The New Year has turned over, welcoming in 2014.  The New Moon is a potent time to clear away the old and make room for what circle of liis coming in, fresh and vibrant for the year. These last several months of my life have been especially life changing, as well as deeply challenging. My thirteen year long relationship came to an end as I faced the truths of my own growth and values around self-love, power and inner wisdom. After a huge amount of transformation, I was left behind to sort out the physical pieces of our relationship, to begin the beautiful embarkation on a new one and to face the sorrow of being so far from my daughter. In the months that followed, I have since lost my main income from online work, my daughter is gone, thousands of miles away, I am moving around like a modern vagabond, caretaking other people’s homes.  My computer began oozing green goo and I have lost friends, gotten rid of most of my belongings and begun the huge process of deconstructing what happened the last thirteen years of my life.  I've learned so much from being broken and shared this here, on elephant journal. As the adventure of 2013 unfolded, I felt increasingly like INANNA, the great goddess of Ancient Sumer who descends into the Underworld to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, the Dark Mother.  Inanna speaks to me, and to so many other women who seek guidance when we move through the especially hard times in life. Ancient myths act like a key to unlock our innermost feelings and the myth of Inanna works to uncover our deepest, darkest truths in the form of a classic tale of initiation.  From my book,  Fire of the Goddess “Initiation is a deep surrender; it is the courage to really give ourselves over to the universe, goddess or larger self.  When we are initiated, we are taking the great leap into the unknown; it is a complete letting go.” (from Chapter Two: The Initiate, p. 24)  Many of us do not experience a formal initiation into womanhood; however, we DO experience initiatory events in our lives in the form of giving birth, losing a beloved friend or family member, experiencing trauma such as divorce or heartbreak. Inanna GoldIn the story of Inanna’s descent, she carefully dresses herself in seven sacred items including a crown, a double stranded necklace and a gold bangle in preparation to meet her sister, Ereshkigal who resides in the dark Underworld.  When Inanna arrives at the gate to the Underworld, she faces the gatekeeper, Neti who orders her to remove her crown.  As she moves deeper into the Underworld, she must successively face Neti and remove each of the items she is wearing until she is naked and bowed low before Ereshkigal, the Dark Mother.  This part of the story is crucial to initiation: it is the stripping away of our ego, our smaller selves to reveal the stark truth of who we are, left behind.  This stripping comes in the form of losing our jobs, our loved ones; leaving behind a career, a family, a country.  This is the maddening part of our lives in which something perceived as precious is taken from us unexpectedly, perhaps unjustly it seems, even violently. When Inanna arrives in the Underworld, she is met by Ereshkigal, wild and untamed.  She is intensely moaning, writhing, defecating, bleeding and sweating.  Ereshkigal is the Dark Mother, the ancient pain of suffering and all its forms, the mystery of our own inner shadow that we repress and hide from ourselves until life’s cruel blows force us to reexamine everything we have ever known.  Ereshkigal then fixes ‘the eye of death’ on Inanna and she turns into a corpse.  She is hung on a hook for the next three days. In our lives, after everything has been stripped away, our false pride, egoic habits, perhaps physical things such as jobs or money, we eventually hit rock bottom.  Inanna’s hits rock bottom at the moment she is hung on the hook by Ereshkigal.  Hitting bottom is the powerful, intense, point when things become crystal clear. It is when we see and understand so much more as to what this descent was all about. I recently watched 127 Hours, a film about Aron Ralston who was pinned to a canyon wall by a falling rock.  He survived only after 127 hours (about 5 days) by cutting his own arm off.  And not before he hit rock bottom (no pun intended).  This is a true story, which shows Ralston facing all of his fears  around the basic survival necessities of thirst and hunger, saw his foolishness and pride, felt regret for not expressing more love for his family and girlfriend.  But the most profound moment was the utter stark clarity that the rock had been waiting for him.  That somehow he chose every moment of every part of his life and it all led to that rock, his arm and the ultimate choice to live or die. Inanna was ultimately saved by her sister, Ninshubur.  After Inanna had been missing for three whole days, Ninshubur beat the drum, calling for help to the Fathers or godsof the living. Father Enki created two genderless beings sent to witness Ereshkigal’s pain.  These little beings, made from clay and spit, have no reaction to Ereshkigal’s pain and fury.  Ereshkigal, is so moved by this witnessing that she asks the beings what they want. They tell her they want Inanna to be given the Water and Food of Life so that she may live.  Ereshkigal agrees and Inanna awakes and heads back to the world of the Living.Inanna from The Goddess Oracle In our own lives, we too may drop so low, lose so much that is the moment of clarity and undeniable power.  That is the gift of facing our fear, our darkness, our own shadow.  When challenging life situations and events present themselves, we have a choice, we can go with guts and willingness all the way in, all the way down or be dragged kicking and screaming and fighting. These last months I have been facing the darkness, the sorrows and fears with a good dose of willingness and a fair amount of kicking and screaming too.  Going outside and stomping around is not a bad idea at times.  Scream therapy, wild creative dance moves, and seeking out my passion has helped me as I’ve descended down and down to the Underworld.  So has consistent meditation and dharma practice.  But more than anything, it is my sisters who are helping me through.  Just as Ninshubur beat the drum for Inanna, many sisters and friends, lovers and family have beat the drum to remember that I’ve gone down into the dark.  Just like the little beings, many a healing friend has held my hand and simply watched my tears and rage move through me. A few days ago, I reached a turning point, and the clarity of my vision, my work with the Fire of the Goddess became ever more potent and powerful.  In that moment, I heard INANNA in a great, deep Hollywood voice, followed by a vision of her as queen, as woman, as goddess, as Initiate.  I was reminded once again, that in the quiet of night, in the inner parts of my self resides my own guidance, lighting the way, showing me the path, illuminating the story.  Certainly Inanna’s story is one of continued inspiration and a guide for those of us who face the dark and return to tell the tale.