The story of the Descent and Return of the Sumerian goddess Inanna is one that is close to my heart. Inanna is sort of the grandmother to Aphrodite of the sea-foam. Inanna’s reincarnations in different cultures came to the Phoenicians, who brought the worship of Aphrodite by sea to Greece. Inanna is the goddess called the Queen of Heaven, and many activities were Hers: love, war, beer-making, sex, all kinds of things, and the great Sumerian city of Ur was Her capital.
I have made Inanna’s journey to the Underworld and back several times in my life, and I think many of us do. Probably nearly all.
The journey is one to the Underworld. One in which all Her known emblems of power are stripped from Her and She approaches a new world, the Underworld, to learn new things. But what She learns is not what She expects.
It is death.
It is a death wherein her sister Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld nails Inanna to the wall. It is this death from which She is rescued by the gifts of the Water of Life and the Food of Life. In Her rebirth and ascent back to the Upperworld, She takes up her power, but transformed.
I am not going to explain everything I understand or have experienced in this journey, for some things are Mysteries and can only be gone through oneself.
Most recently, I realized I am emerging back to the Upperworld. I have been disappointed
by the religious institution of which I am a part, and I have undergone a kind of death and rebirth in realizing that though I have been duly ordained and initiated into the tradition, I am not really of the tradition.
Rather, I have gathered my experiences of initiation into my identity as a priestess of Goddess, God, Shapeshifter of Many Genders, and the One Who Is Beyond Shapes and Names and Gender. I gather my experiences of other religions into that identity.
This gathering is different from integrating, say, two identities together. It is not that I am a UU minister and a Wiccan priestess, together, equally, mutually. Rather, I have gathered my initiation (ordination), the Mysteries of ministry, into the Mysteries of priestesshood and witchery.
I was initiated, in a way, into Candidacy with the Sisters of St. Joseph, and that experience was gathered into me and my priestess and witch identity. It is not as though my experiences with the Sisters, the UUA, and Stone Circle Wicca are all integrated equally. My spiritual and religious experiences are integrated into my identity as a Wiccan priestess.
My desire for what is deep in UU life—the seeking of Beloved Community, however awfully, heart-breakingly imperfect the process is—is what binds me to my initiatory ordination. As my best friend said, I do not revolve around the tradition, but we both revolve around the same thing. Like planets around the same sun?
My sharing the charism (the founding grace or organizing principle) of the Sisters of St. Joseph, one of unity and reconciliation, is similar. I share it with them, but it is part of my larger identity.
Given all this identity-building stuff, the thing is that my deepest desire, my seeking and yearning, has always been for Spirit. It has always been for God Herself, in the biggest sense of that word. And that is what I am not finding in Unitarian Universalism, writ large. There are congregations where the Spirit is strong and vital, but they are few and far between. Too many of our congregations are social clubs, socially responsible community organizations. And those are good things, but they are not—for me—church. They are not—for me—where Spirit gathers.
And so I am ordained, and I have the chance to bring what is called ministry into what is called my witchery, into what Briana Saussy calls the Sacred Arts. And that is where Spirit comes through for me. Ritual and ceremony. Magick. Divination. Discernment. Sigil-making. Spiritual practices of various kinds.
Of various kinds.
I have always feared being seen as a dilettante. Seen as someone only broad and not deep. But I know in my bones that that’s not true. I know in my bones that I am a diver, a Great Whale. I dive for Spirit and yes, I find it in many places, places I respect and honor. But always I dive for Spirit and for the cardinal virtues of Authenticity, Integrity, Compassion, and Wisdom.
I have made the journey to the Underworld and back again to the Upperworld repeatedly. I have made it around the healing from sexual assault. I have made it through isolation though I was living in a convent with four Sisters. I have made it through this experience of yet another round of disillusionment. I see the Underworld Journey is not something we make once in our lives.
I have been here repeatedly. I have been forced to lay down my emblems of power. I have been nailed to the wall of sadness, pain, isolation, disillusionment, and yet I have been rescued by those who bring the Water of Life and the Food of Life. And I have taken up my power again.
These are the marks of the tale. Not the whole tale, but pieces.
How do myths mark your life? What stories—whether family stories, fairy stories, or stories identified as myths—really speak to your heart? What brings you through joy and understanding and sorrow, grief, and disillusionment?
How have your feet, or your wheels, or other people brought you in these ways? How have you honored the sacred altars? How does your heart beat truly and alight? What truths do you need to speak? And how do you know yourself a child of Earth and Starry Heaven?
Because you are, my dear, a child of Earth and Starry Heaven. A child of Underworld, Upperworld, and Otherworlds. Blessed be.