Author Topic: Descent to the Goddess  (Read 5238 times)

Keri

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Descent to the Goddess
« on: July 12, 2009, 02:19:59 AM »
I have been rereading Sylvia Brinton-Perera’s book, “Descent to the Goddess:  A Way of Initiation for Women.”  I’ve been taking notes in a sense, and thought I’d put them here as I go.  This is not a critique or scholarly endeavor.  I’m basically making note of the parts I have found relevant for myself, so some of it is paraphrased and some of it is word-for-word, though I haven’t really used quotation marks appropriately.  I am not even using full sentences.  I just like the book and wanted to share it.  I definitely recommend it for both men and women.  It is helping me in my Work right now, and I think it is relevant to what Matt was writing in his essay (http://uselessscience.com/forum/index.php?topic=495.0) about the development of the Demon as a cultural introject.  I hope to be able to continue this, if I have enough time.  Even if not, hopefully it will stimulate some conversation or encourage someone else to pick up the book.  This format is not exactly what Matt described in his introduction to this particular forum, since I am using it as a place to record my own study of the text, but I am completely open to discussion on the finer points, general theories, disagreements, conversation, etc.  I’m including my own comments as I go (in blue).


Brinton-Perera begins with a discussion of the problem, then tells the story of Inanna's descent and why she finds this myth relevant to the problem.

Modern Women:

Daughters of the Father
Well-adapted to masculine-oriented society
Have repudiated our own full feminine instincts and energy patterns, just as the culture has derogated them.
Patriarchal ego (of both men and women)
   Instinct-disciplining, striving, progressive, “heroic” stance (Heroic in the traditional understanding, as opposed to how it has been debated on this site)   
   Has fled from the full-scale awe of the goddess (or tried to slay her)
The individuating ego must return to her to find the embodied and flexible strength to be active and vulnerable, to stand its own ground and still be empathetically related to others
Too many modern women have not been nurtured by the mother in the first place
   Grown up with abstract, collective authority
   Superego shoulds and oughts
   Or have identified with the father and patriarchal culture, alienating themselves from their own feminine ground
   The personal mother is seen as weak and irrelevant
Initiation is required for the modern woman to be whole
   Process requires:  1)  Sacrifice of our identity as spiritual daughters of the patriarchy
             2)   Descent into the spirit of the goddess – the power and passion of the feminine has been dormant in the underworld for 5000 years.

Daughters of the Patriarchy:

Poor relation to the mother
Tends to find fulfillment through the father or the male beloved
Can find no relation to the Demeter-Kore myth
Lacks the ballast of a solid ego-Self connection

“The problem is that we who are badly wounded in our relation to the feminine usually have a fairly successful persona, a good public image.  We have grown up docile, often intellectual, daughters of the patriarchy, with what I call “animus-egos.”  We strive to uphold the virtues and aesthetic ideals which the patriarchal superego has presented to us.  But we are filled with self-loathing and a deep sense of personal ugliness and failure when we can neither meet nor mitigate the superego’s standards of perfection.
One woman with more than a decade of Jungian analysis told me recently, ‘I have spent years trying to relativize something I never had – a real ego.’  And indeed she has only an animus-ego, not one of her own, with which to relate to the unconscious and the outer world.  Her identity is based on persona adaptations to what her animus tells her should be, so she adapts to and rebels against the projections hooked onto her; thus she has almost no sense of her own personal core identity, her feminine value and standpoint.  For what has been valued in the West in women has too often been defined only in relation to the masculine:  the good, nurturant mother and wife; the sweet docile, agreeable daughter; the gently supportive or bright, achieving partner.  As many feminist writers have stated through the ages, this collective model (and the behavior it leads to) is inadequate for life; we mutilate, depotentiate, silence, and enrage ourselves trying to compress our souls into it, just as surely as our grandmothers deformed their fully breathing bodies with corsets for the sake of an ideal.”

I disagree with the animus-ego concept – see my dream, “Corbin and the Buffalo” where I wrote this:

“That is me alright!  I agree with her description and, though I’ve only just started the book, I think I’m going to like it.  The part I disagree with is that I don’t think it is an animus-ego.  I don’t believe it has been my animus “telling” me to act this way.  My animus has only tried to lead me back to the Self.  I have a “real ego,” but it has been more oriented towards fitting into the world, not making waves, staying safe, then it has been to the Will of the Self.  My animus has been helping point that out to me.  No wonder everyone’s confused about the animus!"




The Myth of Inanna-Ishtar and Ereshkigal:

Many myths about descent of and to the goddess (Japanese Izanami, Greek Kore-Persephone, Roman Psyche, and the fairytale heroines who go to Mother Hulda or Baba Yaga or the gingerbread house witch).

This is the oldest known such myth, written on clay tablets in the third millennium BC (though it is probably from preliterate times)

Inanna – the Sumerian queen of heaven and earth

The Descent of Inanna (a Sumerian poem)

   Inanna decides to go into the underworld.  She instructs her female aid/executive, Ninshubur, to appeal to the father gods for help in securing her release if she does not return within three days.

