On Finding Treasure: Mystery Plays of the Goddess
Being Itself a Magical Exposition on the Nature of Intuition and Creativity and the Transformative Power of Sacred Drama in the Life and Plays of Ariadne Productions as performed on the Isle of Avalon from 1983 to today. Inspired by the energy of Ariadne the snake goddess, Ariadne Productions has been creating sacred drama within the Glastonbury community for the last 13 years. On Finding Treasure is an exciting autobiographical account of the development of this unique form of ritual drama which reworks ancient myths and integrates present day realities to reveal the presence and nature of a great Goddess who lives in balance with God. Includes the playscripts for five Ariadne productions.
256 pages, illustrated, ISBN 1 872983 03 0
£9.99 plus P&P
As we turn the corner into our favourite Bulwarks Lane one January morning Smudger our Dormarth dog bounds ahead sniffing at the dead leaves. In my heart I call to Ariadne. Immediately in a way that still surprises me, she answers my prayer. She appears sparkling in the winter sunlight in the form that I always identify with her, as that of the snake goddess – the bare-breasted, faience figurine of Krete (I spell Krete with a K because the letter is goddess-shaped and I like it). Standing tall in her aproned, seven-tiered skirt, her upraised arms hold wriggling snakes while her entranced eyes stare into an unknown distance. A feline creature, perhaps a lioness or a leopardess perches on her crown. Through these potent years she who I name as Ariadne has been my inspiration, muse and transforming divinity.
Have faith in me. I am always here beside you.
Do not be afraid. Tell my stories.
Diminished like many another before her by truth-turning Greek tale-tellers, originally Ariadne was a powerful, chthonic goddess of creation. Patriarchal myth-making reduced her to the priestess-daughter of a Minoan king, whose red menstrual skein threaded the mystery maze for the sun hero Theseus. Later she was said to have been abandoned on Dia’s shore by the man she had saved from the monstrous Minotaur. But Ariadne is so much more than this.
She is Ariadne, Ariagne, High Fruitful Mother of the Barley, Mother of All, the Very Holy, Very Manifest One, Wise Virgin, Divine Midwife, Lady of the First Light, Queen of the Sun and Moon. She is the River of Creativity, Serpent Mother, Snake Goddess and Lady of Lions. She is Guardian of the divine Bull-man Asterion and Mystress of the Moon Maze or Labrynth, not a spelling mistake but spelled to emphasise her connection to the Kretan House of the Labrys or double axe of the moon. Dionysus, the ecstatic Bull God of the Vine is her sacred marriage partner. Ariadne’s celestial home is Corona Ariadnae or Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown known as Caer Arianrhod, for she is also the Keltic (another K I like) Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel, She who closes the door to the Aeon. She is Queen of the Dark and the Light in the Darkness. She is the Dark Light.
I remember the many times when I have felt this divine being as a physical womanly presence, standing right behind me, her hand pressed against the middle of my back heart level. She pushes me forwards when for the sake of a peaceful life, I would far rather stay silent. She forces me to go to places where I would not dare to tread alone. I have felt her cool breath on the back of my neck and the tingle of terror run up and down my spine. I feel it now as I struggle to be true to her and all she has given to me. For I love her.
Walking down the wet lane in the brilliant sunlight, eyes watering, I cannot see who approaches. “Happy New Year” calls out the passing voice as words of a different order fill my mind. The first form of the title of this book begins to drop into my mind – Finding Treasure, the Mystery of the Dark Light.
I love the sound of it. I’m not sure what it actually means but it encompasses the elements that have been part of this magical experience. Often I am so taken with the sounds of words that I don’t necessarily understand straight away – phrases which encompass hidden meanings that are sensory rather than intellectual experiences. The final form emerges later, On Finding Treasure – Mystery Plays of the Goddess.
For the whole process of creating sacred drama has been one of finding treasure unexpectedly. None of the amazing things that we have experienced through performing mystery plays within Ariadne’s Dark Light energy stream was planned or foreseen. We have learned through experience that there are mysteries in this world too deep for the human mind to predict or fathom, but which the heart knows to be true. It has all just unfolded as we have followed our intuition and continues still.
By my definition intuition is that sphere of reality where truth is. It is an expression of the soul – the eternal spiritual part of ourselves which manifests through human incarnation. Truth is how things are from a wider perspective, one which is not attached to current values or morals, but which follows the natural spiritual laws of the universe. When we listen to our intuition we are listening to the voice of our souls. Learning to hear and act upon intuition is one of the major lessons of human life, maybe never more so than at the present time, for it is only the wisdom of our souls which will get us through the current planetary crisis.
The rest of the title follows at other times, the shape of the book unfolding by itself. The writing and the reading of this book must in themselves be magical experiences for both me and you, then we will learn more than we already know. Hopefully we shall perceive something new about intuition, creativity, memory, mythic reality and personal and collective transformation through sacred drama.
Intuition and creativity are inextricably connected, intuition being the invisible bridge across which creative energy flows into expression. Like a jigsaw puzzle the pattern for any production, whether it is of a book or a play or a film, exists first as formless idea in the etheric – the energy system that underlies the physical world. Ideas originate from the energetic impulses, souls and divine beings who people the cosmos, such as you, me and the Lady Ariadne. Our work as co-creators in the world, is to intuit, listen, sense and then call the pieces of the jigsaw into their correct positions, allowing ideas to come into form. As far as I understand the same principles apply to any work of creation, be it a sacred drama, a painting, a library, a university or a temple. It only(!) takes trust in the truth of intuition.
As I have experienced over and over again, creativity itself is an endless river which once awakened, spumes forth and invigorates every thought and action. Dammed, it becomes anger and then depression. The desire to write a book about this mystery we have been involved in over the last thirteen years, has been with me for some time now. It began as a way of explaining to participants the magic of performing sacred drama but inspired by Ariadne it already had a life of its own.
Sacred Drama and Transformation
There are several common reactions to the words sacred drama. The first and most obvious is that by sacred drama I can mean only one thing – religious drama which repeats stories of the lives and actions of the hero/archetypes of conventional religions Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, etc.. This is not what I mean by sacred drama. The simple repetition of patriarchal religious myths and value systems, from early Christian Mystery plays to even the Mahabarata does not hold my interest.
Another response comes from those people who react to the adjective sacred, assuming that anyone using it must be spiritually arrogant, wishing to imply some inadequacy on the part of the reader or listener. They seem to believe that we are in spiritual competition with each other rather than accepting that sacred denotes an attitude of conscious service to the divine. This viewpoint is expressed by both the spiritually inclined and many actors. In the current materialistic climate use of this adjective is deemed to be too precious or simply unnecessary. The argument usually runs as follows Why do you have to use the word sacred? We’re all inspired when we perform by something greater than ourselves. All drama is sacred.
