Return of Spring: Return of Persephone

Spring is blossoming all over the place in the Pacific Northwest and I am welcoming the new brilliance, the flowers exploding from soft earth, the luminescent green buds forming on previously stark trees.  My heart feels like a tender sprout after navigating so many storms these past months. Clarity is arriving, at long last. In ancient times, the spring equinox marks the time of the return of the goddess Persephone from the Underworld. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the earth and, at the fall equinox, she descends downward into the Underworld to visit with the dead.  In her absence, Demeter searches in vain for her daughter, and becomes consumed by grief, causing all of the earth to wither and die.  The gods later intervene, bringing Persephone back up from the Underworld to reunite with her mother at spring time, thus the blossoming of the earth anew. Grecian history marks the story of Perspehone's descent with an abduction or snatching and later a rape by Hades, Lord of the Underworld. His desire for the beautiful maiden Goddess drives him to pull Persephone down into his Underworld lair. While Persephone is in the Underworld, she eats the ancient fruit of the dead, the pomegranate. Curiously, this fruit is also a fruit of fertility and birth in many cultures, linking the two together. In many traditions, the Goddess is connected to both birth and death, the power of woman being intimately woven with creating new life and tending to the dead in human lives, in the planting of seeds and the fallow of fields. Often portrayed in a triple goddess form, the transition of girl to woman to mother to crone is a powerful reminder to connect [...]

Courage as an Active Surrender: Inanna Descends

Fall has arrived.  This is my first true relational experience with fall and coming winter in over fifteen years. I realize, it's long overdue!  Sometimes we need to experience death and dying, letting go and dissolving. Of course in the tropics, there are its own kind of seasons, however being back on the mainland, surrounded by leaves coloring, reddening and dripping off trees, traces of the tinge of coolness across my face like winter's coming breath is actually a respite to the perpetual summering of wet and dry seasons. As the days begin to shorten, I reflect on the coming darkness and how to welcome winter. I am inspired by one of my favorite epic Goddess myths, The Descent of Inanna.  This myth is one of the most ancient and powerful tales of initiation, in which Inanna descends down into the Underworld to face the Dark Mother, hang on a hook, die and be reborn.  I have written and worked with this story countless times in my women's groups, reclaiming our own dark times as a powerful time of initiation. In my book, Fire of the Goddess, I write, "When we consciously decide to go to the underworld, sacrificing the outer aspects of our little self, we meet the shadow of our larger self, reclaim her and bring her back, empowered." (p. 32).  This is what Sylvia Brinton Perera calls an Active Surrender  in her book, Descent to the Goddess. Active surrender is when we surrender consciously, willingly with our eyes wide open. This is courage.  This is grace, fierce grace. The fullest time of active surrender were both times I gave birth.  Birth is so active, active like a series of violent earthquakes moving through the body; and yet the [...]