Art, Nature, & the Human Soul

Pine and Cedar

For Isis

Posted on August 18, 2019

She carries her pain like flowers.

There are few women whose
grief can hold back the flood;
fearsome to behold, all wait in
bated breath for her to shed the first
tear.

None loved him more than she.
She doesn’t cry at the funeral, nor
in the night as she caresses her
growing belly. The first tears are
reserved for labor, for the first cry
of their child. And they do.
Even still, she does not
grieve.

The pain of Isis seeded into
something
new
something
of magic and wombcraft and cloud walking

She placed him in the arms of her sister

gathered the lillies and the scorpions
and departed for war.

Aquarius Full Moon

Journal Prompts for the Aquarius Full Moon, August 2019

Posted on August 14, 2019

Though not often given credit for her emotional depth, Aquarius has a remarkable talent for inspiring others to look within at their own inner ocean. Much like the image of the water bearer herself, Aquarius is like a therapist; she asks the right questions, guides you with gentle grace, listens carefully – but she never reveals her own emotional sea.

Leo/Aquarius eclipses defined much of the stellar activity in 2016 and 2017. That energy has lingered like mist on our skin, testing our egos and our individuality, while occasionally being enhanced and impacted by other celestial movements. Today that energetic frequency sent by Aquarius, a wise and quixotic cosmic guide, has completed its mission. We’ve had the opportunity to explore new versions of “I.”

Now we enter a new phase of Aquarian guidance.

As we sit down for our therapy session with Aquarius, we need to accept and prepare for its harsh tone. Saturn, Aquarius’ traditional ruler, can be seen in the night sky hovering just above the Moon. Together they aren’t leaving us much space for laziness in our decision making, nor in offering forgiveness. Sometimes, Saturn teaches, forgiveness enables poor behavior more than it releases one from baggage. Sometimes forgiveness is really just being a doormat – especially when the person we need to forgive is ourselves, and our own self destructive behaviors.

Aquarius and Saturn are asking us to be honest about personal integrity. Do we lie? Do we bend the rules? Are we playing fair? Do we gossip, cheat, procrastinate, or speak unwisely? These are the first questions to ask under the Full Moon, and you may find them coming up in your dreamtime if not dealt with while awake. But the culmination is this:

Are you displaying integrity of self in your interactions with others?

The shadow of ego is the desire to please. Our egos and personalities are here to protect us from pain, guide us through life’s struggles, and help us define our goals, wants, and needs. But we are social creatures under the ever-powerful influence of a larger social collective consciousness. The ideas and opinions of others can cloud our minds, resulting in an “I” – an ego – that is more a conglomeration of the surrounding world than an authentic expression of one’s unique, individual soul. 

Defiance of these norms is exactly what Aquarius is famous for, and exactly what Aquarius is here to teach us with the Full Moon. Dress how you want, regardless of what’s in season. Play with makeup. Cut your hair or don’t. Be proud of your eccentric hobbies and nerding out. Be unafraid of your inner self, and unafraid of how the collective may view and judge it. Aquarius knows it’s a waste of Life Energy to do anything else.

Journal Prompts for the Aquarius Full Moon

  1. What choices have I made based on how others might feel, react, or praise me? What was the result of those choices? Am I making similar choices now?
  2. When I imagine a fully actualized version of myself, what is s/he like? What traits does that version of Me have that I don’t currently exemplify? How can I change this?
  3. In what ways do I rely on the feedback of other people? Are any of these unhealthy?

Under the Full Moon, I encourage you to release the need for other’s approval and determine what is most valuable to YOU in your life.

 

Photo by Lady Escabia on Pexels.com

How I Named the God Who Visited My Dream Space

Posted on July 25, 2019

Atum, the self-created god of Before-Time, came into my life by reaching out to me in a dream.

This is by no means uncommon; many pagans experience the divine or Spirit communication through dreams, and that often leads us to question and wonder at what we witnessed. Very often, we can sense that the Being in our dream is a deity – but Who?

