Winter is like a long, slow in-breath, with the living world drawing deeper and deeper inward to death and dormancy as the days get darker and colder. The Winter Solstice is the still, held breath of the longest night, a moment when it can feel as if the cold, dark of Winter will last forever, and then the balance shifts back to the returning dawn light of a new solar year.
Nature gifts us with a profound stillness and silence. The outward signs of life are stripped down to bare bones. Plants and creatures surrender to death and dormancy, retreating into the dark belly of the Earth. There’s no despair in Nature, nor any resisting, hiding or running from the inevitable and inescapable. Life comes to an end. Everything must return to its origins.
Yet this death-state of Winter is an illusion, a time of rest, rejuvenation and gestation that gives forth the light of a new dawn on the Winter Solstice, and the returning life of Spring. Death and darkness aren’t absolute endings, but more beginnings where something fresh and beautiful is reborn into the world.
To turn your mind to your inner darkness can be a scary proposition. If you’re like most everyone else, your shadow-side that holds your personal wounding resides within the hidden folds of your inner darkness. When you turn your awareness to the deep, dark places of your innermost landscape, you’re going to meet your wounded self, and the lost parts of your life story that hold your losses, pain and sorrows.
Rather than running from these parts of yourself, remember Nature’s Winter rebirth magic: new life emerges from the dark, death-like places in the belly of the Earth. What you find in the belly of your inner darkness are the makings of powerful rebirth magic.
You don’t need to make this journey alone. The Dark Goddess is your teacher in these life-transforming mysteries of darkness, death and rebirth. The Winter is Her season and Her mysteries are most potent on Winter Solstice eve. The ancient Sumerian myth of the Goddess Inanna’s descent to the Underworld realm of Her sister, the Dark Goddess Ereshkigal, can guide your journey of soul as you descend into your inner darkness in search of the rebirth magic that is emerging for you at this time.
Though She is a perilous taskmaster, the Dark Goddess’s promise is to help you travel Her Underworld realm of the sacred dark, both inside you and in the greater mysteries of this world, and to help you grow into your full power and potential. Like Nature, She shows you that the ways of death, darkness and descent are inevitable, inescapable, and essential for the rebirth magic that can grant you new life and new beginnings.
Your Winter Journey, through integrated writings, activities and a guided meditation, helps you explore and embrace these powerful teachings, and make them your own as you embark on your own rebirth magic from the darkness into the light of a new you.
Out of darkness and death, light and life are reborn. So too the light of your beauty is reborn from the depths of your wounding. Let these life-changing truths inspire and guide your Winter Journey.
Winter Journey – Your Rebirth Magic: Braving Your Inner Darkness
Turn Inwards ~ Discover Your Rebirth Magic ~ Make Your Life Anew
Let the Dark Goddess and Nature guide you in this season of darkness, death and rebirth magic.
Your Winter Journey includes: two pdf ebooks the Winter Journey Guidebook and Winter Journey Journal, and the Winter Journey Guided Meditation (mp3 audio).
Excerpt from Tale of the Lost Daughter
“Inanna’s and Ereshkigal’s story comes to us from long, long ago,” Annie says in her melodic, priestess voice, “from a time in our human history when we worshipped the Goddess and honored Her with offerings of story, ritual and harvest. When the ways of She — of life, earth, body, creation, joy and beauty — were held as sacred and holy, and when women were our leaders, priestesses and guides. This tale was physically chiseled in stone in the ancient days, and then lost through the turning of the fates, only to be found once more in these times of great change and great need.
“On this Winter Solstice eve, these Goddesses remind us that the brilliant light of a new dawn is born from the belly of the darkest night, and that rebirth is not possible without death. All of life, including each one of us, is beholden to these immutable laws. These things Inanna knows. Descent is not to be avoided but embraced, because only through the ways of Ereshkigal and of the Great Below can Inanna rise up in Her full powers as the Queen of Heaven and Earth.
“Inanna teaches us that only by our willingness to enter the mysteries of our own darkest night, with whatever wounding and challenges it may hold, can we blossom into a fuller expression of our personal beauty. In our ritual tonight, we travel this ancient tale with Inanna as She turns away from Heaven and Earth toward the Underworld. And we open our ears to the Great Below to find the seeds of our own wounding and beauty that call us to rebirth.”
Kate slips into our group, dressed in a sleeveless, floor-length, black vest, and abruptly draws our attention to the other side of the room as she booms in a rich and commanding voice, “We call to you, Great Goddess, who speaks to us in the tongues of fruit and mold, vibrant flesh and rotting carcass, and brilliant sunlight and moon-draped shadows. We open to your ways of body, breath, sensuality and joy, and of decay, destruction, loss and suffering. We ask you to be with us tonight in your twin presences as Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, and as Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. Guide us as we enter your ancient tale of death and rebirth, and the mysteries of this Winter Solstice eve. Please be with us now!”
