Reviewed by Sue Oxley
Having participated in one of Jane's workshops, I was so glad to get this book for review. The workshop had been one of the most powerful experiences of my life, and one which I remember frequently, especially during this dark November month, the month of death, and this book was a real delight, relating so well to that experience.
Sometimes you find a book that operates on so many levels that it is astonishing, and this is one. Besides being a description of her own journey, fascinating in itself and full of personal insights, this book is also a 'how-to' manual with exercises, rituals, lists of equipment and ideas for work to be carried out after the journey. Yet again, it also explores the Persephone, Psyche, and primarily the Inanna stories, from the across the mythological traditions, and develops ways of extending these stories into discovering the archetypes within ourselves through our journey to the Goddess, but does this with such subtlety and beauty that it is quite amazing.
She writes so well and yet with such straightforward Aussie approachability that even if you are disinclined to carry out the journey, the book is worth reading just for the lovely descriptions of her own travels to the most difficult places, the personal experiences that are so generously told and the wandering interweaving of myth, experience and insight that flows through it.
One of the strong memories I have of Jane's workshop is the safe way that she took a big group of women down into the underworld on our journeys, let us sit in our Alice in Wonderland type puddles of dark sadness, and then brought us so carefully back, floating up from our time in the sea of death and the exploration of the dark within ourselves, to break the surface of the everyday, without a jolt or any feeling of fear.
She develops this careful safety within the book, looking at possible difficulties on the way and warning of pitfalls, for example this description of coming back to the light:
“Any degree of up-ness, having being on the bottom, can seem so blessed and light-filled that one doesn't see one hasn't fully emerged. It takes its own time. If there's a fast path here, a short cut, I haven't learned it. And perhaps it's important to take it slowly, to integrate each step ...”
And I do remember this slow wandering away from the underworld in the class, from that which could have been so destructive, in such a fragile emotional place, towards safety and integration, as her voice and words were like hands that guided the soul to the light.
With any inner journey it is so important to trust the guide, and as an introduction to a workshop or retreat this book would be wonderful, but it could also be trusted if you are working alone. In fact, any dark working, or exploration of the Goddess of the Underworld, would need this book. Read it before going on your journey, like a Michelin Guide to the Descent, and take careful note of its warnings and its joy.