Denying the Dark Goddess
What happens when we don't want to change?
Transition is life work. Every day is a cycle of transition. Every change a moment of transformation. Right now I am in transition, a myth cycle like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey or Maureen Murdoch’s Heroine’s Path. It is mapped in the traditional phases of a rite of passage process:
Separation from the known — the time where everything changes. This phase can be sudden, shocking, dramatic, or subtle, nuanced and barely noticeable, but there is a clear delineation, a before the change and — later — after.
Transition/Initiation — the liminal phase where all of our structures and securities fall away, we can feel disoriented and uncertain almost everywhere, it is difficult to get a purchase on anything in life. This is where the letting go happens, or, as mythteller Martin Shaw says, something must die in the underworld journey.
Return — return is not going back to where we were at before the transition. Returning from the underworld, we are changed. In the formula of the oldest stories, we receive a gift in our initiations, return with a new status and name. The reality in current culture, however, is that transitions are often resisted, or ignored, and so the return is incomplete. We are caught in the wound. We refuse to allow.
Transition is multiple and mutable, it happens in the micro and macro levels. Sometimes the road of trials is predictable and smooth. Other times, we get caught in the unexpected, the extraordinary. Even the good things in our lives — births, partnerings, new endeavors — can carry the weight of passage. Death is present in every change and however welcome, honoring the past, the lost, bringing into integrity the grief, the truth, this is the work of living fully. But what happens when we don’t want to change?
Every time I approach the precipice of another transition I feel a mounting panic. Something few folks know outside of myth study is that you can be in multiple rites of passage simultaneously. You can even be in multiple phases simultaneously. It is confusing, nonlinear and strange to our modern psyches. We resist the unknowing, long for the comforts of the known world, even as it dissolves around us, even as it has already dissolved.
Yet the mythic formula says resistance is futile. Somewhere in our bones we know. You don’t get out of life without death, you don’t get to death without transition.
In the old stories, those who resist change have it much harder than those who embrace it. The stories ask: will you willingly open the door to the fearsome hag on a winter’s night? Will you offer her in to tea, let her cast her bones before your fire and feed her from your very cup?
We know the answer. To refuse is to deny destiny, to disallow our becoming. To refuse is to invite a different kind of traveler — one manifest in inertia, in chronic, cyclic uncertainty, one who clamps down on the fullness of life, one who demands we live in fear. When we stand on the threshold of change, what is it we actually fear?
The purpose of transition is not to harm us. Yes, pain and ordeal often play a part. We are tested, asked to be strong, resilient, creative, kind. We are invited to deepen our reserves and develop a new knowledge of who we are.
The purpose of transition is revelation: the gifts we carry, the wisdom within, the accumulation of millions of lives and deaths, the beauty of this moment, the potential right here. An invitation, to step into being. Ritual helps navigate transition. Even small rituals create psychic trails in the wilderness of our lives. An ancestral familiarity is opened as we connect with forces beyond the moment, our blood wisdom, our sacred craft. Rituals move us through the known and the unknown with greater ease.
Transitions feel daunting. So many unmarked passages accumulate in our lives, how can we possibly come into integrity with every transition? We can’t. But we can begin to practice effective rituals daily, to build in the rooting and honoring of transition through self-care and story shaping, learning the mythic and singing its song true. Tiny though they are, daily ritual practices open the door for a powerful wholeness.
So when the Dark Goddess knocks on a windless night wrapped in her careful rags and whispering of change, we will meet her. We will be ready.
Lara Veleda Vesta Author of Wild Soul Runes, founder of the Wild Soul School. Explorations include disability as enchantment, myth as healer and ancestral animism. 6