Selena and Kayla, completely transformed into Inanna and Ereshkigal, glide into our midst from the shadowed recesses of the room. I gasp, along with several of my companions, as a shiver runs down my spine and shimmies across my skin. My nose draws in long, full inhalations, with my mouth slightly open, as if to drink in the essences of these magnificent, otherworldly beings.
Through a priestess process that I cannot begin to fathom, they have become these ancient story characters, not only in their costuming, but also by an inner force that is unlike anything I’ve ever sensed or smelled in my waking reality. Though I hold myself in check, I long to reach out my fingertips to touch and commune with them, living flesh to living flesh.
Selena as Inanna exudes a proud, regal bearing, shimmering with a vitality and personal power that I sense rising off her form, like heat waves from a desert sun. Her aristocratic features and statuesque beauty, stark and breathtaking, appear all the more poignant against the austere backdrop of an unadorned, white sheath of gauzy fabric and a curtain of black tresses down her bare back.
Kayla as Ereshkigal paces back and forth, Her blonde hair teased into an unruly mane, emanating a barely-contained, feral power and a musky scent, like a wild cat ready to pounce. She wears a strip of leopard-print cloth tied around Her small breasts, and a narrow, black skirt slit up the sides that reveal Her muscled, bare legs and bangled ankles. A thick, silver torque of a snake biting its own tail rests on her collarbones, matching armbands encircle Her biceps, and a silver circlet with a suspended, obsidian teardrop crowns Her brow.
Annie kneels in front of Inanna, with her arms raised, and sings in a voice as sweet and pure as a lark greeting the rising sun, “Hail to Inanna who dies to be reborn. And deep calls to deep. And deep calls to deep.”
Kate adds a countermelody, one octave lower, as she kneels, with bowed head, before Ereshkigal, “Hail to Ereshkigal the Mistress of Rebirth. And deep calls to deep. And deep calls to deep.”
Kate and Annie weave their voices, creating one song of praise and welcome to these two Goddess Queens. Others pick up the simple, rich words and tune, some singing Annie’s refrain, and some singing Kate’s. My upper torso begins to sway, spiraling the melody upward through my bones and muscles, and into my constricted throat, igniting its latent powers of reverence and music making. My lips begin to form words and I join Kate’s call to Ereshkigal.
The energy of our song builds like a growing sea that crashes wave-like against the walls of this small room, and then sweeps back over us. I lose track of myself and time, as if I have stepped awake into a dream. It takes me several minutes to realize that I’m no longer singing; the room has fallen silent, save for the heaving of my breasts, and the quiet movements of the priestesses as they take their places within our circle.
With the rich timber of a master storyteller, Annie says, “Inanna turned away from the land of Heaven and Earth and opened Her ear to the Great Below. She chose to descend to the Underworld, to the realm of Her mighty sister Ereshkigal.”
To Annie’s right, at the far edge of the circle, Inanna waits motionless; she looks like a marble statue, with the fine lines of her cheekbones, nose and chin lightly brushed by soft, golden candlelight. Her dark brown eyes seem to be illuminated by a vast wisdom that I sense but cannot penetrate.
Directly across the circle, Kate stands guard before Ereshkigal. With her long vest removed, she wears only black tights and a crisscross of leopard fabric to cover her ample breasts and solid, hefty limbs. She is now Neti, the gatekeeper of the Underworld, an intimidating sentinel with legs wide, alert, expressionless features, and a black staff at her side.
Ereshkigal lounges behind Neti on a chair loosely draped with black fabric. She scans the room with cold, blue eyes, as impenetrable as the obsidian stone hanging from Her crown.
Annie approaches Inanna with a woven basket filled with lovely objects and says, “Inanna gathered Her royal vestments and prepared Herself for Her journey.”
One by one, Inanna adorns Herself with her royal vestments: a golden circlet, a double strand of blue stone beads, a delicately-embroidered vest, a red velvet robe, a gold ring and a tall, wooden staff. As a final touch, She dabs the corners of Her eyes with a patchouli-scented oil; its pungent smell brings to mind chartreuse leaf buds, rutting deer, and the wild, green fecundity of a forest in springtime.
Then Inanna turns in a slow circle, Her arms flung wide, and says, “You are my loyal servants. I am going to the Underworld, to the land of death. If I do not return, you must save me. Do not forget these words I have spoken.”
My heart pulses in a rapid, irregular beat as Inanna squares Her shoulders and walks a few paces toward Neti at the gates of the Underworld. I choke back a sob as a voice inside of me wails, “Don’t go, Inanna, don’t go!” But I know I can’t stop Her; this story was chiseled in stone long ago, and no one can prevent its inevitable conclusion.
