I know, I know, not the most cheery topic for a bright Friday morning.
But today is Mabon, the fall equinox, and it is on this day when sunlight and darkness are in perfect balance.
It is also on this day that Persephone begins her annual descent to the realm of her husband, Hades.
Fall is my favorite season, and while I'd much rather twirl about in the sun, soaking up energy for the coming winter, I've had the idea of the Underworld descent on my mind lately. What can modern women learn from these stories?
Persephone travels to the Underworld every year, cycling from her role as daughter to her role as wife and queen. Her descent tugs at the seasonal tides, and her return signifies the beginning of spring.
Then there's Psyche. She had to journey to the Underworld and back again before she could win her lover and be reborn as a goddess. Her journey was about the help she received along the way, but even with celestial advice, she almost didn't make it. Luckily for her, Eros stepped in at the last minute to keep his love alive.
Stepping away from the Greco-Roman myths, consider the tale of Inanna. When she travels to the Underworld to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, and pay her respects to the dead, Inanna surrenders the tools of her queenship as well as the protection of her clothes. Naked before her fierce sister, Inanna is captured, condemned, and hung on a meat hook. When her faithful minister comes after her, Inanna is allowed to return to the light if another soul is left in her place. She returns home to find that her lover, Dumuzi, isn't acting the way he should. He doesn't seem concerned about her death: in fact, he's lounging about on her throne, enjoying the remnants of her power. Inanna knows right away who she'll be willing to sacrifice to her sister.
Traveling to the Underworld can be seen as an initiation into power: all three of the goddesses discussed here become stronger after their ordeals in the land of the dead. They leave behind a part of themselves and emerge in their full strength.
How can we learn from these stories? Today, as the earth is balanced between light and dark, it is a good time to think about that which we are ready to leave behind. Like Inanna, we must shed our protective layers in order to become what we are meant to be.
As we step into the dark season, focus on the strength you will learn this season. What can you leave behind?