Once, when my life collapsed around me, as life is wont to do at times, I began creating clay images, placing them near the headwaters of watersheds around the United States. I called this project 100 Clay Buddha’s and it seemed at the time an incantation and a prayer for water, for the planet. Later, I came to understand that I was also re-figuring my life, image by image, waterway by waterway.
I was also working at the time with particular koans, myths, and fairy tales because they speak not only to the personal, but to the collective –to the ways things have been over time. The hero’s journey monomyth, although genderless in its most distilled terms, seemed, though its imagery, to speak mostly to the theme of the outer quest (slaying dragons, returning from battle, and whatnot). I felt as a woman, however, my journey had to do with a descent into the Great Below and with that a dying into something new.
And, so, Soror Mystica was born – a prose poem that speaks to the covenant between all living beings. A play between beginnings and endings held in earth, fire, and within the body, Soror Mystica, or “mystic sister,” is animated by the myth of Persephone and Demeter—the golden and dark goddesses of transformation and renewal. In the end this piece is a tribute to a new ecology for a changing earth – a deep dive into awe.
Soror Mystica: New Myth for a Changing Earth
During the earth’s first turning
(whereby the one became two,
the two became three, and the
three became 10,000 things),
there were only metals and minerals.
Older than the earth, these elements
came from stars. They came from
before the before and they painted
the earth with red ore, blue copper, yellow sulfur;
Then everything cooked itself.
There was a furnace and everything glowed red,
the heat unimaginable—everything hot, hot!
There was no air to breathe, and no breath to breathe it.
The atmosphere reeked with carbon dioxide,
and there was nothing to breathe.
Four billion years ago this happened.
Four billion years ago water vapor condensed
and fell to the earth.
And rivers carved out features and the below
rose up and created from itself the above.
And the water above ran to lower places
taking minerals from rock,
and thousands of oceans were born.
Because when matter and water entered
into their sacred contract no life form was exempt.
When the three became 10,000 things
eventually two-leggeds came to be.
Four million years ago (at least) humans, the result of cells dividing,
came forth from the water. And everything changed.
And everyone forgot that we came from
stardust, minerals, metals, and heat.
Everyone forgot that we came from being cooked
down, down in the Great Below. Cooked in the Great vessel
we forgot that this temenos is alchemical.
But Persephone didn’t forget. Nor did her twin.
Her name was Demeter/Persephone and she told the story.
She told the story about the need to remember how
marvelous our origins are. She told the story of the
first descent, then of the moving into breath.
And of water, and of the infusion of ore, sulfur and heat.
The fertile darkness is our Mother. The moist darkness,
he is our father. We are divine sparks in a dark field
and we benefit from a “4 billion-year old bequeathment”
What is held in matter is divine. It is the prima materia,
and there is no part of it that we are not.
Across our planet one river in ten no longer flows to the sea.
Across our planet one mammal in 4, one bird in 8, and
one amphibian in 3, are threatened. In sixty short
years we have done more to impact the earth than the
combined ages of all that came before.
In sixty short years three-fourths of our fishing waters are
exhausted. We are shaping the earth in our image. And one
major river in ten no longer flows to the sea.
The earth is our alchemical vessel; it is our home and
The rivers no longer flow to the sea.
Her name is Demeter/Persephone and she is black, red, yellow,
and blue. Her name is Mystic Sister, or Soror Mystica and she has been
called by Hades, the old man of fathomless depths to
pick the narcissus and fall into the hole. Because to do this is to remember,
to fall into the hole is to remember. And so the Mystic Sister summoned Hades.
Their home was the Great Below. The Mystic Sister was un-moored and adrift
and she became Queen of the Great Below.
Who cares? She thought.
The Mystic Sister was too smart to be taken in by titles.
The Queen was too much part of the hidden mystery to be taken in by titles.
And so the word, Eleusinian rolled off her tongue. Along with one, red, berry.
