Descending to the Underworld is a personal journey full of surprises and unexpected twists of fate; it can be even shocking and possibly life-changing. Yes, it will be scary too, and sacrifices will be needed. The sacrifice of your time and energy to start with, then maybe you will sacrifice things that no longer serve you. Relationships? Job? Habits? You will be looking at the things you treasure in life the most and reevaluating them entirely. No. Not an easy journey. But everything will be ok in the end. Just like in the Myth.
Persephone, Psyche, and Innana’s descend into the Underworld is well “documented” in the mythos. It is clear that each one of them has undertaken the Journey to answer a different colling, but the results were similar. They gained a deeper understating of their own nature, they went through a process of maturation and received magical gifts. They might have feared the descend at first, they probably have dreaded it, internalized the fear, resisted it, over-analyzed it, but eventually, off they went.
So did I…
I found that by taking each step of the Descend deep into my heart, I was drawn into this process in a profound way. And by not restraining myself with time limits and specific expectations, I was able to let things just unfold. I just let it happen as I went.
Coincidentally, Venus was about the go retrograde (and go dark) which is often described as the descend of the Goddess of love and beauty into the Underworld. Strange signs, dreams and coincidences were showing up…but then there are no coincidences after all, right?
Tools for proper descend.
Journaling is a very beneficial tool for the inner work and it has many healing benefits. Writing morning pages daily after you wake up, as Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way suggests, is a great way to start your mornings on a good note and it is excellent preparation for the descend.
Art Supplies: Yes, you will need them even if you don’t do art. But if you have a hobby as a weaver or smith, or maybe you dance or sing, or write poetry – all of that can be your way of expressing your Journey. I am a graphic designer, so some of my art is created in digital format. I am also familiar with making Mandalas, Vision Boards, I paint abstract art, make dolls, and so on… so all those “hobbies” were very helpful when creating a visual representation of my Journey to the Dark Goddess. You don’t have to be an artist or even consider yourself creative to be able to splash abstract colors on the paper. All you need is a way to express your emotions and thought. Abstract forms are just fine. You can create Mandalas out of leaves, petals, and twigs, spaghetti, beans, and corn. There are really no limits to your creative approach. You can take photographs, write a poem, or use color magazines to cut out the pictures that correspond to your vision.
Invest in your own art supplies though – having your “own” box of pastels will help you attend to your art projects with deeper reverence and joy as if you borrowed them from your kids.
My favorite art supplies include round-shaped canvases that serve perfectly as a base for my Mandalas. I bought a bulk of 8 for 10 bucks on Amazon (10cm) – we are not making museum-quality art here, they were the cheapest I could find.
You will also need TIME. Going through the project without interruptions puts you in a different state of mind. This is allowing your guards down and better introspection. 2-3 hours for an art project is a nice, maybe a Sunday Morning or Friday evening would work best for you. At the moment, I’m staying home with kids because of Covid19, so I have given myself as much as 5 hours to complete one of my projects. My kids are not little anymore, so hey, why not…
The process of creating requires a quiet and peaceful environment, free form interruptions, distractions of making lunch for the kids, answering phone calls, and checking the mail. By getting into the groove we tend to enter a semy meditative state that balances right and left hemisphere – important for accessing those spiritual realms. This allows us to see things from a different perspective and find solutions and understandings.
PREPARATION – Entering the realm of the Dark Goddess.
There are 3 layers when making a personal right of passage:
- Creating an outer layer – a form – a container for all the 3 stages. It is an outer layer composed of actions you take (making altar, offersings, dancing, going into nature, ritual bath, cleansing, fasting, meditation, prayer).
- Intention, ritual and daily practice – Second layer consists of what’s happening within you and it is supported by what is happening in the first outer layer. This is where intent is carried beyond just empty actions. You take yourself deeper – in meditation, shamanic journeying, praying, focusing on an image…
- Entering the mystical layer is where the magic happens. You will feel the devine all around you and within you, it is an altered luminous space. Not every time the ritual is undertaken will the doors to this realm be open. But when they do, the process is deeper, memorable and transformative. This is where the quantum leap happens.
Sacrifice makes it sacred.
In making an offering to the divine, be it an object, energy, purpose, activity, it becomes SACRED. Offering something to the Gods renders it a part of their realm.
The Path that leads to the Underworld – Sacrifice time, energy, attention and priorities.
How to push the gate open and step out of the ordinary daily routine? Leave your comfort zone – offer a sacrifice of time, energy, attention and priorities. This is a time of preparation to enter the Underworld that requires a buildup of attention, intention, courage, and openness.
This is a great time to build your own Altar. If you have never made your altar before, you can find resources here. If you’ve been making them for a while, consider adding a new element, rearrange it, or even make a new altar just for your Dark Goddess.
Perhaps the time of Preparation can take a shape of a creative 13-day ritual, a mindful diet, or cleansing, or spending every morning walking a labyrinth; you need to let the Goddess know you are getting ready to meet her.
Offerings to the Dark goddess:
- Altar (if you never made one)
- A mask
- Mementos that tie you to the past
- Home made bread
Your offering should be placed on the altar, buried in a ground, hidden in a dark place.
