Legend of the Descent of the Goddess
Our Lady would solve all mysteries, even the mystery of Death. And so she journeyed to the Underworld in her boat, upon the Sacred River of Descent. Then it came to pass that she entered before the first of the seven gates to the Underworld. And the Guardian challenged her demanding one of her Garments for passage, for nothing may be received except that something is given in return. And at each of the gates, the Goddess was required to pay the price of passage, for the guardians spoke to her “Strip off your garments, and set aside your jewels, for nothing may you bring with you into this our realm.”
So she surrendered her jewels and her clothing to the Guardians and was bound, as all living must be who seek to enter the realm of Death and the Mighty Ones. At the first gate, she gave over her sceptre, at the second her crown, at the third her necklace, at the fourth her ring, at the fifth her girdle, at the sixth her sandals, and at the seventh her gown. She stood naked and was presented before Death, and such was her beauty that Death himself knelt as she entered. He laid his crown and his sword at her feet saying: “Blessed be thy feet, that have brought you down this path.” Then he arose and said, “ Abide with me, but let me place my cold hand on your heart.”
She replied: “I love thee not. Why do you cause all things that I love and take delight in, to fade and die?”
“My Lady,” replied Death, “it is age and fate, against which you speak. I am helpless, for age causes all things to wither; but when men die at the end of time, I give them rest and peace, and strength. For a time they dwell with the moon, and the spirits of the moon; then may they return to the realm of the living. But you are so lovely and I ask you to return not, but abide with me here!”
But she answered: “No, for I do not love you.” Then said Death: “If you refuse to embrace me, then you must kneel to death’s scourge.” The Goddess answered him: “If it is to be, then it is fate, and better so!” So she knelt in submission before the hand of Death, and he scourged her with so tender a hand that she cried out “I know your pain and the pain of love.”
Death raised her to her feet and said, “Blessed are you my Queen and my Lady” and gave her the Five Kisses of Initiation, saying: “Only thus may you attain to joy and knowledge.”
And he taught her all of his Mysteries, and he gave her the necklace, which is the circle of rebirth. And she taught him her mysteries of the sacred cup, which is the cauldron of rebirth. They loved and were joined in union with each other, and for a time the Goddess lived in the realm of Death.
For there are three mysteries in the life of Man which are Sex, Birth and Death and love controls them all For to fulfil love you must return again at the same time and place as those who loved before. And you must meet, recognize, remember and love them again. But to be reborn you must die and be made ready for a new body. And to die you must be born, and without love, you may not be born amongst your own.
But our Goddess is inclined to favour love, and joy and happiness. She guards and cherishes her hidden children in this life and the next. In death, she reveals the way to her communion, and in life, she teaches them the magic of the mystery of the Circle (which is set between the worlds of men and of the gods).
This text begins with the ancient Mystery teaching that the Goddess was originally incomplete. In order to possess the knowledge of all things she first had to descend into organic matter and experience death.
As the myth unfolds we understand that she must relinquish certain possessions to each Guardian as payment. The seven Gates are symbolic of the Seven Planes, which are;
- The Ultimate Plane
- The Divine Plane
- The Spiritual Plane
- The Mental Plane
- The Astral Plane
- The Elemental Plane
- The Physical Plane
In effect, she had to surrender her Self in order to obtain enlightenment. The items required by the Guardians represent an isolating aspect of Consciousness.
At the first Gate, she relinquishes her sceptre, which is a symbol of her personal power and influence over things around her.
At the second Gate, she relinquishes her crown, symbolic of her authority over others.
At the third Gate, she relinquishes her necklace. This item is symbolic of her claim to personal value, her achievements and accomplishment and her wealth.
At the fourth Gate, she relinquishes her ring. The ring is symbolic of class level and personal labelling. To remove the ring is to stand alone without connection, association or definition.
At the fifth Gate, she relinquishes her girdle. The girdle symbolized social status and the personal facades we establish. It is the recognition of our personal limitations and imperfections in our outward appearance.
At the sixth Gate, she relinquishes her sandals. This represents the chosen path we walk or the politics we adhere to. To remove the sandals is to let our personal views drop away. We stand alone without personal agenda, self-direction or political position. Thus stripped of our self-imposed limitations we can only walk the way of our spirit.
At the seventh and last Gate, the Goddess drops her gown as the final payment to the Guardians of the Portals. The gown is the mortal covering, the connection to linear existence. It is also the Self and its fragile veneer; covering the spirit in a mantle of self-expression it is what isolates the spirit from the whole of spiritual experience. Once the gown is removed then the spirit may join in union with the Community of Spirits.
At this point in the Legend, the Goddess is brought to the Lord of the Underworld. She stands naked before him and so struck is he with her beauty that he kneels before her. This is symbolic of the point at which life and death, increase and decline, meet and renew the endless cycle. The Lord of the Underworld tempts her to remain with him and to embrace his realm of existence. This is the temptation to rest in slumber and avoid the labours of the day, for the seed to sleep beneath the soil and never struggle towards the light. The Goddess can end all strife and unite with her opposite but on his terms only.
She resists the Lord of the Underworld and protests against his role in the decline of life. Since she will not embrace him freely he compels her to accept his scourge. He teaches her that he is not responsible for decline and death; his is a role of comforting and transforming those who have crossed over. Thus the Goddess passes into an understanding of her polarity and incorporates it into her own Being. This is reflected in her proclamation of newfound love for the Dark Lord.
Next, the Legend tells us that the Lord and Lady reveal their respective mysteries to each other. The Goddess receives the necklace of rebirth, symbolic of the link between the worlds. The Dark Lord receives the cauldron of rebirth, symbolic of the manifested power. They then love and become one, symbolically achieving the balance between life and death. No longer are they enemies, but equal participants in a cycle of renewal. The three mysteries in the life of humankind are revealed: Sex becomes the gateway to life from the Underworld, Birth is the renewal, and Death is the transformation.
The Legend continues with the Mystery Teaching concerning reincarnation. Here we are told that we must meet, recognize, remember, and love anew. This teaching originates from the time of the early clans and is connected with the Slain God myths. The sending of the willing sacrifice to convey the needs of the tribe before the Gods themselves is a very ancient concept. Once the sacrificial victim was killed, the clan held magickal rites designed to ensure the rebirth of the soul among his or her own people. This is one of the reasons hereditary Witch families are so concerned about bloodlines.
The final passage in the Legend tells of the enlightenment gained by the Goddess in the Descent. To be one of her hidden children is to descent into the shadows and unite with her Mysteries. In so doing the soul is aligned with her renewal and unites with her in a spiritual union.
In the last verses, we are told that the magick that will align us with the Goddess will be found between the worlds. The Magick Circle on this plane is the ritual circle wherein we celebrate the wheel of the year and the Lunar rites. Once properly cast the Circle moves between the world and we are magically aligned with the Goddess. As above, so below, the Circle of Magick is the unfolding of the Legend of the Descent where we will encounter the Dark Lord and inherit the legacy of renewal and rebirth.