First published in The Beltane Papers #27
At this time of the turning to the Goddess, She waits for us in the sanctuary of The Cave, the only dwelling of the Goddess blessed with no name. The Temple of Isis, the Delphic Oracle, the Well of Mary, and all other homes of the Female Face of the Divine own names of affection and power to welcome, enlighten, and enliven us. The Cave is the place where we bring not sacrifices of f ood or wine, as in ancient days, but of ourselves.
You, too, are a pilgrim to The Cave. Your journey to The Cave is made in the moment it takes to pass beyond life into death, for the balance to tip between waxing and waning on the solstice, for panic to t ake over where your soul once lived. It is that instant when you close your eyes against those special horrors that you cannot make yourself see and open them to find that you are in the dusk of aimlessless and alienation.
After wandering down a long passageway, first strolling then running in terror when it seems it will never end, you arrive at the center of The Cave. At its core is a pit with embers casting amber and scarlet onto the faces of hundreds of women hovering around a circle. The women stand, kneel, or lie prostrate before the pit which overflows with vessels. The exiles do not breathe but instead take in despair and grow more invisible with each exhale. You turn from them for the more you gaze at them the more they become simply shades in the ether. Instead, you stare at the vessels. Some are porcelain, some pottery, some hollowed stones, and some are made from human organs tossed away from the surgeon’s table. Some are very, very ancient, some have not yet hardened. Many seem so familiar they could have been created by your own hand.
“In that one is my breast,” whispers one woman into your ear as if divulging a great secret only you can know.
“The metal one is made from the knife that my attacker held,” another says prayerfully.
“The gray pot is made from the clay that holds my child’s grave,” a third weeps though her eyes will give no more tears.
When each has formed her burden into words all are silent until the woman closest to you pleads “Will you be the one to bring us out of The Cave?”
Only at that moment do you notice that you, too, hold a vessel. Look at it now and see what it is made of, what color it is, what it smells and tastes of, with what images it imprisons your mind. What childhood memory, what blackmail, what grief, what is in your vessel?
When you know your vessel, bless it for truly it is now your best and only friend, your only ransom to buy your escape. “Have you asked the Goddess to take away your pain? Maybe that is the way out,” you ask. One of the inmates will always reply, as she has a million times before, “Yes. We have all asked. We are still here.”
Perhaps, you wonder, you can now simply walk out of The Cave and leave your vessel behind. You turn from the pit and slip away from the women, retracing your path until you are once again outside the Cave. As you place one foot in front of the other to carry you away your arms begin to ache. Your find that you still carry your vessel, but now it is too heavy to hold yet you cannot set it down.
You return and wearily lay it on the pile once more. Why did you not see that you are here in many forms? Each time you have come you have left part of you here to tend the burden and so you meet yourself as a child, as a young woman, in the guise of women you had forgotte n you had ever been, mourning the loss of things you no longer desire.
“So, She has abandoned me. After all the ceremonies, after all the prayers, after all the faith, She is gone when I most need Her.”
“No, I am here,” a voice responds. The least of the women steps forward. She is tiny, bowed, covered in ashes, so demeaned that no one even noticed Her. “I have always been here. But I cannot take your vessel from you. You are no longer a child. It is yours and I would not steal it from you. I am holding it for you, can you not see?”
When you look more closely at the vessels you see that, indeed, they are being upheld by Hands that endured burning, weight, and blood to keep them safe.
“In the vessel is not nothingness, but a sacred space of transformation. Enter your burden and you will find the greatest gift I can give.”
You retrieve your vessel from Her Hands and it begins to surround you. You step inside it and witness all you have endured as if you were the Goddess Herself watching your devastation in infinite sorrow. You see yourself rising each day to face a world that has beaten you, that has poisoned you, that has abused you until you no longer know who you really are. You know that you have survived all this and that, yet, each morning, you rise again. What more have you to fear? What greater gift is there than to know that you need have no more fear?
“This is not only a place of falling away, but also of forging,” intones a voice that you do not at first recognize. It is not the Goddess, it is not any of the women, it is your own. The place where your vessel was is smooth and reflects the light of the pit back up to you as you truly are. You now understand the secret that belongs to all Earth women. The Cave is not nameless because it contains the nothingness of Goddesslessness, but because it is the Cave of the Great Womb, the inner space of life-giving. But even that name does not begin to speak its powers and so it must remain nameless.
A chamber deeper within The Cave is now visible with a pit full of vessels, but no one tending them.
“They are mine,” says the Goddess. “In them are all the rivers that no longer flow in my veins, the animals that no longer roam on my skin, the air that chokes me, all the violence that has been visited on my daughters and sons since time began.”
“What can I do? These are not mine! They are too many!” you protest.
“Look at the hands holding them,” the Goddess asks. The hands are yours. “As I held yours, so you must hold Mine.”
“What shall I do?” you ask.
“Blow life into them. Only a human woman who has chosen to dwell this planet still after all the sorrow that has been visited upon her here, who has gained her magical powers by transmuting despair into life, can free them and herself from this place.” You inhale, ready to breathe onto the vessels and you see that the darkness of the pit in your hands is deeper than you ever imagined.
“It is the richest shadow; it is the fertility of deep space, the evergreen renewal of the soil of your plainest backyard garden,” Her voice says.
After a time another woman enters and begins also to blow, then another and another. The burdens in the vessels begin to simmer and metamorphose.
“The time has come,” the Goddess says. “The Women of the Earth have finally arrived in the Cave of the Great Womb.”