REVIEW: Jane Meredith’s Journey to the Dark Goddess
Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul,
by Jane Meredith (Moon Books imprint of John Hunt Ltd., 2012), trade paperback, 227 pages (also available as e-book)
This book will be of particular interest to those who like the psychological approach to Goddess work; its structure and incorporation of personal material makes it highly accessible.
From a thealogical standpoint, the term "dark" when used with "Goddess" and contrasted with a "light" or "bright" Goddess has for some time been problematical for many Goddessians, because of its possible racial implications and the sometimes equation of dark with "bad" or "evil," which can set up a (usually subconscious) association of dark skin color=evil. To try to counter this, many Goddess-honoring people have defined dark to mean "hidden," "mysterious," "unseen" or "shadow." I don’t think that Jane Meredith intends any racial association with her use of "Dark Goddess," but it isn’t clear to me whether she has eliminated "bad" or "evil" from the equation. What she does do is argue for a comprehensive, inclusive vision of this deity. In the Introduction to Journey to the Dark Goddess, she writes: "The Dark Goddess is a mysterious and hidden figure. Although each of us is familiar with her roles of wicked witch, the crone, the bad mother, the hag and the winter queen, we don’t always remember her other face of compassion, healing and rebirth." In Part I, "Preparing for the Descent," in a section titled "Who is the Dark Goddess?" Meredith defines her as an aspect of divinity that can be understood as a "sister" or "other half" to the "light Goddess" or the "one Goddess, but who can also "be understood as being a split-off part of yourself; often the powerful, dangerous part." She also describes the Dark Goddess as "a metaphor for meeting our nemesis; the situation or truth that will undo us and our carefully constructed lives."
The author sees the "Journey to the Dark Goddess" as one of descent to the Underworld, such as described in the myths of Inanna and Dumuzi, Ishtar and Tammuz, Orpheus and Eurydice and "closer to home, Jesus Christ..." (The phrase "closer to home," startled me. Like the other "myths," that of Jesus is from the Ancient Near East [or Middle East or Western Asia—pick your fav term], which is not literally closer to anyone’s home and not close to Meredith’s home, which is in Australia. So, what is the meaning here? Closer in time? Closer to a psycho-socio-religious "home" of Christianity?).
The book is structured around the descent, visit, and ascent from the Underworld, particularly the Inanna myth, which is presented both mythologically and personally in each section. In "Part One: Preparing for the Descent," in addition to answering the question, "Who is the Dark Goddess?" Meredith provides "a map" of the Underworld drawn from myths, Egyptian tomb writings, and biblical accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Though she writes that they are "valuable in themselves" she rejects equating "shadow work" and "soul retrieval" with the Dark Goddess journey because they "do not address the fundamental imbalance we carry between dark and light. In both the dark is largely cast as ‘bad’ (or undesirable) and both seek to bring everything into the light, to ‘enlighten’. Shadow work in particular is not about according darkness half of the playing field....In true darkness, after all, no shadows are to be seen; so fundamentally shadow work can only occur in the light." Meredith also gives additional tools, including map-making and ritual, to prepare you for your descent.
In "Part Two: Descending to the Underworld," Meredith writes that "Descent is a death-like process but it is not death. On the contrary; it is life." She describes descents from mythology as well as her own life, and techniques she uses in her workshops on this subject, including creating a ritual mandala, further map-making, and ritual.
"Part Three: In the Underworld," begins: "Mysterious things happen in the Underworld. Death, obviously. Rebirth eventually. Transformation, necessarily." Meredith goes on to point out that "things in the Underworld do not stay neat or separate, you cannot have just one part of this" and while death is often portrayed as difficult and painful, "death can be gentle, while life is often abrupt, painful, and conflictual." She discusses the life-death continuum, that they are "part of the same cycle," that "the one guaranteed event at birth is eventual death." As in the previous chapters she brings in various Underworld mythologies and her own Inanna story. She also offers Underworld rituals, and advice on "What To Do In the Underworld" that includes several ways of speaking with, or speaking with the voice of, the Dark Goddess.
In "Part Four: Coming Up From the Underworld," Meredith observes that many stories of Underworld emergence in mythology seem to be "deceptively easy" compared with what she has experienced, which she has found similar to "recovering from a severe illness." She advises readers to give as much attention to ascending as to descending. "Coming up can be trickier than going down," Meredith writes. "Going down is like falling, once you’ve begun, there’s a certain amount of gravitational inevitability about it, and an obvious direction." In contrast, because you have been on the bottom, "Any degree of up-ness...can seem so blessed and light-filled that one doesn’t see one hasn’t fully emerged yet." Meredith then draws from myth and offers ritual and other tools to help in our ascent, including "How Not to do it" and "How To Actually Do It."
Journey To The Dark Goddess is a book of both practicality and depth, and is likely to be helpful to many individuals and groups.