|Classic Tarot by Carlo DellaRocca |
Published by Lo Scarabeo 2000
The generic description of the card features "a goddess"...wait, which goddess? And do they call her a goddess because she is both beautiful and naked or because she represents a particular goddess myth? Choosing to go with the latter, I researched goddesses associated with either stars or water. I found Inanna, Sumerian goddess of rebirth. Hold up. Rebirth? Wouldn't that be better associated with Judgement? Maybe, but there's a lot more. Others have seen the similarities to Inanna and the tarot Star card, too, and what they are seeing is more than rebirth but alignment with a myth that is only a part, but an important part, of Inanna's legend. Typically, images of Inanna show her either richly dressed or naked. In the story, "Inanna's Descent to the Underworld," which is most useful for the Star imagery, she is stripped of her clothing. Also, for a time during that journey, nature "dies" with Inanna and nothing would grow. It was only when she returned to earth that things began blooming and growing again, hence her fertility goddess role and the watering of the earth. Also, her symbol all over Mesopotamia is the 8-pointed star.
Maybe I should tell the story. Essentially, Inanna needed to visit her sister Ereshkigal who rules the Underworld. She heard her sister's baneful moaning and felt compelled to see her. Any trek to the Underworld risks death, so she garbed herself accordingly: with her crown on her head, lapis lazuli around her neck, a golden bracelet, and a royal robe on her body and a breastplate. She also took a lapis measuring rod and line. When she was announced at the gate, her sister became more agitated and only allowed each of the gates to be opened a crack and Inanna had to remove her garments and ornaments in order to squeeze through each one. She arrived at her destination naked and vulnerable. The judges of the Underworld ruled against her and her sister killed her. She became a rotting corpse and was hung from a hook on the wall.
Her companion outside the gates waited three days and then went seeking help from various Gods and finally Enki,God of Wisdom and Water who had originally blessed Inanna prior to her descent, came to his aid. He created two creatures and gave them the food and water of life to take to Inanna. They snuck into the Underworld and found Ereshkigal in a very distressed state, moaning and crying. Whatever agony she named, they would speak it back to her. Finally she stopped and blessed the creatures and promised to give them whatever they asked. They asked for Inanna's corpse, of course. As part of the deal of reviving her, though, she had to choose another person to go in her place. She ended up choosing her husband because while she was gone, he had gone about his life as if nothing had happened. Though she loved him very much it was clear he didn't love her the same.
Carl Jung, pioneer psychoanalyst who worked extensively with archetypes and myth in his practice and writings wrote some commentary on the Inanna's Descent myth. I found this commentary to be so very enlightening with respect to the Star imagery. The commentary focuses on the Inanna story as it illustrates a journey of deep depression. His commentary, even more than the myth itself, speaks to why this card doesn't always feel so "happy" or "good." It represents the afterwards, the time following a very rigorous examination of one's shadow self, a time of deep darkness and depression. It's as if there is a pause between the Tower and the Star, a time spent in the Underworld groaning, moaning, and dying, a time of utter hopelessness. We don't see this in tarot as it happens in the nether realms, but it is important to understand the cause of the hope the Star implies. The article states: "The solution to depression lies not in great intellectual power, nor in great emotional power. It comes from Wisdom, which encompasses all of the psychological functions." Ah! The missing virtue in tarot! Prudence! The hope she has comes from Wisdom, and from knowing that whatever depths she has visited can be overcome with Wisdom. She has also discarded her former garments for she has learned their value is little compared to the experience of facing her shadow self and integrating it into her being and becoming whole.
Being a veteran of my own treks to the Underworld, I know intimately the cost of depression. Upon my return, I was not happy-go-lucky but I did acquire hope. In the depths, I could not see what there was to look towards. In my ascent, I had hope that things would get better, I would get better. The Star is that time, when you have integrated something rather dark, tragic, painful and costly into your being and, surviving that after having already survived the Tower experience that preceded it, your skin still raw and wet from rebirth, your psyche still wounded and painful to the touch, you spend some time tending to that which you could not when you were "away." Inanna's earth would not grow, so she is watering it to revive its life. The water would not flow, so she is pouring her tears into the stream. It is a time of reclamation, without which we could not move on. You may have to cut ties with people who, as you found out when you were gone, didn't really give a crap about you, like Inanna's husband. You start the process of pruning the overgrowth. This isn't an easy time, but it is a hopeful time. It's a time when others may expect you to be back to "your old self." How do you tell them your old self has died, never to return? Besides, it will be a while before the process of reclamation is done, before you get where you're appointed to go. But it will never be as it was before. You are changed. Your direction will likely change. This is a card of work and healing and growth and yes, rebirth.
Now I understand why it unsettles me so. I know this work. There is a reason stars only shine at night and why the Moon follows this one in tarot progression. It's like that poem by Robert Frost, "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening."
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.