I’m of the opinion that the gods find us in sleep because dreams are limitless. It is only there that our consciousness is willing to defy the laws of physics or storytelling and visit the familiar and unfamiliar, all in favor of gaining a lucid experience. When we wake, we’re left to interpret symbols; but with Divine dreams comes the challenge of interpreting the Divine.

I want to walk through this process by exploring how I uncovered my patron, Atum. It began with a lucid dream from a mysterious Egyptian God. I devoted hours to research the details of my dream in order to narrow down who it had come from – and what I did once I had a couple guesses on their identity.

The Dream

I’m grocery shopping with my partner at our usual market when, at check-out, I’m suddenly convinced that it would be silly of us to go home and cook. There were a few hours left to the evening, I told him. Instead, we should get on the last ferry to Jamaica, or Costa Rica, or wherever it takes us.
We arrive on an island somewhere in the sea. My partner is present but I don’t know where. The island is a large, round, and pure sand with tufts of grass on its borders. We’ve arrived with a dozen other seekers, here to witness the Man wake-up. This happens once every 30 years.
The sun is setting, and I see stars. A bright constellation in the shape of an arrow catches my eye first, followed by one that looks like a cave art drawing of a human being.
As darkness falls, we gather in the sand and begin to spread out. The Man wakes up.
In the dark, he pulls liquid light from beneath the sands and fashions them into the souls of animals. A cheetah spirit, tall and boundless, pounces on me; I felt the weight of her paws on my shoulders. When we touched, she became briefly material; when we broke away, she returned to liquid light form. I laughed at her nuzzle.
I made eye contact with a lion. It was a brief moment steeped in profound, deep love.
There were other animals. In addition to lions and cheetahs, I saw orangutans, gorillas, a bear, crocodiles, and vague beasts I didn’t fixate on. Indeed, these are some of my favorite creatures of the Earth – with the exception of a crocodile.
Then I see the Man.

He appears in front of me, almost floating above the sands. He’s older, dark-skinned, with small patches of white in his hair. His eyes are shut but I can sense that he sees me through the lids. He carries a staff made of wood, but it’s strong like metal, with a hook on its end. It emanated a creative power.
The cloak he wears shifts in color from dark green, deep blue, to brown.
I gaze up at him for a moment, smile, and bow my head. Tears in my eyes, I thank him for this gift of “the most beautiful experience of my life,” and I return to interacting with the light-being animals.
But time is short. The sun begins to rise, and they all collapse back into the sands. The Man disappears with them for another 30 years. Tears finally spill from my eyes, and I call out to him as “Jupiter.” The crocodiles, however, do not disappear. As the sun hits their bodies, material snakes emerge. I run from them back to the boats and realize only then that I am alone.
Who is this God? This mysterious Man wouldn’t leave my mind’s eye, but luckily the dream was extremely lucid and provided a good stack of details to use in research.

300px-Egypt-Hieroglyphs

Step 1: Isolate the Concrete Details

I knew He must be an older man associated with arrows, wild animals, and perhaps blindness if I’m to guess from his shut eyes. I received a sense from Him that He had a need for darkness in order to create – a very common archetype – and I sensed ethereality in Him too. What stumps me most is the Jupiter calling card, as I’m confident he was not a Greek or Roman deity. The number 30 is also notable.
My first thought was for this to be a call for working with Amen-Ra/Amun-Ra, but some part of my intuition told me it could’ve been a dream from Khnum to begin worship of him. At first, I was hung up on animal associations. What Egyptian God is associated with cheetahs, lions, and apes?
Later, as I sat at my pottery table, it occurred to me that in the dream I specifically thanked him for the “gift” of the experience to connect so deeply with these animals. Indeed, big cats, apes, and bears are all part of my animal totem spiritual work. They’re my favorites since childhood. So, perhaps the animals had more to do with me than him.

Step 2: Divine

I was able to perform a little divination late at night, underneath the Sagittarius Waning Moon and the planet Jupiter shining brightly beside it. The only reason I was up and noticed that the Moon was positioned so perfectly in my living room window was that my cat, Zhu Li, had been running in circles meowing like a fire had started.

