these days my anxiety and depression come with a free side order of paranoia, your friends secretly hate you, your coworkers talk about how much of an antisocial freak you are!, which i guess makes it a good deal, buy two get one free, but really i’m already too full of crazy to eat even one more bite, i’m just stuffed, maybe i can get the rest in a to-go bag to have later when i start feeling good about myself again
the earth is on fire and also underwater and i’m trying to embrace this whole apocalypse thing since that seems like the only way to stay sane here in the end times but it’s hard, you know, i’m feeling more and more like crazy cuckoo crackpot cassandra every day or like i’m the only person in pompeii who looked up and thought hey, the mountain’s sure acting weird this week, and if i don’t provide a viable solution to my fear-mongering that’s only because i really don’t think there is one, at least not at this point, not this far down the dead-end road, but hey at least i’ve got some really good news for people who love bad news
These crises are a dime a dozen, child. You have ocean trenches of depth within you, jagged mountain peaks of height, you could fall forever inside yourself – but would you not rather fly? In your dreams you fight against gravity, longing for the sky, for the freedom your soul knows is your birthright. You have wings, crow-daughter, use them! The chains which bind you to the earth are self-imposed, forged in your mind and anchored in your heart. There is no key, no spell, no magic phrase which can open those locks; you must break them yourself with your own rage and hunger to be free. You have the strength necessary for such a feat if only you will harness it, and now is the time. Demolish your gilded cage, become a wild thing of black feathers and witchblood!
In my dreams I fight wars alongside rebel brethren or cast salt circles with blood-sisters only to wake missing little pieces of my heart I unknowingly left behind in those other worlds, in those other people, and my arms do not understand why I cannot hold those loved ones again and my lips do not understand why I cannot remember their names and I am pushing back the sheets, feeding the cats, dressing for work, going through the motions of the mundane everyday while some part of me mourns that which my mind can barely grasp, details fading in the morning light, and though the effort is futile still I beg sisters, brothers, comrades, friends, come back, come back, come back!
A maw of darkness gapes before me. Beyond the cave mouth a pathway descends steeply into the cold, primal earth. There is no light to be had down that trail, nor heat, nor companionship. I am finally here – the mouth of the underworld, the first gate of seven through which I must pass. At the end of this journey awaits my death… and, if I am very lucky and very brave, my rebirth. I need only take the first step. Why can’t I take the first step?
I always knew Inanna’s road would lead me here, though not for what purpose. I believe I finally understand, however, and now I the fool who a year ago swore to run boldly in Her ancient footsteps tremble in fear at the threshold. I’m not ready. I’m not ready. How did She do this? How did She walk into the waiting darkness knowing that at every gate She must surrender a piece of Her identity? I don’t know how to let go so easily as She. I don’t know how to leave behind the things which I have dragged with me all the years of my life: internalized misogyny, unattainable beauty standards, self-hate and self-doubt and self-sabotage. I know how to love someone else’s flaws but not my own.
I’ve wondered for years why I could never quite grasp Inanna’s full appearance, why She came to me naked and unadorned with face hidden in shadow. The answer is obvious in hindsight; She was forcing me to look past Her silk robes and glittering jewels, Her golden headdress and lapis lazuli scepter, past the various trappings of the Queen of Heaven and instead to the plain flesh beneath. I had no choice but to stare at Her round hips, Her soft stomach, all Her folds and curves which were so lovingly depicted in devotional art over 5500 years ago. She wants me to understand – and truly embrace – the fact that what I find beautiful in Her I cannot vilify in myself. I must respect my body for what it is: an extension of the divine.
My body issues feel insurmountable sometimes. I’m not sure I can even make it through the first gate of this journey the goddess intends for me, let alone all seven. I asked Inanna how I can learn to love my body; She gave me the tarot card Justice as a reminder that I am my own judge and jury and therefore control the harshness or leniency of my sentence. To make any progress I must learn to see my body through a loving lens, not one warped by society’s impossible standards and my own insecurities. Is that, then, the first sacrifice on this journey? Should I – can I – surrender that broken mirror so I may pass through the gate?
I lift my foot. I take the first step.
I have never felt closer to divinity than sitting in a stuffy little room which smells of cat litter while singing a lullaby Bast helped me write to three nearly feral kittens. They fled at my approach, five days of safety and good food not yet enough to win them over, and stared at me with wide, reproachful eyes as I sat down just inside the door. Then I started to sing – the lullaby first, my voice a little weak from the last traces of a cold. Glancing inconspicuously, I found at least one little face turned my way, though two still hid. I moved on to the songs that have brought me peace over the years, old hymns and spirituals and various songs collected from choir and pop culture. I had two sets of eyes watching me, then, and a still resolute back turned my way. I kept singing; songs that remind me of Bast, of home, of the undeniable divine spark in music from other religions, other cultures, other times. I peeked again and saw all three kittens facing me now, the bravest with drooping eyes and the wariest with unwilling curiosity. My voice could take no more so I started humming whatever gentle tunes came to mind the way a mother might idly hum to her crying babe. When I looked next I could see two little white bodies stretched out in their hiding place, no longer bunched up with the need to fight or flee but relaxed in weary sleep. Even the third had succumbed to so drowsy a state that when I slowly, so very slowly rose to my feet my movement woke, yet startled, no one. I whispered my goodbyes to three little watchful faces that seemed, at least to me, slightly less wary and took my leave for the night, praising Bast for the gift of music as I closed the door.
I have dreamed twice now about Sutekh. In the first dream he led myself and a group of people out of a maze-like Egyptian tomb after I prayed to the Netjeru for help. In the second dream he was in his animal form and severely injured, though I didn’t know why. When I woke from that dream I felt like I had sensed Loki’s presence in it as well, and also Daren’s. Is this meant to confirm the connection I made between Daren and Lucifer? Certainly all three are trickster gods who can be considered the “evil” ones of their respective pantheons. Or am I reading too much into this and Sutekh is merely reaching out on his own? It doesn’t feel that simple, though. Sutekh murders his brother; Loki ushers in Ragnarok; Lucifer rebels against Heaven. Fratricide, chaos, and rebellion – Daren embodies all three as core aspects of his being. So should I see these other gods as mirrors with which to better understand him, or does the connection go even deeper?