Working with Ereshkigal, the ancient Mesopotamian Goddess of the Underworld (Irkalla), for two months is truly an initiation into the cycle of endings and beginnings. Subsequently, it includes the space between those two. The Void. The Crossroads.
She has inspired fear, but also deep reverence and respect.
She requires that we own our dark, embrace the vulnerability of allowing our greatest obstacles to be stripped from us, and gives us the bones to reweave for the next season with authenticity. She inspires the pain to purpose journey, Divine Love, Agape, the calling forward of our truth, and the magic with which we choose to move forward (or not).
|Parents||Nammu (Sea), Anu (Sky)|
|Conflations||Nepthys, Hekate, Persephone, Kali-Uma, Hel|
|Season||Yule, Winter Solstice|
|Animal||Serpent, Owl, Lion|
Personal Gnosis and Experiences
The amazing part of being a collective is our ability to collaborate, learn, and share our personal gnosis of Goddesses. This month, I am honored to present additional collaborators and experiences.
Nini Bee Honeywolf
When Kaycee asked me to write a piece for the Ereshkigal Anthology, I was dubious. While it was true that I worked with her energy intensely during these past weeks, channeling both the journeys DCG provided, it’s also true that the initiatic nature of our interactions made them very hard to describe.
She is a chthonic deity and, as such, she can be kind of spooky. If you know me, you also know how I dwell in the spooky, the weird, the underworldly. Underworld deities tend to like me: it’s part of my path.
How did Ereshkigal feel to me?
She felt… surprising, in a way, even for a death positive person like I am. Ereshkigal has a refined intelligence and a strong sense of irony while having a complete lack of softness and gentleness. She is sharp and witty, and she really really SEES you when she looks at you. Yet, she is not cruel or pointlessly scary: the fear we experience is the projection of our fears and not her willing to scare us. She does nothing to repel us or scare us off and smirks knowing that the uncomfortable emotions we experience around her presence are a mere reflection of what we carry on the inside.
Her presence is deep and complex. Most of all, she allows a deep revealing of our own relationships with death, the dead, the underworld and the unknown. She is an extreme expression of all of the above, embodying every aspect of the dark unknown, but she presents it as a mere natural fact. Ereshkigal is factual.
She has no emotion, positive or negative, in relation of all that she represents.
She doesn’t feel the need to scare us, nor to reassure us, nor to justify or explain anything to us. She is the personification of a natural occurrence, and, at the same time, she holds and gathers all the spirits and demons that humanity has associated with the fear of death and wandering into the unknown. She finds it ironic and a bit funny that all this heaviness, the “horror vacui” (fear of the void), the dark unknown, the rejection of the decay and the denial have been placed upon her by humankind over the millennia, yet THEY ARE NOT HER.
My experience with her is that she lives outside the duality we have been trained to think things should follow into, such as: death equals fear, unknown, abandonment, void, punishment. A goddess related to Death and the underworld must either be scary and judgmental or apologetic, reassuring: but does she? This is not Ereshkigal’s case.
She is what she is, and what she is resides in the notion that death and anything that comes after are a neutral reality.
They are FACTS and it’s up to us not to layer her and what is a natural process of death (and rebirth) with our fears and rejection. Therefore, a thing I would like for us all to do after this journey, is to start shedding the ideas and mindset our society forces upon the natural process of death (and rebirth) and to start thinking of all that is related to it under a more neutral light.
In truth, we go through that process all the time. There are micro cycles and macro cycles of death and rebirth going on all the time in our bodies, as it creates and destroys itself, as well as in our spiritual path. Bodily death is just one of the macro circles expressing itself but hear me out: what if it is the beginning of a new adventure? What if shedding this body and its limits frees us and gives us access to a set of endless possibilities? What if, instead of rejecting and denying the door of our own passing we asked to ourselves, excitedly, “what’s NEXT”? I’ll leave you to it.
Experiencing Ereshkigal is infinitely more than experiencing death. As a Goddess of Death, she holds the wisdom of the ages. She knows all that was, all that is, and all that will be. I found The Queen of the Dead to be a force of indomitable strength with a streak of grace. Compassionate while being fiercely protective of set boundaries and established protocol. It is through this Goddess of the Great Below that we can receive the keys to experience life fully.
During this process of quieting down and entering the domain of Ereshkigal, there were questions running through my mind:
- What would the world be like if death was embraced as the next stage after this life?
- What if we didn’t hide the subject of death from children like it was a dirty little secret?
- What if we didn’t replace the goldfish or sneak in a new hamster and took a moment to explain the cycles of life to kids in a way that they could understand?
My mother would often tell stories of her childhood in Southern Ohio, back in the early 40’s. She remembered the days when family was laid out in the home. A time before wakes became such a monetized industry. It was close, it was personal, it was respected. As a society we’ve strayed far from this concept.