Write your backup plan.Write a letter to yourself.
In case things go wrong, shit hits the fan, what is your back up? Who is your rescue? To whom might you direct your request for support? All the Goddesses who descended to the underworld had a back up plan or someone whom they trusted.
The back up plan has to be tailored to your personal needs, a plan that you know will work.
You can write a letter to yourself in which you tell yourself of all the reasons you need and want to eventually come back. Start with your name on the top and end with your signature with love. This might also be a good idea so when you get “stuck half way” it will remind you to keep going.
In some cases, it is a good idea to have a person or a trusted group who will work with you, observe you, and support you.
Making a map of a Journey
A map is a record of your experiences and consist of four stages of Journey:
- PREPARATION FOR DESCEND
- DESCENDING INTO THE UNDERWORLD
- IN THE UNDERWORLD
- COMING UP FROM THE UNDERWORLD
Your map has to be permanent – one you can come back to, you might need them even years later. Each part can be expressed in a different way. Where you’ve been saying a lot about where you’re going. If you create a dance -record it. If you made an altar in the woods -take a photograph. The map has to consist of 4 parts and can be created as:
- 4 separate pieces of art for each stage – 4 mandalas
- A large painting with 4 spaces – one per each stage
- A 4 different pieces of art- a sculpture, watercolor, short video and ceremonial robe
The format is up to you. You start by mapping your journey so far – where have you’ve come from, what landscape have you journeyed through, your story thus far.
RITUAL: PLACING YOUR EAR TO THE GROUND
The intention of this ritual is to help you recognize the call of the Underworld.
Time: 1 hour. Spend half your time on the first part of this process and the remaining time on the second part.
You will need:
•Pen and paper; preferably a journal
•Colored pens/pastels – optional
•A cushion or pillow (and optional shawl or blanket)
Lie down on the floor (if you prefer, you can do this outside and lie on the earth). Place your ear to the ground (or the floor). Spend fifteen minutes or so listening intently.
It may take many times practicing this before you can easily hear your inner voice, or feel confident that what you hear is not just ‘made up’. A useful method is to make sure you record whatever it was you heard or felt and then check back in a month or so later. By then it will usually make painful sense, even if it didn’t at the time.
Even if you feel you are not able to hear anything useful, listening is still worthwhile. It may take a long time for your inner voice to trust that you really will listen to it, or for you to learn to hear it. Allowing some time to listen is a basic step in learning the maps of the Underworld and in the preparation for journeying to the Dark Goddess.
Honoring the Dark Goddess
Encouraging yourself to step outside what you are comfortable with is good practice for descending into the Underworld.
Choose how you will signify you have entered sacred space. You could light the candle on your altar; say a prayer; cast a circle or spend a few moments in quiet meditation.
One option for this ritual is to create an altar dedicated to the Dark Goddess, or make over an altar you already have, dedicating it to her. When you light the candle, or when you spend time at your altar – meditating, doing the processes in this book or just sitting – you are offering your time and attention to her. This is honoring the Dark Goddess.
Another option is to make a special gift for the Dark Goddess- a mask, a poem written down with a golden marker, offerings of jewelry; precious mementos, food, art or music…
After you have made your gift you can place it on your altar; or put it in a dark box or bury it in the earth. If later you wish to dispose of an offering it should be burned or buried.
Working the First Chakra
I am rooted in the earth.
I am solid and secure within myself.
I am filled with stillness, courage, and primal trust.
- Drawing the body – discovering things about the body that were previously unconscious, x-ray vision into the internal schema of the energetic structure, what are the areas that need the most healing and attention?
- Body Dialog – you ask each part of your body about it’s well being, feelings, impressions and needs – as if you were interviewing workers of your corporation how are they doing. From feet to face. “I am my feet and I am….tired/restless/ tongue etc”. Sometimes there is no answer, sometimes a whole story. Write it down and then read it leaving the body parts out. The dialog comprises questions – what would make you feel … better / fuller/ sharper / lighter ? … dig deeper into the questions as needed. Sometimes you can exaggerate a physical sensation in order to release it. Change in the physical structure helps support a new emotional response and change in emotional expression helps support new physical postures.
- Feel your feet – massage them, roll a ball under your feet, if you experience a pain there might be blockages in need of realising. Stand on your feet while doing your exercises – that increases body energy, allows greater assertiveness, overcomes passivity, and supports independence, asserts authority.
- Grounding / earthing.
First Circle of Descend
Resting in Darkness – Mandala of stage One
This stage is described as depressive, resembling sleep, making you feel forgetful, weighted down, as if walking in a dream, can suggest a fall into darkness. At this point, consciousness enters matter. This is a place of the Great Mother who generously creates life and lovingly receives the dead back into her womb. She is sometimes known as Spider-Woman.
The task of this stage is to submit to the unknown within and without and allow yourself to be transformed by the experience. Surrender and trust nature’s process working through you during this stage. With faith, trust, and having memories of having survived past experiences of this place you can find this a time of resting in the darkness. However, it is not always easy.
