Ereshkigal and Inanna came to me in the summer of 2004, when I started my book tourAwakening Spirit, First Year Certification for Wiccan Clergy, by Trafford Publishings, Nov 2004,ISBN: 9781412012294 . They started teaching me many lessons about balance, about the dance of light and dark, and about appreciation. These lessons began to lead to many understandings of how struggle brings growth, and how we learn from suffering. I gained many blessings during that time and as my ministry grew I said many times that if I ever had an opportunity to do a series of rituals where I could be able to put enough effort into it, I would do a really elaborate “Descent of Inanna” It was not too many years later that the opportunity presented itself, when my coven was booked to do 4 rituals in a row during the month of October.
I asked a spirit sister of mine, who I knew was learning similar lessons, to share this experience with me. She agreed and we began to write out the ritual. We decided that we would switch roles halfway through the rituals. I would do the first two as Ereshkigal, as I was comfortable with her energy and had been through a dark time myself. Then I would do Inanna for the last two. We started at a Pagan Pride day, and introduced ourselves to the community, sharing our individual perspectives as Goddesses of the myth and preparing people for the elaborate set of rituals that many of them would be participating in as the Fall gathering season developed.
Pagan Pride day went well. I was excited about the upcoming events. Ereshkigal’s lessons brought enlightenment to my soul. I understood how she felt, both in being the sufferer of lessons, as well as the teacher who brought lessons to others and had to suffer with them. Having recently experienced a period of burnout myself, I felt her indifference as well as her determination. Within Ereshkigal, I found a new appreciation for the darkness that I did not know before.
As the time of the next ritual, the full descent, drew near, I could feel the power building. People began putting together the various gates around the land. Our vision began coming into view, and we were all very excited. Inara and I work well together; we are very much a balance of opposites. We mirror so much of each other, it’s easy to envision her as my Sister of Heaven and Earth.
As I prepared myself with Ereshkigal’s face, I could feel Her coming to me. I put out all my makeup and let her choose how she wanted to look. I found myself putting white and black on my face, in some very extreme, and intense, but darkly beautiful angles and shadows. As I became her, I felt frustrated, isolated, alone, misunderstood. I noticed my attendant wasn’t attending me. I drove to the drum circle alone, with everyone else in a rush to get ritual ready. There were many details, many gates. I did not care. I was very centered within myself, focused on my own needs. I prepared the music. It was about the depravity of mankind, to a very funky beat. I hoped it would be a nice irony of entertainment within the dreadful message of drug abuse, suicide, and several other horrible paths that lead to Ereshkigal. I was cold.
My throne room was the drum circle. It was October, the temperature had dropped fast. There was a fire in front of me, but too far away to warm me. There were torches lighting the circumference of my area, and torches that lit either side of my throne, yet the darkness was tangible. For the others, the journey started at the top of the hill, a couple of hundred yards away at main ritual circle. Each person, as they made their way to mail ritual circle, found a gateway to the underworld, and began their descent through the gates to the lower circle, where I waited.
“I HAD an attendant!” I thought, exasperated that I was left to care for all my own details, all made up dripping with clothing, and jewelry. I could hardly find my hands, much less use them. I noticed he was busy seeing to Inanna. This did not please me. I felt a stab of jealousy, which I felt was inappropriate and pushed away. I climbed up into my throne without assistance, hoping the seat would make me happier.
I waited…. I was waiting, FOREVER! ”Is there a problem?” I wondered, frustrated at having to sit in the cold. I sat sullen by a fire that did not warm me, with no one around to ask, in what felt like blackness. The edge of the circle was surrounded by torches that lit no one. I waited…. alone, my anger growing. Finally they came. They were cold, and confused. They were expecting something. They looked at me, in my ill temper, as I waited. They sat down, tentatively, they waited with me. Yet still more came.
