Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ereshkigal: Great Lady under the Earth

Erishkigal (pronounced: ay-RESH-kee-gahl / er-esh-KIG-ahl) is the Sumarian Goddess of the Underworld, Irkalla, the land of the dead.  It is said that Ereshkigal is the only one who can pass judgment and dictate laws in her queendom.  She is all-powerful when it comes to judging our souls there.  She stands for a process in soul-awakening—the need to go through specific tests and fulfill certain requirements that become our foundation for growth in Spirit and wisdom. 

Ereshkigal is the sister and counterpart of Inanna/Ishtar, the Goddess of sex, love and fertility—Goddess of the warm, life-giving season .   Inanna is the Goddess of fertility, of cosmic order, of war and love, of heaven and earth.  Inanna is called the Lady of Myriad Offices.

Ereshkigal, like Persephone in the Mediterranean region, reigns over nature during the cold season of the year from the Underworld.   Since the ancients saw both sides of a goddess, holding the union of her life-giving and death-dealing image their hearts, we can view Inanna and Ereshkigal as one goddess in two aspects.  So, Inanna needs Ereshkigal to weigh and judge how she uses her powers.  Ereshkigal’s powers are truth-seeing and judgment, testing and boundaries.  
Once worshipped as Ruler of the Underworld from the Euphrates to the Nile, Ereshkigal is now known primarily for her role as Inanna’s adversary in the ancient Sumerian text, The Descent of Inanna.

From the Great Above she set her ear on the Great Below. From the Great Above the goddess set her ear on the Great Below. From the Great Above Inanna set her ear on the Great Below. 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.1
Thus begins this ancient poem/story/song.

The Great Below is obviously calling to Inanna.  In Sumerian, the word for ear means mind and wisdom.  Inanna, from the Great Above, set (opened) herself—“her ear, her receptor for Wisdom, to the Great Below.”2

Inanna withdraws her energy and power from her Temples and cities, from all her worshipers, her family and friends.  She takes the 7 divine powers in her possession and dresses herself in them.  Then she tells her faithful servant, Ninshubur, that if she doesn’t return, to go to the three Father gods and beg them to make sure that she doesn’t die in the Underworld.

Having set her mind, Inanna goes down to the underworld to her sister, Ereshgikal.    

When Inanna arrived at the outer gate of the underworld, she pushed aggressively on the door. She shouted aggressively: "Open up, doorman, open up. Open up, Neti, open up. I am all alone and I want to come in."

Neti, the chief doorman of the underworld, answered holy Inanna: "Who are you?" "I am Inanna going to the east." "If you are Inanna going to the east, why have you travelled to the land of no return? How did you set your heart on the road whose traveler never returns?"
Holy Inanna answered him: "Because lord Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven, the husband of my elder sister holy Ereshkigal, has died. I have come to witness the funeral rites.  Let the beer of his funeral rites be poured into the cup.  Let it be done! 

Neti the gatekeeper goes to his mistress Ereshkigal and tells her that Inanna demands entrance.  Ereshkigal  goes into a rage (she is unfortunately full of fury, greed, the fear of loss, and even of self-spite) and with a bit of glee orders Neti to bolt the doors and only open them one at a time, as with any soul coming to her land.  At each door, Inanna must give up one of her powers.  When she protests, Neti tells her to hush and not complain about the divine rules of the Underworld.  Those are the rules, made to order by Ereshkigal, who knows the soul’s needs.

And so Inanna enters her sister’s Underworld naked and bowed low.  As Inanna crouches before her throne, Ereshkigal looks at her with the ‘eye of death’, pronounces her judgment and Inanna dies.  Then Ereshkigal hangs her on a meat-hook to putrefy.  

                                         Inanna ~Susan Boulet~

When Ninshubur goes to the father gods, Enlil and Nanna, to ask for their help in restoring Inanna, they refuse to help.  They say that the rules are the rules—nobody returns from the Underworld.  But Enki (her mother’s father) helps.  He creates two little beings from the clay under his fingernails, the kurgarra and galatur, and instructs them to take on Ereshkigal’s anguish—to mourn with her.  Then he gives them the food and water of life to give to Inanna.

When the kurgarra and the galatur sneak into the Underworld, they find Ereshkigal doubled over in anguish, moaning and bemoaning both her insides and her outsides, as if in the pangs of childbirth.  They echo her moans, witness her pain.  The Underworld Goddess complains—and why shouldn’t she?  Her pain and rejection is real.  It hurts!  Enki’s wisdom teaches that suffering is part of reverencing life, and so these beings mirror Ereshkigal’s suffering.  

