The hero’s journey comes to us through the comparative mythology writings of the late, brilliant Joseph Campbell. Stripped to its basic structure: the hero is given a quest or call to adventure; he sets out on a journey, gaining allies, struggling through great trials, and growing through his experiences; he has to face his biggest battle and through his victory he achieves his quest and claims his treasure; and then he returns to the ordinary world as a reborn or changed man.
If this storyline sounds familiar, it’s because we humans have been telling this tale through much of our history, most currently in some of our most beloved movies and books. Frodo, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter have captivated us with their hero’s journey, activating the archetypal roots of this mythic story in our human psyche.
The assumption in many literary and academic circles is that the hero’s journey is a universal tale that speaks to our human quest for spiritual and personal growth. And though I love these hero stories as much as the next person, this assumption has never sat well with me. The hero’s journey is a tale of the sacred masculine — a quest where outer trials and treasures fuel our spiritual adventures and personal development — that speaks to one half our human nature and one aspect of our journey work.
There is another mythic storyline — the hera’s journey of descent and return from the realm of the Dark Goddess — that comes to us from the ancient Goddess tales of Persephone and Inanna. In its basic structure: the Goddess chooses to leave the land above and descends to the Underworld; She travels the ways of this realm, embracing its mysteries and suffering its trials; She dies to Her previous life; and then She is reborn and returns to the land above, transformed into Her full maturity and powers.
Though the hera’s journey is not a common mythic thread in our modern culture, it speaks volumes to our personal journey of healing and transformation. It directs our journey inward, to the sacred dark of our inner psyche and the mysteries that underlie waking reality. To make this journey, we must step past the world that we know, and be willing to give up the things that bind and block us from the truth of our life story and deepest potential. Our travels will not be easy; we must face the trials and sorrows that come from death-like endings and the shadow side of our wounding. And it is through this very process, and the embracing of our whole/holy nature of light, life, darkness, death, beauty and wounding, that we come into our full maturity and powers, and return to our everyday life transformed.
On my spiritual quest for healing and growth, my journey didn’t lead me outward into the world to do battle, but inward to the roots of my being and the profound mysteries and powers that infuse our everyday world. There was no outer enemy to battle, but more an imperative to brave the trials and challenges of my own life story, and a willingness to be naked and humble in the face of the raw truths of my experiences, both the beauty and the horror.
As the seasons turn and darkness descends in the natural realm, the hera’s path beckons you to journey into your inner darkness and the vast mysteries of this world. And though this is a hard path, of trials, sorrows and endings, its rewards are immeasurable, because the treasures you find at the end of your journey are nothing less than your true, beautiful Deep Self and the magnificence of your whole/holy humanity.
The Path of She is published on alternate Saturdays; follow it via RSS or e-mail! If you like Karen’s work, like her page on Facebook or maybe buy her book, Tale of the Lost Daughter, a fictional spiritual adventure into the life-changing world of magic and the sacred feminine.