I reluctantly got out of bed, half expecting to find a rodent in the garden. Instead, it was quickly obvious that it was the Moon and Jupiter she was meowing at. Both were perfectly positioned in the garden window as if peering in at us. I was beyond giddy at the synchronicity of arrow imagery and Jupiter from my dream earlier in the afternoon and resisted the urge to shake my partner awake. I quickly found and lit a fresh pillar candle, burned frankincense, and sat at the window. I tied a blindfold around my eyes while facing Jupiter.

I asked: What was this dream gift’s deeper message? The answer was short, but hit me to my core:
“Show respect for all things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”
That was the divined answer I needed, the founding philosophy upon which I could figure out who the dream had come from.

Step 3: Gratitude 

This mysterious Egyptian God didn’t appear out of nowhere. He arrived through a plea I had put out into the universe, asking for a masculine energy to come into my feminine-dominant life. I requested the Goddesses I work with, Aset/Isis, Bast, and Asherah, for assistance in finding a male patron God, because my own research and worship wasn’t leading anywhere that fit.

Step 4: Interpretation and Research

I was offered some very specific hints at His identity: the number 30, the planet Jupiter, arrows, specific animals, and the short divined message: “Show respect for things that take form. Nature carries many secrets.”

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Image Source: ChristianBodhi/Pixabay

The Planet Jupiter

Modern planetary correspondences to ancient gods is a tricky business. I’ve seen more than a dozen sources relate Osiris to Pluto, for example, when we know that the Ancient Egyptians had no knowledge of Pluto in the first place. I like to make some room for these correspondences, though. Pluto is related to Hades, God of the Underworld. Osiris is an Egyptian counterpart. So, naturally, we would attach the planet to both gods. I don’t see anything too wrong with this.
Which leaves me with this: what does the planet Jupiter symbolize on a spiritual and mythological plane?
In Greek and Roman myth, Jupiter/Zeus is the Father of the Gods, the Sky Father, and a King. In astrology, Jupiter represents expansion, spiritual enlightenment, travel, fortune, and is associated with Sagittarius’ arrow and the fish of Pisces.
From this, I can deduce that I’m probably looking for a King of the Gods type figure. Someone who is likely self-created or, at least, someone transcendentally spiritual in tone. This doesn’t narrow down my list of potential Gods much, but it does cross a few off like Thoth/Djehuty.

The Number 30

In my dream, I was told that the God woke up every 30 years to perform what I saw. In numerology, the number 30 is reduced to 3. This happens to be my personal lucky number, but it’s also associated with creative expression in both numerology and Tarot. In Hebrew Gematria, 30 is associated with 3/Lamed, another personal favorite of mine. Lamed and Qof are the only two Hebrew letters to rise above or below the written line of text, something I’ve always found funky and attractive. The Hebrew term “Father in Goodness” shares a 30 value.
So far, so good. I can assume he’s creative (which, honestly, was pretty obvious from him literally creating souls in the dream).
But what of the 30-year cycles related to Saturn? I’m big on researching Saturn returns, and am anxious for my own. Could this God share characteristics of Saturn as a Lord of Karma, maker of bones, or one who brings order from chaos?
With this idea, I’m tempted to add Set to my list with a little question mark. Perhaps he’s related to the God of this dream somehow.

 

Arrows

The most obvious answer to arrows is Neith, the Goddess of war and hunting. Interestingly, her consort is Khnum, one of the Gods on my list. Her son, Tutu, is a curious mix of snake, lion, human, and crocodile with his symbol being arrows.