Many feel that death is taboo, not to be discussed.
What if we embraced it with warmth and gentility instead?
I’ve come to understand the deep importance of expansion vs constriction. I started receiving messages regarding expansion as soon as I began to connect with Ereshkigal. She didn’t mean to only be expansive regarding her…be expansive regarding others. Be expansive with your life. Breathe in deeply all the joys of the living world.
In the course of the time, I spent with Ereshkigal I experienced two family deaths. One, an elderly aunt who was ready to move on and we were given time to prepare. The other, my nephew, a young man in the prime of his life who died suddenly and unexpectedly. One rocked me a little harder than the other, but it was my closeness with Ereshkigal that opened my eyes to my real emotions buried deep and how best to begin processing.
Through death I have learned love and forgiveness.
I have learned that I need to actively work on and cultivate the person I want to be. I need to grieve all the people I am not in the same way I grieve family and friends who pass. Most importantly, I need to breathe through it all. Breath is life.
I am a death-walker. I never felt comfortable claiming that title, but Ereshkigal made it abundantly clear that this is a gift I have been given. Death isn’t bad, it isn’t good, it just is. The more we accept this, the more we live this principle, then the more the beauty of life will stand out to us.
We try so hard as humans to make the impermanent permanent. Nothing stays the same, everything is in perpetual motion. What I must hold on to through all this change and movement is my soul. Not money, not other people, not things.
My soul is my strength, I need to strengthen my soul by being completely me.
That’s what I mean when I say she makes you face the things you don’t want to see. She won’t show you problems, she’ll show you the root of the problem. The bones. All the outer layers…the flesh and blood so to speak…are biproducts we create and give life to. Ereshkigal dissolves this and shows the source.
Her message is one of fact. Work on what you have been shown or not, but if you don’t it will naturally be worse the next time you are called to face it. Talk about an ouch moment. The ball is in our court, it’s the moment that as sovereigns we straighten our crowns, or witch hats, whichever you prefer, and we choose to move forward one step at a time.
Ereshkigal isn’t there to cause us pain or fear, what little is written of her reveals that she was a very tender and caring guardian of the dead. As Queen of the Great Below these were her people. There is love to be found in death.
She isn’t there to punish. But you will be judged. You will have to face your life up to this point and decide what it is you need to leave behind, what is it that needs changed, adjusted, re-examined, what is going to lead you forward, and what is going to stagnate and hinder your progress.
The choice is always ours. Expansion or restriction? Growth or stagnation? Are we living our life fully feeling alive and motivated? Or are we cowering in fear and letting stagnation and confusion make the decisions?
I choose to take the keys she offers and live my life fully and authentically.
Thanks to Kaycee and Dark Goddess Collective and to Nini, my fellow collaborator, I can’t think of two better people to dive into Ereshkigal with.
Caution: Topic includes Addiction, Suicide and Death.
November 2022, around the dark moon, Ereshkigal was presented. It was the very first time I heard Her name. I immediately felt a powerful rumble in my core while saying her name out loud. It was a power that started working on me from that day forth. She did not come to me like lightning, but more like a storm off in the distance. I could sense the power coming for me. It was an anticipation I have not experienced before. As a witch, I know the power of names and how they invoke the spirit and energy of the great Gods and Goddesses, so I always take care to do my research and investigate before I decide to work with any deity.
As I prepared my dark moon altar to honor the great queen, I started to read on her and the story of her sister Inanna. I found that she was known as the queen of the Sumerian Underworld, Irkalla. Again, saying the word Irkalla out loud shook my bones. I was having tremendous sensations just saying the words. It was the same when I heard the name Hekate for the first time. I knew I was to prepare for a great journey and that my life would change forever.
For me, Autumn is the season when my magic focuses on harvesting the fruits of the seeds I sewed in the Spring. As the weather gets colder and the nights get longer, I shift to what needs to be shed, and let go of to prepare for new seeds. Working with Ereshkigal, she asks me to take that energy a step further and become one with her as a DEATHBRINGER to my old self, to prepare for rebirth in the Spring.
The first journey to Ereshkigal took me to what I will call the Great Old Tree. At its base was a small dark whole that I could not see into. As I lay on the ground, close to the Earth as my serpent-self, I could put my ear to the whole and hear the rumblings. It was at that moment that I heard her voice for the first time. She said nothing audible. It was more a reverb, an echo and a rumble of the ground which seemed to happen all around me and in my bones. I was left with the feeling of an unearthly force in my heart.
An understanding that something ancient was reaching for me.
Calling to me from all directions.
Inside and out.
Upside and down.