   At the first gate of the Netherworld, she is stopped.  The gatekeeper tells Ereshkigal, queen of the Great Below, that Inanna wishes to be admitted to witness the funeral of Gugalanna, Ereshkigal’s husband.  Ereshkigal is furious and insists that the goddess be treated as all who enter the Netherworld, “naked and bowed low.”

   The gatekeeper removes one piece of Inanna’s clothing at each of the seven gates.  Inanna is judged by the seven judges.  Ereshkigal kills her and hangs her corpse on a peg, where it turns into a side of green, rotting meat.  (I think this fixation on the peg, the rotting meat, is related to the discovery of the prima materia, the beginning of the nigredo.)

   After three days, Ninshubur rouses the people and the gods with a dirge drum and lamenting.  She goes to Enlil, the highest god of sky and earth, and to Nanna, the moon god and Inanna’s father.  Both refuse to meddle in the ways of the underworld.  Finally, Enki, the god of waters and wisdom, hears Ninshubur’s plea and rescues Inanna, using two little mourners he creates from the dirt under his fingernail.  They slip unnoticed into the Netherworld, carrying the food and water of life with which Enki provides them, and they secure Inanna’s release by commiserating with Ereshkigal, who is groaning – over the dead or with her own birth pangs.  She is so grateful for empathy that she finally hands over Inanna’s corpse.  Inanna is told she needs to send a substitute to take her place.  Demons return with her and they will bring the chosen scapegoat back.  (How interesting that it is empathy shown to Ereshkigal that allows Inanna to return from the underworld.  This is like Sedna.  Sedna is the avatar I'm using.  She is an Inuit goddess of the Sea and controls the sea mammals.  When she is angered or upset, she withholds the animals from the hunters, causing suffering/famine.  The shaman has to swim down to her, comb her hair, commiserate with her so that she will be appeased.)

   Inanna searches for her substitute among those who did not mourn for her when she was gone.  She finds her lover, Dumuzi (Tammuz), who was enjoying himself on his throne.  Inanna looks on him with the same eyes of death Ereshkigal had set on her, and the demons seize him.
Dumuzi flees with the help of Utu (the sun god and Inanna’s brother).  Utu transforms Dumuzi into a snake.  In another version, Dumuzi dreams of his fate and goes to his sister, Geshtinanna, who helps him, finally offering to sacrifice herself in his stead.  Inanna decides that they shall divide the fate and spend half a year each in the underworld.

Using this myth and the goddesses Inanna, Ereshkigal, and Geshtinanna for orientation:

The material is from a very early age, when the Great Goddess still had vitality and had not been demoted or fragmented so much
Brinton-Perera was able to use it to reclaim some of her own relation to the archetypal feminine instinct and spirit patterns, and to use it in helping others
Modern women have no living images to reflect our wholeness and variety, the full mystery and potency of the feminine
Even by the time of this myth, the Great Goddess had been split and depotentiated, which is why the traversing of the upper and lower realms was required
Four perspectives:
1.          An image to describe the rhythmic order of nature
2.   Story of an initiation process into the mysteries
3.   A description of a pattern of psychological health for the feminine, both in women and in men
4.   May suggest some orientation in our own perilous age as the powers of the goddess return to Western culture
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina

Joy

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Re: Descent to the Goddess
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2010, 06:03:39 AM »
Hey Keri,

>The goddness return to the Western culture<

It was very interesting for me, when I met the goddness from the northern
myths called Hel. She looks a bit, like your advatar Sedna and another aspect
of her is Rani, the goddness of the sea

She can be seen half black and half dark, or I saw her white under black veils.
In this way she reminded me at the black Sophia with the white dress and
the initation path, where you have to kiss the black Venus, before you can
meet the white Venus.

This goddness is for me the anima, which can be found in man and in woman.

Greetings  ... Joy

Keri

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Re: Descent to the Goddess
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2010, 01:06:32 AM »
Hi Joy,

I’m afraid I’ve kind of fallen away from this project in the craziness of my outer life.  I’d like to get back to it at some point.  I’ve always had a hard time with these designations, though, of things like Goddess, The Feminine, The Masculine, etc.  My encounters with figures in my dreams have always seemed so personal to me, though some have definitely had a more numinous, Otherworldly feel.  Even Sedna (or some version of her) came to me through a more personal dream figure.  I keep meaning to post that dream in the member’s dream forum, but keep forgetting.  Maybe I’ll get to it tonight.  But those larger categories (Goddess, Feminine) are a bit too abstract for my NF mind! (-)laugh2(-)  I’m not sure how to think about it yet.

Yours,
Keri
O gather up the brokenness
And bring it to me now . . .

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind
  - Leonard Cohen, "Come Healing"

Let me be in the service of my Magic, and let my Magic be Good Medicine.  -- Dominique Christina