|Jane Meredith, author of The Dark Goddess|
We are delighted to bring you a Q&A between Book Club co-host Stephanie Dowrick and Jane Meredith, author of Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul, an intelligent, beautiful book that invites you into a journey of personal depth and discovery.
Jane herself says that her book "is not so much about the Dark Goddess herself, as about our journeys towards her and the time we spend in her realms".
Q: What is the "Dark Goddess" to you personally. Is this more than an archetype?
The Dark Goddess is far more than an archetype to me. She is winter, she is night; she is that moment down the bottom of the pit, when things can’t get any worse and suddenly I see something, know something, have myself revealed to myself… She is Ereshkigal, she is Kali and Persephone, she is my nemesis and she guards my soul – compromises I might be prepared to make, she never makes and so when I need to return to myself, she always remembers my truth.
Really, I would say she is not an archetype at all; she is tangible, she is part of myself and she is Goddess; one expression of the Divine, and particularly the Divine Feminine. It’s not that she is ‘like’ winter, or night, or not that they remind me of her (though they do). It’s that literally the night is of her, literally winter is an aspect of her. She is as real as the black cosmos that lies between the stars, as real as the night I gave birth to my son; she is a truth of nature, of endings, change, dissolution; she holds the secrets of the cycles of life, the beginnings-and-endings place.
She is my map when I am lost. She is the voice inside, whispering the truth I don’t want to hear. She is the grace of rest after hard work, comfort after grief. She is clarity, she is healing and release, she is the mystery.
Q: I'd also love to know what the personal meaning for you is of the "Divine Feminine"?
The Divine Feminine for me is the life-force; that impulse towards life; it is the birth-giving nature of the universe, of nature itself, of ourselves. It is there when stars explode, in the life-bearing seas, in the eyes and the bearing of women everywhere. The Divine Feminine can be named as Goddess, or recognised in names such as Aphrodite, Inanna, Mary, Cerridwen, Isis and thousands of others. We all participate in the Divine Feminine – all of nature and certainly all of humanity, is part of this vast life-becoming. I have a very strong feeling for and relationship with the Goddess, as earth, as this life-impulse, and as reflecting my own woman’s being. I work with different myths, and different aspects of Goddess as I am called to; but even when I study or experience something not intrinsically Goddess-related (such as the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, for instance) I will be exploring it for its resonances with the Divine Feminine.
Q: Your book offers the "Dark Goddess" as a journey towards soul strengths. I am wondering if "dark" is off-putting for some readers. Can you give us some hints of the positive frame of reference you develop?
Which of us has not had times in our lives where we felt lost, abandoned, struggling, deeply uncertain, afraid, devastated? One of the most fascinating things is that after the worst times in our lives – times when we have had to strip away everything, down to the bone – when we emerge we are renewed. This is darkness, and its mysteries. Each of us knows it intimately. To recognise the Dark Goddess is to recognise these times in our lives – even to honour them – and to begin to understand that they are part of the cycles of human life. Once we see this, we begin to understand that this place also holds gifts for us, and that there are paths through this place; paths we have not been taught to tread, but that once we set off with an open mind, into these realms, no longer as victim or in denial or avoidance, that fear of darkness and everything associated with it will begin to change within us, offering us not just truth and healing, but also rebirth which lies on the other side of the dark.
Q: I'd love you to name the particular soul strengths you have developed through writing this book, and through the journeys you describe?
Journey to the Dark Goddess is the culmination of twenty years work, in exploring this mythology, in developing process and ritual and journeying through my own dark realms. It is a major work for me, and I think it’s fair to say it has made me who I am. All of my other work, writing and my personal life are referenced to this material and these understandings. I think I have developed courage, compassion, detachment, willingness, clarity and joy – but they are all put to the test, any time I encounter the Dark Goddess in a powerful way, which is as it should be.
I was told, by a mentor, to write this book over ten years ago. But I couldn’t do it until now. It took me that long to understand how to write a book on the Dark Goddess that wasn’t an academic or psychological work, as so many of them seem to be. In writing my first book, Aphrodite’s Magic, I learnt how to actually write a book, and learnt what I am good at: personal writing, accessible processes and rituals, offering material simply and clearly, issuing invitation to the mythos. Through that lens I finally was able to commit to writing this Dark Goddess book, which is not so much about the Dark Goddess herself, as about our journeys towards her and the time we spend in her realms.
Q: You write from a very hopeful perspective. What is your greatest source of hope?
I think my sources of hope are very simple. The sun rises each day, and any day one chooses one can get up and watch it arrive. It is stunning, every day. The moon follows its beautiful cycles and I trace it over the month, watching it wax, reach full, wane and enter into the dark, to emerge again a few nights later. These things seem tremendously beautiful and life-affirming to me. My son is a delight; my cat lies on top of me and purrs. I feel the spark of the life-force within me - the living Goddess – and I can express it any way I choose: through song or ritual, walking on the beach, breathing into it, writing or gazing into the eyes of another. I especially love rivers, trees and white cockatoos and they always fill me with an expansive hope and joy.
