A long, long time ago, in a country far, far away, where the forests are very thick and dark, and the rivers very swift and strong, there once lived a beautiful woman.
Not an ordinary beautiful woman though, but a goddess. And not just any goddess, but the most prominent goddess in her area and time.
Her name is Inanna.
She’s the goddess of fertility, love, sex, war and transformation. And she has a sister, named Eriskegal, who lives in and is queen of the Underworld.
One day, Inanna decides to pay a visit to her sister. She dresses up beautifully, with plenty of jewelry, a crown and a gorgeous dress. Stunning, she says to herself.
However, when she comes to the gatekeeper of the Underworld, he tells her she has to remove one item of her clothing. When Inanna asks why, he tells her ‘that’s just an Underworld rule’.
Inanna obeys and walks through the first gate. Turns out there are seven gates – and at each gate Inanna has to leave something behind. She ends up walking naked through the seventh gate.
When she arrives at the heart of the Underworld, she encounters seven judges. They look at her – it is the look of death. They speak to her – it is the speech of anger. They shout at her – it is the shout of heavy guilt.
The judges render their decision against her: Inanna has to be hung on a hook.
And so it happens. Inanna hangs there, in pain, for three days and three nights. Her flesh rots and falls of her body. But through this, a miracle happens. She transforms, she turns her pain into strength and frees herself from the Underworld. After this, she is even more powerful.
I love this story, as it is a story that (like all stories) take place within us all in a moment not too far away from this present one.
We are Inanna. And her sister. And the judges.
When Inanna dresses up to go visit her sister, she puts on the masks that we wear when we identify with our roles in life.
At each gate she is required to shed a piece of her identity – a possession that symbolized an important role or relationship in her life, a part of her identity, the face she showed to others. One of the important lessons of the goddess Inanna is that, if we are to remain in touch with our true selves, we must let go of our attachments to the outer world and travel inward.
Eventually, she stands naked (and thus vulnerable) before the judges. Those judges are within us as well. They are the voices you hear when you tell yourself that you’re not good enough. Or that you’re too much. They constantly criticize and their verdict is never a positive one.
The hook and the Underworld is where we can be when life just feels way too overwhelming and painful. However, this is the place where transformation occurs. This is where we grow wings so we can be the butterfly we were meant to be.
Just like Inanna, we’re invited to travel into the dark places of the soul and to embrace change. May we all be transformed in order to live a full and authentic life.