And that changes everything.  Ereshkigal is so touched by the attention they offer her that she extends herself and offers them the gifts of fertility and growth.  Following Enki’s instructions, they instead ask for Inanna’s rotting body (the body of the Goddess of fertility and growth). 

The kurgarra and galatur sprinkle the food and water of life on Inanna’s corpse.  And Inanna arose.  

As Inanna ascends to the upper worlds, she takes back her powers—and then some.  But now she has to send someone down to take her place, for the laws of the Underworld cannot be broken.   As she returns to her Temples and cities, her worshippers and her family have mourned her.  All except her husband, Dummazi, who has gone on with life as if Inanna’s death was unimportant to him.  And so she sets the demonic galla on him.  He runs and tries to hide but they find him and carry him off to the Underworld. 

To learn: To die.  Then be born, live and die again.

Ereshkigal is the power that Inanna must face to be reborn.  For Inanna to grow, she must face her dark sister.  The laws of the underworld seem harsh to us, but they are the soul’s rules.  If we want our souls to grow in spiritual awareness, we have to experience the process.  Ereshkigal initiates us into the process.  

There is a fierceness in Ereshkigal that is lacking in Inanna, whose open sexuality and creativity are matched and balanced by Ereshkigal’s eye of death and her way of stripping you bare.  When Inanna reclaims her power, she carries Ereshkigal with her.  She is also fierce, and knows something of sacrifice.

Jungians see Ereshkigal as one of the Shadow aspects of women’s psyches.  Ereshkigal is the holder of our pain, just as the Shadow is that part of our personality and needs that we’ve rejected, banished, and repressed in the unconscious. 

Ereshkigal is a multi-faceted deity of transformation, boundary-keeping, and passion, a teacher of harsh but necessary lessons.  The only way we can meet Ereshkigal is stripped of our persona, stripped down to the skin of who we are.  She tests our courage and our commitment to ourselves.  Will we be whole?  Or will we leave a part of ourselves languishing in loneliness and pain? 

What happens to the story when we look at it from Ereshkigal’s viewpoint? 

Ereshkigal fixed Inanna with the eye of death
She pronounced the word of wrath against her
Inanna fell down dead
Ereshkigal had her corpse hung on a hook3

In the Sumerian Creation myth, the god An took the heavens for his domain, Enlil took the seas, and Ereshkigal gets dominion over the Kur—the Underworld.  She is offered to the Underworld as a priestess and guardian.

Unfortunately, Ereshkigal was not happy with her assignment. There she is, bound to the Underworld, not able to come up to where life blossoms or even to go to the heavens with the other gods and goddesses.  When Inanna comes calling, why should she let that glorious life in, just to make her feel more miserable and jealous by reminding her of what she is denied?  

Ereshkigal is stripped bare, down to her essential being.  And that’s what she requires of us when we come to pay her a visit.  If we come to her domain, she makes the rules.  It’s up to us to decide how we’ll deal with her rules.  Are we open to our own truth?  Or do we hide from ourselves who we really want to be?  What we really want to do?  Who we really are?

Another Crone Goddess, Ereshkigal is more than just the death aspect of the Goddess.   Goddess of Boundaries, Mistress of the Ordeal and the Descent, and the Merciful Blade that lays open the truth of our Shadow, Ereshkigal is the Goddess who initiates us into our truth and wholeness so we can release all that is dead and embrace all that is dark in us.

We stand at the Gate of Samhain, the end and beginning of the Celtic year.  The veils between the worlds are thin, and we can travel through them if we dare.  Ereshkigal is the Goddess who can guide us to look at ourselves through her ‘eye of death’.

Take the next step in your journey of self-discovery.  Travel to Ereshkigal so that the old will die so the new can be born again.

1.      All quotes from “From the Great Above to the Great Below” are taken from Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth  by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.  Pp. 52-73.
2.    Ibid.  p. xvii.
3.    Ibid. p. 60.
Also, Queen of the Great Below: An Anthology in Honor of Ereshkigal, ed. By Janet Munin, (Bibliotheca Alexandrina: 2013).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cerridwen, Celtic Goddess of the Cauldron, Scorpio Patroness

Joanna Powell Colbert

Cerridwen (pronounced ker'rid-when) is the Welsh Goddess of the Cauldron, the many-faceted cauldron of life, death and rebirth, which is also the cauldron of plenty and inspiration.  She is a goddess to call on during the month of Scorpio because her cauldron gives us knowledge and inspiration when we are faced with change, transformation and rebirth.  Like the watery sign of Scorpio, we get transformed in the boiling waters of life. 