Stage one is slow, requires deep rest, waiting, keeping faith, trusting the process and being patient with your poor performance. Do not force yourself into activity for the sake of feeling some progress. This stage is about microscopic changes. Subterranean energies in the unconscious are stirring even though you cannot discern what is happening.
The suggested Mandalas of this stage can be given as a gift to your Dark Goddess.
MANDALAS OF STAGE ONE
- Circular viewfinder – to attune to the organizing capacity of the circle.
- Drawing circles with both hands – integrates dominant and non-dominant aspects of the psyche. Might invite some forgotten experiences of your early life.
- Create a circle you can sit inside of – make it as you sit on a large sheet of paper, using your right and left hand to draw it. What does it feel like to be inside? And outside? Do you need to add or take away anything from it to make it feel perfect?
- Spider web Mandala – it evokes the intrauterine experiences, connection to the mother in the womb, welcoming or uncertain. It might be a healing experience by producing a safe holding environment, bringing pleasant memories of life in the womb. Move very slowly when making this mandala. Let your breathing be deep and relaxed.
- New Moon Mandala. Draw your mandala at dark, with a white chalk or pastel, on black paper. Take several deep breaths and relax, be patient while your eyes adjust to the darkness – they will. When ready draw your circle and let your New Moon Mandala unfold.
- Womandala Bag – it is a special place for you to put things that need to be nurtured, invoked or held in safety: prayers, intentions, affirmations, pictures, symbolic objects, things you want to welcome into your life on this turning of the Great Round.
- Mandala Card One – it can be big enough to stand alone or small enough to tuck it into your pocket, but big enough to hold the design and images called for in each exercise. This is a distillation of experience of Stage One into a form that can serve as a reminder or reference point in the future. It can be a drawing, a collage, you can incorporate an empty circle, spider web, a dark solid-colored disk into your work. Add texture, colors, images and words on one or both sides that invokes the qualities of Stage One. Keep your Mandala Safe.
The key qualities of this stage are:
- Dark void
- Before form
- Resembles sleep
- Open to new possibilities
- White void
- Spider web
- Timelessness and eternal
- Primary state before separation
- Befor form
- Transcendent state of non-duality
First Circle of Descand
Art Projects & Map
- Create Mandala of 1st Great Circle
- Body Dialog,
- Moon Mandalas (MAY 22) – Altar offerings
- Body movement
- Feet massage and earthing
- Journaling and Artistic Dates – living the comfort zone, finding a passion in special projects
- Write our backup plan and a letter to yourself; create a Map of you Journey
- MANDALA CARD ONE – a record of experience
Home altar ideas for The Root Chakra
– Fresh, red flowers (be sure to change as they fade so you always have lively energy on your altar)
– A red cloth
– Photos or other images of your family or tribe as you define it
– Roots of any sort (ginger is a nice one)
– Images of the earth.
– A small dish of soil.
– Garnets or bloodstones.
– Pottery or other object made of clay
– What natural object best symbolizes your connection with the earth? Include one of these on your altar.
Root Chakra Associations
Earth, dirt, soil
Smoky quartz, garnet, bloodstone, ruby, rose quartz, hematite, onyx, tiger’s eye
Cedarwood, patchouli, myrrh, musk, lavender
Bones, skeletal structure
Survival, physical needs
Family identity, tribal power
Grounding, physical health & fitness, stability, security
Family, ancestors, our “roots”
Honoring the body
Breaking free of the beliefs that no longer serve us
Matter, substance, the earth
Physical manifestation, sense of place
Nourishment of body and place
Good food and rest: Investing in what the Chinese call the Seas of Reserve: kidney
Being cautious about giving away our energy to things that don’t support us
Connection with Spirit through the earth
1. Decide on specific measurable results for your project.
2. Create a physical existence for your project: Where will you keep the materials? What will you display to remind you of the project?
3. The importance of keeping your materials and journal safe and secure.
4. The importance of nourishing yourself during these months.
5. Decide on an object that will represent your project on your altar.
Ideas to consider
– Who constitutes your tribe, your family of support?
– How often do survival fears dictate your choices?
– What beliefs have you’ve learned from your family or tribe that support you?
– What beliefs from them no longer support you? Create and perform a simple ritual to release those beliefs back into the earth.
– Consider family or tribe members with whom you have unfinished business. If it feels safe, take a step toward completing that business with them.
– Describe a moment when you were a child when you felt connected with the earth. Use as much sensory detail as possible.
– How do you envision the source of all life?
To better understand the story of Innana, Persephone, Psyche, and perhaps find your own echoes of their struggles in your life, you can check out these amazing resources, although the representation in the original book is in my opinion some of the best.
To fully embrace the Journey to the Dark Goddess it might be pivotal to get a copy of the original book, or to listen to an audiobook. I’m only presenting some ideas and ways to help with deeper preparation for the descend. Understanding the myth is also very helpful, relating to Innana’s, Peresphone’s or Psyche’s story will deepen your own experience.
So, whenever you’re ready, let me take you to the story of my own descend. I have not expected the things I have found in the Underworld, including my very close connection to Ereshkigal – the Queen of the Underworld.
Stay tuned and look for the next chapter.
Much love form the path into the Underworld.
Yours Pati Parvati.