What Is The Underworld
I have seen that place as an endless forest full of lost spirits and creatures horrid that take the shape of something I desire. The cities are abandoned or forbidden, my beloved home is lost and my people are all gone. I am misplaced and my memories are so scattered I cannot recall how I came to this place or why I am here. Familiar places are buried by the sands of time and weep at the sight of them. I swear to the archaeologists that it was only yesterday. I’ve wandered in honeycomb caverns with the deepest fear I’d never see light again. My body has been pulled through the endless blues of a barren sea and I’ve felt devoured by it all.
The Underworld is a place to find lost things, to remember, to discover. It calls to us all and willing or not, there is a pull, a yearning, an urge to descend in order to discover exactly what is down there waiting for us. What happens if we become lost? How can we find our way out again? Each person experiences the underworld differently and it may appear differently to each of us. We go there when we choose to let go of a vice (addictions of all kinds.) When life reaches out with something unexpected and we feel devastated by a loss. This might occur as a result of an accident, diagnosis of an illness that must be overcome or one that cannot be changed but only managed. It could be a sudden death, facing death or other unmentioned, unseen circumstances. One thing holds -none leave without being changed and feeling out of control is the general consensus.
Having spent many years descending and ascending, I wonder how long I stay before I dive into the depths of those places again. The recent Mercury retrograde has me in an introspective tizzy. I have been reflecting on my experiences and how I have recorded (mapped) them through the years. I hope to perhaps record my next descent consciously and place it here for all to see. Since each journey is different, my own can only be an abstract for those who are interested in swimming deeper.
After the dream visit from the Crone, I started to feel like it was time to go see her. For several weeks I spent time searching the various names any myths of the dark goddess. I wondered why she had come to my door and what is was I needed to learn from her. My own Underworld visits often begin with a dream. These “big” dreams are my signpost for important change in my life. With change always comes sacrifice. I wanted this time to be different. I didn’t want to go kicking and screaming to the underworld; pulled into the caverns by faceless, monstrous voids, grabbed and dragged into street drains into the watery depths. This time, I wanted to go to the gates of the Underworld myself and descent into her sacred realms. What might I lose or set aside? What might I gain? How much time do I truly have to prepare? and How can I utilize and integrate what I have learned? These are the questions I set out to answer as I begin another descent.
What follows is a description of a ritual I will work to mark descent. Often, these experiences happen all on their own without an individual seeking to initiate the experience. In my own case, I have chosen to complete this ritual to symbolically mark my own experiences and process through what I need to ascend to the surface with. As Meredith points out in her book, some people are caught in the underworld for a very long time without the understanding of how to integrate the wisdom accumulated there.
Signs and Preparation
The first signs I am entering the underworld is often an unsettled feeling followed by what I referred to earlier as a big dream. The experience of such a dream indicates to me that my life is about to change (not that it is all doom -it is most definitely the opposite.) I didn’t plan to begin another underworld journey without research. I discovered a book called: Journey To The Dark Goddess, a book by Jane Meredith. In her book, Meredith explains that prior to an intentional journey, the first step should be preparation. My own preparation will involve several steps. In my preparation, I considered the ways in which I have journeyed the Underworld previously and write out how I can prioritize time to visit this realm at least once a year. I was delighted to find the suggestion in the book to write a letter to yourself prior to descent. While different, I do often write letters to “Old Mother.” These letters often provide me with guidance concerning daily aspects of my life. The outline below is a rough sketch of what Meridith describes in her book and it does not include every detail of ritual planning due to the spontaneous nature of my own work.
- Acknowledging the dream (the call) and asking myself big questions: What must I face? What must I embrace now? How can I grow from this experience? What actions can I take? (Reflection of the dream and contemplation through questioning and silence.)
- Prepare my backup plan. In this step, I decide who I will use as my “safe person” This person is aware of my ritual and what it is that I am doing. They are there if I need them. If I go to deep this person helps to pull me from the underworld. I let them know when I begin the ritual and when I end. In the past, this was sometimes a person who literally monitored the ritual.
- I spend time listening and nothing more. This may be for a set time period such as twenty minutes for three days.
- Choose offerings for the underworld. I will create something: a song, a painting, a dance.
- Create a sacred space. This can be done in a number of ways, I typically work with plants so I will smudge the area or burn an oil.
- I gather all of my tools which will include the way I plan to record or map out my journey. Since I often write, journaling is the easiest route -of course, my journals are never limited to writing alone. I will gather pens, colored pencils or any other objects I plan to use.
- Review my life journey so far both positive and negative events: I do by first writing things out and then I create a drawing that expresses it.
- Conjure the energy for casting circle and complete the circle casting ritual. Verbally announce the purpose for the journey. Often, I go through these rituals and then they play themselves out in my dreamscapes.
- Descent. Often I use dream imagery and guided visualization that helps to move me into the Underworld. Since I’ve been there before, I often find myself descending deeper into broken roadways at construction sites that lead into the ground. I’ve also gone to this place through a large opening in a tree. This first image is the first gate. I’ve heard that there are seven gates, from other’s who have made the journey, nine gates. At each of the gates, I give something up in order to go deeper.
Despite how the journey is made, whether you design your own or follow a formatted based from myth, understand that the journey results in an internal change that often causes external things in your environment to change. The descent is only that. Merideth pointed out in her book that the general format above can get you into the underworld but not out. While you are in the underworld, it is important to keep your focus on the purpose of the journey and to give yourself a reason prior to return. This was my own challenge as I discovered I’d already been living in the Underworld for quite a long time. It is for that reason that I’ve chosen to ritually acknowledge the journey and begin the ascent to the surface once again. If you a preparing for a descent, I’d fully recommend researching mythic stories of descents and picking up the book that inspired me to write this blog.
Journey To The Dark Goddess How To Return to Your Soul -Jane Meredith