With three resounding raps of Her staff on the wooden floor, Inanna cries out, “Open the door, Neti! It is I, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. I have come to visit my older sister Ereshkigal.”
Neti moves in front of Inanna and says, “Stay where you are, Inanna. I must first speak with my Queen and tell Her your message.”
Though Ereshkigal barely moves, Her body gives off an intense, radiating heat. She scowls and gnaws on Her lower lip as Neti stands before Her and delivers his report.
“My Queen, your sister Inanna waits outside the gates and requests entry to the Great Below,” Neti says, “She has come clad in full royal regalia and seeks an audience with you.”
Long moments pass, my heart still mapping out its desperate pace, and then Ereshkigal speaks in a slow, danger-edged drawl, “Neti, you must fasten the seven gates to the Underworld. Let Inanna enter them one by one, and at each gate She must remove a piece of Her royal garments. If the Queen of Heaven and Earth wishes to stand before my throne, She must do so bowed and laid low.”
My fingernails dig into my thighs; I try to slow down my breath and to compose myself, assure myself that I am safe and no one is going to strip me bare or harm me. But I cannot ignore the blistering power that rises from Ereshkigal and sets every fiber of my being on high alert. Somehow I know that She speaks to Neti about everyone in this room. We have all dared to knock on the door of Her realm this Winter Solstice evening, and to stand awaiting Her judgment on whether we will be granted entry. Though She has agreed to open Her gates to us, there is a price to be paid.
Neti returns to Inanna and allows Her to enter the first gate. As She steps through, he removes the golden circlet from Her head.
Inanna asks, “What is this, Neti?”
Neti replies, “Do not question the ways of the Underworld, Inanna. They are perfect.”
A brittle edginess suffuses the room, charged with an electric tension that jangles my nerve endings. One by one, Inanna passes through the remaining six gates, and at each Neti removes a piece of Her royal vestments, stripping Her, at the last, of Her pristine, white dress. And at each gate, with each successive humiliation of Inanna, my stomach and shoulder muscles clench tighter and tighter.
Ereshkigal remains on Her throne, saying nothing but emanating a barely-suppressed rage in the taut lines of Her posture, the twitching upturn of one corner of Her mouth, and Her heavy, growling breaths. I don’t know what angers Her, but I fear for Inanna. And I fear for myself.
Inanna, naked and laid low, moves past Neti to stand before Ereshkigal. Though stripped bare of Her outer, worldly symbols of power and status, She doesn’t appear the least bit afraid or vulnerable. An inner luminescence and presence extends outward from Her form, seeming to shine all the brighter in the threatening gloom of the Great Below. I catch a faint scent of roses in bloom and that musk of patchouli, and I smile, softly, briefly, momentarily reassured of the good thing still waiting in the Great Above.
Ereshkigal rises from Her throne and prowls around Her sister, sniffing the air with flared nostrils as if She too can smell the world Inanna has left behind. But unlike my joyful response, She erupts in a lethal fury. A low snarl curls from Her lips as Ereshkigal roughly grabs Inanna by the jaw and fixes Her with a deadly glare.
My hand reaches out, knowing intuitively what will come next, how this thing will end.
“No, please no,” I whisper.
Ereshkigal strikes Inanna’s face and pushes Her to the ground.
As if from a million miles away, I hear Annie, her voice ringing with anguish, “Ereshkigal struck Inanna dead and left Her corpse to rot.”
For one shocked, empty-minded moment, I stare at Inanna’s pale, white body, limp and lifeless on the cold, hard floor. Then I clamp my eyes shut, wrap my arms tight around my knees, and close myself off from whatever is going on outside of me. What am I doing here? What is this madness? I’ve got to leave before that monster Ereshkigal turns on me!
I press my palms hard into my eye sockets, trying to push myself out of this ritual, magical reality and back to my normal, everyday sensibilities. But I am in too deep; I am awake in this story-drama world and compelled to see it through to its end. There is more to this tale, more that I am meant to experience and to remember. Whatever I am missing from my life is here in this room — the lost parts of me and my inside-out woman’s power — it’s here, in these priestess women and ancient Goddesses, I can smell it, feel it, in the air around me.
But am I willing to follow Inanna’s lead and be stripped bare of my worldly status and accomplishments — everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve? Or perhaps Ereshkigal’s dictates go deeper, to my good looks, my health, my job and financial stability, and my Opa Kass. Oh no, God no, not Opa Kass! My insides lurch as I imagine him lying at my feet, curled up in a fetal position, naked, dead. No, no, not him, not my Opa! You can’t take him from me! He’s all that matters to me! The only person who really loves me! No, not him Ereshkigal! I couldn’t bear it! I couldn’t!
