The Myth of the Descent of the Goddess
Dea, our Lady and Goddess, would solve all mysteries, even the mystery of Death. And so she journeyed to the Underworld in her boat, upon the Sacred River of Descent. Then it came to pass that she sntered before the first of the seven gates to the Underworld. And the Guardian challenged her, demanding one of her garment for passage, for nothing may be received except that something be given in return. And at each of the gates the goddess was required to pay the price of passage, for the guardians spoke to her: "Strip off your garments, and set aside your jewels, for nothing may you bring with you into this our realm.,
So Dea surrendered her jewels and her clothing to the guardians, and was bound as all living must be who seek to enter the realm of Death and the Mighty Ones. At the first gate she gave over her scepter; at the second her crown, at the third her necklace. at the fourth her ring, at the fifth her firdle, at the sixth her sandals, and at the seventh her gown. Dea stood naked and was presented before Dis, and such was her beauty that he himself knelt as she entered. He laid his crown and his sword at her feet saying: "Blessed are your feet which have brought you down this path." Then he arose and said to Dea: "Stay with me I pray and receive my touch upon your heart."
And Dea replied to Dis: "But I love you not, for why do you cause all the things that I love, and take delight in, to fade and die?"
"My Lady" replied Dis "it is age and gate against which you speak. I am helpless, for age causes all thing to whither, but when men die at the end of their time, I give them rest, peace and strenght. For a time they dwell with the moon, and the spirits of the moon; then may they return to the realm of the living. But you are so lovely, and I ask you to return not, but abide with me here."
But she answered "No, for I do not love you." Then Dis said "If you refuse to embrace me, then you must kneel to death's scourge." The goddess answered him; "If it is to be, then it is fate, and better so!" So Dea knelt in submission before the hand of Death, and he scourged her with so tender a hand that she cried out "I know your pain, and the pain of love."
Dis raised her to her feet and said "Blessed are you, my Queen and my Lady." THen he gave to here the five kisses of initiation saying: "Only thus may you attain to knowledge and to joy:"
And he taught her all of his mysteries, and he gave her the necklace with ic the circle of rebirth. And she taught him her mysteries of the sacred cup which is the cauldron of rebirth. Thy loved and joined in union iwht each other, and for a time Dea dwelled in the realm of Dis.
For there are three mysteries in the life of Man which are: Sex, Birth, and Death (and love controls them all). To fulfill love, you much return again at the same time and place as those who loved before. And you must meet, recognize, remember, and love them anew. But to be reborn you must die and be made ready for a new body. And to die you must be born, but without love you may not be born among your own.
But our Goddess is inclined to favor love, and joy and happiness. She gaurds and cherishes her hidden children in this life and the next. In death she reveals the way to her communion and in life she teaches them the magic of the mystery of the circle (which is set between the world of men and the Gods).
The text begins with the ancient Mystery Teaching that the Goddess was originally incomplete in the integration of her totality. In order to possess the knowledge of all things, she descended into matter and experienced decline and physical death her journey to the Underworld is symbolic of her passage through the currents flowing between the worlds; "And so she journeyed to the Underworld in her boat, upon the Sacred River of Descent."
As the myth unfolds we encounter the theme of relinquishment, noted in the demand for payment by the Guardian at each gate. The seven gates which the Goddess encounters are symbolic of the Seven Planes. A surrendering of the Self in order to obtain enlightment is an ancient there, found not only in the Mystery Tradition but also in such public religions as Christianity and Busshism. The items required by the Guardian each represent an isolating or insulating aspect of Consciousness. In this myth is the blueprint for our surrender to enlightenment as see in the drama of the Goddess.
At the first gate she relinquishes her scepter, which is a symbol of her personal power to extend influence outward over other things around her. The loss of such a state of Consciousness isolates one and brings the focus of the Universe directly upon his/her own existence. The second gate requires her crown, symbolic of her authority; in words, what others will grant submission to in recognition of her powere or worthiness. This may be seen in our own lives as a loss of status among our peers or within our community. THis separates us from veing able to identify ourselves with our careers or families, leaving only what we really are, stripped of external references within the society in which we exist. In other words, we are not what we do for a living, or what we provide for others. When we can no longer identify who we are with what we do, then what remains is who we truly are.
The Guardian of the Third gate requires the necklace of the Goddess. This item is symbolic of her claim to personal value, her achievements and accomplishments. In modern society, wealth is viewed as a sign of personal power. It states that the individual is successful and influential according to the standards of the society in which the person operates. This is the cultivated self-image of the individaul. Where an individaul uses career or position as a buffer to shield the true Self from the perception of others, he or she is employing Self-Image as a shield against personnnal introspection.
