The Descent of Inanna to the Underworld

Inanna provides a many-faceted image of the feminine. She is a goddess of order, fertility, grains, love, war, heaven and earth, healing, and emotion. She is called the “Lady of Myriad Offices”. Most of the powers once held by her, “the embodied, playful, passionately erotic feminine; the powerful, independent, self-willed feminine; the ambitious, regal, many-sided feminine” were eroded by the patriarchy throughout time.

Her descent to the Underworld is a valuable story at any time of the year but even more so here as the wheel turns fully into the dark of the year. During the dark of the year, we are to turn inward, our most introspective work is to be accomplished at this time. It is vital that we enter the darkness as did Inanna, bare and bowed low.

Inanna’s most important myth begins with the great goddess opening “her ear to the Great Below”.

“From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below.”

In the Sumerian language, the word for ear and wisdom are the same. Enki, who is the God of Wisdom, is said to have his ear “wide open” indicative of being fully receptive. The message here is that Inanna’s primary reason for traveling to the Underworld was to seek wisdom and understanding.

What this meant was that Inanna had to abandon everything she knew, everything she possessed, all of her powers in heaven and on earth to gain this wisdom and understanding.

“My Lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
Inanna abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
She abandoned her office of holy priestess to descend to the underworld.

She gathered together the seven me.
She took them into her hands
With the me in her possession, she prepared herself:

She placed the shugurra, the crown of the steppe, on her head.
She arranged the dark locks of hair across her forehead.
She tied the small lapis beads around her neck,
Let the double strand of beads fall to her breast,
And wrapped the royal robe around her body.

She daubed her eyes with ointment called “Let him come,
Let him come,”
Bound the breastplate called “Come, man, come!” around her chest,
Slipped the gold ring over her wrist,
And took the lapis measuring rod and line in her hand.”

She gathered all of these things as a means to protect herself. Each of these adornments is worn at one of each of the seven chakras. She traveled to the Underworld and when she arrived she met with Neti and demanded to speak with her Sister Ereshkigal.

Ereshkigal is the place where potential life lies motionless. When Neti described Inanna and how she looked as she waited at the outer gate, Ereshkigal was not pleased.

She sent Neti to defend her. Ereshkigal wanted Inanna to experience what it is to be rejected, to enter only when she is “bowed low”.

At each gate, Inanna is asked to remove one item and when she asks why, she is told,

“Quiet, Inanna, the ways of the underworld are perfect.
They may not be questioned.”

She is deprived of her godhood, her connection with heaven, her ability to manifest, her feelings of ecstasy and rapture, her emotional being, her will and her sexual role in life. All of these represent who she was, as a queen, a holy priestess and as a woman.

Naked and bowed low, Inanna entered the throne room.

“Ereshkigal rose from her throne.
Inanna started toward the throne.
The Annuna, the judges of the underworld, surrounded her.
They passed judgment against her.
Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.

She struck her.

Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.”

It is here, at this point that we end this part of the story, for Inanna must remain in the Underworld until it is time for Her Return. Her transformation as a result is not something that happens quickly.

And so it is that we too, as we enter the dark time of the year, must shed what we hold too close. We must step out of ego, let loose all of the things we think we know or understand. We must present ourselves to the dark, laid bare and bowed low. For it is in this state that we open to wisdom and great knowledge. We too, must turn our ear to the Great Below.

Wolkstein, Diane and Kramer, Samuel Noah, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1983

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism, and Feminist Dianic Wicca and mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.

Spring

Redbud Flowers We celebrate the Spring Equinox as a reflection of the birthing time of the year. We have made it through the winter’s cold and ice, experienced the warming of the Earth and the flood waters that prepared for the birth of all that is new. Seeds are germinating and beginning to sprout. We see that around us, depending on where we live. Here in Texas the red buds are in bloom and some of the trees have their fresh green leaves opening up at the tips. Just seeing these indicators, brings an internal feeling of birth. My heart expands in joy when I see my first red bud tree in bloom – the first buttercup opening to the sun!
Four-rocks-balance
This is the time that the Goddess makes herself known by birthing all into existence. She first creates day and night and on this day they are equal, only to rise and fall as the year changes. Then She creates the stars, the heavens, the green things upon the earth, the animals and us – all Her children. All of us glistening in Her birth waters, ready to dance in Her rhythms.
I see the creation of day and night in equal portions coming first, as a lesson for all that follows; balance, a moment of equilibrium, manifesting everything else. We attempt to have that place of balance in our lives, but know from experience it never stays exactly in the center. All we can do is hope to bring it back as we move between states. It is like the pendulum, swinging back and forth from one side to the center then to the other side, but always seeking center.

