on a powerful, healing path."
As well as looking at Inanna's story, Journey to the Dark Goddess also looks at other mythological journeys into the Underworld. This includes Persephone's seduction by Hades, the Greek God of Death, leading to her becoming Queen of the Underworld in her own right; and Psyche travelling into the Underworld as part of a quest to be reunited with her lover, Eros. In all of the stories, the journey into the Underworld demands great personal sacrifice. But the stories teach that by confronting our deepest fears we can learn to master them.
The book's description says: "The map for this journey to the Dark Goddess exists in ancient myth. Weaving the stories of Inanna, Persephone and Psyche with self-enquiry and sacred ritual we learn to journey internally, creating maps in our darkest places and return enriched, integrating our deepest understandings. Meeting the Dark Goddess we see a mirror of our own soul."
The Persephone workshop last summer culminated in an Underworld rite, in which those taking part visited the realm of the dead and shared a feast with those who had died before us. Having recently lost my own mother, I didn't find it easy to do, but I know I learnt a lot from it - including a greater understanding that nothing is truly lost; it is only transformed.
The rituals in this book look even more difficult and demanding than the Persephone workshop. They involve being willing to give up the things one holds most dear, without being certain that they will be returned - and stepping into the darkness without knowing that you will come out again. Yet the rites, explained clearly and with great insight, also offer a powerful path for learning and growth.
Personally, I would not recommend anyone should try an Underworld journey unaided unless they are very experienced with spiritual and magical workings. But I also know that I'd want to risk another visit to the Dark Goddess myself - especially if Jane runs a workshop on Inanna anywhere near London. I'll be checking the dates for events on her website regularly to see if any are announced.
Links and previous related posts:
Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul