Janus and the duality of new beginnings

It’s January – a new year! Yaaaaaay! and UGH!

Today is the fifth day of January and I already have mixed feelings about this year. I feel like I am on a rollercoaster and on a hamster wheel – a hamster wheel on a rollercoaster? One moment I am feeling cozy and reading a book for the joy of the story, not for research. Fully enjoying “wintering.” The next moment I’m creating a new website to try to start some new career that I can’t really imagine, so it’s hard to get going but I just know I am on the right track, so I spend hours working on it – publish it and see 5 people looked at it and none of them went past the first page. So, was it a waste or was it my first step towards something new? Only time will tell for the future is SO unknown.

Lately, I’ve been anxious. I think that is the best word. I feel excited that the future is unknown and full of possibility, but the unknown is also scary and full of insecurity. My studies taught me to become more observant and see patterns, so I do not allow these feelings to rule me as they once did. Part of how I understand what is going on – because when I get like this – anxious, restless, excited, agitated, and basically at a loss for how to cope, I say ‘what is going on?’ – is to turn to stories for guidance.

I have been bouncing around between myths, trying to figure out how relate myth to myself and to others. I went from painting an octopus, to studying the Kraken, to the Hawaiian god that transformed into an octopus, and finally the octopus-woman that returns to Earth every few generations to have offspring with her offspring. I decided this was not the rabbit hole for me at this particular time. I have been continuing with this pattern all year (all five days of it!!) actually it’s been going on for weeks – I started drawing and painting and then realized I didn’t know what to do with all these paintings and drawings and painting and drawing take a lot of time and I want to learn the guitar again and how to sew and start a new writing project and also do a myth workshop and the list is endless. So, I stopped painting and started writing – why do I write? I do not know – I have like a bazillion things to say about winter, about transitions, and Janus and all these things – it all makes sense in my head – it begins good – but then it starts to split and spread, and I feel myself chasing the ideas – my ability to start is so much stronger than my ability to follow through and finish.

My Octopus painting

Last year, I finished my dissertation and I completed clearing out and selling my old home. I had two, very major areas of my life end. It was wonderful and liberating to be DONE – I do not have to work on the paper I worked on for more than five years. I do not have to deal with caring for a home I did not live in and things I did not use. I’m DONE – so the big question is – now what? Time to begin – and where better to begin than at the beginning. As a starter, actually finishing these two major milestones left me in a strange state. I like the freedom of not having these things to work on – but don’t really know what to do with myself. I know things to do – I have a million things to do, but what can I do that will be meaningful, that will be helpful, that will give me fulfillment? What makes me happy and how can I do that for employment? What makes me unhappy and how do I stay away from that? There are more questions about the future and the instability of the world makes the questions that much more difficult to answer.

According to the Romans, at the beginning – there was Janus. He was the first god to be invoked in prayers, the first month of the year is named after Janus, and his two faces represent the dual nature of beginnings – because we all know that beginning is exciting AND scary – it’s liberating AND paralyzing. It’s crazy and mixed up, but if we do it right – we can use January to reflect on the past, plan for the future, and be ok with the doorway of right now (the present).

The past does not exist, it is done – it only exists as a story. The future is also a story, we can make plans and can make predictions, but until it happens – it does not exist. Now exists, but it is always gone – now quickly become then. Trying to be in the now – to experience life and not be swept up in what came before an what goes on after is almost impossible – so we have to see now as the threshold of the past and present. Janus the god of thresholds, the god of in between has two faces. He looks both behind and forward. To me – this says reflection and planning. January is frustrating because planning is not doing. Planning is only telling the story of what you want to do. January is exciting because planning is full of possibilities. But does not just look forward with his plans – he also looks back. He reflects – and hopefully learns from the past. I think it is important he has his eye on both. The past without future is death and a future without a past is foolish. January – beginning the new year (ending the old one) is a time to winter, a time to plan, and a time to plan. This is the time the seeds lay dormant – but they are not dead. We can nurture those seeds – feed the ones we want to grow in the spring, summer, and reap in the fall and let those that harm us stay in the winter of the mind for next year’s reflections.

From fishing to bean soup

The time grandpa lost his patience with me

My grandpa was a kind and patient man. He was slow to anger and quick to smile with us kids – but there was a time he lost his patience with me, a time with Jeff, and a time his dad lost it with him that I want to share. These stories have continued to be told in our family as the few examples of times when grandpa’s patience wore thin.

I don’t know when my grandpa started to take me fishing by myself. I must have been about my kids’ ages (7-10) when I became a good fishing buddy. We enjoyed fishing the Santa Ana River in Southern California together.

My kids when they were little, at the Santa Ana

I was a city kid. My dad didn’t take me fishing and my mom and stepdad do not fish. It was grandpa that introduced me to the river, that taught me about the currents, and that showed me where to cast my line so it wouldn’t scare the fish, but flow naturally so they would bite.

Grandpa also shared his love for photography with me, specifically black and white photography. One winter day, grandpa thought it would be fun to take me to the aspens to take black and white pictures in the snow and catch a little fishing on the way home.

Like I said, I was a city kid, wearing city clothes. A long sleeve shirt, light jacket, jeans, and tennis shoes. If you are unaware of how to dress for a day in the snow and at the icy river – it is not jeans and certainly not tennis shoes.

The day started out beautifully. The aspens were the perfect subject for our pictures – especially in the snow. Soon however, my feet started to hurt and I wanted to go back to the warm car, but I was a trooper and I didn’t complain. I don’t think I even had gloves on – I was clueless.

We had time to warm up in the car from the aspens to the river. It was a pleasant drive as grandpa told me stories and we watched the snow covered mountains and trees pass the window.

As we walked out to the river, I hesitated. I knew the further we walked out, the further we had to walk back – and I was still cold. But, grandpa loved fishing, he wasn’t going to let a little ice on the creek stop him (he had full waterproof waders on). His enthusiasm was contagious as we got to the river to fish.

It was cold – but it was also very pretty. Until I slipped on one of the icy rocks in the river. I fell – hard – into ice, cold water. That was it, I had enough and wanted to go NOW! Grandpa was concerned but I was okay and we hadn’t fished long. I was crying and making lots of noise – between my splash and noise, he wasn’t catching any fish anyways and we hurried to his green Ford Explorer and cranked up the heater.

It wasn’t major, but I know my grandpa was irritated with me that day. His tone was different, his actions sharper – he has lost his patience with me. I felt like a fussy baby, not the tough oldest grandkid of Jack Jones. I was wet and cold and at that moment couldn’t even enjoy the beauty of the snow – it was the only time I remember grandpa becoming irritated by me.

The time he lost his patience with Uncle Jeff

Grandpa told me a story about a time he lost his patience with my Uncle Jeff when he was just a boy. They were walking the river, fishing. My uncle, being a small boy was lagging behind, I’m sure, and his arm brushed against a purple thistle. If you’ve never touched a thistle, it stings! The sensation is similar to how I imagine a hundred burning pins. There is an easy way to ease the pain – you either hold the affected area in the cold water or put cold river mud on it. At the time, my grandpa was already annoyed with Jeff.

Maybe grandpa didn’t know how bad a thistle sting could be but after seeing why Jeff was crying, my grandpa did something uncharacteristic – he lost his patience and got angry. He told Jeff that those flowers didn’t hurt that much and grabbed the thistle firmly into his hand.

Purple thistle
Illustration by Ben Levitt

Now, I’ve touched thistles plenty of times, but never grabbed it to were the needles would press into my skin. Grandpa told the story about how his anger made him foolish and the pain made his eyes well up with tears. He told me it was one of the worst pains he ever felt and it was even worse because it was a pain he deserved because it came from anger at his hurt son. He told me the story to teach me not to touch thistles but also to warn me not to let the anger win.

The time grandpa made his dad swear

I never knew my great grandparents except through stories, but my great grandfather was a good, kind, and gentle man. He was a farmer that prayed and often shed a tear when he took an animals’ life for food. My grandpa was raised a Quaker and according to him, his father never cussed or swore but did have two ‘Yankee curse words’ and I want to share a time of when my grandpa made his kind and gentle father so mad – he said them both.

Grandpa as an adult was mischievous and a bit of a trickster so I can only imagine what sort of fun he must have been as a young boy. One time, he and his friend got the idea to trick his dad. They got a bucket, filled it full of water, and balanced it on the wedged door his dad would be coming through and then, hid and waited.

When great grandpa walked through the door, the bucket did not turn over and instead of having a bucket of water spill out on his head, he had a bucket full of water fall directly, with full force onto his head – and then spill on the floor.

My grandpa said he could still remember the sickening sound of the bucket hitting his father’s head and the extreme sudden remorse he felt. He had only meant to play a joke, not seriously injure him.

Little boy grandpa and his friend stayed hidden out of fear as his father’s face grew red from the neck up and tears rolled out of his eyes down to the floor and he very quietly, but with great anger said “Rats … BEAN SOUP!”

And that is the only time my grandpa said he remembered his father cursing.

I found this image when I typed in rats and bean soup. Kind of funny (it was with a story of a soup company that made rat meatballs which isn’t as funny) but I liked it enough to add as a combo of the swear words – rats and bean soup.

Grandpa Jack‘s anniversary

Today would have been my grandparents 69th wedding anniversary – my grandfather passed away almost two years ago and my grandma just remarried this week. Needless to say, I’ve been thinking of my grandpa more lately. I miss him so much and I cry more now than I did a year ago. He was an awesome man.

My grandpa and I had a special relationship and part of that relationship was built on fishing. I love fishing because it is a connection to my grandpa, to his dad, to my children, to my husband, and to my grandpa’s family in general.

So today, I was going to go to the creek to remember grandpa, but it didn’t feel right. We went with the kids to celebrate his life but this was his anniversary and my grandma was freshly married.

I wondered what grandpa would have thought. He loved grandma with all his heart. His love was beautiful, their love was beautiful. It was an example for our family and for the many people they reached through their lives.

Grandma was sad without grandpa, her health deteriorated, and she began to feel she could not live independently. Her new husband makes her happy, he brings the bounce back to her step … at 90, my grandma is giddy with new love. I know grandpa loves grandma enough to want her to have that happiness. I can almost hear him chuckle with her at her girlishness. I’m crying as I write this. My grandpa had a great laugh.

So, I didn’t go to the creek, I painted. I painted a fish, a frog, a puma, and another rainbow trout for grandpa.

I think grandpa would like my paintings. I think he would place them on reading desk in the back room or on the bookshelf in the living room. I think he would be happy to see how we have carried out what we learned from him.

I miss him most with the happy times. He would have loved getting to know my husband better, seeing the great grandchildren with their growing personalities. He would be happy to know Mike’s kids live a country life, that Joe’s kids are as athletic as ever, and mine have their mother’s creative spark. He would love knowing we all keep the river in our hearts as a part of him.

So happy anniversary grandpa. We love and miss you forever – here’s some rainbow trout for you – I hope you enjoy them in heaven as much as I enjoyed painting them for you here on earth.

The descent of Inanna – Part 2

If you’d rather listen than read

Part 2 – The indignation of Erishkigal

In part one, I explored the myth ‘The Descent of Inanna’ as I studied it for transformation. However, for this posting I want to focus on Inanna’s sister – Erishkigal, the queen of the underworld. In the Inanna myth, I wondered why Erishkigal was so insulted and aggressive toward her sister, so I looked at her side of the story. Erishkigal’s story contains the same events as Inanna’s Descent but with the larger context – it becomes a different story.

It is interesting to me while researching for this piece, I read descriptions of Inanna’s motive for descent as varied as that she descended to try to steal her sister’s power and domain in a time of weakness (Erishkigal was recently widowed and pregnant) to that she was a caring sister, risking her very life to comfort her sister and give respect to her brother-in-law. The second could be why Inanna told herself she descended to the underworld but context shows that Inanna is neither a caring sister or respectful sister-in-law.

The Epic of Gilgamesh and the backstory of Inanna’s descent

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, another Sumerian myth from ancient Mesopotamia, Inanna becomes romantically interested in the hero, Gilgamesh and pursues him.

Gilgamesh refuses Inanna’s advances because he doesn’t want to be her next ex love interest. She was infamous for her love them and leave them ways (and also for being cruel and vindictive).

Inanna does not take the rejection or criticism well and she goes to her dad to seek punishment for Gilgamesh’s unkind words. She wants her father to send the Bull of Heaven (Erishkigal’s husband) to kill Gilgamesh for insulting her. Inanna’s father does not have sympathy for her, but instead agrees with Gilgamesh’s assessment of Inanna’s actions towards her exes and tells her Gilgamesh said nothing but the truth.

Inanna does NOT like it when she doesn’t get her way. Inanna basically throws a tantrum where she threatens her dad with opening the gates of the underworld and unleashing the dead on earth to cause chaos and destroy everything if he doesn’t do what she wants and punish Gilgamesh … so he sends the Bull of Heaven to kill Gilgamesh. By the way, controlling the gates is Erishkigal’s job – not Inanna’s (no respect at all!)

When the Bull arrives on earth, his foot stomps are so great that the first opens the earth and kills 100 men and the second kills 200. He battles Gilgamesh and G’s friend, Enkidu and Enkidu kills the Bull of Heaven (Erishkigal’s husband). When Inanna arrives Enkidu insults Inanna and throws a piece of the bull’s leg at her. She has him punished for the insult through sickness and death (for the insult to her not for killing her brother-in-law).

So what does Inanna do after she has 301 men and her sister’s husband killed? She decides to go to the funeral and descend into the underworld. This gives us perspective now on why Erishkigal is angry at Inanna.

Erishkigal is in mourning for her husband, she is in the later stages of pregnancy, and her sister who is responsible for her husband’s death shows up at her door dressed in all of her finest, most regal and seductive embellishments – now I understand why:

‘When Erishkigal heard this,
She slapped her thigh and bit her lip.
She took the matter into her heart and dwelt on it.’

Erishkigal is indignant – she does not welcome Inanna as a sister because Inanna is the reason for the funeral and has the audacity to not only show her face but pridefully so with a crown, jewelry, and perfumes – not the appearance of remorse.

The rest of the myth is the same, Erishkigal has her sister stripped of her finery, bowed low, and unleashes her judgement on her. Inanna is reduced to a corpse which Erishkigal hangs on a hook and leaves.

Erishkigal does not dwell on Inanna. She punishes her and leaves her and goes about her life. When she goes into labor, the creatures sent by their grandfather to aid Inanna, comfort her and she rewards them. That’s it for Erishkigal’s involvement with Inanna. She is not angry at the creatures’ motives or that Inanna is released. The judges from the underworld do not want to release Inanna. Erishkigal is not mentioned again in the poem until the last two lines.

‘Holy Erishkigal! Great is your renown.

Holy Erishkigal! I sing your praises!’

The poem ends with Inanna placing her husband and sister-in-law into her sisters’ domain to pay for her actions and Erishkigal being praised.

So 300 unknown men, a brave warrior, Inanna’s brother-in-law, lover, and sister-in-law are all dead (or partly so) because Inanna was insulted by Gilgamesh and what does Erishkigal do? Nothing. She has her baby, pays her debt to the creatures, and handles her domain.

She does not pity herself. She does not seek further revenge on her sister or demand her return. She is in control of herself and does not let her sister’s nonsense effect her beyond when she is forced to directly deal with her. It’s not fair that Inanna goes unpunished and gets her way. It’s not fair that Erishkigal is denied her rightful wrath. But Erishkigal is a queen and above that petty trash. She takes care of her sister’s fallout and rules her domain. She knows life isn’t fair but she also knows her own responsibilities and power and lives her best life no matter what Inanna decides do.

Descent of Inanna tablet

Thanksgiving history

Interesting stuff I learned this morning about thanksgiving:
The ‘original thanksgiving’ between European pilgrims and their Native allies was not ever called thanksgiving or commemorated until much later.
It was a three-day feast of celebration and gratitude that later became associated with the national holiday thanksgiving. This version is sensitive because it often glorifies the moment of harmony before the century of violence that followed. But that’s not how thanksgiving originated and up until this morning, I did not know that.

Thanksgiving, as we know it, was declared by Abraham Lincoln after a 40-year campaign by a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale.
She is very interesting and I want to know even more about her but… it also seems that George Washington declared a day of thanksgiving before Lincoln but his thanksgiving was in February. Washington wanted to celebrate the new nation and dedicate thanks to God for our blessings. A bit of the spirit that has carried on but it wasn’t a nationally recognized holiday.
It wasn’t until the Civil War that the 4th Thursday of November was dedicated as a day to set aside and give thanks by Abraham Lincoln.
It seems that an influential woman named Sarah Josepha Hale, a ‘Martha Stewart’ of her day – editor, writer, mother, and social activist (she wrote Mary had a Little Lamb) – Sarah had been campaigning for a national day of Thanksgiving. It should be noted that she was also a Northerner and abolitionist.
As a writer and activist Sarah successfully got 30 states to celebrate the holiday by 1854. She wrote president Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward to urge them to proclaim the national holiday as a permanent holiday as a way to heal the nation from the wounds of the Civil War in 1863.
It was of mixed success. As a Northern abolitionist that was very vocal and very ‘Yankee’ Hale and the unionist president Lincoln were not the people many southerners wanted to be told to celebrate and give thanks.
For the victorious North, there was much to be thankful for but like Erishkigal and Inanna – for the South – there were hurt feelings and some bitterness towards their northern neighbors. In fact, Texas governor O.M. Roberts refused to recognize the ‘damned Yankee institution’ of thanksgiving from 1879-1882. He also was against the holiday as it mixed religion with government.
Pumpkins and pumpkin pies also became symbols of Yankee thanksgiving which may be why sweet potato and buttermilk are also so popular with the southern states. Me, I’m a Californian, I’d rather have guacamole 🥑

The Descent of Inanna – Part 1

Inanna’s journey into the underworld as it relates to transformative growth

In case you’d rather listen than read.

The Descent of Inanna is a Sumerian poem from over 3,500 years ago that tells the story of Inanna’s journey into her sister’s domain – the underworld. When I first encountered and studied this myth, it was in the context of my dissertation on transformative literacy. The myth was crucial for me in a time when I felt lost and needed to know how to move forward and create a new identity.

Inanna – Queen of Heaven and Earth

As I mentioned, my original research with Inanna was focused towards my work on transformative literacy (for more on this – check out my dissertation link). For this reason, the work I did was deep, but not wide – meaning I went very deep into the focus but did not look into different interpretations or for wider context for the poem. Part 1, this part of the writings on this poem is dedicated to that original, simpler research of the heroine, Inanna. With this research, I will discuss how Inanna is a representation of transformative growth and becoming a “whole person.”

The poem opens with the following lines:

“From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below.
My Lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
Inanna abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.”

For the complete translation of the epic poem click the link below: http://people.uncw.edu/deagona/myth/Descent%20Of%20Inanna.pdf

At first glance, it appears the first three lines are a repetition, but when looked at more closely – it is seen that they go from general to specific.

From the Great above (she, the goddess, Inanna) opened her ear to the Great Below.

Individuation (becoming whole) is initiated by an individual seeking to define themselves and find their place in the world. Transformation is constant, but transformative growth begins with breaking down and creating definition. The first three lines, and then the next two lines help us to understand who Inanna is; they define the central character and action she will take in the story. The Great Above is earth – Inanna’s domain and the Great Below is the underworld – her sister’s domain and the place where none return.

The most important lesson I learned from Inanna was to prepare and the second most important lesson is to have people you can trust and be willing to rely on them. Before Inanna makes her descent into the underworld, she calls her trusted assistant and friend, Ninshubur. Inanna tells Ninshubur of her plan to enter the underworld and gives her instructions of what to do if Inanna does not return. (I won’t detail the plans since it will be revealed as Ninshubur follows the plans later in the poem).

It is only after Inanna makes the necessary plans to secure a return, that she gets all dressed up and leaves her earthly temples to visit her recently widowed sister Erishkigal in the underworld. She intends to attend the funeral for her brother-in-law, the Bull of Heaven, and see her sister.

When Inanna arrives at the gates to the underworld, this is how she appears:

As tall as heaven and as wide as the earth.

On her head she wears the shurgarra, the crown of the steppe.
Across her forehead her dark locks of hair are carefully arranged.
Around her neck she wears the small lapis beads.
At her breast she wears the double strand of beads.
Her body is wrapped in the royal robe.
Her eyes are daubed with the ointment “let him come, let him come.”
Around her chest she wears the breast plate called “come, man, come!”
On her wrist she wears the gold ring.
In her hand she carries the lapis measuring rod and line.”

When Erishkigal hears that her sister is there to visit her in her finery, she is not pleased and she instructs the gate keeper to close the seven gates and allow Inanna to enter each gate, one at a time. At each gate, Inanna is to be stripped of one of the items she is wearing (each colored line represents one of the items that was removed) and not until she is completely stripped and humbled will she be allowed entrance.

The dark and light goddesses unite

This part is all a bit severe when looked at in the context of the poem alone. My research explained that Inanna is the light side and Erishkigal is the dark – that what benefits Inanna usually hurts Erishkigal and it is for this reason that Erishkigal is angry. However, the research also had other interpretations – like Inanna represented the conscious, known self that is metaphorically diving into her unconscious where she faces her inner demons to become a more complete and better version of herself. I don’t know what it really means or represents at this point – I just know Erishkigal makes her sister humble before she will see her and when she does see her, she unleashes her judgement and wrath and turns her into a disgusting piece of rotting meat which she then leaves to hang on a hook. HARSH!

At the time, the way I understood this part of the story is that it represented how when you face your inner self – it’s often painful and humbling because there are things we bury because we don’t want to face them or admit that they are a part of ourselves. When you are honest with yourself (really honest) and see yourself for your weaknesses and faults – you can become crushed by the shame, crushed by regret, or simply just crushed and feel like your insides are ripped out until you are nothing but meat – rotting away on a hook. (I was going through a painful time in my life and the image of rotting meat on a hook related heavily to how I felt inside.)

Inanna would have stayed on the hook if it had not been for planning and the loyalty of Ninshubur to follow through with Inanna’s plans.

After three days, when Inanna did not return, Ninshubur openly went into mourning (as instructed), but also began to aid Inanna in her return. Ninshubur goes to Inanna’s father, then grandfather, and finally to her other grandfather seeking assistance for bringing Inanna out of the underworld. The first two refuse to help Inanna and say that she basically got what she deserved (again HARSH), but the third has sympathy for Inanna and sends two creatures to Erishkigal. He instructs the creatures with how to bring Inanna back to life and back to her place on earth.

When the beings find Erishkigal, she is alone and in labor with a child from her recently deceased husband. Erishkigal moans with pain and the beings moan with her in sympathy, she cries in pain, and the beings cry with her. In this way, by being present and showing empathy for Erishkigal, the beings eased her suffering and gave her some solace in a difficult time. For their actions, Erishkigal grants them anything they ask for – which of course, they ask for the rotting corpse of Inanna, as instructed.

Once the little creatures get Inanna’s corpse, they sprinkle the water and food of life on her and she is again Inanna and has the ability to return home. But it isn’t that simple – Inanna can’t just leave – Inanna was judged and sentenced, she can’t just leave without payment – Inanna is allowed to go but she has to send someone to take her place in the underworld.

With my research at the time, I saw this story as transformation – Inanna is stripped (broken down and defined), she faces challenges and reaches a final “rock bottom,” and then she rises after a final struggle and triumph but she is different because she has demons with her – these demons are called gallas.

When I went through my difficult time, I felt stripped of my identity, stripped of the things I held dear, stripped of my possessions, my security, and basically I felt like I had lost my life. Believe me, it was painful and I felt the full weight of my judgements on my self, I felt shame and regret. I was angry and hurt, but when I didn’t feel pain, confusion, loss, and millions of other feeling I associated with Inanna’s experience to becoming a corpse on a hook, deep down, I had faith and I actually felt a bit of relief at being fully stripped and taken to my lowest point – I knew I would be like Inanna and rise again. I knew it had to get better – it really couldn’t get worse, could it?

Inanna rose – with her gallas. She met Ninshubur who cried with joy to see Inanna. The gallas were hungry – like when we have suffered, we often feel the need to unleash the pain. The gallas wanted to take Ninshubur into the underworld in Inanna’s place and Inanna refused.

Inanna next meets her son, then another son, and finally her beautician – all three were in mourning at Inanna’s death and rejoice when they see her. The gallas want to take them in Inanna’s place and Inanna refuses again and again because they are loyal.

Finally, Inanna sees her lover Dumuzi. Dumuzi is not in mourning, on the contrary – he is dressed finely and seated upon his throne. Inanna takes one look at him and her gallas descend on him. She not only returns from the underworld, she is more powerful than before because she uses her gallas (her experience) not to harm just anyone around her, but she guides them to punish the one that is disloyal to her. She is not controlled by her gallas – she controls them and aims them at her lover.

I wanted to be like Inanna – I wanted my pain, my experiences to give me strength, and to do that, I needed to learn control. From Inanna, I learned how to take something painful and through planning, help from others, and some hard work – it is possible to rise and return with more strength and power.

Thank you for reading – please leave me your feedback – I look forward to reading what you think.

Part 2 will look at the poem in the larger cultural context that includes the story – The Epic of Gilgamesh.

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Samhain, Halloween, Dia de los muertos

Honoring the dead, honoring our past, and merging cultures

Today is a holiday – to Catholic’s, it is All souls’ day, which is associated with Halloween and the traditions from the Celtic celebration of the dead, Samhain. Today is also Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican day for remembrance that is it is celebrated as a combination of the Spanish Allhallowtide and the Aztec month-long celebration honoring the king, but especially the queen, Mictecihuatl, of the underworld.

To research, I started with Samhain. I wrote a blog about Samhain and it’s significance. This is the origin of one of my favorite holidays, Halloween. I knew it had Celtic roots but I had limited knowledge of Samhain itself. So, the blog on Samhain is from the origin, the seed, and now the roots of the tree that is Halloween.

I thought I missed Dia de los muertos , that it was November 1st, but fortunately – today is the day, November 2nd, two days after Halloween.

Why two days after Halloween? Because Dia de los muertos is a relatively new holiday with very old origins. The Celtic holiday, Samhain, was a celebration of slowing down and of remembering the dead. It was when the the dead and living could commune and divination is most often attempted. Samhain is one root, Samhain was adopted to base the Allhallowtide season that is a three day celebration – All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls’ Day – October 31, November 1, and 2nd.

