Pluto and an image of descent

Pluto transits evoke images of descent, each a voyage to the underworld of the unconscious to all that is hidden within. It  is a repository of undeveloped potential and positive traits as well as the dark and disavowed.

The oldest recorded descent myth is that of the Sumerian Goddess Inanna and her descent to her sisters realm “The Great Place Below.” Ancient goddesses usually occurred in pairs, a light sister and a dark sister. In this case,  was the dark sister of the more well known Inanna. Just as we would not know the day without the night, it is essential that the story of both sisters be told, because their pairing tells a deeper mystery.

As a descent myth it is unparalleled, as with all other descents there is entry into different levels of consciousness.  All of them imply suffering.  All of them can serve as initiations.  Meditation and dreaming and active imagination are all modes of descent.  So too are depressions, anxiety attacks, addictions and experiences with hallucinogenics. 

Inanna’s descent is archetypal of all descents, and as such will, when we begin our own, mirror its every stage, no matter how willing or unwilling that might be. In terms of the Hero quest this is time spent in that dangerous limbo from which there is no going back often referred to as being “in the belly of the whale.” For whether by choice (usually the hero's position) or by necessity (usually the heroine's situation) one heeds the call.  For not to heed this call, this soul call, is to begin a more literal form of death, as opposed to going forth so that the stuff one is made of ~ the soul ~ might emerge as challenges and losses are met on the journey.

Each of these opens us up further to the stages outlined in the poem where Ereshgigal experience initially is rage; secondly is life denying; thirdly, is suffering; and finally is gratitude and generosity as creative doorways and new possibilities begin to emerge. But first she must descend and in doing so leave every aspect of her self and identity behind as at each of the seven succesive doors a further vestige of identity is removed and another of our incomplete ideals, illusions and attachments are sacrificed, be they relationships, jobs, belief systems or possessions.

All this is inevitably, painfully slow, marching to the inexorable beat of Hades it can take years and all we can know or at best intuit is that finding renewal and connection with the potent forces of the underworld will involve breaking up the old patterns and the death of a seemingly whole, apparently well functioning identity.  Until “ reduced to the depths of numb pain and depression, to, timelessness, preverbal chaos and emotionality – all that we call awful or infantile and associate with the archaic dimensions of consciousness – we can know that the goddess we must serve and revere is .”- (Brunton-Perera)

All the while we can not know what will replace these cummulative losses of self and all we hold close and dear, we can only know that the old no longer serves us and must hold still while the knew is carried to full term and in its own time, birthed.

I imagine that it was at such a time that T.S. Elliot wrote:

 I said to my soul,be still and wait without hope,
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
As we will read Inanna, the once beautiful and thriving goddess of heaven is left to rot on a peg, to stew in her own decay.  A difficult Pluto transit can feel just so.

Meanwhile Erishkigal overcome by her painful labour, torn by grief and rage wails and moans. Something has died, something new is being born, a death requires a birth and a birth requires a death.

The rebirth here of Inanna, the new self, fragile and glistening on gossamer wings comes not from ranting and regaling her fate like her sister, but from the little mourners sent to rescue her. Ignoring the killing of Inanna they commiserate with Ershkigal. When the dark goddess in pain and labor laments “Woe is me woe my insides” Their tiny voices mirror back. “Woe is you our queen, woe your insides” When hating her role as queen of darkness and death she cries. “Woe is me, woe my outsides.” They echo in response. “Woe are you our queen, woe your outsides.” Ultimately it is their unconditional acceptance of  all her darkness, rage and pain that finally allows her to release Inanna. Never before has she been so honoured, so affirmed and in return the Queen of Heaven is revived that she might return to her rightful place.

Encounters with Pluto can be encounters with the  Ereshkigal within us all, when stripped to the core we must face all that is meaningless and hopeless in our life’s and accept it as part of natures great round.  Yet paradoxically  the only way that we can learn that we have the capacity to survive an ego death is to encounter our own. For only when what we thought supports and sustains us is no more can we find that part of our being that lies at our core, eternal, indestructible, creative and life affirming.  Ultimately something precious is yielded from the darkest of places. Such is the gift of Pluto/Ereshkigal.

Rilke explored a similar theme when he wrote…

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives
are princesses who are only waiting to see us
once beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in ts deepest being
something helpess that wants help from us.

There is of course so much more that can be made from this huge story. Sylvia Brunton-Perera’s work Descent of the Goddess is a classic, there is much also available via the www.

To read the story click here…


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