I would contest that although individual performers may be inspired by the divine pneuma, very little of the drama we see today in theatre, on television screens or in films could remotely be called sacred. Most of it is performed in service to spurious male, sexual and violent entertainment values, and is dedicated to mammon, glamour and human vanity.
By sacred drama I mean drama that is inspired, written, directed and performed in service to the creative informing energies of the universe. Its purpose is to communicate with and to give expression to the divine as far as we humans are able. The word sacred comes from sacer (L) meaning holy, having the same root as sacrum, the pelvic bones which cradle the womb through which all new human life is conceived, nurtured and born. By sacred drama I mean holy plays rooted in the divine through which new ideas, myths and potencies are brought to birth.
For many this may seem like a presumptuous ideal that only the self-deluded might begin to attempt, but sacred drama is an ancient and honoured form of theatre throughout the rest of the world. For thousands of years among the indigenous peoples of the planet, sacred drama was the only form of theatre. Even today it is the means by which non-literate peoples are entertained and taught the spiritual traditions, values and ethics of their societies. Performed in holy places, dramatic rituals and plays tell the myths of creation and the mysteries of birth, life and death. They give expression to the beings of the invisible worlds – to goddesses, gods, ancestral and other spirits, who might help or hinder the lives of human beings.
Today where these performances survive, among say the Balinese or the Tibetan peoples, these holy plays have traditional forms which are repeated unchanged through the seasons and the years. Costumes and masks that are used over and over in performance become holy objects in themselves. In Bali the wonderful colourful masks of the beneficent male Barong and the evil (female, wouldn’t you guess) Rangda – the dangerous spirit of the mountain, are kept in temples and displayed on altar thrones during festivals, when offerings of flowers, fruit, candle-light and incense are made to them. The performers who wear these costumes in the sacred drama must be ritually purified before putting them on so that they can carry the divine energy activated by wearing the masks, without danger to themselves. The traditional temple performances, particularly those which are carried out in the parts of Bali which are off the tourist track, are powerful, healing and magical experiences.
Some of my own understanding of the potency of sacred drama came during a visit in 1986 to watch a play in a remote Balinese village temple. During the performance some of those taking part became obviously entranced. At a certain point towards the end of the ritual drama there was one incredible, numinous moment when time stood still and infinity opened out. Several sick people were healed in that moment. Even though the language was all Balinese that I literally couldn’t understand, energetically I could feel what was happening. Everything in the drama had built up to this magic moment when the energy suddenly switched directions (the best way I can describe it) and healing took place. I have remembered that moment when writing and directing Ariadne plays and have structured them to build towards one or more of these heart-stopping moments so that everyone might have this experience of numinosity. It is this experience that brings transformation to both performers and audiences. In Bali I learned that for me drama could not be separated from healing, transformation or the divine. It had to be sacred drama.
However, although indigenous sacred drama may be wonderful to watch in its appropriate setting, for our purposes it has limitations which should not be overlooked. The mythic tales that are told are usually fixed, unalterable, chained to societal ideals which no longer hold truth in the present. Innovation, present creativity and new mythology are not encouraged. Often performances are controlled by a priesthood with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Male hierarchies who wish to maintain power over others like to repeat stories that reinforce their reputed spiritual or moral superiority, forgetting that repetition does not make these tales true. In the present state of the world threatened indigenous peoples must hold onto their identities by maintaining their ancestral customs, dramas and values. However we of the first world whose past and present colonial ambitions have crushed native (of the earth) peoples and their cultures, have an obligation to question such patterns of dominance and hierarchy, since they are the ones which ultimately threaten the survival of humanity. We have a different collective need we have a karmic debt to repay.
From the beginning our focus in Ariadne Productions has been to develop a new kind of sacred drama – one which is aligned to both earth and spirit, which recognises the power of myth within the collective unconscious, which honours imagination as the tool of creativity, which encourages invention, listens to inspiration, recognises the patterns and rhythms underlying all forms, and which is not afraid to challenge conventional attitudes by tinkering with hallowed myth.
The Power of Myth
According to the dictionary myths are simply fictitious narratives involving supernatural characters and embodying popular ideas on natural phenomena (Concise Oxford Dictionary). This is a very limited definition for myths are so much more than this – one might think there was a conspiracy to simplify everything into meaninglessness. Myths are actually truths embodied in non-rational forms which speak directly to the heart rather than to the brain. They are tales which tell of the deeper realities of life and death and the attempts of human beings in different times and places to make sense of those realities. They are an expression of the human spiritual quest.
Throughout time and in all the cultures of the world myths name the great forces of the universe which created the stars, the solar system and planet earth with its oceans and continents, calling them goddesses, gods, titans, giants, ancestors, etc.. Myths describe the evolution of the earth, of plants, animals and human beings, and the great mysteries of birth, sex and death. There are global myths of creation, racial and spatial myths attached to particular places in the world. These myths vary widely in detail but express universal themes. The patterns within them mirror the structures and relationships between the material, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual components of our societies. They are a storytime reflection of the matrix or pattern underlying all forms and give us a way in to the experience of mystery.
Mythic tales are best told by story-tellers or performed as plays for the communities out of which they arise. On the written page they often seem lifeless. It is during performance that they come alive. It is the interaction between the mythic energy, performers, community, colours, costumes, lights and music- the magic of the greasepaint, that allows underlying realities to be experienced directly at a sub-conscious level. In addition when mythic tales are performed in a ritual setting and dedicated to the divine, they become sacred dramas and therefore more potent. I have noticed many times that although people do not necessarily understand with their minds everything that they have seen in a play, on a gut level they have powerful transformative experiences that reverberate through their lives. Ariadne plays have many overlaid themes and esoteric allusions that are too complex to take in on first hearing. They need to be seen several times before they are understood by the brain as well as the heart and even then there is more.
Myths, fairytales and folklore deal with different strands in our unconscious human life. Fairytales and folklore on the whole tell stories which mirror elementary psychological structures within individual human beings, the characters representing different members of our internal families. As Jung and his many followers have shown understanding these inner relationships helps us to develop psychologically as individuals. Myths on the other hand reflect collective forces which condition whole societies. They deal with the larger issues, which often do not seem to follow human value systems, but have their own validity.
Myths help to condition our cultures and in turn are shaped by them. Most importantly mythic reality itself is not static and fixed, but like the rest of nature is subject to ebb and flow and change. All the ancient myths we now have, have been handed down through the generations from one story-teller to the next, only in relatively recent times being committed to writing. They have always been changed in the telling and some have been changed deliberately in pursuit of political and religious power. Politicians and religious leaders are usually skilful manipulators of myth, each believing that what they are doing is for the good of society. As a playwright I have a keen interest in re-membering myth to reveal new truths. As a myth-maker producing powerful drama in a ritual setting I must continually be aware of and question my own motives in so doing. I have two main purposes, one is to help create a new mythos – a psychic framework for the present and future, within which the good, the true and the beautiful in all humanity may express itself. The second is to create opportunities for individual and collective transformation.
