Stephanie Pope essay, Inanna's Story: A Re-telling; psyche's alchemy
myth and poetry



A Gentle Light -Stephanie Pope

I had gone to bed to rot. Literally! Along with seven other women who had gathered that weekend, I came to participate in the reenactment of the descent mythology of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. Such a journey is often a journey of growth and discovery, mostly because one has realized a loss for the taste of things in the world. Mostly, one is seeking a scarce food living on the unspeakable side of oneself.

Since the principal method of mythology is that of analogy whereby representations of reality on one level of reference have a corresponding reality on another level, my own death happened by sleep while dream became my decay into the prima materia of my own (sn)oozy-ness. We were left with a strict instruction that we would be awakened at sunrise and that this moment would mark our brand-new births.

I call the next moment I am about to share a great snore. The winds were particularly vicious and overactive throughout the night. Although the starry heavens remained crisp and clear, the high desert outdoor landscape was no place to linger. I couldn't wait to be indoors and under the covers (all rotting aside). I don't remember how quickly I drifted off into the cave of my darkness. The last thing I was conscious of was the gentle blue light from the candle that my roommate, Patti brought. How quickly I could feel myself softening into the edges of its blue-white shadowing. Funny, but it was as if I were becoming my own absence into which something else, also me, was pouring. If I will have become a drop dripping into the cave of my darkness, I thought, if I melt into a drop of darkness and slip through that black cave-mouth, what will find me again? In a world of shadows how will I capture and contain again a shadow likeness that is me? My other roommate, Laura, assured us both that she had shoved a pair of fuzzy socks into the mouth of the wind chime by our door. At least one of the Hungry Ones of the night had been fed. But, the wind would not let up. And so, it gnawed in my ear throughout the long night.

Sunrise came suddenly and without anticipation. I must have rolled over on my back during the night and awakened myself with my own snoring. Sometimes when I think about it now, I think I may have been reborn through my own ear. When I opened my eyes, I saw the sunrise dancing upon the ceiling, dancing upon its own gentle blue resonance. The words from a poem Thomas Merton wrote filled my head, "Let no one harm this gentle sun within whose dark eye someone is awake." Out of a black mouth of decay, through the dark eye of another kind of sunrise I had come. It was four in the morning. The dayworld sunrise was more than two hours away---too early to get up. I did anyway so I could think and write.

Perhaps, it is time to retell the story of Inanna. But, if I do, you must understand. I will have told you the story of Inanna by muthos, by myth or mouth. If I tell you this story, Inanna, the Self-Radiant One, will have become another goddess, Lethe (forgetfulness) and she, somewhere along the way, will have become the goddess Mnemosyne (re-membering). For if I tell you this story of Inanna, it will have been by forgetting what I know here and searching out something elsewhere in no-where spaces.

Like Inanna I will have searched the shadows of the underworld for---I don't know what it is I will have reached and will have touched that must be named by my own naming. I will have brought along everything I know that gives my voice authority to speak to you now. I will tell you everything that I will have re-membered there. I will tell you things like, "Do not think that there is only sorrow in the underworld." I know of the laughter that is there. I know of the friendship forming and reforming in the ante-chamber of entry there somewhere in the underworld.

It was this laughter and this friendship that became the guides for me. This is how I can re-turn to you now, having not been lost where I would have otherwise thought to be alone and lonely. These guides gave me a way to be sexual without having to be sexy. In the underworld there were moments I was both a woman and a man. There were other moments I was neither. Sometimes, there were even moments in which there was nothing I needed to be at all. Everything I tell you is true. There are riches and harvests and storerooms of kingdoms to explore in the antechamber to the underworld alone!

There is also a deeper place. It is a place past forgetting that enfolds forgetting again; past remembering too, that darkens into temples of releasing and smashing and re-membering once more. It is good to go there with your woe. Having gone there and returned, I know. Some Goddesses seem to understand what to do with all that sorrow. Rage gets broken down and somehow it deepens... and dies.

In the underworld one drinks. Did you know that? Yes. It's true! Inanna becomes Lethe becomes Mnemosyne becomes a rotting back upon itself soiling soiled things with freshness. Becomes Gaia awakened by the winds of morning still heavy with the darkness of pomegranate browning the edges of her bright brow.

Perhaps, it is time for you to re-tell the story of Inanna. Don't worry if your story doesn't seem like my story, for they are both true, and you and I already know---they are only stories. They are like the stories of old where the divine and the human could not be told apart...until you told them. Where simple shepherds unknowingly slew their giants. Where the women you met along the way were all goddesses speaking to you from their own authority. Remember, everything I'm saying to you is true. And perhaps, it is time.


Descents Alchemy
mythopoetics mythopoesis
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