How am I going to do a ritual like this? I wondered, agitated and frustrated. I’m so pissed. WHAT is taking so long! Who is not considering how long these people are waiting? “I” am waiting?!? I practically screamed in my head. We waited in the dark and the cold together, in silence. The music amused me at times. I wondered what they were thinking as they stared at me. The temperature had dropped below freezing. Why do we always think it’s a good idea to invoke the Underworld? I thought to myself, It never ceases to drop below freezing just as soon as you do that. The complaining in my head became almost more than I could take, and I was about to call my attendant to me and ask W.T.F.?!?
And then She came… Inanna. She would demand and dare to yell at Me? She had been stripped of all her queenly finery and stood in front of me cold and naked. Frustrated and confused herself, her long blond hair her only protection, She demanded to learn the mysteries of death. I thought to myself, “She does not know the consequences of what she asks.” So cold, I felt My hand close around My sword. I stood and screamed. It was the loudest scream I had ever heard. It came from deep within Me. It came with pain, and suffering, anger and confusion. It was a scream of torment and outrage. I watched Inanna fall dead in front of Me, and saw them drag Her body away. But I was not concerned with Her.
My attention instead turned to those who would call themselves children of the dark, the hidden children of the Goddess, those who would walk in My realm. They come here to Me seeking safety and refuge from the pains of life. They do NOT find it. Like Inanna, they come to my realm dressed in fancy clothing, dripping with crystals and magical tools, a drum and cape in tow, hoping to learn the mysteries of magic. Yet I clearly warn them…. My priestesses clearly warn them…. These are the mysteries of Death and Initiation. Death…. Do you really wish to know?
Dragging my sword in the sand behind me, tired and frustrated, I cried out to them. I wanted them to understand that they receive what they ask for. Change and Death are one in the same. I heard Her speak through me. She said…
The ways of the Underworld are NOT your ways. The ways of the Underworld are MY ways. They are perfect and are not to be questioned... Yet question them, you do.
I take the time to mold you, and define you, to guide you, and teach you. My face is who you see when there is nothing left. When there is change, transformation, deep knowing and understanding, you will find Me. When you are alone, I am there with you. You may dance in the sun of Inanna all you like, revel in Her pleasures. But, if you seek to know Me, look within the suffering of your soul. You agree to suffer to learn, and yet you wish to suffer not. You run away from that which scares you, and rail against the pain of the path. Yet when the path blooms beneath your feet, you do not grow stronger. It is only when I am pushing against you that your muscles are strengthened. Yet you rage against me when I take the time to do it.
If your path be laden with roses, and you struggle not, then know truly, you are not accomplishing much. Know that when your heart is rending, when your brain is reeling, when your world is spinning, that you will too learn how to balance this, and for it you will be better. Know that the challenges you find are those that I place upon your path, and be grateful for my ministering. Know that I prepare you for greater challenges to come.
Anyone can rest on laurels and laugh the day away. It takes an ambitious soul to desire to know the mysteries of my realm. Know that your desire for this knowledge, set your feet upon this path before you were born. This contract you made with me prior to this incarnation. Call me by what name you will. I am the Dark Goddess, the Mother of Witches; She who teaches the powers of change. I allow you access or not. I give you guidance or My many attendants send you back to the surface, unaware that you never made it to My chamber door.
I have laid your path out before you in the stars, that you may achieve your goals, and walk it you will. Yet you will not walk it alone. I am with you with every step you take. You and I have work to do together, you belong to Me, and I to you. You, who would work magic, and know the ways of the Underworld. Know then, that your ways were left behind when you stepped into the darkness. The ways of the Underworld are MY ways, you will get what you need, in perfect time as the path unfolds.
My ways are perfect. Rage not against your lessons. Know that you are only stepping up to greater challenges, as your abilities grow, and be thankful for the opportunity. Death is the doorway that leads to rebirth. I am the Goddess of Life and Death. Death and Life, you cannot be delivered without first letting go.
Let go with grace.
Inanna was then revived and returned to Her kingdom, renewed and better for her visit. The participants came and spoke to Ereshkigal and Inanna in their shrines. Ereshkigal helped many see how their struggles had made them who they are today, and helped them transform their pain into understanding.