Animals

Speaking of animals, let’s look at those.
As I stated in my previous post, some of the animal symbolism in the dream felt gifted to me as an encounter with my spirit guides rather than an expression of this God. But, I could be wrong. The primarily interesting animals were the crocodiles and snakes, who did not disappear with the sun rising, and the big cats who I interacted with physically.
Cheetahs are associated with Mafdet, a Goddess who protects Ra and is sometimes depicted with a head of snakes rather than that of a cheetah. As Sekhmet and Bast, two lioness goddesses, are also protectors of Ra, I could deduce that the cheetah who pounced on me and the lion who observed me were protecting the God in my dream. In this case, that could be Ra or one of Ra’s many synchronized forms. Maahes, a male lion God of war, doesn’t fit the vibe of the dream, so he’s crossed off the list.
As for crocodiles, Sobek is another protection God. His other qualities of military victory, virility, and safety don’t match the dream, but his relationships to Set and Khnum keep both of them on the list. Set is thought to be his father, while Khnum either his father or son.
Finally, the crocodiles turning into snakes. Snakes are infamously associated with Apep, the enemy of Ra. It is curious that I ran from the snakes left behind with the God’s departure from the island, and Set is the God who assists Ra in fighting off Apep.

Step 5: Deduction

Based on these, the most obvious answer could be Ra. He takes the form of a lion or a snake and is the creative force behind all life. But the dream began with dusk, centered on stars, and lacked any blazing sun of inspiration.
The most likely candidates were two:
Atum, God of the Evening Sun and an Elder. He is the first father, fathering Shu and Tefnut from the waters of Nun, and all things are said to be made of his Ka. The liquid light of the spirits in the dream would match this. His tears created the first human beings and, though a solar deity, lifts the dead to the starry heavens. When in animal form, Atum appears as a snake, a lion, mongoose, ape, bull, or lizard.
Secondly, Khnum, God of the Nile and Pottery. Khnum is an interesting God because he makes the bodies and Ka of human beings on his pottery wheel. The clay he uses comes from the Nile that he himself inundates with water. In the dream, the God I encountered lifted up the liquid light of these animals from the sand. I myself am a ceramicist, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he came to me. The arrow in the sky could be accounted for as his consort, Neith. His animal association is simply a crocodile.
In the writings at Esna, Khnum is said to be the father of Ra with Neith. That’s a fun detail, but I’m going to exclude it since this seems to be a Roman influence.

Step 6: Reaching Out

My process going forward was quite simple. At my altar, I created a candle and offering plate for both Atum and Khnum. Beer, water, and bread are traditional and simple if you’re Kemetic, but there are a plethora of ideas for offerings. For Atum, I included a labradorite crystal because I associate them with the Before-Time; for Khnum, I made a clay figure of Him. From there, I will meditate, pray, and wait patiently for a sign.

Because I focused exclusively on the Egyptian Gods for this search, I included those prayers. What I found through meditation and ritual was not only confirmation that the dream, in fact, came from Atum (woo!) but that Khnum was more than happy to receive worship from me.

Now, they both have a prominent place on my altar.
I hope this write up of my research process is helpful for you in your own search for God or Goddess. If you’d like any pointers on interpreting dream messages from the Divine, leave a comment or shoot me a private email. I’m always happy to help with dreamwork.

Magickal Writing Prompts to Connect With Pagan Deities

Posted on July 18, 2019

I frequent pagan forums and social media circles, and often see the same question repeated again and again – often desperately: Is (x) a sign from (y)?

Opening ourselves up to metaphysical spiritual belief in the age of science is hard. It’s easy to explain to someone that you walked away from organized religion, even praised in mixed company, but to share that you walked into paganism or polytheism renders all kinds of weird questions.

“You don’t really believe in that, do you?”

“I mean, you just see them as archetypes, right?”

Or, my favorite: “Do you have any proof?”

I think our obsession with understanding dream symbols or thirst for a “sign” is an inner battle to reconcile these questions. It’s enough to get them from others, but often we have them within ourselves. Even after years into a pagan practice and countless journal entries detailing sublime experience, once can still fall into doubt. I do.

