Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Journey with Inanna by Glenys Livingstone Ph.D.

Art by Arna Baartz

Forty years ago (1978) I signed a letter to an editor “in the name of She who is rising;” he had rejected an article I had submitted on women and religion. Indeed, many now witness that She has risen since then, prolifically, and ever more so, collectively; and also for me personally. I reflect on those forty years as they unfolded personally: It has been a terrible journey. It may sound surprising to say that the journey has been “terrible” when the outcome in my life in more recent times has been so fruitful, creative and beautiful. But it did indeed require a descent—an initiation, for which I largely thank the power of Inanna. Inanna knows about descent and stripping back, cleaning up. She may answer your call for Her integrity—for Her wholeness—with an obliging journey to the Underworld, a visit to the Great Below, the realm of Her sister Ereshkigal. In an earlier reflection on the journey, I stated:
I was fortunate, my life did fall apart, I was lost. The journey into Her story, means a participation in Her descent and return, it means a shattering of what went before. How does a woman stop being object, and become subject? How does she become the body in her own mind? It requires more than a headtrip, it requires the descent of Inanna, a falling apart. I was still a product of patriarchal narrative, and still seeking the Beloved (the Mother) outside myself. What did it take to move from that, to allow a fertile darkness within, from which the Self could begin? The regaining of integrity, and an understanding of why we lost it, or did not have it, can require a great darkness.1
Sometimes one’s deepest desires require a journey one would not have the stomach for: Her shattering is merciful. The mystics of many religious traditions have sung of the beauty of the dark night — “more lovely than the dawn” as John of the Cross expressed it, and dark Goddesses have been revered for their awesome and creative dismantling. Chamunda, a skeletal Deity of India for example, has been praised with: "only terrifying to those who oppose Her, for Her devotees She is a powerful vigilant guardian. Chamunda belongs to the group of 'matrikas'—the powerful Mothers who ensure universal order.”2 Inanna’s power is in Her daring to descend, to get to the bottom of things, to subject Herself to the truth, to trust that She will return—and Her trust is also in the faithfulness and resourcefulness of the companion Ninshubur who will wait for Her at the entrance, who will send for help if she senses its need. Inanna’s power is in Her fierce passion for life and beauty, and Her journey is one of true heraics,3 calling forth the power in one’s depths—and the shared desires of companions, watchful attentive others.

The portal for me into the journey with Inanna was a ritual weekend workshop with a group of women, facilitated by a skilled woman, in 1991. We joined Inanna in a ritual descent, giving over personal representations of what was requested at each of the seven gates to the Great Below. I knew something was not right in my life, though I did not know what or why—but I knew I desired deeply to set it right, and I was willing to give myself over to this Goddess, to strip myself back with Inanna; to allow only Her grace in any re-emergence. I deeply wanted Her garden in my soul, not the weeds that seemed to be strangling me. So in the process of the Inanna ritual, I gave up significant real things at each of the seven gates, as Inanna does. I cannot remember them all exactly, but there were my keys (to house and car and all) left at one of the gates, and my jewellery was left at another. I took off significant clothing at another gate. I left significant books that represented my intellect and learning. Each participant left what she was willing to give at each gate, not knowing if or how that capacity or power would be restored. Not every woman was as radical as I was willing to be; She meets each where they are it seems. She listens to the heart and each one’s yearnings. Mine were earnest and deep: I wanted Her. We slept that night in a room together in the Underworld we had descended to, to join Inanna as a “rotten piece of meat” in the realm of Ereshkigal.

Within the year, my life fell apart and I was shattered: The image I had at that time about my situation was of a rocket that had gone straight up and turned back to Earth, crashing like broken glass into millions of pieces. The poison was exposed. Here is a poem I wrote within the next few years that ensued, as I reflected on what had taken place:

Completely dismantled
—all the stock taken out of the cupboards.
Strip them bare
Pull apart my knowings
—rip them open, let the connections be severed.
Expose all the parts, every cell
to the sunlight
throw away
move it all around
mix it, mix it
skim the dross
With mortar and pestle pound Her
Is She mortified sufficiently yet?
Has She seen it all yet?
Pound Her more, take it from Her
Like panning for gold...
is there any?
What will be left?
The grit, the metal, the stones
found at the bottom of the wash
This is the new composition.
Begin composing it now.

Write it, sing it, melt it back together,
re-Form it, re-Cognize it,
breath it, dance it.
Let it grow
Praise the Dark One who dismantled you dear
who took off your robes
exposed you
She took you apart
—because you lusted to know
Now She has filled your cells,
your blueprint
with new possibility
—bled the poison
emptied the cup
that it may be filled.

I wrote many things at that time: The dark is a fertile place. I asked many questions, re-viewed details of my life as I had been living it—now that truth had been revealed and heretofore hidden shapes and stories could be seen. I was horrified. I was frozen. I was the “rotten piece of meat” as is described in Inanna’s story. I wrote: “My passive body washed up onto the shores of a dark island.”

There is no doubt that commitment to such a process, to a journey with Inanna, requires daring and courage, and trust in Her; but that will arrive if one is passionate enough to know truth and integrity. I did return, along with those who had been harmed in the midst of my blindness. We have returned, we made it back from the Underworld, to the sweet surface, with the riches of the dark journey. I have been deeply graced, in the reconstruction of myself, an organic re-creation out of Her clay and earth, not of glass—and in the company of others who came, desiring my well-being, the gifts that they saw I held embryonically. My re-emergence was with the assistance of a web of companions, some who came from afar, were unknown before, as well as through the power I discovered within me. It was an emergence into Inanna’s garden—the original sacred Garden, a new place for me, where She flourishes and bears fruit for many. The hera’s journey with Inanna is to return with the goods, the self-knowledge, a lot wiser and radiant: to be like the Sun and the Moon and the stars, and regenerate the world.

© Glenys Livingstone 2018

An excerpt from Inanna's Ascent: Reclaiming Female Power.

Glenys Livingstone, Ph.D. has been on a Goddess path since 1979. She is the author of PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion, which fuses the indigenous traditions of Old Europe with scientific theory, feminism and a poetic relationship with place. She lives in the Blue Mountains of Australia where she has facilitated Seasonal ceremony for over two decades, taught classes and mentored apprentices. In 2014, Glenys co-facilitated the Mago Pilgrimage to Korea with Dr. Helen Hwang. Glenys is a contributor to the recently published Foremothers of Women’s Spirituality: Elders and Visionaries edited by Miriam Robbins Dexter and Vicki Noble. She has recently produced a set of meditation CDs which are available at her website, along with her book


Getty, Adele. Goddess: Mother of Living Nature. London: Thames and Hudson, 1990.

Livingstone, Glenys. PaGaian Cosmology: Reinventing Earth-based Goddess Relgion. NE: iUniverse, 2005.

Spretnak, Charlene (ed). The Politics of Women's Spirituality. NY: Doubleday, 1982.


1    Glenys Livingstone, PaGaian Cosmology, p.76.
2    Adele Getty, Goddess: Mother of Living Nature, p.84
3    This term is based on Charlene Spretnak’s advice that “hera” (a pre-Hellenic word for Goddess) predates “hero”, a term for the brave male Heracles who carries out the bidding of his Goddess Hera. Charlene Spretnak notes that the derivative “heroine” is completely unnecessary. See “Mythic Heras as Models of Strength and Wisdom”, in The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, p.87.

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