I left ritual feeling great. My students took down the ritual areas and grounded. I felt very clear and focused as I made my way back to the campsite, undressed and got things ready for bed. It was cold, so I stoked a fire in the center of my hand sewn, 18ft tipi, my second home. Our native tent heated up nicely and I readied the beds for my three children to come and snuggle in for the evening. My lover, Dusty, asked me if I wanted a drink; I refused. I was drinking water, and planned to be very responsible with my energy for the evening.
I did not remove Her face. I did not take the skulls from my hair. I did not formally devoke. I felt good, and didn’t want to. I refused food, and headed back down to the gathering to spend time with my loved ones in the after ritual glow.
As I walked through the Great Hall, hugging my friends and loved ones, I checked on the warmth of my kids and then walked out the back of the Hall to where the ritual staff was gathering. Suddenly Daniel, my summoner, grabbed me and shook me, screaming in my face, “Bella, THE TIPI IS ON FIRE.” Stunned, I looked up the hill and indeed saw a screaming skirted Goddess roaring into the air. I shook my head, and thought “this can’t be happening, delete, rewind, this isn’t real.“ I took off in a run back up the hill.
My heart was pounding, I could not move fast enough. I thanked Goddess my children were still safely in the Great Hall behind me, as I watched the men moving vehicles away to safety. I saw Dusty moving my car. There was nothing else on fire. No other tents were even harmed. The canvas went very quickly, and then only the frame. Everything I had for the gathering was ruined: years of clothes, ritual gear, blankets, beds, everything. I stood there, in Ereshkigal’s face, as the words that she spoke to others that evening echoed in my ears.
The community came to put out the fire, and offer emergency supplies for the evening. They hugged me and noted, “It’s what you said, Bella. It’s exactly what you said.”
“I know!” I cried in return. And I did know. No one was hurt. Most of my belongings had been left at home because I was in a hurry to leave so did not bring several boxes. I had complained all weekend at the absence of my skirts and various supplies, not realizing that it was all part of the design. I did not lose anything I wasn’t meant to loose.
The next day we went through the rubble. We found a whole package of incense that did not burn. We found melted and wet messes of plastic and metals that were useless. We found some tarot cards that did not burn, only three, with interesting messages upon each.
”Master your thoughts”
”If you determine your course with force or speed, you miss the way of the law”
”Even in the empty forest, he finds joy because he wants nothing”
Then, we found something that was not a part of my tent, something that I did not bring with me, nor would be likely to have around. I’m not much of a “card” giving person. If you get a gift from me, rarely will a card be attached. I don’t buy them, and rarely do I keep them if they are given to me. So there is no way I would have a random, unsigned card laying around my home, much less my campsite. Yet a greeting card is what we found.
The margin was burned, but the outside read “Our Friendship is Special to Me”. Inside it said, “There are friends I can laugh with, or share happy times with, enjoying whatever we do. There are friends I can even share secrets or dreams with, but no friend is closer than you!” The card was unsigned, and in the burned out space of the margin was what looks like the outline of Ereshkigal’s throne.
I cried, I accepted the loss, and I let it go. People asked me if I was going to rebuild. I want another tipi, but no. I filed an insurance claim on the loss and ended up better off than when I started. I cannot say I have never railed against the path since then, but I can say that every time a challenge presents itself, I smile and ask “mom” what the heck I’m supposed to be learning from THIS one. And I never feel like I’m doing it alone now.
Inara and I did the other two rituals. I invoked Inanna the next time, and Inara was Ereshkigal. She received her lessons and we decided to end the rituals in the roles that both of us were most comfortable, me as the dark Goddess, she as the light. Yet neither of those rituals touched me like the evening the Goddess visited me at my tipi, and left a calling card with her signature on it.
Submission to Ereshkigal Devotional
by Belladonna Laveau, HPs
This Article appeared in the book, “Queen of the Great Below, an Anthology in Honor of Erishkegal”, compiled by Janet Munin