Inanna’s voice sounds from inside my head, “You must save me, Sarah, and you must save yourself. Do not give in to your fear. Do not fall for the false pictures it paints. Remember that I chose, of my own free will, to descend into the Underworld. Nothing was taken from me that I did not freely give. New beginnings wait for you in the belly of the dark, but you must choose to be present to this moment and see where it leads.”
My whole body shakes uncontrollably as I uncurl my limbs, pull back my shoulders, and lift my head into an upright position. With my eyes still closed, I breathe as Annie taught us at the beginning of the ritual. Slow, slow, in — I fill myself with the grounding, nourishing energies of earth and sky. Slow, slow, out — I empty myself of the terrifying image of Opa Kass. Just breathe, that‘s all that matters — slow in, slow out — slow in, slow out. The desperation recedes and I shift into a quiet place inside myself. I rest one hand on my heart and my other on my belly. What do I choose? Am I ready to open my ears to the Great Below and to find out what waits for me in the belly of the dark? Am I willing to pay whatever price is necessary to find what I am looking for and to continue on this crazy adventure? Yes — for now at least, tonight — yes.
I open my eyes and take in Inanna’s inert body — lovely, fragile, broken — and an involuntary cry bursts from my lips, “No, Inanna, no!”
“Inanna, Inanna!” Will sobs beside me.
“Come back to us, Inanna! Come back!” others wail.
The thunder of our cracking voices and harsh keening drives everything from my mind and tumbles me even deeper into this ritual experience. A chasm opens inside of me, a black, gaping emptiness, and I sense an ancient grief, wider and deeper by far than my personal past, and wider and deeper than the grief of everyone in this room. And I know, immediately, intuitively, that we have entered the tale itself. We have become Inanna’s loyal servants, pouring out our lament for Her loss, and beholden to Her command to save Her.
Ereshkigal joins us in our grief, hovering over Inanna, brushing back Her raven hair, and soaking Her waxen face with a river of candlelit tears.
“Oh my sister, my sister!” She moans, cradling Inanna’s head in Her lap, “Oh my heart, my heart! What has become of us? What has become of us? What has happened to our living earth and our wayward, mortal children? All the gifts and wonders we gave to them — squandered — broken — gone, gone, gone!”
And we moan and wail with Ereshkigal. Inanna is gone from our world. Ereshkigal is gone from our world. I did not grow up knowing their names, their beauty, their power. I did not grow up knowing my name, my beauty, my power. The womanhood I carry, the humanity I conceive, are but shadows, tinny mimicries, of their greatness.
Ereshkigal looks up, Her cheeks wet and shiny, and wipes away the clear fluids running from Her nose with Her bare arm. Her silence spreads through the space, broken only by an occasional sniffle and haggard sigh. Gently Ereshkigal lifts Inanna’s head from Her lap and resumes Her throne. Then She turns Her deathly gaze, briefly, upon each of us. When my turn comes, though my limbs tremble and my breath comes in shallow gulps, I unflinchingly return Her glacial, probing stare.
“Who are you to cry and wail with me?” She asks us, Her voice once again strong and formidable, “You are not the Gods come to bring Inanna back to life. You are mortals, and I will grant you this gift of truth. By your hands Inanna’s destruction has been forged, and by your hands She will rise again.
“It was you who tore Inanna from my side — crowning Her Queen of Heaven and Earth — granting Her the royal vestments and reverence of the Great Mother — while you feared and vilified me and my mysteries of the Great Below. The solar realm eclipsed the moon, the light overrode the dark, and the whole, holy cycles from life to death to rebirth were torn asunder.
“And you did not stop there. Gods replaced Goddesses. The ways of men crushed the ways of women. Dominion and death overruled creation and the nurturance of life. I will not recount for you the litany of crimes that have erupted from these festering wounds, mortal against mortal, and against the good, green earth. Nor do I need to remind you of the grave perils these desecrations have wrought, and that you hover on the brink of destroying the web of life that sustains you and your planet home. For I have taken your measure and see that we drink from the same well of loss and despair.”
As Ereshkigal speaks, unwanted images crowd my mind: the float-plane, aerial view of a dense, mustard-tinged bank of smog hovering over Vancouver’s skyline, all the more ugly and unwholesome against the spectacular backdrop of snow-dusted mountains; a beggar crouched outside the Toronto Stock Exchange last Wednesday, dressed in a shabby, thin coat, smiling gratefully as I dropped a handful of coins into his outstretched, dirty hand; and the early December news footage of the most recent, mega-hurricane, wreaking havoc on the eastern seaboard, and tumbling and tearing up four-story buildings, ocean tankers and highways as if they were made of matchsticks and glue. I feel sick inside, dirty, contaminated, a guilty party in the hopeless mess we humans have made of the world, but with no idea how I can help change what is or make a difference.
Ereshkigal’s eyes turn in my direction, and I feel Her inside of my head, as if She is reading my thoughts.