Within Ariadne Productions our aim is to re-examine the myths and religious ideals which structure our unconscious lives, bringing them into consciousness, to make us aware of why we act as we do both as individuals and collectively. Unlike traditional sacred drama we are not just retelling the stories of old, but we are deliberately reworking the ancient myths into new patterns within a magical ritual setting. We are making magic!
For example, one of our central themes is the rebalancing of the unconscious archetypes which for five thousand years have glorified a dominant male divinity, values and ways of being and oppressed! suppressed female divinity, values and ways of being. This unbalanced energy has informed the collective unconscious for the last five thousand years with now near-disastrous consequences for our Mother Earth. The ways in which we have named our gods and goddesses (if we name the latter at all) is a reflection of these power structures, which are also expressed in the relationships between women and men. In societies where men see themselves and are educated to feel spiritually superior to, better than, more evolved than, more detached than, less emotional than women, the divine force is usually seen as male and called God, Allah, Buddha, etc.. Since there are relatively few societies in the modern world where women see themselves as superior (although this is changing in the minds of individual women), where the divine force is female and called Goddess, comparisons are difficult to make. There are indications in tribal societies that where Goddess is worshipped the underlying gender archetypes are in fact more balanced and equal and power is shared.
The effects of these unconscious power structures can be seen throughout our societies. For example, the theatre world itself is riddled with the effects of unbalanced male-female energies, from the male hierarchies who own the theatres, film and TV companies, to the men who choose the kinds of entertainment that ever reach public theatre or television, to the financial structures that govern what is viable and therefore what we can see, to the relatively few women writers, directors, producers and performers, to the small range of parts that women can play, to the paucity of the themes explored, to the very ways in which we perceive what a good play is, and to the ways in which our eyes are conditioned to see images, both in the theatre and on television. All are still dominated by a male perspective which seeks to maintain its own survival. In our culture we are all conditioned by power-over hierarchical values and systems, both women and men, and they no longer serve us or the Earth.
Through sacred drama we are attempting to make some difference to this situation using the magical skills we have, both individually and collectively, in the small potent town of Glastonbury in which we live. Our purpose is to enscribe a mythic framework for an equal partnership between women and men, where all human beings are empowered to be truly themselves. Our plays, performances and videos give direct expression to long hidden aspects of the divine feminine – Goddess, and to the divine masculine – God, as images, archetypes, muse and transforming divinities.
Ariadne Productions is a loose-knit association of people living in and around Glastonbury in the Summerland of England, who have discovered the magic of sacred drama. There is a central core of about ten people who have been involved in most productions, who through experience have learned something of the mystery. These include musicians – those who keep the rhythm, production people – those who create the space, and performers – those who invoke the energies. For each production new performers and artists, both amateur (those who do it for love) and professional talents, are drawn from the wider Glastonbury community. Over the years several hundred people have participated in the sacred dramas and been touched by the numinous essence that is Ariadne.
Although I am the animateur (one who enlivens) for Ariadne Productions as well as being the principle playwright, director and sometime performer, in my understanding I am not Ariadne Productions. Ariadne is a divine energy stream to which performers and production people align themselves for varying lengths of time. It is this alignment to the divine Ariadne, via the vehicle of Ariadne Productions, that allows spiritual transformation to take place. In my experience this transformation always occurs. Its power and impact are dependent on the degree of consciousness that the individual brings to their role within the production.
At each first play reading we warn everyone that participation in an Ariadne Production will change their lives, but most people don’t really believe it. Professional actors in particular feel they can remain detached from change. Regrettably they are beyond transformation. Amateurs are more concerned with their fears of performing live on stage, or just disagree. After all it’s only a play, isn’t it? But it’s not. This is sacred drama and there are definite synchronistic effects in people’s personal lives. Often people find themselves living out their mythic role in their personal lives with consequences that can be challenging. No role should be taken lightly or unconsciously, but the personal meanings need to be actively sought. Ritual performance provides the perfect opportunity to publicly express and thereby transform hidden, often shadow, unconscious and sometimes super-conscious material. This is one of the main purposes of participation.
As with indigenous sacred drama the transformational impact of the plays is increased when they are performed at spiritually potent times of the year. With the earth at the centre of our focus and not attaching ourselves to any religious belief system, there are two natural cycles that have great psychic(of the soul) and physical effects on us all. These are caused by the movement of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth. Within these cycles there are nodal points where spiritual and physical energies become stronger, where it can be said that the veil separating the visible and invisible worlds gets thinner. In the lunar cycle these nodal points occur at each new and full moon. In the solar cycle these nodal points occur every six weeks or so at the solstices and equinoxes and at the cross-quarter festivals. All Ariadne plays have been performed in relation to these spiritually potent times of the year.
So far the plays have all been rehearsed and first performed in the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, which is a beautiful though dilapidated 19th century building which lies between the High Street and Glastonbury Abbey. Built on sacred ground and to golden mean proportions the main hall is a wonderful place in which to perform. In the past it was the scene of Rutland Boughton’s operatic performances in the 1920’s and the birthplace of the English Rural Music festivals. In the present it is home to Glastonbury’s alternative community and provides a venue for music, drama, workshops and conferences. The Assembly Rooms are remarkable for several reasons. The building itself though in need of repair is special, acting as a psychic amplifier for whatever is going on within it. The effect can be positive, greatly enhancing performances, atmosphere and experiences, or it can be negative, emphasising bad temper and conflicts.
As a community building it is remarkable for the numbers of good people who over the years have voluntarily given their time and talents in trying to create a thriving community centre with an emphasis on the sacred arts. The people who work there must daily apply their spiritual principles to creatively resolve problems. Ariadne Productions began and flourished within this dynamic situation.
Although community drama involving large numbers of local people has become popular over the last ten years particularly in southwest Britain, I believe that in Ariadne Productions we are original in our approach. We are unique in our emphasis on sacred drama, rather than simply community drama, consciously affecting the spiritual as well as the social life of the community. We are unique in that each play is inspired from the Dream – waking and sleeping. They are re-membrances (in the sense of the pieces being put back together in an original order) of mythic tales and their relevance to present day reality is emphasised. All participants are selected intuitively, based on their rightness for their role rather than their observed ability to act, play music, paint, etc.. Everything that happens during a production is respected as part of the transformative process including all the challenges that arise.
Finally all of our productions have been created within the temenos of Glastonbury known for centuries as the Isle of Avalon. Avalon is a mythical Otherworldly place that lies outside the normal experiences of time and space. Avalon means Isle of Apples – the goddess’s magical fruit of immortality, which she gives to those who go in search of her. The Isle of Avalon is also known as the Western Isle of the Dead to which the wounded King Arthur was ferried across the water in a boat by three Faerie Queens, Crones or Ravens. It is said that Arthur and Guinevere still lie here sleeping until the time comes when they awaken to aid in the rebirth of the British Isles. This sacred Isle of the Dead is ruled by the sisterhood of the Nine Morgens, the most famous of whom is Morgen La Fee – Morgana or Morgaine, the maligned Faerie half-sister to Arthur. The entrance to the Underworld on Glastonbury Tor is guarded by the Keltic Lord of Death, Gwyn C Nudd.
