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Return To Your Soul
The aim of this blog post is to guide you to heal your deepest wounds – and reconnect with your soul.
We’ll enlist the help of a powerful myth, The Descent of Inanna. It’s over 5,000+ years old – but still absolutely relevant.
Then, as a gift to you, I have recorded a guided ritual, tagged below, that you can follow to complete your own descent in the footsteps of Inanna. This has the potential to be absolutely transformational. It was a key turning point in my life. Let’s jump in!
The Nagging Voice
I fully believe in the power of positivity, but I’d hate to do you the disservice of only sharing that side of the story.
Things aren’t rosy all the time – and if it seems that way, something is amiss.
In my own healing journey, I tried a range of ways to feel better. I tried to be happier. I tried to release my pain. To ‘let it go’. To cover it all up with affirmations.
But it didn’t do the trick. There was still a nagging voice. Reminding me, “something is off“, “something doesn’t feel right.” It wanted me to REALLY look in the mirror. Of course, I didn’t want to look. Have you been here?
If you’re like me, you’ll avoid the nagging voice because it’s scary and inconvenient. It’s easier to medicate and deny. You can drown her out with wine, shopping, chocolate, a false smile.
You know something is wrong. You just don’t want to confront the truth.
But that voice is desperate to get unstuck. It wants to clear stagnant energy. It wants you to face the red flags. It’s telling you that a part of your life isn’t working. Your inner flame is flickering out. You’re starting to get ill.
It’s not trying to depress you. Ultimately, it wants you to be happy. That nagging voice is a part of you.
The problem is, you can only shut her out for a while. She’ll always come back. She’s persistent! Like a stubborn headache.
And if you ignore her for too long, you’ll be forced to descend unwillingly. Everything will fall apart and you’ll have to face it. You might be stripped of your health, your relationships, your career, status, beliefs or emotional stability. And it will hurt.
I wouldn’t listen and instead, the ground cracked beneath me and I was plunged head first into the depths of a crisis. My version was a divorce. Yours might be something different.
Either way, this painful initiation will be worthwhile. Because often the deepest grief, distress and turmoil can spark the greatest inspiration. Through the dark, you can find the strongest determination to improve your life.
It’s natural to face times like this, over and over again. Jane Meredith describes it perfectly;
“We all enter into fallow periods in our lives, times of questioning, of crisis, of not-knowing; times of depression, stagnation, terror and loss. We return from them; changed. Later we enter them again. There is no ceasing of this pattern. And it is by attempting to halt the pattern – to avoid the pain/fear/loss part of it – that we cause the greatest damage to ourselves.”
So before you can begin a new chapter, you must descend to the dark goddess. Honour the wounds. Face up to the ways you have been deceiving yourself. Grieve and heal.
And you can make the decision to enter into the natural cycle of descent willingly.
You can choose to take time underground so that your seeds can unfurl and bloom. Because, if you wish for tall, wide branches, you must have deep, strong roots.
In order to ascend, you must descend.
Who Is The Dark Goddess?
The Archetypal Dark Goddess has had many names throughout history and across cultures. You might recognise her as Kali, Cerridwyn, Lillith, The Fates, Persephone, Medusa, Hecate, The Black Madonna…
You’ll definitely know her from fairy tales – she’s the evil witch, the ice queen, the wicked stepmother or the old hag.
She’s usually scary…and hidden in a cave or dark castle. But also;
- Unflinchingly honest
- Exceptionally strong
- A bringer of transformation
She’s within all of us. She’s the shadow side to our whole- self. And to put it another way, she’s the lessons that you need to learn.
My first encounter with The Goddess was through that 5000-year-old myth from Mesopotamia, The Descent Of Inanna. In this tale, we meet the Goddess of The Underworld, Ereshkigal.
The Descent Of Inanna
Allow me to introduce Inanna, probably the first recorded named goddess in history. She governed love, sexuality, fertility and war. In Babylon, she was known as Ishtar, Queen of All Heaven and Earth.
The Descent Of Inanna is recorded on a stone tablet – where she is described as the young and powerful ruler of all of the gods of Ancient Mesopotamia.
“She is brave and beautiful, mistress of both the battlefield and the bedroom…Inanna is adored by all.” Jane Meredith
Despite her incredible power, and the knowledge that none have ever returned from there, Inanna decides to descend to the underworld, to reunite with her sister, Ereshkigal (goddess of the underworld).
The reason for her descent is debatable. Perhaps she wanted to take part in the funeral rites of her sister’s recently deceased husband. Some believe she intended to take the throne of the underworld for herself. But maybe, she’s simply answering an inner calling.
Inanna prepares for her journey by instructing her loyal servant, Ninshubar to seek help from the gods if she fails to return in 3 days. She then proceeds to dress (somewhat brazenly for a funeral) in 7 items, each symbolising an aspect of her Divine power.
Inanna approaches the first gate to the underworld and is met by a gatekeeper, Neti, who is surprised to see here there. He rushes to consult with the dark goddess herself. Ereshkigal is shocked by her sister’s insensitive appearance and feels hurt and betrayed. She instructs Neti to lock all 7 gates against her sister. Ereshkigal commands him to remove one item of Inanna’s power at each gate before allowing her to proceed.