“But there is hope,” Ereshkigal continues, holding my gaze for a second, “And that hope rests with those courageous enough to turn their faces back to my life-serving ways. Tonight you have shown me your courage by journeying with Inanna into the depth of my realm, and by daring a taste of my powers, my rage and my grief.
“In return I offer you a secret, a boon. The magic that can turn the tides of your destructive ways, and call Inanna and I back to the waking world, is woven from your wounding and your beauty. You cannot recover one without the other. The new dawn is born of the darkest night, and the blossoming of your beauty from the depth of your wounding. Tonight, together, we begin this work by creating a magic brew, the dirt of life, that will call our beloved Inanna from Her sleeping death back to our sides.”
Kate places a blackened iron pot at Ereshkigal’s feet, tips in a container of rich, brown earth, and then says, “By the earth that is Her body.”
Annie follows, stirring in a cup of water in a slow, clockwise motion, and then says, “By the waters of Her living womb.”
A palpable potency rises off this simple mixture of dirt and water. I sniff the air and reach my flat palms toward its power; it feels like old, old magic, as ancient and primal, perhaps, as the Dark Goddess Herself. I breathe it into my body, let it infuse my core, and then give myself over its mysteries.
Kate softly hums the bittersweet melody of our earlier song to Inanna and Ereshkigal, while Annie speaks with a muted intensity and a slow, entrancing rhythm, “Close your eyes, still your thoughts, and turn your ears to the Great Below and its mysteries of death and rebirth. Open your heart to your deepest longings and let them guide you to the seeds of your wounding and your beauty, waiting to return from the darkness to the light on this Winter Solstice eve. With these seeds, we will brew our dirt of life magic and call Inanna back from Her death slumber, and you from yours.”
A dream-like landscape appears in my inner vision when I close my eyes. An impenetrable dark surrounds me, alive and whispering with hidden forces that gently brush against my senses and raise goosebumps on my exposed skin. I can only see a couple of feet in front of me and the ground beneath my feet. With Annie’s words to direct my actions, I open my heart and let my deepest longings bubble up to the surface. Though I have no names for these mysterious, compelling energies, I feel them surging through my veins, and reaching up and out of my flesh to permeate the surrounding blackness.
A path appears at my feet, of glimmering, silver stones, like moonlight transformed into solid matter. The stones lead me forward, and I step as silently as I can so as not to disturb the sleeping beasts that I sense in the shadowed folds of this dream world. I’m not sure how long I travel for, only that I keep putting one foot in front of the other until my way is blocked by an impassable slab of black rock, with a polished, reflective surface. My wide eyes stare back at me from this obsidian-like mirror, with pupils dilated with undisguised desire.
I place my lips against the cool, smooth rock and whisper, “Show me my beauty.”
The reflection of my face dissolves and a woman appears, languidly stretching and rubbing her eyes, like a sleeping beauty awakening after a long enchantment. Golden light shines outward through her skin and spreads over the sable, rock surface, like the rays of a new dawn dispelling the shadowed grip of night. She wears a plain, white gown, its silky folds billowing in an invisible wind; her wrists are adorned with spiral, snake bracelets, and a thin band of silver, embellished with an obsidian teardrop, encircles her brow. A faint breeze passes through the stone wall, carrying hints of wild roses, rich, composting earth and sun-warmed, meadow grass.
“Inanna,” I cry out.
She turns to me and smiles.
“Sarah,” she murmurs and reaches out a hand as if to touch me.
With a start, I realize that her hair is golden, not Inanna’s raven black, and that I am gazing into my own sky-hued eyes, but I don’t recognize their depth of presence and power as a part of me.
“Sarah,” she says again, spreading her arms wide to reveal my fully-unfurled beauty, “Thou art Goddess.”
I propel myself against the wall, attempting to leap through the stone and claim this vision of myself. But the wall transforms into a blank screen of slate gray concrete, and an urban stench of gas fumes and close-packed bodies replaces the rose-tinted scent of my Goddess-self vision.
“No, no, no!” I shriek, pounding the unrelenting barrier, “Come back! Come back!”
I pound and pound and pound, until, exhausted, I collapse to the ground weeping. I have found the seeds of my beauty and my wounding, and the source of my soul angst that has driven this adventure. I am Goddess; my lost feminine soul, vanquished from the flat, concrete matrix of my modern womanhood and the waking world, still resides within me. But I have no idea how to get her, me, back.
With a sharp stab to my heart, the dream landscape dissolves and my eyes spring open, returning me to a ritual moved on to its next stage.
Annie and Kate stand facing each other in the middle of the circle, joining their raised hands to create a living gate. Three people wait their turn to pass through the gate and stand before Ereshkigal’s throne: a man and woman I haven’t met, and Will. My temples throb as I join the line, and I rub them absently with clammy palms.