For me Avalon is a parallel mythic reality that exists today side by side and intermingled with the everyday world, only separated from it by an etheric veil. This veil becomes permeable as we consciously develop our spiritual practice through meditation, service and working with spiritual energy. We can also temporarily pass through this misty veil at those times of the year that are spiritually potent. The sacred landscape of Glastonbury is one of the places on the planet where this can happen accidentally or purposefully. Many people come here for that experience. Ariadne’s plays give people experiences of that Otherworld and of the beings who live beyond the veil.
Mythically the Isle of Avalon is a place of death, transformation and rebirth and those who come to visit or live in Glastonbury, experience over and over this process of regeneration. It is no accident that so far all of our plays have been created within the sacred landscape of Avalon, dealing as we do with themes of psychological and spiritual transformation and the mysteries of this earthly life. In my understanding performing sacred drama within this mythic landscape of the Isle of Avalon, has psychic effects which ripple outwards through the ethers, as well as the usual physical channels into the wider world. As we are changed so the world around us changes.
When I was about eight and living in Low Fell, Gateshead [NE England], before the arrival of television, my friends and I used to put on plays in the garden or on wet days in our garage. With a piece of material hung on a string for a curtain we performed before our neighbours. Entrance was one old penny and favourite themes were about kings and queens regularly getting their heads chopped off, or the Chief of Onga Bonga island. The best bits involved opening and shutting the curtains to reveal `the set’ and dressing up – things don’t change that much. I loved the special occasions when we went to see real plays at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle or in the Little Theatre next to Saltwell Dene.
As a schoolgirl I loved acting although I suffered from terrible stage fright. My most exciting part was playing Jeanne d’Arc in Jean Anouilh’s The Lark. I knew what it was like to be burned at the stake for love of the divine. At eighteen I went to University to study psychology and physiology and made my way hopefully to the Drama Club auditions. I was so intimidated by everyone else’s apparent ease with performing and sick with my own feelings of terror that I left quickly and didn’t dare go back to performing, that is, publicly expressing feeling, for another 20 years.
After university I worked in London as a researcher for books, design companies and then science and features documentaries for BBC television. When I was 25 I retreated from London to the Welsh hills, the beautiful land of my ancestors. For five years I lived for the most part alone in a large old farmhouse on the side of a hill looking out to the Brecon Beacons. I learned about living in the country and about nature. I learned about the aching pain of loneliness and the deep peace of solitude. I spent much of my time meditating for hours daily and reading all the esoteric and spiritual books I could get my hands on, being profoundly influenced by the writings of Alice A. Bailey amongst others. Through this experience I learned who I am as a soul.
During my last two years in Wales I travelled each full moon to Glastonbury to a meditation which two old friends – William Bloom and Frances Howard Gordon – and I held with others in the town hall. Frances and I had been at university together and are soul sisters. William, who was at the time married to Frances, is a spiritual brother. We were the triangular core of one of those groups of light workers who were going to enlighten the dark energies of Glastonbury. Needless to say, Glastonbury and its darkness changed us.
I moved to Glastonbury in 1977 after I had dream at Wesak, the Beltane full moon, in which I met and talked to all sorts of strange creatures who lived beneath the Tor. In the morning when I woke I surrendered to the Angel of Avalon and gave myself to her. She took me at my word and began the task of transforming me. Aaaieee…!
An unforeseen consequence of all the meditation I had done in Wales was that I had learned how non-material energies moved in the human body and outside of it and I found I could heal with my hands and through the aura. Returning to a social life once again and relationships with men, I was plunged into an emotional turmoil which I thought I had transcended, but had actually only repressed. I began to deal with my childhood traumas and after several years spent in personal therapy, worked as a healer and therapist.
I can barely recall how the return to drama happened, but it was 1983 when I was 36 years old. I was the mother of a precious two year old daughter Iona and pregnant with my second child. Like many other mothers I was concerned with the state of the world into which my children would be growing. It was the time when large numbers of ordinary and extraordinary women were making their way to Greenham Common in Wiltshire to protest about the impending arrival and later the presence of American nuclear cruise missiles. In the preceding years there had been a powerful women’s group in Glastonbury through which many of us had experienced the joys of sisterhood and strengthened our feminism. After sitting and talking about changing the world we all wanted to do something to show how we felt about male militaristic madness.
Many women travelled several times from this small country town of Glastonbury to Greenham to take part in creative actions against such weapons of destruction. As we said, “Greenham Women are everywhere”. A coachload of us went to take part in the action to Embrace the Base in December 1982 in which thousands of women held hands, embracing the 2omile-long green perimeter fence with love. We decorated the fence with photographs and the belongings of our children whose lives are overshadowed by these weapons. Many times women climbed over or cut their way through the fence, penetrating this symbolic barrier separating the natural and unnatural worlds.
I remember in particular one time climbing up the unguarded pillars at the main gate and jumping over into the airbase after Cary the brave Meehan. As I landed I found myself seized with pure primal terror as soldiers roughly grabbed us and I was four years old again being threatened by huge giants called adults. Having got into this other world, all I wanted now was to get out. I learned a lot that day about fear. Then there was the time just about dusk when rows of policemen were standing between coiled razor-wire barricades, behind which were soldiers with guns, protecting concrete silos that held nuclear weapons and all encircled by a green chainlink fence, surrounded by hundreds of women with flickering candles, holding hands between the trees and singing,
“You can’t kill the Spirit,
She is like a mountain,
Old and strong,
She goes on and on and on…”
For a few minutes after the song died away everything went very still and peaceful – a moment of pure magic, and all of us, women and men, felt the power of peace, until the next surge of movement came.
These were very powerful experiences for us all. The potent confrontation between women and men, peace and weaponry seemed to epitomise the imbalance in the world and the dilemmas which we face in our relationships with each other. Some of the men inside the fence had women friends or relatives on the outside and both had to deal with the consequences. Some were sympathetic to the women’s point of view, but like women, men are also trapped by the structures of patriarchy. We were all changed by the experience of being there. Women we knew locally were so moved that they left their husbands and children and went to live in the Greenham mud for longer lengths of time.
Pluto and Persephone
At some time during the autumn of 1983 after going to a peace vigil at Greenham when I was about five months pregnant, I had the idea of creating a play in the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms to honour the Greenham women and publicise what was happening. I had just read the Greek myth of the rape and abduction of Persephone by the underworld god Pluto, which forms the basis for the Mystery rites at Eleusis. For the first time for me a myth came to life as I saw the parallel between what was happening in our present world and the pattern of the ancient story. Persephone is the innocent child, virgin daughter of Demeter, the Earth Mother. Pluto represents the military/industrial complex that is raping Nature and her daughters, stealing her bounty, putting nothing back, then seducing us all with material goods, so that we come to love him for the things he gives us. Hecate who comes in search of Persephone when she is lost in the Underworld I equated with the Greenham Women, bearing the revealing light of truth into the darkness and helping to bring back reverence for the glory of nature. The parallels were simple and obvious.