- At gate 1, Inanna is surprised to be asked for her most precious possession, her crown. She protests but is told that the ways of the underworld are perfect and should not be questioned. Reluctantly, she hands over her crown and is allowed to pass.
- At gate 2 and 3, she is forced to hand over her jewels, her lapis necklet and her beads – no material pretence will be tolerated.
- At gate 4, it is her breastplate, symbolising her defences.
- At gate 5, she hands over her gold armband, perhaps symbolising her status.
- At gate 6, the measuring rod is taken – a symbol of her authority.
- And finally, at gate 7, she is her royal robe is removed. The final dignity, removing the symbol of her status.
Each item takes with it a measure of Inanna’s power – and as she enters the final gate, the heart of the underworld and Ereshkigal’s chamber, she is naked and bowed low. Inanna is exposed, confused and afraid. Perhaps aware of her own insignificance in this place.
But then, looking up, Inanna sees her sister’s empty throne and makes a step towards it, perhaps to claim it for herself. She’s immediately greeted by Ereshkigal’s eye of death and is killed straight away. Her corpse is left to hang on a meat hook.
The Turning Point
Like all good myths, The Descent Of Inanna doesn’t end at the bad bit. Phew!
Faithful Ninshubur waits 3 days and 3 nights before seeking help from the god Enki. Enki creates 2 small creatures from the dirt underneath his nails, the galatur and the kurgurra. They are given the task of bringing Inanna back from the underworld.
One creature is given a drop of the water of life, and the other, a crumb of the bread of life. They are tiny and slip unnoticed beneath the 7 gates. Once they reach Ereshkigal’s chamber, galatur and the kurgurra listen to Ereshkigal’s suffering with genuine empathy. They feel her pain and echo it back.
Ereshkigal is comforted and eventually offers them a gift in thanks. Of course, the creatures ask for the corpse on the hook and their wish is granted. They sprinkle the water and bread onto the body and Inanna is revived. She immediately leaves the underworld, regaining her powers at each gate.
Why You Must Follow
I truly believe that you must descend in order to become healed and whole. Only in facing your darkness can you fully know your light. Let’s look back at the myth through a psychological lens – with the understanding that all characters represent an aspect of yourself.
Inanna, therefore, represents your conscious self and Erishkigal is your unconscious and shadow side. By making the decision to descend to the underworld, you’re entering your own unconscious, knowing that you will leave a different person.
Like Inanna, you are forced to remove all external aspects of yourself in order to access the darkest parts of your unconscious. You must be stripped of all ego, material and spiritual masks.
Inanna’s descent demonstrates what could happen if you try to gain dominion over your shadow. When she took a step towards her sister’s empty throne, she was punished with death.
Enki represents your highest self, who knows that empathy and compassion are required to allow you to be redeemed and restored. He knows you need to be very tender with Erishkegal. She needs Inanna to witness her suffering and feel fully embraced as a part of you.
Don’t overlook the fact that it is Erishkegal alone who has the power to release you back into the world, whole once more.
I mentioned earlier, that I was unwillingly dragged into my own descent during my divorce – and it was Inanna’s journey to the underworld that helped me to heal. I had never performed a ritual before – but knew that I needed to do something, anything to help me move forward. The experience was a pivotal moment for me.
And so I have created a guided ritual, for you to use in your own journey of healing. It is inspired by Jane Meredith’s book, Journey to The Dark Goddess, which is the tool that I used initially to guide my own retreat.
In her book, you can find a series of detailed rituals, designed to be completed over a number of days. I have condensed the descent into a 40-minute ‘meditation’. But I highly recommend Jane’s book if you would like to explore your own descent more thoroughly.
Please note, if you are currently taking mood-altering drugs, are receiving psychiatric treatment or have been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, it is not advised that you undertake this ritual.
Before you start, it’s advisable to choose a friend to check in with, as Inanna did with Ninshubur. Let them know what you are about to do and ask them to check on you after an agreed number of hours perhaps.
You will need:
- Privacy/A safe space
- Journal/paper and pen
- Handheld mirror
- 7 objects (you can choose objects that hold meaning, eg your wedding ring, baby shoes. But this isn’t essential, they can be symbolic or visualised.)
- Bread and water
- An open mind
You can access the guided ritual, inspired by The Descent Of Inanna here.
These are the key messages that I hope you take away from this post, (whether you choose to complete the ritual or not):
- You must learn to embrace all of who you are.
- You must treat yourself with tenderness.
- You can’t ignore your nagging truth forever
And don’t forget how the 2 tiny creatures created by Enki, had the ability to change everything. It’s often the smallest things, which slip by unnoticed, that carry huge power. So don’t overlook them!
What tiny things can you do to take care of yourself when you’re feeling stressed or sad? What tiny things can you do to improve your relationships?
Let me know in the comments!
And of course, if you are looking for a coach to illuminate and guide your path towards healing, please feel free to reach out. I would be honoured to support your journey. You can find more information here.