The underworld has a logic and consciousness all of its own--things don't quite make sense down there or follow the same rules as above ground. Time seems like eternity and yet the exquisite presence of being there makes things go by quickly. We can't figure things out, instead find clues or symbols we an use for our healing. We may want to know when it will end, but like a butterfly the time in the chrysalis varies by being.
We ache and wait. We may feel hopeless and lonely. But mostly we confront the once considered unloveable parts of ourselves at the bottom--the shadowy parts, the rageful, the judged parts, the discarded parts, and the confused parts. We seem no longer able to hide the truth of who we are...separate from all the things we have been clinging to on our way down. If we're lucky, we go down to discover more intimacy with ourselves--an ultimate treasure.
"In the process of realizing and assimilating an unconscious content, the ego makes a 'descent,' from the conscious standpoint, into the depths, in order to raise up the 'treasure.'" -Erich Neumann
I often feel the underworld calling me. It whispers through anxiety and disassociative tendencies such as eating more sugar and losing my appetite. It screams through yet another relational dynamic where I didn't respect myself enough to walk away or found my worth through approval of another.
I used to resist the feeling of falling, now I begrudgingly wait for the moment when I need time crying in the woods and do my best to remember there is something exquisite on the other side. That all the loneliness and sadness calls to me because my worth started to scatter. It scattered into wanting approval, trying to find myself through something false, or comparing myself to others.
Freud believed two forces move through us a life force--Eros--and a death urge--Thanatos. I've started to see them one in the same...Eros is both destructive and creative. The archetype and planet of Venus--as Eros--has a death quality, it alchemizes through desire and pain. It doesn't need a different name, only to acknowledge both qualities to be seen in complexity. To be a lover of life means allowing Eros to move through us constantly surrendering to the death and rebirth at every turn. And sometimes we are destroyed by it.
Eros contains both life giving and life taking capacity...it is both the positive archetypal associations of Aphrodite and the negative such as the hag or witch. Eros transforms and alchemizes. I know I'm on an Eros path because love and connection have transformed me more than any medicine journey or meditation retreat. That relationships to others and myself evolve my soul--often through loss. Venus as Eros encompasses our connection to others and ourselves, it is intimacy with others only made possible through intimacy with ourselves.
On September 14, the same day Venus entered the phase of invisible to those of us on Earth, in ancient Sumerian mythology this was when the goddess Inanna reached the underworld after a descent, I started a descent. I don't always have the same cycles as Venus, but this timing has been uncanny. Contrary to how Eros and Venus is often understood, it is not relegated to romance. My heartbreak this descent season was about fondness and connection I found with a group of people sharing space and tending to the land. Some of my most joyful moments the past year were with my hands in the dirt with souls I adore nearby. Laughing, being awkward and feeling the most like myself I have felt with a group of people in a long time. In the background hovered a question of emotional safety and the inklings of past attachment aches, but I ignored them preferring to trust love and connection rather than be suspicious or protective.
Like many beautiful things something became destructive and shadowy, the unconscious began constellating a storm of fate. My dreams kept giving me warnings that got closer and closer and then it felt the dynamic exploded. Before I knew it without space for deep conversation with emotional attunement, I was asked to leave behind something I was working to build and the people with it. I felt like a pariah in a place that used to feel like home. Something that big requires an inner death, it marked a completion of sorts for me. With time I see a repetitive pattern needing completion.
But it doesn't erase the feelings of being scapegoated, shamed, nor seen or heard. I still sit disappointed there wasn't an opportunity to hear each other through a conversation or work together to heal and find care for each other's tender places. So I did what I needed to, I surrendered to the descent, to trusting the unconscious to teach me what I missed before. Using the experience as a teacher to reorient to myself and perhaps the idea that I had put too much of my worth and happiness into dynamics that I needed to let go of.
“From the great heaven she set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven Inanna set her mind on the great below. My mistress abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld. Inanna abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld.” -First lines from Inanna's Descent
Inanna "set her mind" on the descent to the underworld but it doesn't necessarily say why, though I believe to find her power and extend her kingdom. Some say Persephone chose to go to Hades into the underworld...perhaps to individuate from her mother. The impetus for the descent varies by person and time--fall itself invites us all there to enter if we dare--sometimes its the ending of a friendship, other times death or illness. But the assignment always remains the same: descending deeper into soul and truth of who we are, doing shadow work to uncover what we don't like in ourselves, reclaiming golden shadow, initiate and integrate the polarities within.
C.G. Jung named this process after the Greek word nekyia from the Odyssey. It is a time to remember the union of opposites inherent in ourselves…our darkness and light, above and below, inner and outer. The descent process and nekyia process is in Jung’s words, “descent into the dark world of the unconscious.” So I've been hanging out there for a while, exhausting myself and tired of who I had become working so hard for approval and love. The underworld is terrifying, there is no way around it, but it's a constant journey into consciousness--the work of a lifetime. I truly believe this descent and ascent--centroversion as Erich Neumann calls it--is life purpose.
As an astrologer I correlate these underworld journeys more closely with:
eclipse seasons twice a year,
astrological transits and timing--particularly with Pluto, Chiron, or Saturn
certain locations may bring it out of our chart as is the case with astromapping or astrocartography
And while that may bring some solace to attempt to find reasons for a season...the soul has a timing all of its own that sometimes works perfectly with astrology and sometimes not. To predict a time to go under would seem silly as we aren't always meant to know or how to plan. And how would we? Schedule an extra therapy session? Make extra space in our calendar for crying? Perhaps, but to surrender to Eros means not controlling how and when we must be taken over by something bigger. Something as unpredictable as soul.
On December 1-4 (depending on whom you ask), Venus rises from the depths as evening star after months of underworld exploration. I want to believe I will join her in coming up for air, but I know it would only be temporary relief. If I'm truly to follow Eros and its individuation path I know the Underworld is never far. But I do think I understood its assignment, this time more so than ever before. I did my best to let go of logic and trying to understand what has been going on. I've surrendered deeply to feeling and truly finding power in places that seemed completely void of it before. I gave up caffeine and sugar to keep myself more present to myself, meditating three times a day and off electronics by 9 p.m.
And the self-care has paid off, the past few months I really realized that my self worth needed more work than I realized. That my anger shows me where my boundaries need work. That I overextend constantly to keep connected because I am still so afraid of my loneliness. While I'm not entirely a new person, parts of me have significantly transformed through my treasure hunt into the great unknown below.
Sometimes I still spend too much time looking at my transits attempting to figure out when the next deep dive will come. I resist the surrender of underworld consciousness, yet realize that without it I can't truly be a lover...a devotee of Eros and the great mystery of life above and below.