In Welsh legend, Cerridwen represents the Crone, the dark aspect of the Moon goddess. As we know, the Dark is the power of the Unknown, the power to see further than the eyes, to hear deeper than the ears, to know as deep as the Heart’s Wisdom.  So Cerridwen also holds the power of prophecy, and is the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge and inspiration in the Underworld.  She is often associated with Brighid as the Goddess of Inspiration and poets.

The Cauldron is the central image for the Celtic shamanic tradition, the feminine vessel of heat, plenty and inspiration.  Just as the cauldron is the source of physical nurturance, it is also the source of spiritual sustenance, as seen in the image of the Holy Grail.  The Cauldron symbolizes the Great Mother’s cosmic womb, the source of cyclical recurrence, as opposed to the patriarchal view of linear time.  It symbolizes nourishment, sustenance, abundance, fertility, inspiration, wisdom, renewal and rebirth.

For the Celts, this Cauldron is the miraculous vessel, dispensing youth and life, the power to heal and the Wisdom and inspiration of life.  The Cauldron is also the vessel of transformation, since it transforms death into life, life into inspiration and wisdom. The Cauldron of Cerridwen has three powers of inexhaustibility, regeneration and inspiration. Cerridwyn's cauldron holds the secret of immortality, seeing death as an integral part of the cycle of life, where every death brings rebirth and every ending a new beginning. 
With this month’s Scorpio solar eclipse, the image of Cerridwen’s Cauldron can help us release old emotional patterns that no longer serve life.  She boils the emotions down to their essence and heals them with her magical herbs.  What lessons have you learned from your barriers to intimacy and passion (Scorpio)?  It’s time to let them go if you want to be intimate and passionate about life!
Cerridwen’s Story:
Cerridwen's magical cauldron held a potion that granted wisdom and inspiration -- however, it had to be brewed for a year and a day to reach its full potency.  This indicates that the shamanic transformation takes time and focus.  So don’t expect instantaneous changes, but work with this story for a year and a day to bring about the transformations you need.  As you go through this journey, you will also receive Cerridwen’s gift of inspiration, to help you make the right choices for your life. 

In this time when we need to be inspired (filled with breath/Spirit), here is the story of how Cerridwen gave birth to the great Penbeirdd Taliessin.

The Cauldron of Inspiration belonged to Cerridwen, the great Wise Woman of Wales.  By her husband, Tegid Foel, she had given birth to a beautiful daughter, Creirwy (Dear One) and an ill-favored son, called Avagddu/Morfran (Utter Darkness).  To compensate for his ugliness, Cerridwen decided to concoct a potion of inspiration for him.  She collected the necessary ingredients and cooked them in her cauldron.  She got Gwion Bach, a boy from the nearby village, to stir the cauldron for a year and a day, and an old man called Morda to stoke the fire and keep it burning.  Alas, when the task was nearly complete, Gwion became sleepy and dropped in the spoon—splashing his hand in the process.  He quickly put his burnt fingers in his mouth and –Eureka!—received the distilled wisdom meant for Avagddu.  The rest of the potion was poisonous, and split the cauldron asunder, its contents spilling into a nearby river, killing the horses of Gwyddno, which drank there. 

Meanwhile, Gwion knew Cerridwen would have his heart on a platter if he didn’t get out of there quick, so he turned himself into a rabbit and ran!  Rabbits understand fear and know how to hop to it.  But when Cerridwen returned home and discovered what had happened, in her fury she poked out Morda’s eyes with his fire poker, then shape-shifted into a greyhound and gave chase to that rabbit.  

Soon she was nipping at his heels, so Taliessin jumped into a swift stream and changed himself into a salmon.  Not to be outwitted, Cerrdwen shifted into a she-otter and gave chase.  Just as he was about to be captured Taliessin turned himself into a tiny wren, king of birds.  But Cerridwen was a goddess and turned from an otter into an eagle in a blink of an eye and gave chase.  In a flash the eagle grabbed for the wren, and so Taliessin turned into a grain of wheat and fell onto the threshing floor of a farm.

Eagle-eyed Cerridwen flew down and turned into a beautiful black hen and ate that grain of wheat.  Once she turned back into a women, Cerridwen grew large with child, and in 9 moons, she gave birth to a boy so beautiful she could not kill him.  But because of her son Avagddu, she could not keep him, for Taliessin shone with the light of Wisdom meant for her son.  So Cerridwen wrapped up her beautiful twice-born son and put him in a coracle and cast him out to sea.   