The important part is that we show up for our spiritual wellbeing and choose practices that enhance our minds, hearts, and health. Choosing to work with a god or goddess can be more religious for some, but psychospiritual for others.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of belief, I want to offer you a list of organic and everyday connections that exist to help us find deity and approach Spirit.  Within yourself are already a multitude of organic threads just waiting to be sewn into a spiritual fabric.

If you feel called toward connecting with deity, here’s my advice: write down your responses to this list. Writing forces you to slow your thinking down and truly consider your ideas, thoughts, and desires with depth and care. Writing pieces of yourself down puts them into the universe; out of the mind and into physical reality.

Take these ideas into a journal, ideally one that you’ve chosen to be a place for spiritual work. It can be a Book of Shadows or something else.

1. Numbers

If you’re interested in numerology, you can use numbers like your Soul Path number and find deities or spiritual practices connected to those numbers. Lucky numbers work too. My lucky numbers are 3 and 8, and in my case, 3 is incredibly powerful in all aspects of my life. I’ve found Vishnu and Auset to be my focal points and recognize 3 in them. Vishnu has had 9 incarnations (3×3) and Auset recovered Ausar from the dead to become pregnant and give birth to their child, creating a sacred triad.

What about you? Are there numbers you’ve felt drawn to? Do you have any lucky numbers? Do things always work out the first time you try them, or does it seem to always take three – or seven? Do your relationships with others come in twos or fives? Does your birthday mean anything to you? What about your birth time, or place? If there’s a number you feel at home with, explore it! What deities are related to it? What direction?

2. Animals

Not long ago, I had a profound dream from Atum. In it, he rose spirit bodies from the soil – bright blue energy beings – and they were all the animals that I loved and connected to the most. In the dream, he guided me to them and when I reach out to touch them, they became material. There were gorillas, lions and tigers, crocodiles and elephants.

Everyone has some sort of animal connection within them. My personal belief is that these can be representative of past lives before we incarnated as humans, but perhaps you have a more shamanic perspective that animals are guides and offer us spiritual medicine.

Were you obsessed with wolves as a child? Do you find yourself watching spiders closely rather than jumping away? Does seeing a falcon take your breath away?

Maybe you found yourself getting a dragonfly tattoo out of nowhere, or there’s something about the octopus that gets your heart swelling with intrigue. Write these down. Check the World Wildlife Foundations adoptable endangered species. Which would you choose? What element or directions do you associate these animals with? Which ones do you want to experiment calling upon? And, finally, what deities hold the same animals sacred that you do?

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Paintings of Aset and Sekhmet

3. Music

My partner swears by music. That’s the number one way he feels that Spirit communicates with him, and he will stop everything to honor those moments. Sometimes it’s a song that comes on in the grocery store, other times it’s the both of us having a tune stuck in our heads.

Of course, it doesn’t have to just be the radio.

Think about the music you go to when you’re emotionally well; not full of happiness, not in a valley of sadness or pain. What do you like to study to, meditate to? What songs come on when you’re out at restaurants? Is there a song that just pops up at the strangest or most needed of times? Look at the words, the genre, the meaning of these songs or these types of music. If you’re into soundscapes, seek out elemental or nature deities. If you like hip-hop, seek out deities who are playful or assertive. Classical could lead you to deities of balance or justice. Try making music, just with your hands on the table. What rhythms do you find yourself producing? What’s your vibration?

4. Joyous Moments

What makes you happy? I know, loaded question; but it’s true. If you find joy in painting or the arts, you might want a deity who can spend time with you while you pursue that. If you’re really into bath bombs and other luxurious self care routines, that sounds a lot like a good offering to Aphrodite!

Maybe bath bombs aren’t your thing, but tea in the morning is. Do you like being surrounded by friends, family, or strangers? Write down the moments of your life where you felt the most blissful. Write down what moments you want to collect before this life has ended. What deities reflect similar habits or goals? If you want to backpack along the Ganges or in Europe, think about the deities of travel and movement. If you’re passionate about building a family, ask yourself why you want one and look at the many Mother Goddesses you might have something in common with.

5. Weirdnesses

This might be the most important and will require slowly opening your inner eye. Look! For! Weirdness!