In place of the steely, impersonal rage I expect, I sense an unfathomable sadness in Ereshkigal’s lovely, blue orbs as Will stands before Her. Whispered words pass between them, a sharing, I imagine, of the seeds of beauty and wounding that Will has uncovered in his ritual work. Tears flow down his cheeks and soak the front of his shirt.
I am the last to bow before the Queen of the Underworld and dare to meet Her unblinking stare.
“What offerings do your bring to me, my daughter?” She gently asks me, “What seeds of beauty and wounding do you have to share?”
“My beauty,” I whisper, “My beauty . . . I . . . I am Goddess.”
“I am Goddess,” I repeat as if the words themselves can make this true, “But I have lost my way.”
Then I look down as a red flush of shame and a slicing pain cuts through me. My bottom lip quivers and I bite down hard, desperately trying to hold back the building sobs that threaten to suffocate me.
With a tender touch, Ereshkigal lifts my chin and says, “Nothing is lost that cannot be refound. You need only set your feet on the Dark Goddess’s path and say yes.”
A tremor rises from my bones and ripples through my muscles. I once more meet Her gaze. This is no gentle Goddess. She is terrifying; a blaze smolders within the blackness of Her pupils that could easily reduce me to ashes. And yet, deeper still, I sense only love; not a Valentine, treacle-sweet love, but a fierce, tugging love, like an ocean that insistently calls me back to its life-sustaining waters.
“Yes,” I say, “Yes, I will set my feet on the Dark Goddess’s path and follow where it leads me.”
Ereshkigal dips Her index finger into the blackened iron pot, whose earth and water hold our dirt of life magic, and stirs in a slow, clockwise direction.
“So it is chosen. So it will be,” She says as She paints a warm, mud-smeared star on my brow.
The mark burns, not painfully so, but enough to let me know that these words that have passed between us won’t be washed away when the surface layer of mud is gone.
On impulse, I dip my finger into the pot, reach down to paint a star on Inanna’s forehead, and then softly kiss Her cold, ruby lips. I am only inches from Her face, my hair shielding our shared space from others, when Inanna’s eyes burst open and Her quick smile stifles my gasp.
“So it is chosen. So it will be,” She whispers into my listening ear and quick, beating heart.
I pull Inanna into my arms, her nude skin melding into my sweating body, and press my face into the caressing folds of her rose-scented hair. For a few precious seconds, that is all there is, this meeting and rocking of our bodies, like we are suspended together in our own private bubble.
When I look up, it’s Will’s gaze that captures mine. And for one still moment, Inanna and my private bubble extends to include him. His cheeks are still wet with tears, and I want to touch them, taste them and take them inside of me.
And then a rush of noise bursts our bubble with wild cries of, “Inanna! Inanna!”
Hands pull Inanna and me to our feet, and into the many-armed embrace of a group hug.
Annie begins a rich, seductive beat on her drum, and sings, “She changes everything She touches, and, everything She touches changes.”
Others know the song and join Annie. Kate adds in a countermelody and verse, “Change me. Touch me. Touch me and change me.”
I rock my hips, with my legs wide apart, stripped down to my tank top and yoga pants, letting the building energy of the song undulate through my bones and muscles. With dream-hooded eyes, I watch the music ripple through the group — Inanna, Ereshkigal, Kate, Annie, Will, Rose, Hal, Rob, Liz, every person in the room, even Al the accountant in his neatly-pressed pants — the song’s rhythmic spell catches us all, calling us to weave our voices and bodies as one expression of the liquid power moving through us. A kaleidoscope of enraptured faces, with mud-painted brows, pass me by; warm, moist flesh brushes up against warm, moist flesh, and I gather the scents of others on my body, like a lover with her beloveds.
As our heat and passion intensifies, so does Annie’s drumming, pounding out a tempo that moves our bodies faster and faster, with dancers egging on drummer, and drummer egging on dancers. The song’s lyrics drop away, and we utter, in gasps, just single words — touch, change, change, touch. My hips are no longer my own, nor my rushing blood. And then the words vanish, and there is only the insistent voice of the drum, and my dancing out a power too big and too beautiful for my body to contain.
At the perfect, ripe moment, Ereshkigal and Inanna meld their voices into a single, resonant tone that seems to gather up the wild power we have generated, and coalesce it into a single, white-hot beam of laser-like energy. The drum and our dancing bodies still as we join our voices in this single tone. Ereshkigal’s hands reach skyward and Inanna’s reach earthward, and we mirror their actions, some following Inanna, and others, including myself, following Ereshkigal.