Friends responded to the idea and quickly we pulled together a modern dress production of the ancient myth with music to be performed in the Assembly Rooms, as a winter solstice celebration of our Greenham Women. The stage was divided down the middle by a green fence like the one which surrounds Greenham Common airbase, symbolically separating the underworld from the natural world. Jamie George, the co-proprietor of Gothic Image in Glastonbury’s High Street, who had come to Glastonbury on the same spiritual wave as myself, Frances and William in the mid 1970’s, played Pluto, the underworld god. Clad in black leathers and large black cloak he burst forth from the underworld on a motor bike/chariot, abducting Persephone and taking her down to his domain. In his world there were TVs, washing machines, all the ‘essential’ trappings of modern life that seduce us away from nature. Greenham Woman was the hera (feminised form of hero from the goddess Hera), Hecate rescuing Persephone from the underworld and bringing hope for renewed life on earth.
This celebration of the Greenham Women was strong and moving even though it had been brought together so quickly. Persephone-like it was the seed for our later productions. It awakened my childhood memories of how exciting theatre is, how much fun it can be and as a primitive playwright and director how drama allows us to say things that otherwise may go unheard.
Inanna and Dumuzi
My beautiful son Torquil, was born in early spring 1984 and for a time I had my hands full adjusting to looking after two small children on my own. The stormy karmic relationship with their father, Emmanuel, meant that he was often absent. However as a creatively intelligent woman, child care and housework were never enough for me, my mind thirsted for stimulation. I love my children intensely, but to be truly happy I also need to be inspired.
During the summer of 1984 I went again to Greenham to take part in peace actions, my determination to do something heightened by having two small vulnerable children. At the same time I was very afraid that if I went too far and got arrested or even jailed for what I believed in, they – those in authority, the government, the all-powerful ones above, could just come and take my babies away, claiming I was an unfit mother. I know that many mothers are immobilised by this fear and cannot act against all that is so obviously wrong in the world. At Greenham I began my first steps towards learning how to deal with the power of that outside authority, which says “This is how things are and this is how they must stay. You’re just a silly woman. You don’t understand anything. We have to have these weapons of war to keep the peace.“ In recognising the real insanity of such twisted thinking I began to think clearly for the first time about the effects of dominating patriarchal authority both collectively and personally.
As a child I was intimidated into compliance with authority by my father’s black moods and anger. As a teenager I rebelled as best I could, but never too far. In my adult life I have had to learn to stand alone in my own authority against many internal and external critics. The voice of truth within has always been there but after its expression was crushed in childhood by parents and schools, I myself had to learn to honour what it said. I had to learn to trust that acting upon intuition would bring me what I have needed in life. I have had to fight the internal judge who sits on my shoulder as I write plays or plan new ventures, and says,“How dare you say that! It’s too much! What will people think of you?“ I have had to learn to hold firm to the promptings of my intuition when my more public adventures in consciousness have pressed hostile buttons in others.
At some point during 1984 I read Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth – Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer (Rider 1984). This book tells the life story of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, Queen of Heaven, First Daughter of the Moon, the Morning and the Evening Star. It is a beautifully poetic translation from original cuneiform writing on clay tablets from Sumer, dating back to 2,000 BCE, with commentaries and interpretations. It tells of Inanna’s youth and beauty, her acquisition of knowledge, of the me – the gifts of the soul given to her by Enki, the god of wisdom. It vividly describes her love for the shepherd Dumuzi and the consummation of the royal marriage, all in wonderfully graphic language. When Dumuzi turns away from love Inanna descends into the Underworld, to visit her older sister Ereshkigal, who is mourning the death of her husband Gugalanna, the Bull of Heaven. In the Underworld Ereshkigal fastens on Inanna `the eye of death’ and for three days and night Inanna hangs lifeless from a hook on the wall, a green slab of rotting meat. She stays there until she is rescued by two small sexless creatures made from the dirt beneath Enki’s fingernails. She ascends from the underworld transformed, now equipped to rule over all three domains of earth, heaven and underworld.
The language used is powerful, explicit and spiritual and it spoke to me in a very deep way. It seemed to tell a story that still applied to modern day relationships, to current women’s issues and to political situations, such as Greenham Common.
As my mind ached for some exercise other than trying to work out how to survive a bad marriage without going mad, I had the idea of adapting this ancient and powerful myth for the stage and with music. During the summer I heard the wonderful voice of Jaki Whitren when she sang with her musician partner, John Cartwright at an International Times gig. Jaki has a powerful three-octave range in her voice which brought tears to my eyes. For me this is one of the physical/emotional signals that a person is right for a part. Other signs are shivers up the spine and a certain look in the eye. I knew that Jaki had had the esoteric experience that meant she was capable of carrying the energy of Inanna, she and John had both studied with Alice Bailey’s Arcane School. I talked to John and he agreed to arrange and play all the music and after a few conversations Jaki agreed to play the part of Inanna. Within a few short weeks there was much wonderful music and many inspired songs.
I’ve always chosen performers and musicians intuitively, but this production of Inanna and Dumuzi was the one in which I recognised that I had some innate synchronistic talent for choosing performers, either by spotting them accidentally (!) in performance elsewhere or as they presented themselves for parts. It has never been that the people chosen were necessarily the best actors for the parts. It is that some quality in the person chosen is the perfect expression of the character they are playing, and as individuals they are themselves ripe for transformation. In the beginning I saw that ripeness as being to do with developing personal creativity, expanding talents and skills. As time has gone on I have realised it is much more than that.
John plunged into writing music and songs and organising musicians to play. In true Ariadne style he encouraged those who were just beginning to play music publicly to perform. One of these was Lydia Lite, who has since become well known for her talents as a sacred drummer and percussionist. She is blessed with a natural sense of rhythm and an esoteric understanding of the energies invoked in sacred drama, being another ex-Baileyite. She has helped to create atmosphere and hold the energy field in many Ariadne productions.
Meanwhile I adapted the oldest written love story of Inanna and Dumuzi into a modern setting. I paralleled the ancient mythic story with a present day love story between a Greenham Woman and a Soldier on the inside of the fence. The tale was one of love between a goddess and man, between Sally, a pregnant woman and her Soldier-lover, then the separation that followed from their different attitudes to love. It tells of Sally’s loneliness, her descent into the underworld, of loss and grief at giving birth alone and then of redemption and return to sanity. In order to ascend from the underworld Inanna must send someone else to take her place. In our story she sent the Soldier to face his own demons so that he too might be redeemed. The play began with the mythic characters playing their parts which were slowly taken over and then acted out by the personal characters of the Soldier and Sally, while the divine characters sang and told the mythic story.