He is found in a salmon weir by Elphin the son of Gwyddno on May 1st, and is called Taliessin, the Radiant or Shining Brow.1   

Cerridwen's Blessing

          I give you life
I give you death
it is all one
You travel the spiral path
the eternal path
that is existence
ever becoming
ever growing
ever changing
Nothing dies that is not reborn
nothing is born that does not die
When you come to me I welcome you home
then I take you into my womb
my cauldron of transformation
where you are stirred and sifted
blended and boiled
melted and mashed
reconstituted then recycled
You always come back to me
you always go forth renewed
Death and Rebirth are but points of transition
along the Eternal Path.

~Amy Sophia Marashinsky~

1.       Kevan Manwaring, The Bardic Handbook, (England: Gothic Images Publication, 2006), pp. 48-49.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Aries/Libra Lunar Eclipse Meditation

The Moon is the Mother of Life, of Change, of Transformation, the triple Goddess in action. 

When the Moon is eclipsed, the Earth's shadow comes between the Moon and the Sun, allowing what's been kept in the dark to come out and play.

Eclipses herald times of change, especially total eclipses. Tonight's lunar eclipse is a total eclipse, bringing new awareness to us so we can let go of old perceptions of ourselves and others. (Aries/Libra)   Look for life-changing shifts in consciousness that provide opportunities to complete major life lessons, which give you the freedom to move on to the next level of your life’s purpose. 

Aries Lunar Eclipse

This full Moon lunar eclipse is hard-wired to the on-going Pluto/Uranus square.  Now, we are experiencing how we are personally (Sun/Moon) involved in this ongoing revolution.  This Libra Sun is joined by Venus and the asteroid Pallas Athene, as well as the Libra North Node, directing our evolution toward greater understanding, love and balance.  While the Sun travels through the sign of Libra, our consciousness (Sun) turns toward balance, harmony and social relationships.  Libra is the sign of justice and cooperation.  Along with Libra’s ruler Venus energizing her wisdom and love within us, Pallas Athene in Libra strategizes how to reconcile opposites—whether masculine/feminine, light/dark—to harmonize and integrate polarities.  She does this through Aphrodite/Venus' energy of connection and love.

 Venus has been a Morning Star for the past 9 months, but now she’s disappeared into the light of the Sun for transmutation and re-birth, and she will emerge from the Sun’s light in early December to become the Evening Star of Wisdom.  At this hidden phase of her journey, Venus sheds old beliefs and patterns so a much truer form can emerge.  This lunar eclipse will strip her bare and transmute to a deeper connection to Love.
This eclipse energizes us to step into our own unique way of expressing Love and Light through our connections, our artistry, our ability to compromise and our belief in social justice.   Aphrodite/Venus had disappeared into the Light of the Sun, uniting with the Sun, calling to us to walk in Beauty as we walk in the world.  Each of us is beautiful if we allow it.  Our own unique beauty comes from our soul, our timeless Self, the energy of who we are, what we’ve learned, and what we’ve done down through the ages.

Now is the time to release our heart’s love into the world.  It is time for us to gather our strength, our courage, our awareness of who we are, so we can meet each other and the world with our Beauty, our Wisdom and our Truth.


While you slow and deepen your breath, sending it through your body and to any part of your body that is tense, let go of everything and just feel what's in your heart as you continue to deepen your breath and deepen your relaxation. 

Take your breath up to your third eye—the Eye of the Moon—where your story starts. 
Now breathe into the 3rd Eye and open it. See the Full Moon rising over a dark space, but as it rises even further, you see it is rising over the ocean.  Silvery light sparkles on the wave tops and foam, like a shiny ladder going straight up to the Moon.  
So step into the water and start to climb up this lunar ladder.  When you get to the Moon, walk into the Light.  (PAUSE)

This is where you’ll find your true Self.  The Self which will let you express all the wonderful, crazy, heart-felt love you’ve been keeping locked up in your heart.   Walk forward until you can embrace her/him/it.  Let your love light up the Moon!   (PAUSE)   

Feel what's in your heart and find a symbol or an object that will hold that love for you, so that whenever you see the symbol, your heart will flood with love.

Follow the Light back down the Moon ladder and slowly come back.

Now cast the spell.  Say this out loud—three times!

Why not sparkle with Love so others’ flames do spark?   
Let love shine through true vision and an open heart
This I invoke 3 x 3
As I will, so mote it Be!  

Blessed Be!