These are not coincidences, these are communications. Track your moods, your feelings, your interactions. Did a friend mention a film or historical figure that’s been in the back of your mind lately? Did that license plate you read have the initials of someone you care about? What imagery or feelings keep appearing in your dreams? Do you keep finding pennies everywhere you go?

If you’re not experiencing weirdnesses in your life, throw yourself into a new situation, new people, hobby, or activity. Breaking routine is an excellent way to invite the universe to have a hand in authoring your day.

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Forest shrine

Patience is True Magic

These are simple journaling activities to help you place yourself in the greater world we occupy. Spiritual journeys are deep, personal, and a long-term commitment. Don’t choose a deity just because they’re popular, or you feel like you need one.

Your own divinity and power to manifest does not reduce because you’re not throwing food at your altar for a “patron deity” every week. In fact, patron deities are a lot rarer than social media might have you believe. Allow this process to be what it is – a process. Allow time to discover your spiritual home. There’s no rush. You’ve lived lifetimes and you will live more.

Spirit guides are already here, waiting for you to listen. The more you reflect on the inner workings of your mind and heart, the more you’re saying YES to magic and saying YES to ascension.

Salmon Bodies

Posted on June 20, 2019

flash fiction

We go upstream, against the flow of salmon bodies throwing themselves on the rocks. They are spawning in spite of the ruins. Resilience was something I learned first from my mother and my father, through her table loom and his greenhouse. I learn it again here, in the stench of their bodies. Their striving splashes interrupt the steady rhythm of the rapids and they are too fast, too acrobatic, for me to get a clear view of their scales. I catch only a glint, a sparkle in my peripheral vision. The river grants me cold water on my toes, and I imagine where each drop would fall if I weren’t placed here, moving along these rocks.

We continue upriver to the mountains. The range is split in two by a crevice, carved by a glacier long ago. Now, a half moon rises there.

It’s too early, I say, the sun is up. The sky is still marmalade. I do not like the night.

We go upstream. On the other side of the river flow is a sandy mound where a deer bends down to drink. Do you think she’s going there too? Suri asks me, pointing to the deer with her chin rather than a finger. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps the deer is coming down, perhaps there are crowds ahead where it still snows. Maybe she has been shadowing our journey from the valleys. Maybe she’s running.

It’s easier to breathe here, away from the dust.

The deer looks back at me and I’m struck with vertigo. Suri grasps my elbow and steadies me on the slimy river rocks. Strands of her hair escape her hood and are caught in the November wind as if being pulled back to where we’ve left. Just a bit further, she says, and we can make camp.

There are empty homes and log cabins in these woods, but we do not acknowledge them.

I look back across the waters and the fading light of day muddies the details of the woods; I can’t tell branches from leaves or soil from shadow and the deer has disappeared in the depths. There could be people in there too. People under tarps, people wrapped in Mexican blankets, people trading for iodine. People like us. Suri assures me not to fear other travelers. She says we are all the same, like the salmon going upstream.

A crow swings down from the trees and drags a rotting fish from the edge of granite stone. It’s heavy, but he is persistent. Another one, above, caws at the darkening sky.

Suri takes my hand as our stomachs roar in unison. Somewhere, the cicadas begin to hum.

Summer is a bandage and I welcome her ruthless healing

Posted on June 14, 2019

 

The last two seasons have had me swept up in their rainy days. When it snowed, so did I. When the sky poured water on to the Earth, I let mine flow too. None of us are strangers to sadness and I didn’t expect summer to taste as sweet as it does, didn’t expect the rising temperatures to make me shed some skin, but there’s always something sinister about sugar.

2018 was the best year of my life and so far 2019 is shaping up to be one of the worst. I’m mining my heart and mind for anything that sparkles enough to tell me why; what do those years, 2019, 2017, and 2014; what did they each share? What blades did they bring to the fight? What was it about those years that tore my attention away from the sublime colors of the sunset and the miracle of creative survival back into the depths of a lesson I just can’t seem to learn?