As I was working on the story in early November, my father had a heart attack and died suddenly in the way he would have wanted, on the eighteenth green of his local golf course having just won a match. When I saw his dead body I felt a profound excitement as death and the energy of the Bardo’s brushed past me. I felt no grief. I had never had the warm, affectionate daddy that like all children I had yearned for. He had been a critical, Victorian father only occasionally being able to show his love directly to me. When he died I felt as if a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. I was freed to be myself.
The cast of Inanna and Dumuzi came quickly together and within a few short weeks again at the winter solstice, we had a magnificent production with over 40 people taking part as performers, musicians, craft and production people. Many well-known faces from the Glastafarian community took part including David Manzi-Fe as the narrator Neti, gatekeeper to the Underworld, Roger Frood as Dumuzi, Jolyon Fillingham as the Soldier Dumuzi, Thyme as the pregnant Greenham Woman Sally, the artist Valerie Neal as Ereshkigal, Australian black crow Katherine Ahern as Dumuzi’s sister Geshtinanna, the writer Nick Mann now famous for publicising Sedona landscapes, as Enki and Ann Morgan as his sukkal, Isimud. Among those playing the Greenham Women was Stephanie Leland, who was the co-editor of Women For Life on Earth magazine (Oh, where are you now? It was such a great magazine), which had been among the first to alert us to what was happening at Greenham Common. Some were amateurs, some were professionals. We had no funding, so we all did it for love.
There were stages on three different levels, one high up representing the mythic realities where the goddesses and gods made their appearances, a second one three feet off the ground where the human and mythic characters interacted and a third stage at ground level where modern day characters played their parts. This present day level was again bisected by a symbolic Greenham chainlink fence. The upper stages were connected by sloping planks of wood, which were rather unstable. Laura, who enthusiastically played one of Enki’s monsters fell off the slope, hurting her back. It took a long time to get better. The backdrop to the stage was a huge collage of the vulva of Inanna, the source of creation.
The one-night performance was powerful and years later I can still remember the pure magic of that evening with the beauty of Jaki’s voice, the glorious music, the beautiful language, the stillness, the power of performing myth in relation to present day reality, the elation of having brought a dream to life. Unexpectedly, not really knowing what we were doing, we all experienced an awesome mystery. We had found treasure unexpectedly.
It was a long play and I realised then that although audiences may shuffle in their seats and get uncomfortable, something happens during a long performance that is understood in temples. By sitting there past the point of restlessness we can be brought into a different reality – we are brought into the now. Patriarchal spurt consciousness demands the quick fix of stimulation and instant ejaculation. But a woman’s way is slower, moving with tides of feeling and sensation which weave together patterns in the fabric of meaning. Since then our plays, like Buddhist/Hindu ceremonies have always been that bit longer than is conventionally acceptable in the west. One of my dreams is for the 12 hour epic performance.
I began the process of learning about producing and directing sacred drama with this magical production of Inanna and Dumuzi. I learned that most people are just waiting for the opportunity to be creative and given an inspiring project will pour out their energy, talents and time for the sheer pleasure of creation. I learned that the secret of production is delegation of responsibility. I learned to trust that everyone who wants to do something – play a part, make a costume, paint a set, will do it on the whole to the utmost of their ability and that is good enough. By agreeing to be part of the process they are automatically inspired by the informing energy and are in tune. My task is to find the people whose time it is to participate and then to let them get on with it. They are responsible to themselves and the divine for their efforts.
I learned from the example of the ancient Sumerian texts of the power of poetry to say things that otherwise may sound too blatant for modern ears. To publicly honour the breasts and vulva of Inanna without embarrassment, to delight in the thick cream of Dumuzi the shepherd, to laugh at the Soldier’s Milk Tray chocolates. I learned of the power of good music to cradle language, to create atmosphere, to enhance emotions, to provide continuity, to seal the cracks in a performance. I saw how beautifully sung, meaningful songs could open hearts and transport people into another reality.
I learned about writing songs. When I wrote the lyrics I could hear their tunes and rhythms in my head, but I’m no musician. As John Cartwright and I worked together he would come up with tunes that were completely different to the ones I could hear, but which were nevertheless perfect for the production. From this I began to learn that behind expression are universal non-verbal languages that we each hear in a different way many tunes from one source. I have written songs now with several musicians and this seems to be the way of it. I hear one song as I’m writing the words and then they play a different tune and it works.
I began to learn to trust in the magical, unpredictable processes of creativity. Up until a day or two before the performance there were still a couple of roles to be filled, one of whom was the all-important Fly who appears at the very end of the story to tell Inanna where the missing Dumuzi may be found. Stanley Messenger, the butterfly man, elder and ex-actor stepped in at the last moment to play the Fly with great style (who could forget those wings and the tea-strainer eyes!) I learned through this and many later experiences to know that during a production everything happens perfectly within its own timing – that there is no reason to panic, the right person will always turn up to play a role. Even when main characters change their minds about who they want to play, the correct person will always end up in the right place. There may be some shuffling around to be done at the beginning but it is just the puzzle shaking everyone into position.
In creating the play I had a strong vision of how scenes should look with vibrating colour and light. I could see the palaces of Sumer, the White Quay, the Lapis Luzuli Quay, the dark Underworld. Over the years I have seen scenes 3-D in my mind’s eye in waking visions and in dreams. Often we have recreated these visions on the stage. Sometimes translation from the dream to actuality is incomplete. We’ve never had the money with which to totally manifest the Kretan palaces or Tibetan temples, but the sheer creative talent that has poured forth from people into sets has more than made up for the lack of cash. With Inanna and Dumuzi I began to learn not to worry about production problems but to hold the creative space open to whatever is attempting to express itself within the dimensions of a play. If something doesn’t work its because something else is trying to happen. There is no need to use force to constrain events, to impose will upon circumstance. The play is an expression of a reality that already exists in another dimension. We are the midwives who bring it to birth.
Having said there is no need to impose personal will, I know that will is an essential part of the creative process. Without it there would be no play, no production. Here I use will to mean a quality of the soul, which may be the same but is often different from our personal will. It is will that holds an idea on course to completion when there may be many distractions. It is will that holds us aligned to our purpose. It is will that allows us to make decisions. The final me or soul quality that was given to Inanna by Enki was `the making of decisions’.
As well as being a mythic tale Inanna and Dumuzi again celebrated the actions of Greenham Women and showed a possible means of healing for both women and men as well as the earth through descent to the dark, underworld goddess. During the time of the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common, American nuclear missiles arrived and later were withdrawn from the airbase. Politicians said their removal had nothing to do with the women’s actions but we all know governments lie. It is the sustained opposition of women and men of peace to these weapons of madness that will remove them from the planet. Those of us who took part in collective creative actions at Greenham and elsewhere have experienced the reality that we have the power to change the world for the better.
