Descent and The Chthonic Ocean

pbp1I realized, while trying to pen my two separate posts, The Chthonic Ocean and Descent, that I couldn’t separate the two. So here are both, for D, and I’ll just have to come up with something else for another C post. (Or vice versa.)

The Descent to the Underworld myth-paradigm is one that has fascinated me for most of my life. When I was a child trying to make sense of my parents’ divorce, my father’s uncontrollable rage and borderline-sociopathy, I clung to the story of Persephone. I was She, in my child’s mind, and my father was the lord of the underworld. And someday I’d see my mother again, and the earth would no longer be death.

As I grew older, I began to see the myth in a new light. The Underworld was no longer representative of my father’s house; instead, it was depression, anxiety, mental illness. And I was the Queen of those things. The Underworld became my second home, because I was comfortable there.

At some point, it became more comfortable than the upper world. Eventually I read more Descent myths. I especially liked Inanna’s, and it was off Hers that I modeled the Descent myth in Bellica.

The Underworld does not accept lies or self-deceptions. It demands you naked. It demands you leave behind attachments of the Upper World.

It’s warm, within the earth; it’s full of life.

It wasn’t until recently that I started thinking of the Underworld being the Ocean, and thinking more about the death part of the death-and-rebirth cycle.

It’s sort of odd that we think about the earth and the dirt and the loam and the caverns underneath, and the heat of the earth’s core, and connect those with the Underworld.

We forget that the ocean is much closer to the Underworld than any cave on dry land. We forget that the ocean is our true connection to the under-earth. And that’s terrifying, because the ocean is the place we can’t really fully explore without a lot of technological help.

I tried to do some trance work on Winter Solstice. I wanted to learn about the mysteries of my Father — my true Father, the lord Manannan.

His domain is not only the rain and mist, but the ocean, too, and I wanted to see what was down there. I started having a major anxiety attack because I felt like I was drowning, and I had to rip myself out of trance before I hurt myself thrashing about on the floor.

What on earth just happened? I asked Him.

There are some Mysteries you’re not ready for.

Since then I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about this. I have no definitive answers, only more questions and some musings. I have musings on spiritual cognates  and parallel gods — the second term there referring to beings who come from the Lady of the Stars, the Lord of the Deeps, the Sovereign of the Blooded Land, who overlap with Them in those venn diagrams. Birth, death, life.

In my personal tradition, the gods who come from those bigger, unfathomable beings are Brighid, Manannan, and Morrigan. But there are more: other gods come from those beings. (I mentioned a few in my Geas post, linked above. I’m sure there are many more.) Manannan is Death, to me. Making me the daughterson of death.

I find this oddly appropriate; since a young age, I’ve been fascinated with death and dying. Death has always been one of my favourite Tarot cards. I was once told by a priest in the Mayan tradition that my power is the power of transition between the two states — that I am able to help people cross over.

But these are not mysteries I am ready for, says my Father.

At Spring Mysteries, my suspicions were…not confirmed, really, but solidified. I’d had an inkling of a thought for a while that Manannan’s spiritual cognate or parallel god (or both) in the Hellenic pantheon, at least, was Hades.

I can’t explain how these suspicions were confirmed because I think that may be straying too far towards revealing oathbound material. All I can tell you is that there was a moment when I knew the realm of my father and the realm of Hades were — if not the exact same place — certainly neighbouring each other.

(I just got a mental picture of Hades coming over to Manannan’s place to borrow a cup of sugar. …not smote yet; so far so good.)

This paints things clearer for me in my personal practice, which focuses on triads. Sky, land, sea. Birth, life, death. Fire, earth, water. Heavens, land, underworld. And on.

It also helps me realize why I’ve always had such a fear of the ocean, of drowning. I used to think I wasn’t afraid of death; that I was ready to die — it was just certain ways of dying freaked me out. My experience with belladonna made me realize I’m not ready to die and I do fear death.

Oh, hey, apparently I’m human.

Which…doesn’t mean I fear my Father; I’m happy knowing that when I do die He’ll be there to greet me on the other side. I’m just afraid of dying now. I have so much to do. I have a great life ahead of me. I don’t want it cut short.

So there are some mysteries I’m not ready for, and it may be years before I am.

That’s fine. I can wait patiently. In the meantime, I’ll do the Work.

-M

PS: I realize this turned rambly and completely incoherent by the end. Unfortunately I’m not able to be much clearer than this. Sorry.

1 Comment


  1. I never thought of Manannan as a ruler of death (Otherworld, but not Underworld in my thoughts), but what you’ve said reminded me of some experiences I’ve had with him, and a promise he made me about my own death, and the fact that he only rarely encourages travel beneath, instead of on, the sea. And it makes sense, the primal waters as the Underworld. Thank you for expanding the way I’m seeing.

    Reply

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