Q: You treasure ritual and ceremony (and so do I). Are there daily or domestic rituals you particularly treasure?
I am not so oriented to these; though I suppose you could say my morning cup of tea, and writing in my diary (also morning) are rituals. There are two types of ritual I especially love. One is a regular type of ritual; committing to celebrate the eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year, for example, or every dark moon for a year, or when I work a myth or process with a group over a certain period of time (anywhere from four months to a year). I usually have a few of these running at any one time, and they create their own patterns and cadences. At the moment I am working through the Norse myth of the Goddess Freyja, with a group over four months; working through Starhawk and Hilary Valentine’s book Twelve Wild Swans over a ten-month period with another group, and undertaking my own Aphrodite’s Magic process with a group over eight months.
The other sort of ritual I love is when I am seized by ritual – a need comes over me, for understanding, for change, for depth – and I determine on a ritual, which could be clear from the outset, or something I make up as I go along. Recently, trying to recover from a long-term relationship that had broken up I decided to conduct a five-element purge, over a whole weekend which coincided with the Wheel of the Year’s Lammas season. This just fell together for me, as I went through it. It might be something much simpler: walking along the ocean under the full moon, setting up an altar for a particular deity or purpose.
Q: Do you advise most people to make these deep inner journeys in company with others, whenever possible? That would seem wise to me?
It is certainly possible to undertake deep and ritual journeys with others, or parallel with others. But this journey to the Dark Goddess – which is something each of us undertake at least several times in our lives, and often unwillingly – seems to be one we undertake only in the company of our own soul. One of the marks of this journey – how we know that this is what is happening to us – is that we feel so alone. Others may be all around us, deeply interested in what is happening for us, loving us deeply and unreservedly; and yet we feel alone. We are often unwilling to speak of what is happening inside us, or we don’t have words for it, yet. Something is shifting – changing – dying – becoming, and we don’t even know what it is, yet. Or who we are, anymore.
This is why cultivating a strong relationship with the Dark Goddess is so advisable – because she is there. When there is no one else who has a clue what is happening within us, reading the myths and stories of the Dark Goddess, gazing into a mirror for our own wisdom or seeking out the innermost knowing we carry within us we meet this Dark Goddess piece of ourselves. The myths themselves offer a clarity our own lives usually don’t have, and through their lens, we understand the essence of what is happening to us; so I guess we are in the company of the myths, if we seek them out, and the Dark Goddess herself.
Differing from the times in our lives where we are deep in our own process, grief, pain, uncertainty, unknowing are times when we might choose to undertake this journey as part of a ritual process, a workshop or an exploration. These can certainly be done in company with others, and because here the learning is much more in the conscious realm, they can be articulated and processed much more immediately.
Q: You write very fluently and poetically. Can you tell us a little more about your "writer's journey", and perhaps also where it is currently taking you?
Thank you, Stephanie. That’s very kind of you, and since you are a writer as well, I take it as a compliment.
As soon as I could read on my own, when I was six, I knew I wanted to write books. And I have written ever since then. I have written short stories, poetry, memoir, young adult fiction, articles, as well as my books: Aphrodite’s Magic: Celebrate and Heal your Sexuality, Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul, and Rituals of Celebration: Honouring the Seasons of Life through the Wheel of the Year (July 2013). I’m currently writing a book based on a magical system I dreamed up and worked with for many years, The Circle of Eight. Writing, and ritual and magic are the two paths I am absolutely dedicated to, and to have them come together in my books is a fierce joy. I also write a blog, from time to time, at www.janemeredith.com/blog and articles for various magazines and anthologies.
Jane Meredith is an author and ritualist. She lives in Sydney and conducts workshops and courses throughout the year, in Australia, the UK and on-line. She is a Reclaiming teacher and organises and teaches at CloudCatcher WitchCamp. Jane is passionate about ritual, magic and the invocation of the divine feminine. Some of her favourite things are trees, rivers, cats and dark chocolate.
Jane’s website: www.janemeredith.com
Jane’s blog: www.janemeredith.com/blog
Jane’s workshops and events: www.janemeredith.com/southeast/calender.html
Journey to the Dark Goddess: How to Return to Your Soul: www.moon-books.net/index.php?id=99&p=1508
Aphrodite’s Magic: Celebrate and Heal Your Sexuality: www.moon-books.net/index.php?id=99&p=565
Rituals of Celebration: Honouring the Seasons of Life through the Wheel of the Year (forthcoming, July 2013): www.llewellyn.com/product.php?ean=9780738735443
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