For weeks after the performance of Inanna and Dumuzi we all floated on a euphoric high. Something wonderful had happened for us all. There were rumblings about difficulties in people’s relationships but these always seem to be happening so it didn’t really register as anything unusual. My own relationship with Emmanuel, my children’s father continued to be difficult but that was nothing new. He gave me no support in my creative endeavours and didn’t even come to the performance.
The Moon Dance
In the springtime of 1985 I worked with a group of women on a dance drama expressing the different energies of the Moon Goddess. We rehearsed together at the Dove Workshops in Butleigh, which is situated on the wing of the Libran dove in the Glastonbury Zodiac. We developed an unusual combination of our voices singing the names of long forgotten moon goddesses with music played by Bron Bradshaw on dulcimer. Bron is a talented etcher as well as being a musician. In addition there were drums and a wind harp, which makes strange eerie sounds as air passes naturally through its strings. There were four dancers – January Jane dressed all in white representing the new to waxing moon; Juliet Yelverton seven months pregnant in red as the full moon; June Marsh the dancer in yellow/orange/brown as the waning moon and Willow Roe in mysterious black as the dark of the moon. Willow and I have an interesting karmic relationship. Earlier in 1981 she had had an affair with Emmanuel in Wales as I was giving birth traumatically to our daughter in Somerset. Apart from the initial shock of finding out, I strangely bore her no malice, which for a jealous Taurean is unusual. Willow later moved to Glastonbury and has since taken part in many Ariadne productions as a performer and singer, and has designed and painted beautiful wall hangings and made props and masks. She is a talented artist and her energy is unique and powerful.
Our dance was performed at the end of April at the Beltane Earth Mysteries Camp which was held in a field at Butleigh, near Glastonbury. As the sun was slowly setting in the west and the full moon rose in the east the four dancers entered the large grassy circle. The evening breeze blew through the wind harp, randomly creating a strange ethereal sound. Bron played a beautiful tune on the dulcimer and we sang. The audience watched from the edge of the circle with all the women joining in with the full moon dancing, chanting and drumming. It was magic. Bron later released an audio-tape of the music.
Descent to the Goddess
In the summer of 1985 my personal life fell apart. When we were on a family holiday at Lyme Regis, Emmanuel told me he loved someone else. I had sensed it for weeks feeling in my guts each time they made love, but he had denied anything was going on. I had begun to think I must be truly mad because all my instincts were telling me he was with someone else. He denied it over and over again, I was the one he loved. Against my own intuition I continued to believe his words. In the end I had to face the humiliation of asking her and of course they’d been sleeping together. He loved her. He had been lying to me for weeks. It had happened before when our first child was born. Naively I didn’t believe it could happen again. It took me years to accept that this is his Gemini nature – to love more than one woman at once. As a Taurean I want no part of such faithlessness. I fell into a chasm of such pain that I do not have the words to describe it. For months I stayed in this grief-filled place, saved from suicide only by the love of my children. I couldn’t leave them, they were innocent and born of love.
In the autumn in desperation looking for something to make me laugh rather than cry all the time, I brought together LYSISTRATA REVISITED, a reworked version of the Greek play Lysistrata or The Flight of the Doves by Aristophanes, first performed in 411BCE. At the time there was much antagonism in Glastonbury between local Glastonians and the Rainbow Village, a group of people living in trucks and benders at Greenlands Farm near Wick around the back of the Tor. In the original version of Lysistrata women from opposing sides in a war between Athens and Sparta agree that war is stupid and decide that they will not make love to their husbands until the war stops. At the winter solstice we applied the same solution to our own local difficulty with hilarious effects. Katherine Ahern played Lysistrata with great verve, the other women being played by well known local figures, including the lovely American Jennifer Cobb, Sheila Craig, Willow and Lawrence Sharpe as an unforgettable Myrrhine. Ann Monger appeared naked and golden as the beautiful Reconciliation, continuing the Ariadne tradition of having at least one if not more naked bodies on stage in a performance, revealing beauty and innocence as well as sexuality.
The men in the play all wore appropriately coloured phalluses, beautifully made from stuffed knee-length socks with sticks down the middle to keep them upright, by my sisterfriend Melanie Templer. I remember in particular David Beech as Cinesias, Colin Harrison the circle dancer, in a business suit with a wonderful, glittering phallus, Charlie Barley as the Rainbow Ambassador and Bruce Garrard of Unique Publications, whose prick-stick was accidentally broken just before the performance by the swing of a cloak, so he had to perform with a bent phallus. As the men in the play became increasingly sexually frustrated their phalluses rose erect and extended to over two feet long, glowing with colour. It was very funny!
However this was only a brief respite in a long descent. I continued falling into a great chasm of depression. I was saved from complete breakdown by Melanie, who gave me a present of an air ticket to Bali. I left the children with their Dad and Melanie’s then partner, John, and we went across the seas to the other side of the world for six weeks. There I saw beautiful Buddhist/Hindu temples and daily devotion to the divine and live sacred drama to encourage me. I found some peace but I came back still hoping our relationship could somehow work. When it didn’t, I fell further into the void.
I stayed in that place of darkness for over two years after our production of Inanna and Dumuzi. I didn’t know what was happening. I had no control over my moods or feelings. I couldn’t exert any will-power to change how I felt. I tried reading spiritual books for inspiration but none of the ones that I had known and loved in the past meant anything now. Alice Bailey, who had been a deeply spiritual inspiration to me for over twelve years said nothing helpful. Emotions in her cosmos are best transcended or suppressed and I was in an emotional morass. Here was the dark night of my soul, but no one described this woman’s experience. The words, the language of all the spiritual and esoteric teachings was male and didn’t recognise this deeply feminine hole in the ground.
Then in the summer of 1986 by chance (!) I found Descent to the Goddess – a Way of Initiation for Women by Sylvia Brinton-Perrera, Inner City Books, 1981. It was like finding water in a thirsty desert. It was the first book that remotely described my spiritual and emotional state. Up to that point I had always had to translate my experience into masculine perspectives that didn’t fit. I began at last to understand what had been going on for me as Sylvia Perrera, a Jungian analyst, illustrated with examples from her analytic practice, how the story of Inanna’s descent to meet Ereshkigal in the Underworld, describes a passage of initiation for women. In order to gain our freedom as women from the patriarchally determined roles we play, we are propelled usually unwillingly, into the depths of instinct, to a primeval place where we can connect with our inner female authority. The pattern of this descent is expressed in the story of Inanna’s life and her descent to face Ereshkigal.
