The Dark Goddesses are the Initiators, the Psychopomps, the threshold Goddesses between our world and the otherworld. They mediate our consciousness, expose our shadows and accompany us through the underworld – through our unconscious. Many of the Dark Goddesses are Creators and Destroyers – they hold sway over the most powerful moments in human lives: childbirth, initiation, death, dreams, and both shamanic and psychic experiences. At this time of the year, the Dark Mothers also hold sway over the seasons and are preparing to lead us from the contemplations of Autumn to the deep mysteries of Winter.
In Pagan traditions, Halloween (also called Samhain) is the beginning of the new year – October 31. Traditionally, the night of All Hallow’s Eve is associated with celebrating the Ancestors and the night when the veils between our world and the Astral Plane are considered to be at their thinnest. Even in non-Pagan traditions, celebrations for All Soul’s Day and Dias de los Muertos are occurring at the same time. Going back to ancient times, the graves and final resting places of the dead would be decorated, including the favorite foods and objects of those who had passed, and families would spend a night (or several nights) in vigil at the burial place. Part of this was to honor the Ancestors and part of this was to appease the spirits of the dead so that they would not create negative energy, or even physical illnesses, in the living.
Sink down, sink down, sink deeper and more deep
Into eternal and primordial sleep.
Sink down, be still, forget and draw apart,
Into Her inner earth’s most secret heart.
Drink the waters of Persephone,
The Secret well beside the Sacred Tree,
Waters of Life and Strength and Inner Light,
Eternal Joy born from the deeps of night.
Then rise made strong, with life and hope renewed,
Reborn from darkness and from solitude,
Blessed with the Blessings of Persephone,
The secret strength of Rhea Binah Ge.
~ Dion Fortune
On these nights of worship and communion, we seek connection to our roots, our Ancestors – a remembrance, a glimpse, a whisper from those who have passed on. We honor their lives and gather in community to share and remember. We call out to the Goddesses of the Dead to grant us safe passage on these wild, magical nights and to perhaps allow messages through the veils. Our offerings recognize the Goddesses and our loved ones who have passed into the embrace of the Dark Mothers.
Hekate – Greek Goddess – Goddess of the Dead and the Crossroads who holds sway over Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. She is Queen of the Horde, which contains spirits/souls that She holds until they are ready to pass over.
Cerridwen – Welsh Goddess – Sacred Keeper of the Cauldron of Death and Rebirth. She represents Spiritual Transformation.
Kali – Hindu Goddess of Karma and Time. She lives in the cremation grounds and is known as the Destroyer.
Erishkegal – Sumerian Goddess and Ruler of the Underworld. She is the Goddess Inanna’s sister.
Baba Yaga – Slavic dark Earth Mother/Crone whose stove holds dead souls prior to being reborn with new wisdom, and whose avian devotees act as psychopomps.
Arianrhod – Welsh Goddess – Caer Arianrhod is the place to which souls withdraw between incarnations.
Cailleach – Hag Goddess of Scotland and the bringer of Winter. She brings nightmares, terrors and death.
The Morrigan – Irish War Goddess who is associated with death. Also called the Queen of Demons.
Nana Buruku – Primordial Creator Goddess who mediates Life and Death – the Grandmother of the Orishas – associated with shadows and deep magick.
Persephone – Greek – Queen of the Underworld who resides with Her consort Hades in the Underworld for the dark half of the year.
Hel – Teutonic Goddess of the Dead.
Oya – Orisha who lives at the gates of the cemetery and controls the souls of the dead.
While the Dark Mothers are an intimidating group on the surface, there is so much that they bring to us – knowledge of our shadow sides, initiations, transitions. Without their influence and regard, we would not move forward in our journeys or incarnations. They represent the cycles of our human and spiritual lives. Archetypally, they are death (spiritual and physical) and the promise of rebirth.
The underworld has gone into the unconscious; even become the unconscious. Depth psychology is where today we find the initiatory mysteries, the long journey of psychic learning, ancestor worship, the encounters with demon and shadows, and the sufferings of hell. ~ James Hillman
Experiences with the Dark Mothers are intense. Approach and devotion to these Goddesses include enormous amounts of research, and getting your practical and astral abilities in order. Effective Priestesses, Shamans, and Practitioners are able to mediate the dark as well as the light. Recognizing and appreciating the gifts of the Dark Mothers and the Goddesses of the Dead are parts of our spiritual path.
As a Priestess of the Goddess and in particular a Priestess of Hekate for 18 years, I am compelled to post some guidelines to consider when invoking these energies. The Goddesses of the Dead are Ancient and Primordial Goddesses. They hold sway over powerful realms that affect our own realm mightily. None of the Goddesses should be invoked, evoked, or ritually called upon lightly – and this is duly emphasized with the Dark Mothers.
I am a lover of intense research of mythology, rites, and practices. Based on research and decades of experience, here are a few of my personal Priestess recommendations about working with ALL of the Goddesses in ritual or ceremony:
- Ask questions – Seek out experienced Priestesses, Shamans, and Practitioners. We are always available for advice and guidance.
- Research, research, research, and then research some more.
- Acknowledge your own truths – Not everything in books will resonate with you or work for you.
- Prayers, invocations and ritual approaches to Goddess should always be done with respect and care, and backed up by research as to the idiosyncrasies of the particular Goddess that you are calling upon.
- Write your own rituals and invocations.
- If you feel uncertain, pause and approach the Goddess devotionally or in meditation.
- Begin with meditations and reflection and work up to direct ritual/ceremonial contact.
- Ritual and ceremony should not be done when you are extremely emotional or under the influence of alcohol and drugs. (I know some traditions hold with different practices, so I will say again – these are my personal recommendations.)
- Make sure your sacred space is kept clean within and without, and that your ritual process is effectual.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Banish, banish, banish.
- Don’t ask the Goddess for “things” – Bless Her, pray to Her, give Her offerings, show respect, and develop a relationship.
- Revel in your evolving connection with Goddess while being mindful of the potential impact of ancient energies.
A really good example of the importance of following such guidelines is well-illustrated by the Goddess Hekate. She is an ancient and powerful Goddess. She travels with Her Horde of the Restless Dead and has the power to induce madness. Some of Her rituals and ceremonies for offerings are fairly specific (like leave the offering at the crossroad and don’t look back). Getting to know Her and working your way up to formal ritual is a good idea, don’t you think? 🙂
On that note, wishing all who celebrate a wonderful Samhain and Day (days) of the Dead! Please share how you celebrate and if you feel drawn to any of the Goddesses of the Dead.