My time of refuge with a Buddhist community, and then a return to suburbia - but always living in the shadows.
It took me twenty years, before I was strong enough and brave enough to call myself good enough to return to the world. I set out on another path, over a year ago. I have three more years of study if I am successful enough to continue.
But regardless of qualifications or otherwise, I know that what ever I do more of, I need to begin to make myself into someone who can help others to create their own ceremonies. For that is what I want to do. Without the ability to create ceremonies for myself, perhaps I'd still be trapped in the darkness, unable to face the wounds so in need of love and light, wrapped in bandages made of shame.
So that is my intention.
At the moment the one small ceremony I preform every day is for my heart's Goddess, Ereshkigal. And it crossed my mind to buy Queen of the Great Below: An Anthology in Honor of Ereshkigal by by Inara de Luna (Author), H. Jeremiah Lewis (Author), Sophie Reicher (Author), Erynn Rowan Laurie (Author), BellaDonna Oya (Author), Galina Krasskova (Author), & 4 more...
At the time of its composing, I did hear the call to contribute..but I didn't have the courage. I still don't. I can't tell you how Ereshkigal came into my life, only that it was in a dream that didn't feel like a dream. and that I was living so close to death, that She was the only one who could have reached me.
I didn't know her name, only the she was The Dark Sister, and that I was under Her protection.
She came to me as Goddess of boundaries: The ways of the Underworld are perfect and are not to be questioned ....and it has taken me this long - twenty years+ - to really begin to understand and to deal with the ashes of too many cremations, sealed within my heart.
This is what I learned from making a return to the place of nightmare.
My aim was to write a timeline of what happened.
My first task was to seek support from others. This can be problematic. Good people will worry about you. Their worry isn't good for you, unless you are able to say that you are clear in your intention and can reassure them that you wont go off the rails, and be re-traumatized.
So this may be difficult for you to do. To find people who can celebrate your courage. This definitely was difficult for me...I could not speak my truth for fear of hurting others, for years.
But I know the path of Ereshkigal requires me to go back and to learn from my pain.
..when I was sure that I had support I began the second task.
I hunted through old diaries and letters, I asked people who knew me at the time. I gathered as much information as I could.
I used guided meditations to practice grounding, and I used another to seek my power-animal. I asked my power-animal to help me see how I should proceed, what should I do when I get to the location?
I made arrangements to stay in the location, where it happened and packed my bag.
I put in clothes that were similar to ones I'd worn then. I put in messages of good will from others. I put into my bag some jewelry I'd bought to celebrate my courage.
Then one cold a rainy afternoon:
Next, I bought the album I'd listened to at the time.
I put it on repeat and asked myself what was I actually saying about myself?
I reversed each negative statements into affirmations.
The last part...
It is September and the year is 1990
I am wearing a red dress, black leggings and Doc Martins
My hair is neatly cut.
I am standing with two beautiful little girls.
One is aged three and the other is five.
They shine like pure gold.
Somewhere behind me is my husband.
His presence darkens and warps the air.
My true self is broken and crying
The truth of what has occurred must be hidden
I focus on nothing
In front of me there is a ladder
It goes vertically down 30 foot, into a dark hole.
And I there I leave the part of myself that can’t take this...
She must stay deep under the ground for safe keeping.
Twenty seven years later.
This is my account of how I went back, to reclaim myself.
I pack my bag for the journey.
All the good will and support from this group, goes in first symbolised by the button. Next some jewellry I have bought as a reward for myself and to remind me in years to come of this journey.
I make lists, research my own history, in old diaries and letters. I practice my ‘safe space’ healing meditation. I look at all the emails of support people have sent me and I know that I’m doing the right thing. More visualizations, I go looking for a ‘power animal’ to accompany me, and find a fox!