Like the grey shapes revealed by the growing light of the sun at dawn I began to see where I was and had been for a long time – hanging like a side of rotten meat on a hook on the wall in the underworld. I had been living out the story of Inanna in my personal life. The ancient Sumerian tale described exactly how I felt. In the myth Ninshubur, Inanna’s sister queen asks Enki the god of wisdom to help rescue Inanna from the Underworld. Enki makes two tiny creatures, the kurgarra and the galatur, who are able to slip unnoticed through the cracks in the seven gates down to the Underworld. There they mirror Ereshkigal’s agony as she suffers from the pangs of childbirth. In return for their empathy Ereshkigal grants them any reward they desire. They ask for the body of Inanna that hangs from the hook on the wall. Reborn from the womb of Ereshkigal, Inanna is restored to life and ascends to the earth.
For me rescue came through a series of apparently unconnected little events – finding Sylvia’s book, beginning to play with clay with Pauline Watson who is a potter and old friend, a brief word from William Bloom telling me to throw a line to my soul which I saw hanging on a hook on the wall, and finally asking for help from a Relate counsellor who listened to me and empathised with my grief.
Within a few short weeks I ascended from the void. To my surprise I carried with me an overwhelming creativity that I knew could be applied to anything – writing, sculpture, cooking, knitting, work and play of all forms. I had touched the waters of the two rivers of life and death that flow from beneath the underworld. I had dipped my fingers in Keridwen’s cauldron of death and regeneration and received healing and inspiration. I began making clay sculptures for the first time in my life. My first attempt was a large smooth head of the Gorgon Medusa from which the snakes had fallen away, with Pegasus emerging from the centre of her forehead. At the time I was just attracted to the image of rebirth. As I made the sculpture I understood its appropriateness and its psychological significance for me. I knew just how the deadly Medusa had felt and why. She was terrified and enraged and no-one could look at her without being petrified by her fright. With Perseus as my animus who stalks Medusa by looking at her reflection in a mirror, aided by Athene, goddess of wisdom – energy of the soul, he cut off the Gorgon’s head. As he did so, unexpectedly, Pegasus the powerful, flying horse of inspiration and intuition burst through, opening my third eye. My mind began to work again, inspiration began to flow, faster and fuller than ever before. I experienced the truth that there are rare and precious jewels hiding in the darkness of the underworld that cannot be found anywhere else. Once again I had found treasure unexpectedly.
My intuition had been confirmed as true although in horrible circumstances. I would not doubt it again. I would never again settle for a love relationship that gave me less than I deserve. To that point in my life I had always compromised, wanting more from my relationships with men, more closeness, more love, more intimacy than the men I chose were able to give. I recognised that karmically I have always been responsible for these choices I have made, from choosing to incarnate with a father who would be remote and distant, to all the emotionally absent while physically present lovers I have known. Although it must be said that nearly all men are absent most of the time. When the time was ready I would ask the goddess for a man who was himself surrendered to her, who honoured women’s truth and who would honour me. If he didn’t come I would stay single.
When I came back above ground, like Inanna before me, who must send someone to take her place in the Underworld, I set the galla upon my ex-husband and his lover, so that they too might descend to the goddess to later return restored to creative life. Not all my grief was gone as I saw them run into hiding.
The next realisation was that I had been living out this descent ever since we had performed our version of the myth of Inanna. Synchronously it also coincided with the two year period of mourning after my father’s death. I had not mourned my father consciously, because for me he had been gone for a long time, but unconsciously I mourned him in the death throes of my relationship to the father of my children. I felt an awesome sense of recognition, that myths are not just stories to be idly performed, for enacted by those whose life patterns are coincident they can bring transformation. As I started to hear what had been happening for other people in the cast of Inanna and Dumuzi I began to realise that by performing sacred drama those who participate live out their roles in their everyday lives and this is intrinsic to the nature of sacred drama. As the unconscious producer I had experienced the whole story from true love to abandonment, from descent to ascent, coincident with what I needed for my personal transformation. I hadn’t really known what we were doing. It had come about by accident. We had been playing with fire and I had got burned.
When we perform without awareness of this connection we are swept along by the archetypal energies invoked, energies over which we have no control. We descend in pain and suffering to the goddess or to whatever forces or divinities are seeking expression. Having fallen unconsciously into the chasm myself, I began to glimpse the possibility that if we could participate consciously in sacred drama we might have the opportunity to creatively transform ourselves, without so much suffering. As a spiritual form sacred drama automatically brings in its wake emotional, psychological and spiritual transformation. As participants the only choices we have are whether we will be conscious or unconscious of the process.
As my brain began to function again I spent some time thinking about the nature of myth. I compared the story of Inanna’s voluntary descent to visit the underworld goddess, Ereshkigal, with the later Greek story of Persephone’s descent into Tartarus through rape and abduction by the underworld god Hades or Pluto, known as the Rich One. In early Greek myth Pluto was originally female, a daughter of Cronos and Rhea, the mother of Tantalus. Later her sex changed and she became a god, equated with Hades. I began to see the ways in which universal myths are altered over time reflecting changes in the collective unconscious and external society. I began to question the assumptions we all make about them.
For example, what is the real gender of the Underworld regenerator, the one who rules the Shadowlands? In the earlier Sumerian myths she is Ereshkigal, whose transforming power the Queen Inanna must face voluntarily, naked and bowed low so that she may truly come into her power in all three realms of earth, heaven and underworld. In later Greek myths as the Maiden Persephone/Kore, the goddess does not go voluntarily, but is raped while out picking flowers and then abducted by Pluto into his underworld realm. This change in gender reflects the brutal takeover of matristic societies by aggressive patriarchal forces. In my experience the Underworld Transformer, whether she is called Ereshkigal or Pluto, in her original form is a deeply feminine power. She is the Dark Mother, the Black Goddess, the Queen of Death. Her partner, whose death she seasonally mourns is the Bull of Heaven, Gugalanna, the constellation of Taurus, which annually dipped beneath the Sumerian horizon. It is this Mother of Death who must be faced when we descend into our dark shadow nature. For women the agent of that descent is often though not always a beloved man or a rapist. For men the agent is often a woman. Voluntarily or accidentally it is as the result of our sexual love relationships that we descend to the goddess, to die and be transformed.
Astronomically Pluto is the outermost planet so far discovered in the solar system, although there are hints of another small planet, Persephone, even further away. Astrologically Pluto transits of a natal horoscope indicate contact with this dark goddess. During my years in the Underworld I was under the influence of a continuous series of Pluto transits, including Pluto conjunct ascendant, Pluto opposition Sun in the 7th house, Pluto square Saturn, Pluto opposition Moon, leading eventually to Pluto square Pluto, which is about assuming one’s own inner authority. I experienced these transits as slow, grinding, remorseless change, being suspended like a rotting side of meat on a hook on the wall, with no escape, nothing to be done but to experience the dull and aching void.
Looking back on the whole experience I have an overwhelming and total respect for the magical transformative powers of the Underworld goddess, whether she be called Pluto, Ereshkigal or Keridwen. All I can do is repeat the ancient Sumerian text:
Holy Ereshkigal! Great is your renown!
Holy Ereshkigal! I sing your praises!