We do this in our lives. We move from emotional times of happiness and joy, to anger, to sadness and in between, we find center. It is this place where we connect with ourselves – become still for a moment, one with all. It is from this place that we spring forward, renewed and rested. We seek center when we pray. We seek center when we work our magic. We seek center when we begin our rites. This is the place of balance in ourselves, for it is from here we that we manifest.

Another aspect of spring is celebrating the child within. So often we get caught up in the heavy aspects of life and forget to have silly fun. Laughter and light are all part of the Season of Spring. In the rituals I offer to women for the Spring Equinox, we all become children again –love, laughter, carefree hearts – these are what spring is all about. We get out the hula hoops, the jump ropes, the jacks – you remember playing jacks? We dance the hokey pokey and frolic together as we did when life was easier, when life was play.
persephone kelly
Spring is the time of the Kore, the Maiden. Persephone returns from the Underworld, where she spends the dark half of the year caring for the departed, while her mother, Demeter, mourns her loss. In Her sadness, Demeter calls a halt to the growth of all new life. The trees become barren, reflecting her sadness. At the emergence of spring, Kore returns and brings with her all the aspects of the young maiden in flower. The Maiden Goddess of Spring is reborn from the Earth. She emerges from the confines of winter, bursting with flower and budding greenery.

Her mother is overjoyed. It is this spirit of reunion and renewal that we feel when we ourselves discover spring! The leap of our hearts, the urges to make new everything around us, garden planning, a magnificent breath of fresh air to our souls!

Hail Kore, Child of Spring!

Persephone by Mary B. Kelly

See post on  Feminism & Religion as well.

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess. She is the author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, European Witchcraft and Druidic Shamanism. She mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.

Ogham Twig for Today ~ Gort

gortThe Tree ~ Ivy ~ Finemain
Color ~ Gorm ~ Blue
Stone ~ Serpentine
Bird ~ Geis ~ Mute Swan

Message ~ Tenacity, raw survival instinct enabling triumph over circumstances.
Meanings ~ garden, growth, sweeter than grasses, counterpart of heaven.

There is determined power in Gort. It offers boar-like tenacity in applying the will to do difficult work. It is important to remember that the tools we use are not the ends, but only the means to give rise to something coming from the depths of our being. We must keep on our true goals.
Ivy It has the ability to bind all things together. It can wander freely, linking tree to tree, or form dense thickets that block out the light and restrict passage. Ivy brings shelter or overwhelming darkness and reminds us that where there is life, there is also death. Ivy represents our souls wandering in search for enlightenment, but carries a warning to be sure of the direction we are heading!

Entwining Ivy represents the female principles of life Through conception and birth, the male life force is given form by the female body, but in giving life substance so too does women bring death into being.

Ivy is sacred to Bendis, Mor Righ Anu, Osiris and Dionysus. Dedicated to resurrection jointly with vine because they grow spirally.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Ivy stands for “a place of concealment or retirement.”  Many creatures are concealed from harm beneath the spiraling ivy.

Ivy attracts the last bees of the year, reminding us of the sweetness of the Goddess as we prepare to enter the dark time of the year.

“I am a ruthless boar.
I am a fierce boar.
I fled as a bristly boar seen in a ravine. (for valor)
I am a thicket which holds the roebuck.
I have tasted joy.
I have strength born of ecstasy.”

The symbolism of the boar is used because the cycle falls during boar hunting season and the boar is the beast of death symbolizing the “Fall” or the beginning of death, of the Old Year. But the Ivy’s serpentine spiraling signifies resurrection. Again, a reminder of the birth/death cycle of life.

The Boar’s descent into the Underworld is not purely a journey of destruction: because it is basically, in spite of any others roles, it may play, a creature of fertility, it plants within Death itself, the seeds of renewal.

