It seems fitting that Persephone / Inanna stories are lost from the Net, but remain preserved, hidden in hard drives until the time is right and someone (me) inadvertently stumbles upon a dusty file and re-posts!
The following piece is a creative interpretation of the myth as recorded by Raven Grimassi in Italian Witchcraft.
The world seems to me to be a colorless place, bereft of yellows and blues, greens and reds. Gray and brown is all that remains, pieces of dark color that blow and crumble in the fading light. No color here, just death’s rotting hunger consuming what remains of the light. Each day, the light dims more and more, the splendor of the great sun bleeding away into the sunset. Dim also are my emotions; they bleed into the sunset, the colors of love and joy fading, dead flowers on the barren ground.
I do not feel the pain. I feel nothing, no grief or pain, no joy or merriment. And I too, feel as if my life is sinking into the dull, empty dust, crumbling like the faded leaves as they drift in the wind. No purpose. Profoundly alone with no direction, just a single leaf carried from place to place, losing bits and pieces as it slowly disintegrates. Why am I here in this liminal world of decay? Why remain in a place that is fractured in the fading light. Why be here?
He is gone. The words escape the clinging tension of my teeth. The emptiness of my breath fills for a moment the space and then withdraws, leaving more of nothing behind. I am alone - my love, my life is gone, taken by cruel death far from me. I ache inside, but the emotion cannot be released. There is no outlet here for such as I, no place to cry, no ears to hear the scream, no witness to the pain. I need darkness to enclose me, a forgetting of the dim light for a time. I need to know why. Why he is gone? Why all light fades and dies? Why life itself no longer holds pleasure? There is no answer here and I am half-sick of shadows[i].
“I would know of all things”, I think to myself, “ of death and life and why the light fades and joy is gone”. So in my boat I climb, the boat we had made in the joyful light amidst the flowers and new growth of the season. Cut from the sturdy oak of the primal forest, it surrounds and comforts me as if I am still in his arms. I lay down as if to sleep, perhaps as if to die, the dead leaves dressing my hair, a bridal veil[ii]. I gaze up into the sky, my own skin pale now as the dying sun, tears falling yet not warming the coldness of my cheeks. With the river I slowly drift from this world, descending down, down to the land of no return, the region of darkness, to the house whose enterer goes not forth, to the road whence the wayfarer never returns[iii] My limbs grow heavy , my breath icy and labored, the blessed boat stops.
As one asleep, I climb from that sweet vessel, stumbling over hard rocks and dust, never noticing their bruising impact on my soft skin. In front of me now stands a fearsome stone gate, with cruel iron locks and a demon so fierce that I tremble under his gaze. In my hand, tightly held and forgotten was my scepter, a simple wand of willow, cut long ago when life still seemed green. I stand at the gate and command with my wand, “Fearsome guardian, open this door, for I will know of death and all things in the darkness.” He merely laughs, a low, rumbling laugh as he stares at me. “Give me your scepter Lady,” he demands, “your power must be handed over if you are to come before the Dark Lord!” I pause but a moment and then with a soft gasp and a trembling hand, I hand the guardian my beloved willow wand and felt the powerlessness of all those who come to this dark realm of death.
Quickly now, I pass through the gate, descending down a long, narrow path, its edges precarious, but I do not care if I fall. Deeper and deeper into the darkness till once again, I stand before a large stone gate, the guardian sitting high atop a pylon, his red, red eyes burning into me. Tall and regal, I stand before him and command with all my authority, “Fearsome guardian, open this door, for I will know of death and all things in this dark, desolate place.” He merely laughs at me and whispers seductively, “Lady, you may not come before the Dark Lord bearing the crown of upper-world authority. For kings and queens of that world are as peasants in this world as all must bow to death.” I pause but a second and removed the crown of dead flowers and myrtle leaves from my brow. I no longer care for such trifles and am weary of its weight. He smiles slyly and opens the gate, the iron hinges creaking and crying in this dark soundless place.