The hot beam of energy streams through the soles of my feet, up the center of my vibrating torso, and out my fully-extended arms and fingertips, like a live, electrical current seeking its grounding in the starlit sky. My lungs pump in and out, in large, whole-body breaths, as this wild, ecstatic power floods through me — building, building, building — reaching a shaking, humming peak — and then, in a collective moan of recognition, our magic is done. I drop to my knees and press my palms and brow to the ground, my mind empty and my body spent. A hand gently rubs the small of my back. I take in the smells of ocean and bergamot; it’s Will.
I hear Ereshkigal’s throaty laughter, and glance up to see Inanna and Ereshkigal embracing in the center of the room, their forms haloed in a bright golden glow.
“Together we stirred the magic pot of our wounding and beauty,” Ereshkigal says, “Together we charged the dirt of life that awoke Inanna from Her death sleep.”
“And together we seeded our magic into the deep listening Cosmos and the waking Earth,” Inanna says, “What changes our world, changes all worlds. So mote it be!”
“So mote it be!” I burst out.
“So mote it be,” Will repeats, and then pulls me, hot and heaving, into his strong, encircling arms.
Photo Credit: mana5280 on Unsplash
Winter can be an edgy time. Nature strips itself bare in the face of harsh conditions of darkness, cold, death and scarcity. The Winter Solstice is the darkest night of the year. These natural occurrences can trigger our primal fears of darkness, death, and the loss and suffering that come with our mortality.
Our winter-season spiritual work can also be edgy as we turn inward to the dark, hidden places in our inner landscape, and come up against the painful, vulnerable parts of our life story.
It’s this very edginess that makes Winter one of the most powerful times of the year for transformational pathwork. Winter is the season of the Dark Goddess and Her rebirth magic. From darkness and death, new light and life are reborn. From the dark night of our personal wounding, we reclaim and rebirth our true, beautiful Self.
Here are four transformational lessons for your personal rebirth magic in the winter season.
1. Your personal rebirth magic arises from the depths of your inner darkness.
Rebirth is a potent magic. It offers profound transformational change that can make your life anew. This magic doesn’t come from an outside source, nor from the things you already know and understand about yourself and your life. Rebirth is a special kind of transformative magic that emerges from the lost, forgotten and denied parts of your life story, secreted away in the dark folds of your inner landscape.
In Winter, Nature reveals the powerful workings of the Dark Goddess’s rebirth magic. Beneath the outer dormancy and death of the natural realm, the seeds of Spring’s new growth gestate in the dark belly of the Earth. On the Winter Solstice, the darkest night births forth the light of the new solar year. Life and light are reborn from death and darkness.
Together these seeds can illuminate and guide your healing and personal growth in the months to come. When you find and reclaim your wounding, you awaken and reclaim your beauty. Just as life and light are reborn from death and darkness, so too your true beauty is reborn from your deep wounding — this is the personal rebirth magic that can make your life anew.2. Your wounded self is your ally, not your enemy, on your journey of soul.
When you turn to your inner darkness in search of the deep roots of your healing and personal growth, you’re going to encounter your wounded self. This is the part of you that carries your experiences and stories of loss, pain and sorrow, as well as your personal dysfunctions and tangled emotions related to your wounding experiences.
Our culture teaches us to fear and repress our wounding, and to run as fast as we can in the other direction. Yet none of this works, and will only block and delay your healing and personal growth.
To embrace your rebirth magic is to make an ally of your wounded self. This part of you has suffered on your behalf, and deserves your love and tender attention. As your cherished partner on your journey of soul, your wounded self can guide your way through a painful, limiting past and into a new, more positive and empowering future.3. To transform your life, you need to cultivate inner emptiness: a silent, fertile space of what else is true and possible.
If you truly want to transform your life, you need to learn to cultivate inner silence and emptiness. Profound change, the kind the can make your life anew, happens when you step past the stuff-filled space of what you know, and your busy, noisy mind, into the open, empty space of greater truth and possibilities.
When you achieve this inner emptiness, you also become your own sacred witness — a silent, loving presence that watches whatever shows up in your inner emptiness, with curiosity, compassion, respect and gratitude. The silent witness doesn’t judge, take action or seek resolution.
Though these skills aren’t easy to master, they’re invaluable to your spiritual pathwork, and the ongoing challenges of your everyday life. What happens in this convergence of inner emptiness and sacred witness is transformational magic: whatever you need to focus on in your life, right now, shows up to guide your healing and personal evolution.
4. Whatever shows up is your work of soul at this time.
You are master of your own journey of soul, working at the level of depth and pace that are right for you. Self-care and self-responsibility are essential to your spiritual pathwork. And you always have a choice whether or not to do the soul work that shows up in your inner emptiness and explorations of your inner darkness. But you don’t control what shows up.
Life is meant to be a tricky, bumpy business. Great beauty, wisdom, complexity and resilience can emerge from the depths of our struggles. And sometimes things have to end, to die, for something new to be born. This is just how things are, inevitable, inescapable and essential for our healing and personal growth.
