When a cherished part of us is dying, either by way of our own discernment or by the hands of fate, we find ourselves at a crossroads between the past and a dubious future. I call these Crawling on the Belly times because it’s as if our legs are knocked out from under us, and we’re forced down by the elemental gravity of loss. Though others may surround us, we exist alone in exile from what we loved, and the only way forward is through the dirt.
We’ve all heard that there is a cycle, how rebirth comes from death, but rarely do we acknowledged the treacherous valley between them.
At the Clava Cairns in Inverness, there are ancient burial chambers used for over a thousand years by the Celts to honour death and ritualise the cycle of seasons. Some believe the labyrinthine construction of these chambers was meant to symbolise the spiral of life. It is believed that you had to crawl on your belly through a dark tunnel to reach the dead. Carved there in the stones are mysterious ring and cup marks that historians link to the Triple-Goddess, Maiden-Mother-Crone.
Though she exists in many cultures under different names, the Crone is the embodiment of the feminine trinity. She has lived through all the ages, and is the archetype of their accumulated wisdom. In those Crawling on the Belly times, when you are facing death, she holds a lamplight at the crossroads and asks you to make a choice. She says, Whatever terrible thing is happening to you, can you choose it? Can you give a good death to that which is leaving you?
This is the domain of Hecate. It is a time of prolonged darkness, where we are met with our greatest fears, perceived limitations, and invalidations to our truth. Maybe you have a powerful image – something that emblemises the future you long for, but in the death valley that image is compromised. You are tested by doubt and disillusionment, led to question, dismiss, and even discard your dream. Through harrowing confrontations with her own deaths, the Crone has learned which inner voices belong to others, and which are native to her soul. This is the light of discernment that she hands to you now. You are being asked to face the shadow self, and dispell any images or thoughts that aren’t your own. To differentiate between the dark spell of your invalidations, and the clear light of your holy truth.
As a triple-goddess, Hecate sees the past, present, and future all at once. In the Eleusinian myth of the abducted Greek Goddess Persephone, when she is reunited with her mother Demeter, the Crone is there to greet them and says, “From this day on, I will precede and follow Persephone.” How can she be in these three places at once? She is the consciousness that has been initiated by experience. She was once the impulsive youth, but has learned from loss and remorse, and knows now to pause and deliberate at the crossroads. Hecate is she who can see the patterns linking past relationships with our present lives. She holds the lamplight in the dark, sometimes a key, to tell us to turn inward so we can see where we’ve been “in the dark” about something.
Like Persephone, there are times when we are plunged into the dark, held captive by a depression, enshadowed by fear, overwhelmed by loss. But there, in the dark itself, in the coming to face what we most fear, we have a chance at reclaiming the energy that has been drained by any falseness we’ve been living. As Hecate said to Demeter, “Seek the truth.” The truth is what is freed up from the shattering of illusions. It may be a truth that invoked this crossroads in the first place. But though illusions can be seductive, they are draining and distracting from our path. And shattering may be exactly what we need.
The Crone is our psychic home. She is that mature place of inner knowing that you have earned by fighting your way out of the underworld in the past, and if you let her, she will precede and follow you from this day on.
“Without so much as the acknowledgment from others of all that we’ve lost, we must fare a way. We must begin with absence—a longing for what might never be assuaged—and follow it deep into the heart of exile, to discover what, if anything, can be made out of nothing. To make a foundling of the orphaned life.”– Excerpt from “Belonging” by Toko-pa Turner