If I’m being honest, I think I know the answer. But I don’t want to be honest right now. I want summer.

I don’t let that shadowy space deep in my belly even suggest the formation of a sentence or a plea in my mind. Summer is a bandage and I can feel something, somewhere, lost in my gut or my soul or maybe lost in my heart (it’s so hard to tell apart things in my closet that I’ve been ignoring) so instead I shrug and buy another candy apple; ride the Ferris Wheel, and plunge my legs into the ocean.

The Underworld of Inanna and Ereshkigal

Posted on June 14, 2019

 

Her name literally means “Queen of the Great Earth.” Maybe you’ve come across her before as Allat or Irkalla, the latter of which is the literal name for the Underworld.

Ereshkigal is the dark sister of much more popular goddess Inanna. While Inanna is associated with the planet Venus and rules over love, sex, beauty, art, and joy, Ereshkigal rules the dead in the underworld and all that lies in shadow. She is passionately in love and married to Nergal, the god of war, plague, and pestilence. Together, they had three children.

In contemporary comparative mythology, Ereshkigal is considered to have equivalency with the Goddess Hecate of the Greek pantheon. Though they are both goddesses of darkness, the underworld, and — of course — magic, the similarities stop there. Hecate had an active role in mythology, was an unwed crone, and traveled to and from the underworld at will. Ereshkigal was, like many ancient deities of Mesopotamia, more mysterious.

Personally, I fall into a school of thought which paints Ereshkigal as a goddess similar to Persephone. In a theoretical perspective, too, Ereshkigal and Inanna could be seen as two halves of the same woman — just as Persephone is split between the upper and lower worlds with Demeter or Hades.

Many versions of Ereshkigal’s myths survive, but I want to focus on one particular myth that opened me up to shadow work for the first time. I came across the story and devoured it again and again. Gradually, it helped me understand the duality inherent in womanhood, the importance of death to life, and how to accept and utilize the dark feminine.

Fear of the Dark Feminine

The myth in question is actually Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld. While Inanna initially seems to be the protagonist — she’s venturing to the Underworld to attend the funeral of Nergal, Ereshkigal’s husband — it becomes clear that she is more of a student in the domain of her sister.

Though Inanna is aware of the dangers in entering the great below, her heart aches to mourn with her sister; indeed, Ereshkigal is a dangerous woman, but Inanna’s love for her sets her on the quest anyway. Inanna takes a few precautions by alerting her confidants of her journey and asks them to fetch her from the underworld if her sister does not allow her to return.

From our modern perspective, the tale can seem strange. Why fear your own sister? But, as anyone walking the path of women’s spirituality has probably learned, there is a lot to fear about ourselves and our nature.

Within us are traumas, sins, dark desires, and ugly inclinations. Shadow work itself is dedicated to unearthing the roots of what poisons us from the inside. For Inanna to take precautions in visiting her dark sister is not unlike someone beside you when in a lucid dream, drunkenness, or delirium from migraine pain. If anything goes wrong or is too intense, someone is there to comfort and soothe the spirit.

The Seven Bolted Gates

In Ereshkigal’s Underworld, there are seven gates which lead to her throne room or palace. When Ereshkigal learns of Inanna’s arrival at the first of the seven gates, she orders them sealed and bolted. For Inanna to reach her, Ereshkigal demands that her sister Inanna unlock the gates through a series of sacrifices.

Essentially, Ereshkigal has closed her domain off from the goddess of love. Yet, she’s given her a choice to enter through sacrifice. These are a series of choices Inanna must make at each gate.

The symbolism of the sacrifice comes in the form of clothing. Inanna must remove an article of clothing at each of the bolted gates to unlock it, but this is decidedly exoteric. Ereshkigal’s seven gates interestingly correspond quite well to the chakra system and, although these two spiritual beliefs are of different cultures, I think placing them side by side can help us analyze the myth in a holistic way so we may analyze ourselves.