At the fourth gate the Goddess removes her ring. The ring is sy,bolic of class lefel and personal labeling. In modern society the ring denotes relationships such as engagement and marriage. In ancient times it signified membership in organizations, orders, lodges, and various religious systems. To remove the ring is to stand alson withour connection, association, or definition.
The Guardian of the fifth gate required the Goddess to relinquish her girdle. The girdle symbolizes social status and the personal facades we establish. It is the recognition of our personal limitations and imperfections manifested in the construction of ourward appearances. To relinquish the girdle is to open the Self to examination. In ancient Rome the girdle was worn by a woman as as outward symbol that she had not reached the stage of puberty. When the woman was to marry, her parents would tie a know in the girdle which was later untied by her husband on the wedding night. A married woman continued to wear the girdle which her husband had knotted again after the wedding night. The knot was unties once more when the woman gave birth to her firstborn child, then her girdle was dedicated to Artemis and was no longer worn. In ancient times a virgin was a woman who had not yet given birth, and so she lost her virginity during labor. Therefore the girdle could no longer be worn in public.
At the sixth gate the Goddess removes her sandals. THis represents the chosen path we walk, or the politics we adhere to. It is what allows us to move along the belief system we embrace. To remove the sandals is to let our personal view drop away. We stand alone without personal agenda, sel-direction, or political position, Thus stripped of all our self-imposed limitations (although we do not think of them as such) we can only walk the way of our spirit. Spirit is not concerned with the affairs of physical exitence. Its focus is on matters of the heart and soul.
At the seventh and last gate, the Goddess drops her gown as the final payment to the Guardian of the Portals. The gown is mortal covering, the connection to linear existence. It is also the Self and its fragile veneer, covering the spirit in a mantle of self-expression. It is what isolates the spirit from the wohole of spiritual experience. Once the gown is removed then the spirite may join in union with the Community of Spirits.
At this point in the myth, the Goddess is brought to the Lord of the Underworld. She stands naked before him and so struck is he with her beauty that he kneels before her. Psychologically this is the meeting between the anima and the animus. It is the point at which life and death, increase and decline meet and renew the endless cycle. The Lord of the Underworld tempts her to remain with him and to embrace his real of existence. THis is the temptation to rest in slumber and awoid the labors of the day, for the seed to sleep beneath the soil and struggle not toward the light. THe Goddess can end all strife and unite with her opposite, but on his terms.
In the myth the Goddess resists the Lord of the Underworld and protests against his role in the decline of life. Since she will nt embrace him freely he compels her to accept his scourge. He teaches her that he is not responsible for decline and death; his is a role of comforting and transforming those who have crossed over. Thus the Goddess passess into an understanding of her polarity and incorporates it into her own Being. This is reflected in her proclamation of new-found love for the Dark Lord.
Next the legend relates that the Lord and Lady reveal their respective mysteries to each other. The Goddess received the necklace of rebirth, symbolic of the connective link between the worlds, the inner mechanism. The Dark Lord received the cauldron of rebirth, symbolic of the power manifest. In the myth we are told that they love and become one. Here we find the achievement of balance between the life and death. No longer are they enemies but equal participants in a cycle of renewal. The three mysteries in the life of humankind are revealed: Sex becomes the gateway to life from the Underworld, Birth is the renewal, and Death is the transformation whereby old age becomes youth again. Just as a person must sleep in order for his or her body to be refreshed, so too must the soul rest and renew itself in the sleep of the Underworld.
The legend continues with the Mystery Teaching concerning reincarnation. Here we are told that we must meet, recognize, remember and love anew. This teaching originates from the time of early clans and is connected with the Slain God mythos. The sending of the willing sacrifice to convey the needs of the tribe before the Gods themselves is a very ancient concept. Once the sacrificial victim was dispatched the clan help magical rites designed to ensure the rebirth of the sould among his or her own people. This is one of the reasons Hereditary Witch families are so concerned about blood lines.
The final passage in the legend address the issue of the enlightenment gained by the Goddess herself in the descent. To be one of her hidden children is to descend into the shadows and unite wiht her mythos. In so doing the soul is aligned with her renewal and unites wiht her in spiritual union (the way of her communion). In the last verse we find that the magic whereby we become aligned to the Goddess resides between the world. The Circle of Magic on this plan is the rituaal circle wherein we celebrate the wheel of the year and the Lunar rites. Once properly cast the circle moves between the worlds and we are magically aligned with the Goddess. As above, so below, the Circle of Magic upon the planes is the unfolding of the Legend of the Descent whereby we encounter the Dark Lord and inherit the legacy passed to her in this Realm of Shadows, the legacy of renewal and rebirth.
I Hope you enjoy working with the
The Myth and Descent of the Goddess.