A message from a friend, very worried about me - as I explain to her it helps me to explain to myself why I’m doing this. I tell her that I have to go back to prove to myself that there is nothing there. I tell her that I've returned to the path I originally set out to follow and I am 'reclaiming' a part of the map I've had to avoid, and this feels like an initiation rite. Latter I take a heap of paper and some pens. I Make some sandwiches, and coffee. Then I look at the timeline I’ve written and follow it like Ariadne’s thread, into that dark hole.I write the account of what happened there. I leave nothing out. Then I go into the kitchen...outside it’s pouring with rain! So I open all the doors and windows in the house and then burn all the paper in a frying pan. I put the ashes in a box to be scattered or buried, on Sunday.
I buy the album that I listened to most at that time. I listen to it on repeat and begin the task of identifying the negative beliefs I am carrying about myself. I come up with five, heavy, black and sticky, poisonous statements that reflect my experience of how it feels I felt when we were in danger.
As I write the opposing statements I begin the work of pushing the dirt, stones and mud away from my buried self.
Saturday morning - The journey
Looking down at my arms. It’s me driving. Feelings slightly spaced out, but safe! So grateful to everyone. The green button in my pocket. I put my hand into my pocket and feel it crinckle, reassuring me.
Saturday afternoon - Cambridge.
When I was here before I bought some earrings decorated with a labyrinth. The old story of Theseus having to face the Minotaur in the dark, following the golden thread up and out...Today we found the craft market straight away, my husband insisted on buying me another ring. Cambridge is old and beautiful, golden in the sunlight. There were graduation ceremonies going on, everywhere proud moms and dads and tall offspring striding past in gowns. And for me? No panic, no playback..but there is something.
This is where it hits me. I have booked a family room, so there is a single bed by the window. I ache for my daughters. I’m lost in complete disbelief, shock and sorrow for us in the past. But my husband hugs me, makes me a cup of coffee. I look at the rings on my fingers. I’m ok - it is now, the me who was here before didn’t have these rings. But the room is still full of ghosts, I’m only half in the present. I take one of my earrings and slide it as far under the mattress as I can push it - it is a kind of gift to the place, because I did survive that night..
I send a text message to each of my children, “Thinking about you and sending you all my love”. I don’t know how much my daughters know about this part of their lives. It was as if I took a vow of silence here, twenty-seven years ago. I feel that I can’t tell them unless they ask me - is still a part of the bargain I made to get us out alive.
I go and have a bath.
Then I take some post-it notes and draw two little faces to represent my daughters. I put them on the pillow and imagine I’ve tucked them up for bed. I feel better now.
Then my husband and I watch Sucker Punch, have a picnic on the floor, and share a bottle of Prosecco. We talk a lot. The film helps. Then I listen to a guided meditation and I put the new necklace by my bed, ready to wear in the morning.
Travelodge. Sunday morning.
I wake up feeling loved and safe. Messages of support on my phone, and love from my children. I dress in clothes similar to the ones I wore this day twenty seven years ago and I remember the feeling of shame I felt, how much I hated my body that day. I feel brittle and uneasy. But the day is bright and I need to go and see...
Grime's Graves. Sunday midday.
Grime’s Graves (the area) is nothing like I remember, except for that ladder down and what it is like at the bottom of the hole. I put on the hard hat the man hands me and I climb slowly down into the chamber, where six small passageways lead away into the dark. I take out my other earring and push it into a gap close to the floor. I think of my other self, the self who I left down here, I imagine her. Her face and hands are cut, her clothes are torn and covered in mud. She is part of me - together we climb up out of this hole.
Outside the wind is ferocious! I walk to a hill called Grime’s Howe (Woden’s house) which is surrounded by trees covered in dark berries. And there I open the box of ashes and let the wind take them. They are snatched by the wind, seeping out like black smoke!
As I walk towards the car, the sky becomes almost as black and rain begins to pour down.
And it’s gone. It’s over.
I go into the shop and buy some mead for Christmas dinner and a wool blanket.
Then I’m sitting in the car, eating bread and pies and drinking ginger beer. I feel as if I’m recovering from surgery, I feel lighter. I had thought that this place would overwhelm me. But this time I feel so different. There is no feeling of dread.
On the journey here, the random play for the music in the car kept giving me a song called Fearless by VNV Nation - the chorus is, “I’m not alone, I’m not afraid, I am happy….” and it’s true…