Before Her altar I am dancing, moving to the interlocking rhythms the drummers’ hands coax out of the skins they play. I am staring into the marble-like reflective eyes embedded in a mask carried from another continent, across the ocean, to this camp: a mask for Erishkigal, holding the potency of Her. And tonight I too will be opening as a vessel to hold, to carry, to dance the potent presence of Erishkigal into this ritual.
Tonight I am aspecting the Queen of the Great Below. Last night our ritual took us through ever-deepening layers of entry into the Underworld. We explored the ways in which we are born into the Underworld, taken there against our own agency, by circumstance, by birth into pre-established hierarchies, cultures of domination, coercion, and control. Societies whose most privileged members benefit directly from the oppression of the marginalised… we listened to the voices of priestesses, and the soft tapping of the tar, entrancing us into a silent spiral-dance of mirrored eyes. And at the very last moment Inanna entered the Great Below and Erishkigal turned Her burning eye upon Her sister who was struck dead.
So tonight five aspectors, five vessels, five human witches writhe, kneel, pray, dance, stand still before the Western altar given to Erishkigal. Covered with Erishkigal. Throbbing with Erishkigal.
I hear the invocations, I sense the spirits, the powers are moving. And it comes to the point in the weaving of our sacred space, in the creation of our container for tonight, that Erishkigal Herself will be called to arise into These Ones. I am one of these Ones. My tender, a friend, is before me anchoring, grounding, tethering. I have given him a scarf a beloved gifted me, that I often wear in ritual. I trust him to hold this and hold me in this. I trust myself to navigate and negotiate this ecstatic communion with this Great One, this Mighty Goddess.
The priestess calls. Erishkigal comes. I am filled with Her presence, tangibly, palpably, I let Her in to fill my legs, my arms, my belly, my sex, my chest, my lungs, my throat, I reside at the top of my head and all through my back. I am present, She is present. This is aspecting. This One knows intimately what it means to carry a spirit, a god, a mighty one… and so the dance begins.
This is a ritual of the expression of deep grief, this is a rite of releasing, of giving it over to the compost of change.
And so we move, and we – the humans carrying Erishkigal – lock eyes and smile, snarl, weep, scream, laugh, and give ourself more deeply to the working at hand.
The Erishkigal in me is a sensually-awake Goddess, Her heart is radiating out to these witches doing this great work of grief. In groups of three they tell each other their stories of pain, grief, the deepest sadness, the sadness that I know – Erishkigal knows – because it has gone to the depths of the Below and has been known to us down here.
The drums change, the voices of the priestesses move toward a sharpened point, a fulcrum of energy…
For a moment I am lost, this one moment in which the mystery abides, and then I am on the ground, clawing at this purple dress, shrieking, sounds spilling out of me that aren’t Fio sounds, they are the screams of Erishkigal… I surrender, I allow Her to do this, because this is how the magic must be. I am still here at the top of my head and all through my back, but She is driving this car. She is pressing against the internal gauge I have given, but that is all She will do, because She has assented. And the Gods are creatures of their word, their oaths, their own bindings…
We speak. They ask us to speak after the Power churned and built and peaked and broke.
Erishkigal speaks of the power of grief, of this compost, and this spell, and this good work…
She speaks of the Dead as her lovers, and how She delights in the dense bodies of these animals we call humans. She speaks of darkness and beauty in each heart here and how we must let this grief move through us, cleanse us, wake us up to nature of things, and celebrate with each other, be with each other, make love, be artful, and do this magic.
Erishkigal falls silent, and mystery is alive.