I spent some time with the feeling then got to work. I realized there was a force that was calling to me and that the Great Goddess was going to help me literally shed. For the last couple of years, I have struggled with my health in many ways, but they all tie back to my weight. I have tried literally everything to change my toxic and self-destructive habits around food my whole life, with no long-term success. Now, at 42 years old, my body is giving out and I live in constant pain and disorder. Naturally, it is that toxic, maladapted, and suicidal self I was going to bring death to in hopes that She would take the filth from within and turn it into gold.
If you have ever struggled with addiction, you might know that when you finally become aware that you are literally killing yourself and you need to stop, but can’t because you don’t know how, things get worse before they get better. For me, that meant bingeing more, starving some days and deep dark holes of depression and acting out with more self-destructive behaviors.
It got dark really fast, and it wasn’t the first time in my life I had been there or here.
It’s a cycle. There were some days I did not get out of bed. The unsafe places and situations I have put myself into, in the name of distraction, were horrible and traumatic.
Meeting Her Again
About a month later, meeting her face-to-face was when some fear came in. I prepared my space and welcomed the journey. I went to the Great Old Tree and saw the graveyard ahead. I walked to the gate of the graveyard and entered. Up ahead in the distance I saw the grove of trees and knew I had been there before. I left the graveyard and took shelter in the tunnel of oaks. I walked the stone path until the staircase downward was revealed. I began to crawl. I was on my belly, crawling until I could walk.
I was scared, I was empowered, and I was IN IT.
I heard voices, mostly evil taunting laughter. At each door, more of my protective layers shed. It was dark, and warm and steamy. The walls dripped with what seemed to be like blood. At the last door, I was bare, sobbing. I entered the great cavern. Before me a torch lit cathedral of bones and blood with its stained glass that shimmered and stone that glistened. As I continued to walk inside the murmurs of the dead became louder and their voices began to be clearer as did their bodies and faces. I was petrified, yet there was a part of me that knew this place and these spirits. They laughed and pointed. They puffed their chests and looked down with blood lust at me. It was then that I saw Her. The Great Queen Ereshkigal as she sat on her thrown of bones. She stood as I approached.
What happened next, I will never forget. She smirked at me as I trembled. She laughed. Her eyes filled with pity for me. She slithered down the fortress of steps on Her Gorgona tails dripping in blood and black robes. She held a trident that was twice her size. She pointed it at me as she circled and smelled me. Heaving her chest up at me and rushing my soul. I cowered. She continued to laugh and mock me. I know the feeling well. When she spoke, again, it was a reverb, an echo, and a quake inside and out, upside and down except this time, a stillness came over me.
My flesh melted, my bones dropped, and I was a small light nebula floating.
She blasted me all the way up into a celestial cloud where there was no sound. It was in that space that She instilled in me with a knowing. That knowing was that I concern myself too much with my flesh, my body and my Earthly being. That I am spirit incarnate of energy and that everything is energy on Earth, especially the physical reality. She said things to me like “Why worry about all the small things Rayne, we have bigger things to do!”
She showed me pictured of me in a cage.
She showed me how small I am. She showed me that the body is a distraction and that I am not meant to live in it, but to use it to live. She showed me that food is energy and that If I ate how I wanted to feel that I would heal my body. She showed me my worth through laughing at how I sell myself extremely short. Like somehow, I bought into this small little suffering existence and called that me. I experienced what “me” really is for probably the first time. I am so pure love and light and smart and bright it just makes me laugh now with how I used to see myself. I know what to do now to heal. It starts with the death of that old consciousness.
It’s time for the old ways to end.
It is time to live, create and love, or I can go back and sit with the demons of the past.
It’s my choice.
Owning our Rituals
Within the Dark Goddess Collective Community, I shared a full initiation ritual. While this ritual was not necessarily an exclusive focus on Ereshkigal, I know that without connecting to her it would not have been birthed. Most certainly the sealing of the ritual with the Oil of Ash (big thank you to Tania!) would not have been as potent. Without the deepest darkest journey (thank you Nini!), I would not be standing fully in a space of weaving such a ritual. Our ability to lay to rest the things we must lay to rest allows us to weave and birth things that are aligned with our purpose. Owning our rituals becomes a key to unlocking a deeper purpose and connection to the self and the unseen.
Gifts from Dark Goddess Collective Members
Being a member of the Dark Goddess Collective Community is something I didn’t realize I needed. It has brought us together in ways I had not imagined: A Tribe of Sovereigns forging a path forward together. Here is the thing: I love that. I love learning. I love seeing others in their magic. I love understanding or diving deeper into the knowledge, unique gifts, and rituals with other sovereign witches. Dark Goddess Collective brings us together to do just that while we continue to grow in our magic and create collaborative change. I look forward to an AMAZING 2023!
A Candle & A Key,
Our private network is kicking things up a notch, with 2 ways to get access before January 30th! Enrollment ends 12/28/2022!
Feature Image Credit: Danielle Reese via Pexels