Our Loss of Od

Freyja is an Old Icelandic goddess of the Earth, fertility, and beauty. Her name means “Lady.” Freyja is known to be very beautiful and sexual. It is thought that Freyja was first in union with Od. This union represented what is known in Old Icelandic as sam-vit, a state of united consciousness. In other words, consciousness that reflects a state of being united, integrated, or whole. Od had vanished from Her life causing her to weep for his loss. Where her tears fell on the land, they turned to amber and where they fell in the Sea they became gold. Amber and gold are both sacred to Freyja. From the time he left, she continued to travel and search for him.

We come into this world as infants, and in that state only experience the present moment. We know our mothers from the heart beat felt in the womb and perhaps through other senses as yet undefined. We know at any given moment that we are hungry or content, wet or dry, sleepy or wakeful. Our ability to see is not fully developed and at first we see only hazy images around us. We are born knowing how to cry. It is our only way to communicate as infants. Our interests focus only on “self” and our own needs. We are, except for this ability to cry, basically helpless, unable to do anything except be where we are placed and are totally dependent on those who care for us.

As we mature, however, we begin to hear and identify sounds, see colors and shapes and taste foods we like or dislike. We learn to smile when something pleases us and we learn to laugh when feeling happiness. We learn to recognize other people, sounds and gestures and eventually the many words spoken to us. We learn to scoot, crawl and finally walk. With that we learn to mimic and then, with understanding, communicate with speech. We still however, live very much in the “now.”

As children, if not damaged by the care given us, we are fully sensing beings. We may not always understand our sensory perceptions because our experience is limited but we use our senses easily. We are creatures of exploration and discovery. Using an Old Icelandic term once more, you might say finna is fully active at this time. Finna is a critical and innate element of being that is critical to our spiritual and physical health and well-being. It means to discover, find, perceive, notice, feel, learn, to come across, and to meet.

Something happens to us when we are old enough to enter school. We are placed in an environment where sensory exploration is no longer the focus but rather we begin to develop left brain perception, through reading and writing. We are taught to be more analytic, oriented toward mental processes rather than sensory awareness. Because of the rigid conformity required of us, we lose the ability to be open and much of the inherent wonder and deep curiosity of our own body’s desire to be open to our environment is lost.

For those of us on a spiritual path, awareness of this loss comes to us as we seek answers to our own spiritual questions. Our yearning is much like that of Freyja for her Od. We have body memories of our connections to the sacred in those simple ways of childhood. We may not consciously remember what it is like to be open to all that is around us, but there is an inner yearning to seek and find, no matter how elusive it might be.

Once we recognize that we are sacred beings and one with our Source, as well as everything else around us, the connections begin to grow. We take ourselves back out into nature. We learn to really “see” what is around us. We learn that everything can speak to us, tell us what we need to know, if we listen. We study our past, digging deeply into our ancestors spiritual past wanting to know how they honored the divine in their lives and how to connect with them in the present.

We learn that our bodies truly are our temple because they house our sacred spirit. From this we begin to see the advisability of caring for our bodies and begin eating in healthy ways. We learn to take care of this “temple” we have been given or have chosen for ourselves.

If we allow it, music can enter our souls and speak to us, recalling far distant longings, awakening emotions hidden deeply within. Our food can give us new pleasure, with taste sensations unnoticed before.

We learn about our deep inner nature, our lightness and our shadow. We acknowledge and love both. We see who we are though our learning about ourselves, perhaps through the many self-development avenues available to us. We learn to love who we are no matter if flawed or not, because we know that all are flawed in one way or another and we see that even “flawed” is a faulty perception.

As we explore the five senses given to us at birth, opening in our perceptions, somehow another sense is developed and it is a returning of our own intuitive awareness. We have the ability to know of things seen by the inner eye and heard by inner ears. We delight in the sense of touch, both in the touching and in the being touched.

And so this ongoing search for Od that we have leads us into a return to a natural state of openness and from there to an inner consciousness that reflects the state of being united, integrated, and whole. When we are in that state we are able to access all that we need to manifest “possibilities” in life. Our Freyja will have found her Od.

Deanne Quarrie. D. Min. is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of five books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch and Beyond the Ninth Wave where she teaches courses in Druidism, Celtic Shamanism, Goddess Spirituality and mentors those who wish to serve others in their communities.. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Ocean Seminary College and is the founder of Global Goddess, a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine.

Sequana and Blessed Water

Water is the daily necessity for earth’s creatures.