I pass on, feeling those red, red eyes on my back, and yet never turning. The air feels heavier to me now, as if the pressure of so many drifting, listless spirits close around me. Then suddenly, looming out of the darkness is yet another gate. Like the others, it was heavy stone and now carved with curious runes and symbols that I fear to understand. My hand goes to my throat, clutching the necklace of pearls that feel so warm in my hand, a remembrance of sunlight on the water. A guardian tall and broad stands blocking my entrance, a smirk on his face. I hold the precious pearls against my throat, their radiance shining even in this gloomy darkness and quivering before him, I command, “Third guardian, I do not fear. Open this door, for I will know of death and all things in this dark, desolate place.” He smiles, a slow, grim smile and smirks again, “Lady, you must surrender those precious pearls for no one may come before the Dark Lord touting vain symbols of worldly wealth.” Softly I gasp and then quickly unclasp my necklace and hand it to him, wishing to be far away from this loathsome one. The demon laughs as his dirty hand grabs the shimmering pearls and he opens the gate.
This time I rush forward, my courage beginning to fade as I fall further into the darkness. I can hear the sounds of restless ones around me, begging for me to see them, and yet I dare not look. I move as quickly as I can, stumbling yet again over the rough surface until I once more come to a cruel, stone gate. Its guardian sits cross-legged, sharpening a barbarous blade. He looks up at me curiously as if I am no more than a beggar and barks at me, “No one enters the realm of the Dark Lord bearing tokens of another world,” and he points the blade at my ring. Tears fall from my eyes as I remove the precious ring from my left finger, the token of love that is forever lost and can never be regained. I throw the ring at him and command, “Take this token, cruel one and open now this gate, for I will know of death and all things in this dark, desolate place.” He places my ring in his pocket and slowly opens the gate, his blade pointing threateningly at the way down.
I choke a cry, not wanting him to know how fearful I am as I move forward into the darkness. Nothing is left, I think to myself, for all I love has now been taken. To the fifth gate I run, determined now to end this journey and find the answers I seek. Once more, I stop at a large stone gate, and demand of the guardian, “What must I give you to pass, for I will know of death and all things in this dark, desolate place.” He calmly smiles at my breathless demands and whispers, “Your starry girdle, Lady, that sash which binds you to your world. For none may stand before the Dark Lord who is still bound to the upper world.” I quickly untie the sash and hand it to him as he moves aside and lets me pass, his filthy hands fondling the soft silk.
This time, I do not stop, running as fast as I can till I come to yet another guarded gate. Weary is my pounding heart, the sound filling the emptiness of the gloomy tunnel. Tears stream down my face as I beg, “Please, I will know of death and all things in this dark, desolate place. How can I pay you to pass this gate?” “Your sandals, Lady,” he smugly replies, “for the only path you walk here is the path of death.” With trembling hands, I unfasten my sandals and throw them at the monstrous guardian, rushing quickly by him, fearful that I can go no further if I pause but a moment.
At last, I come to the final gate, it’s stone portal higher and stronger than any I had yet encountered. Barring the way is the captain of all guardians, his helmet encrusted with skulls, his sword bloodied and drawn. I cry out in anguish, “Let me pass, for I will know of death and all things in this dark desolate place.” “Your gown, Lady,” he growls, “ for no one approaches the Dark Lord with such artifices and coverings.” Slowly I remove the gown, stepping out of it and handing it to him. For nothing may be received unless something is given in returned. He moves aside and I pass into the Underworld.
In the world of shadows, I stop. There, there in the darkness is the He who is the Shadow, the dread Lord of all death and decay. I tremble, as I stand naked before him, flinching as he approaches me. I do not understand when he suddenly kneels and lays his crown and sword at my feet. He begs me to stay with him and feel his touch upon my heart, and I move back from him repulsed. I cry out a curse to he who causes all to wither and die, he who has taken all that I love from me. How dare he think that I could ever love one such as he?
Sadly, the great Lord shakes his head and whispers that I know him not, that he is not responsible for age and fate which causes the withering of life and the death of all men and all things. “Lady,” he whispers to me, his dark, dark eyes filled with sorrow, “I give them rest peace, and strength so that they may dwell with the spirits of the moon for a time and then return once more to the world of light and life.” The great Dark Lord pleads with me to stay and love him.
But I cannot love him. I can never love one as loathsome as he and standing haughtily before him, I deny his request. He whispers, “then you must kneel and accept death’s scourge.” I fall to my knees with no hesitation and I demand my fate, for I have come to know death and death I will know.
Oh! Oh! With such a tender hand, the Dark Lord scourges me and I suddenly feel for the first time the pain I have hidden from myself. I am alone, totally and profoundly alone. And in this pain, I look into his dark, sad eyes and I realize that he too is profoundly alone. In that moment of recognition I see that he and I are indeed different and yet the same. My heart suddenly bursts with love and compassion for one so tender and yet so profoundly alone. I cry out with love, “I know your pain.”.