For Inanna to pass through her sister’s gates, she sacrifices pieces of herself. I like to think of each gate as the process of chakra and its symbol shutting down; as Inanna descended to the underworld, she is slowly dying. If we begin life from the root chakra upward, it makes sense that as we return to the underworld we would descend from the crown.

And so, at the first gate, the Gate of Authority, Inanna is asked to remove her royal crown. We can understand this as both spiritually and literally symbolic: she is entering the domain of Ereshkigal’s kingdom, and her authority has no place there.

The second gate is the Gate of Perception, corresponding to the brow chakra. Inanna loses her staff, a symbol of wisdom; Ereshkigal’s staff, a snake, is the source of perception in shadow.

The third gate corresponds to the throat chakra. I’ve written before about how the Dark Goddess is particularly potent with the throat chakra. In this legend, at the Gate of Communication Inanna loses her necklace. It is not until the fourth gate, the Gate of Compassion (corresponding to the heart chakra) that Inanna begins to become truly exposed and naked in removing her breastplate.

Further descending into the underworld, Inanna crosses the fifth Gate of Personal Power and removes her ring of power. While the idea of enhanced objects is nothing new, I particularly like the symbolism here. The solar plexus chakra associated with the fifth gate is a swirl of golden light. For her to lose her ring of power, which I would assume to be gold based on both the era and culture, begins to truly give the visual of her chakra system’s lights going out. Inanna is slowly evaporating at the gates of her sister’s kingdom of the below.

The sixth and seventh gates, the Gate of Creativity and the Gate of Manifestation, correspond to the sacral chakra or womb space and the root chakra from which our survival instincts emanate. Inanna first removes her ankle bracelets, a symbol of her sensuality and sexual power, before removing her royal robe.

Ereshkigal has stripped her sister of her power and vestments through a series of choices. At each gate, Inanna could have turned back, but she persisted. Within Ereshkigal’s kingdom, all that is of the Above world does not matter; none of the objects nor the chakras of the living body hold power in Irkalla.

Ereshkigal Kills Inanna

Finally, in the presence of her sister, Inanna is naked, vulnerable, and emptied. There, in the palace, Ereshkigal kills Inanna. She then leaves her sister’s corpse on a hook for three days.

As the third day passes, two beings sent by Enki arrive to rescue Inanna. Ereshkigal possesses the water of life, a magical substance which can resurrect the dead, and uses it to bring her sister back to life.

Inanna departs from the Underworld, returning to her own domain above.

Ereshkigal as Woman and the Legend of Persephone

Though this may seem brutal, Ereshkigal has, through this act, initiated her sister into the mysteries of the dark feminine. Inanna persisted through each gate and, which each of her lights of earthly and heavenly vitality (the chakras) gone, all that remains is life itself.

Through striking her sister down, Ereshkigal delivers unto Inanna deep feminine wisdom and a psychological opportunity for Inanna to meet her own shadow, her own death.

For me, the descent Inanna experiences could be thought of as her gradually becoming Ereshkigal. The idea of this duality and process reminds me of Persephone and her dual nature. Persephone, too, is a goddess who represents the initiation of a maiden through terror and extremes — but learning to hone them, grasp the experiences, and emerge forth with deep wisdom and Queenliness.

Ultimately, Inanna is reborn because of her sister, and is only given the experience of rebirth because she died in the first place.

We as women embody the goddess. Our bodies themselves are reflective blueprints of nature, and the myths we have passed down for thousands of years reflect those very patterns. Just as the planet Venus goes retrograde, dipping below the horizon into the underworld, Inanna descends to meet her sister.

Women do that too. We have the opportunity to descend and meet our inner shadow, our dark sister, our underworld self. We have high pain tolerance, create and destroy, and bleed to make life. We can see ourselves naked, dead, powerless, and in this way recognize all that we are in rebirth.

What is our menses, the cycle of the moon, but a process of death and rebirth? Of coming to know the shadow and, through that process, living the fullness of life with more joy and beauty?

This piece was originally published to Medium. You can read it here.