In your rebirth pathwork, honor that whatever shows up is your soul work at this time. Let your wounding and your beauty inform and guide your spiritual journey in the months to come. Expect things to be messy, challenging and confusing, as well as inspiring, breathtaking and life changing. Your life story, everything you’ve experienced, the beautiful and the wounding, matter; it’s the very stuff of your rebirth magic that can mend your soul and make your life anew.
Winter Journey – Your Rebirth Magic: Braving Your Inner Darkness
Turn Inwards ~ Discover Your Rebirth Magic ~ Make Your Life Anew
Let the Dark Goddess and Nature guide you in this season of darkness, death and rebirth magic.
Your Winter Journey includes: two pdf ebooks the Winter Journey Guidebook and Winter Journey Journal, and the Winter Journey Guided Meditation (mp3 audio).
Excerpt from The Path of She Book of Sabbats.
As the wheel of the year turns to the Winter Solstice, Nature settles ever deeper into Her cloak of darkness and repose. At the opposite end of the scale, our Western culture marks the holiday season in a flurry of shopping, social obligations and overconsumption — a busy end to a busy year in an outward-focused, ever-doing, hungry-for-more world.
Nature remembers what we humans have forgotten:
every cycle must return to stillness, silence, the dark;
every out-breath requires an in-breath;
every outer endeavor turns back inward to its origins, its center, and begins again;
from death comes new life, and from the darkest night, the new dawn is born.
Beauty sleeps in the belly of the dark, be it the seeds of the green growth of Spring, the powers and mysteries of the unknown, and our own dormant gifts and potential. Yet the dark has a gatekeeper; our pain, losses and the denied, repressed parts of our life story and humanity also await us in the belly of the dark. We cannot reclaim our beauty without also embracing and healing our wounding; both dwell within the shadowed folds of our inner world, side by side, a mirror of the other, each with gifts and blessings to share.
If you are one of the fortunate ones, with few bumps and bruises in your life story, still the darkness has gifts lying in wait for you. Because the sacred dark is the truth keeper of the profound potential and mysteries of our authentic, whole/holy humanity that have been denied and repressed in our collective culture.
Open to the ways of Nature at this turning into the Winter Solstice. Heed the call arising from the belly of the dark that invites you to stillness, silence, and opens portals to your inner darkness. Let go of the frenetic activity of the season; follow your breath inward and return to your center in search of the fragments of your life story and true Self ready to return to the light.
So without, so within; as the new dawn is born of the darkest nights, so too can your beauty blossom from the depth of your wounding, and your whole/holy humanity shine forth into the returning light of a newborn day.
Celebrate Winter Solstice
with the Path of She Book of Sabbats.
Photo Credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash
The natural world and our human psyches turn toward the mysteries of death at Samhain. Cold and darkness descend upon the land, and the wild world shifts into decay and a death-like sleep. In many cultures, this time of year is marked by offerings and rituals to honor the dead, our beloved ancestors.
Usually we don’t like to think about death. Most of us run as fast as we can from the frightening specter that decline and death conjure in us. It is the ultimate irony that the moment we are born into life, with our very first breath, we are also born into death. And we must live every moment, every breath, knowing that we will die, and that everything around us, all that we love and cherish, will eventually come to decay, to death, to dust.
Samhain teaches us that there is no hiding from death. It comes in the falling of leaves, the lengthening darkness and the cold grip of Winter. It comes in our remembrances of our beloved ancestors that have passed on. It comes in the wrenching of our heart as we witness a dear one slip from this world into the next. It comes with the graying at our temples, the sagging of our flesh and the unstoppable march toward our last breath.
And death comes with gifts in hand if we have the courage to show up raw and naked to our pain, losses and fears.
that every breath is a miracle not to be wasted;
that each person, each creature and life form, is worthy, precious, sacred;
that life is oh so hard and oh so exquisite;
that pain and loss help us remember what we cherish most;
and that love, at the end of all things, is what remains.
Love is death’s most precious gift to us. Love, not money, possessions, career, social esteem and the many other alluring outer trappings of life, is the balm that soothes us in the face of death. Love is what connects us to those who have passed on. Love calls us to reach out and hold each other in our grief. Love is what joins us heart to heart and soul to soul to another. Love is our best offering from our Deep Self to the world.
Samhain is a time to contemplate the mysteries of death, not from a place of fear and resistance, but from an acceptance of death as a teacher and guide for the living. Yes we are born into life and born into death, and it is this very, inescapable fact that makes every moment so precious, fragile and bittersweet beautiful.
Death isn’t a summons to fear, it is an invitation to love, deeply, wildly, joyfully. And when death seeks us out at the end of our days, let our last breath be a prayer to love.
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