So in 621 AD, when the church created All Saints day, they used Samhain to set the date, November 1st and they borrowed aspects of the Celtic holiday to get buy-in from the former Celts. This tradition crossed the ocean to North American and morphed inti what we know as Halloween.

This tradition also crossed the ocean to the Southern Hemisphere with the Spaniards and landed amongst the Aztecs. The Aztecs had their own traditions. They had 20 days of rituals from late July to mid August that were to honor the queen of the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli.

This is where the Celtic/Christian holiday of All Souls’ Day merged with the Aztec traditions. The newly-created holiday made a three-day long celebration to honor the dead during the Christian holiday that honored the dead it combined the Aztec with the Spanish (which was a combo of Christian and Celtic).

So Dia de los muertos is a Mexican holiday that claims Aztec, Catholic, and Celtic lineage.

The common thread that connects these holidays is death. These holidays all ask us to slow down to take time to remember those that are no longer living and to recognize that one day, we too will face the end of life.

Samhain: How to approach darkness and descent?

Darkness can be unsettling, but it can also become a source of strength and power. We can enter darkness with fear, anger, and ignorance and experience sadness and hate OR we can choose to bring our light to the darkness with reflection, forgiveness, and gratitude and experience joy and love. It is a choice we are constantly making but this season gives us time to remember who we are.

Samhain, All Hollow’s Eve, or Halloween – it goes by many names and has special significance for many cultures. In the culture I grew up, we called it Halloween and it signified mischief, costumes, and CANDY, but there is a deeper connection – an archetypal connection.

(Archetypal is an academic term that describes how some things apply to everyone. Everyone (universally) knows what sadness feels like, everyone has experienced excitement , we all know things from deep inside that we just know, without knowing why we know it – these things that connect us, are archetypal.)

Anyway – back to Samhain and Halloween. Halloween is actually a celebration that is a reaction of the day that follows – all saints day (Dia de los muertos) when the barrier between life and death is lifted and we can reunite with the souls we have lost.

It’s a beautiful thing to reunite with loved ones, but we know that these reunions are not lasting – the dead will once again return to their own plane of existence and we will return to our daily lives. But for that brief moment, for that one day – we are together again.

Death is not the only thing that separates us – we can be separated by distance, obligations, misunderstandings, opportunities, or just circumstance. Regardless the cause for separation, November 1st is a day of reunion – but unlike Thanksgiving when we physically join each other, this is a day of remembering and reflection. We do not get to physically commune with each other.

Just like a Zoom meeting, we are together, we commune with one another … but it isn’t the same. It’s enough, it gets us by until we can meet again, but it is a placeholder.

That seems kind of sad, but it’s joyous – we get a little bit of the people we miss, the people that matter, and also we reunite with our ghosts. There are those absent from our lives we do not miss but like the memories of those we love, they return. We have to deal with our past – the past that we miss, the past we loved, and the past we regret.

Sometimes we long to return to the past so we can relive something beautiful. We want to reunite with the person we love but with reflection, we can be faced with darkness. Samhain urges us to enter the darkness. Right now – until Dec 21st, every day will be shorter and every night longer. We are descending into darkness – this is the reality – the sun is further and our environment is colder. It is becoming winter (for us in this hemisphere).

Darkness and cold bring many emotions, many ideas. Fear, surprise, uncertainty, anonymity, freedom, chaos, liberation, sadness, understanding. Darkness and cold make us rest, they make us stay still, take time, and reflect.

So tonight, embrace the madness, the chaos, and uncertainty. Brazenly walk the streets as ghouls, kitties, and superheroes. Demand some candy and create a little mischief. Because tomorrow and through this season of darkness comes our time for reflection. Tomorrow we begin to slow down, tomorrow we have time to remember the people we no longer have in our lives, and in the following month that leads to Thanksgiving, we will have time to receive gratitude as we remember our past, the experiences and souls that have touched our lives. We can use this time of darkness to reflect, to let go, to be full of gratitude, forgiveness, and most of all … LOVE.