In the summer, I take the sun for granted. I trust that its light and warmth will be there to drive away the shadows. I bask in the energy and vibrancy of the natural life I see around me.
But in winter, the darkness dominates.
I don’t usually mind the dark. My Goddesses are associated with the moon, and I have often found a deep sense of connection to myself and to their energy at night. Meditation and yoga under the stars is nothing short of transcendental for me.
However, there’s a different side to darkness. It’s the darkness of descending into the underworld. The darkness of shadows slinking forward, of monsters coming to visit, and of the judgment of a psychopathic god. It’s the darkness of my childhood, when the boogeyman existed and went by the name of my god.
It’s been five years since I left the cult, and approximately three since I left Christianity altogether. Yet I’ve developed a new (or probably more accurately, an old) fear of the dark. It crept into my heart as the days grew shorter this year. The connection and peace that I had come to associate with the night disappeared as my fears returned—the fears that “like a thief in the night” and “in the blink of an eye” life and love would be taken.
In the past, my underworld journeys have been somewhat deliberate . . . or at least identified, but this time, I only became aware that I was in the bowels of my psyche when I was standing, stripped and naked, before my Ereshkigal.
She was me. I was a child again, anxiously watching the clock grow later, praying that I would be reunited with my loved ones—that they hadn’t disappeared. I was a four year old afraid to close my eyes because I might die in my sleep and wake up in hell. I was a preteen, seeking out the company of others, not because I longed for company, but because I needed to know that humanity still existed. I was a teen listening for the sound of breathing still coming from my parents’ room so that I knew I hadn’t been left behind in the Rapture.
How appropriate that just before the longest night of the year, I find myself face to face with a fear so deep that it goes beyond my earliest memories and survives even my unbelief. I might as well be looking under my bed for Krampus for all the sense it makes to believe that the world is going to end with a trumpet blast and dead people will float up to heaven.
Yet here I am, afraid of being left behind.
But this is what I love about goddess spirituality—the underworld is not where I go after I’ve been damned by a vindictive deity; it’s where I go to find myself again. . . and this time, to rescue myself from that vindictive deity. Jehovah may throw me into the fiery pit where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, but that’s okay. Inanna is there to remind me, as Rilke said, “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”
And when I look at my Underworld with that perspective, I find that there are no demons down there, just a frightened little girl who is tired of being forgotten in the darkness–scary only because I’ve been taught to fear her pain.
How equally appropriate then that as the physical light gets ready to grow again, I awake to find that it’s time to begin my upward journey back into myself, this time not leaving the shadow goddess behind but carrying her with me up into the world above, a world of sunlight . . . a world of a different kind of night—one where the light doesn’t completely leave but lingers in the stars and moon.