Gently he raises me up and makes me his queen. Five kisses he places upon my body in the form of a star, opening the way to knowledge and joy. Then he takes me in his arms and teaches me the mysteries of life and death as I teach him the mysteries of rebirth through the sacred chalice of love.
“For there are three mysteries in the life of Man which are, Sex, Birth, and Death (and love controls them all). To fulfill love, you must return again at the same time and place as those who loved before. And you must meet, recognize, remember, and love them anew. But to be reborn you must die and be made ready for a new body. And to die you must be born, but without love you may not be born among your own.”[iv]
Together we join in love. For a time, I stay with him and in that dark, holy place, I learned of death and love and joy. So, I teach you now, how death reveals the way to love and union and how the circle is the mystery, which lies between the world of men and the gods. Love and be loved, children and live in joy and peace. But know too the profound loneliness of death and the sweet, healing surrender of darkness.
[i] Like the Lady of Shallot, who can only see the world of shadows, this Lady is also weary of being in a shadow land.
[ii] There is an older mythos at play here, one that is an ancient primordial motif of the bridegroom, who is death, abducting the virgin. “Seen from the viewpoint of the matriarchal world, every marriage is a rape of the Kore the virginal blossom by Hades, the ravishing earthly aspect of the hostile male” (Neumann 62).
[iii] Taken from the myth of Ishtar and her Descent.
[iv] Raven Grimassi – Italian Witchcraft
The Decent of The Goddess
Tana, our Lady and Goddess, would solve all mysteries, even the mystery of Death. And so she journeyed to the Underworld in her boat, upon the Sacred River of Descent. Then it came to pass that she entered before the first of seven gates to the Underworld. And the Guardian challenged her, demanding one of her garments for passage, for nothing may be received except that something be given in return. And at each of the gates the goddess was required to pay the price of passage, for the guardians spoke to her: "Strip off your garments, and set aside your jewels, for nothing may you bring with you into this our realm."
So Tana surrendered her jewels and her clothing to the Guardians, and was bound as all living must be who seek to enter the realm of Death and the Mighty Ones. At the first gate she gave over her scepter, at the second her crown, at the third her necklace, at the fourth her ring, at the fifth her girdle, at the sixth her sandels, and at the seventh her gown. Tana stood naked and was presented before Dis, and such was her beauty that he himself knealt as she entered. He laid his crown and his sword at her feet saying: "Blessed are your feet which have brought you down this path." Then he arose and said to Tana: "Stay with me I pray, and receive my touch upon your heart."
And Tana replied to Dis: "But I love you not, for why do you cause all the things I love, and take delight in, to fade and die?"
"My Lady" replied Dis "it is age and fate against which you speak. I am helpless, for age causes all things to whither, but when men die at the end of their time, I give them rest, peace and strength. For a time they dwell with the Moon, and the spirits of the moon; then they may return to the realm of the living. But you are so lovely, and I ask you to return not, but abide with me here."
But she answered "No, for I do not love you." Then Dis said "If you refuse to embrace me, then you must kneel to death's scourge." The goddess answered him: "If it is to be, then it is fate, and better so!" So Tana knelt in submission before the hand of death, and he scourged her with so tender a hand that she cried out "I know your pain, and the pain of love."
Dis raised her to her feet and said "Blessed are you, my Queen and my Lady." Then he gave to her the five kisses of initiation, saying: "Only thus may you attain to knowledge and to joy."
And he taught her all of his mysteries, and he gave her the necklace which is the symbol of rebirth. And she taught him her mysteries of the sacred cup which is the cauldron of reburth.
They loved and joined in union with each other, and for a time Tana dwelled in the realm of Dis.
For there are three mysteries in the life of man which are: birth, sex, and death (and love controls them all). To fulfill love, you must return at the same time and place as those who have loved before. And you must meet, recognize, remember, and love them anew. But to be reborn you must die and be made ready for a new body. And to die you must be born, but without love you may not be born among your own.
But our Goddess is inclined to favor love, and joy and happiness. She guards and cherishes her hidden children in this life and the next. In death she reveals the way to her communion, and in life she teaches them the Magick of the mystery of the Circle (which is set between the worlds of Men and of the Gods).
Above Stories from Ways of The Strega By Raven Grimassi