When the Continental Celts were looking for a new homeland, they ventured west from the known river valleys of the great landmass we call Eurasia. Just beyond the great mountains, the Alps, they discovered sweet and abundant water, fertile soil, expansive woodlands, and the plentiful fish, game, berries, grasses, fungi and broad-leafed plants necessary to support their tribe.

We know that Celtic spirituality was, in its roots, animistic (spirit was alive in every living thing), non-anthropomorphic (the source of life and death was water, land, plant and animal-life), tribe-specific (in France alone there is evidence of several hundred deities) and a spirituality of place, of the major landforms that defined the world (rivers, springs, forests, animals, heavenly bodies). To the extent that Celtic spirituality was theistic, the creator/sustainer/destroyer of life was typically a goddess.

The Celts who settled at the source of the great river system defining their homeland called the river Squan, a Celtic word describing the shape of a snake. Squan, then, was river and goddess. In my mind, She was Mother Snake, source of life, for her flowing waters sustained the tribe in the same way mother’s milk nurtured children through infancy and early childhood.

Sequana is the Latin word for the Seine, the most famous of the five principal rivers of France, and also for the Celtic Squan — the Mother Goddess of the tribes of Celts who lived on her shores and islands 3,000 years ago. She was river, Goddess, the living spirit of the land — eau de vie.

The Seine runs from its source west of the Alps, through the heart of Paris, to its mouth at Le Havre, where it joins the English Channel and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the North and Irish Seas.

The last, long ending of winter is usually is often a time of heavy rains and snow. Because the sun is beginning to offer longer periods of light and warmth, frost is no longer holding deeply in the soil, but is now melting and seeping into the earth, bringing texture to the land and getting it ready for the new growth soon to emerge. This is the “quickening” that will soon give us the early signs of spring with bulbs pushing themselves up into view. For us that means it is time to thaw out our spirits and warm ourselves, allowing a thaw from the winter’s cold darkness, and preparing for our own new growth.

At this time of year, in this specific lunar cycle we in the Apple Branch honor Sequana, in this season of rains and possible flooding. The waters are awakening the dormant Earth as she warms toward her season of fertility.

Many ancient peoples had stories of floods in which water was both honored as a life bringer and as a destroyer. Water was seen as something that “escaped” from the realms of the gods. In many of the stories it seemed to be a female who was involved when water would move through some disaster, come to the land bringing growth and abundance though turbulence.

SequanaIn Celtic spirituality, the spirit of the land was often embodied in water — in springs, rivers, lakes and later, the “sacred” or “holy” wells. Sequana is both the surface and underground waters of the Seine and her tributaries and also all of the lands drained by them. She is a watershed deity, alive today in the network of watersheds in the Paris Basin, and in the hearts of some of Her people, who remember. She is mother of the clan, Snake River, bestower of health. In Her arms, She carries the overflowing cornucopia of the abundant, giving land.

Sequana's BoatHer sacred animal was the duck.

Modern statue of the Nymph of the River Seine by the Sculptor Jouffroy, situated in an artificial grotto, near the ancient Gallo-Roman sanctuary of the Sources-de-la-Seine dedicated to the Celtic goddess Sequana.

From “Living River” …..

“Flowing like a river, like a river to the sea
Love flows through you, and it flows through me…”

… “Water belongs to the earth and all species and is sacred to life, therefore, the world’s water must be conserved, reclaimed and protected for all future generations and its natural patterns respected.”

… “Water is a fundamental human right and a public trust to be guarded by all levels of government, therefore, it should not be commodified, privatized or traded for commercial purposes. These right must be enshrined at all levels of government. In particular, an international treaty must ensure these principles are non-controvertible.”

… “Water is best protected by local communities and citizens who must be respected as equal partners with governments in the protection and regulation of water. Peoples of the earth are the only vehicle to promote earth democracy and save water.”

Water also figured highly in the Pagan Cluster’s Living River Action during the protests. The Living River mission statement included,

“We say that our lives, our communities, the health of the earth’s ecosystems, the cultures of indigenous peoples, the dreams of children are too important to be subsumed to profit. Another world is possible: A world of justice, freedom, ecological balance and true abundance, and we will make it real. Although the negotiators of the FTAA believe they have fenced out dissent, we believe they have walled themselves in. We intend to liberate them so that they can hear the voices of the people, the land, and the waters!”

May water always belong to the people!