Descent, dismemberment and dreams … stripped and hung from a peg. Transgressive woman.

Cauldron of the Feminine, A Modern Story of Awakening.
How did this book become known as Cauldron of the Feminine? The work of dreams through seven years resulted in some many dreams of dismemberment. Sylvia Perera, The Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women, writes about the descent from a Jungian perspective. During the four years of intense writing times, an image came to me often. The image of a cauldron. I made sketches of the cauldron. I wondered about cauldrons. And, The Burning Times, when so many wise women were burned at the stake or ….. the witches cauldron entered into patriarchal stories of the Evil Witch.  Eventually, the symbol of the cauldron just stayed in my world. 
Rotting on the Peg, a dream from Cauldron of the Feminine

I watch myself/or am hung upside down in an unknown place on a peg on the wall. The layers of my head are stripped away piece by piece. I am dimly aware of what is happening. I think to myself, “Perhaps this is the real test. I wonder if I must encounter the true blackness of evil and test my resistance.” I am aware of having read/heard that part of the journey is encountering death.

This is the descent to the goddess, the Descent of Inanna. Strangely, there is no emotion in the dream. I awake feeling “normal,” as if I ever was such a thing. I surely feel dismembered; stripped and bare. It will be years before I can see the many dream symbols related to Inanna. The peg, the pole, the phallus, menstruation, sexual intercourse, becoming a woman, pregnancy and crucifixion.  “The Descent myth has reverberations concerning a central mystery of feminine experience, pregnancy…. Certainly, submission to the mystery of bodily experience is one way in which a woman, even the Goddess, is nailed down into incarnated existence—nailed into reality to find her own firm stance.”[1]

I imagine the head as the essence of who I am. The stake penetrates. We have buried the myths that speak to the lives of women and girls. My life at 15 and 16, the becoming-a-woman years, is all there in the early chapters of my story. Completely misunderstood. “Because the receptive yin is by nature empty, there is a danger that women feeling their own emptiness—especially in a patriarchal culture—will seek fulfillment through actual male partners and sons, or serving the collective’s ideals of the animus in prostitution to the fathers.”[2]

Every dream along the way for all these years has taken me deeper. Since the Power of the Unconscious workshop,(October 1992)  the mystery has unfolded even more profoundly. There was no way then for me to understand it. Living the myth of Inanna requires transgressing every rule of the patriarchy. I gave permission. I had no idea what I was surrendering to.

[1] Perera, Descent to the Goddess, 38–9.

[2] Perera, Descent to the Goddess, 39.

 
When he finished editing Cauldron of the Feminine, and we discussed his suggestions and finalized the draft, editor, Michael Kenyon returned the draft with these words:
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First of all I have to say that I had a terrifying and ongoing awful dream of dismemberment last night–which I haven’t had for a while and do believe comes in part from this book and in part from a movie I watched last night (Beautiful Boy) about a father trying to deal with his son’s drug addiction. In other words the descent to the underworld through the trapdoor of family.
Today, I thank you for writing this book and for being such a guide in these frightening places. That’s what you are doing, as I know you know.
In itself, the book is a fine thing. It truly hangs together, and on so many planes — the personal, transpersonal and it tells a modern unique story of awakening.

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