She knew she was being cooked and that her gift was to remember this cooking.
And that the function of the King and Queen, whatever the landscape
is to birth the new. And so she learned what she learned and she called on
Mercurius. She called on the god Mercurius: Get me out of here. She said.
Have you reconciled death? He asked.
I am the Mystic Sister, said she. And through the sisterhood that is I myself—
the golden and black twin—the stone everyone is seeking is revealed.
The divine is unearthed from matter, the peacock tail is fanned,
and the mystery drops it’s veil. This is the Way of Change.
This is the Way of Change, and the Imago Dei. And everyone dies.
The polar ice caps are 40% thinner than they were 40 years ago.
The polar ice caps are 40% thinner than they were 40 years ago
And still the Milky Way moves around 10,000 galaxies.
We have birthed the Self from below. It is very useful to remember that
we birthed the Self from below.
When Mercurius held out his hand, the Mystic Sister grabbed on.
When Mercurius held out his hand the message from the underworld
The Mystic Sister reminds us to “go below this hollow earth.”
The Mystic Sister reminds us to go below to
know the “end of life and it’s god-sent beginnings.”
This girl is covered with ore. This girl is deep into it. This girl and her lover want us to be
intimate with the miraculous journey where heat came first.
When Demeter/Persephone and Dionysis/Hades moved together in consort, the earth shook.
When Demeter/Persephone and Dionysis/Hades joined forces the Great Vessel
heated up reminding us of the original plan. And the Vessel was stained red.
And the Vessel was made from beginnings and ends. And it
gave birth to the 10,000 things; all beginning, all ending…
The Mystic Sister wants us to remember our origins.
The Mystic Sister wants us to remember our origins so we know where home is.
The Mystic Sister wants to bow to the ground with gratitude so that in this
gratitude rivers will flow to the sea once again. And so that one-half the world’s forests, now gone, will be replenished.
The soror mystica is in the center of our hearts.
The soror mystica resides in the center of our hearts.
We are The Great Vessel and we are The Great Below.
And we come from stars.
We are beautiful and we come from stars.
Our planet, our home, is heartbreakingly beautiful, and we come from stars.
First published in She Is Everywhere! Volume 3: An anthology of writings in womanist/feminist spirituality (iUniverse 2012), co-edited by Mary Saracino and Mary Beth Moser. Used by permission.
Gael is a mindfulness and awareness educator with UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). She was lay-ordained by Thich Nhat Hanh in 1999 and leads workshops and retreats, around the country, both Buddhist and secular in nature. Her organization is called blueMindfulness, and through her work she hopes to create deeper, sustainable pathways between humans and this big, blue planet we call home. Gael received a Masters in Mythology and Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and later did post-graduate work at UCLA’s MARC center. She is learning to play the ukulele and loves poetry, koans, and the archetypal worlds. She lives in Ojai, CA.
6 thoughts on “Soror Mystica: New Myth for a Changing Earth by Gael Belden”
This is a terrific poem that I think everybody should read. More than once. When I reviewed She Is Everywhere for SageWoman (don’t know when the review will be printed), your poem is one entry in the anthology I especially called out. Good for you!
Loved this! Need to finish reading She is Everywhere 3. I bought it, but it languishes in the depths of my kindle.
Beautiful imagery. I was introduced to the myth of Inanna by my Jungian therapist as I pieced my life back together after my divorce. Her seven layers of descent felt literal to my own emotional and material world.
I have always wanted to do a comparative study between Inanna and Theresa of Avila or Margarete of Porte and their seven layers of union with the divine, through a process of death to the self and even God.
Thank you for your rich and textured reminder.
Exquisite. I was breathless reading, carried upon stardust into the center/Kore of your lovely prose poem. Deep thanks to you, Gael.
last night i was sitting under the first nite of the full moon talking of the mystical power of making small clay images of the self and reading your story this morning felt like a personal message hope – your actions are as poetic as your words are meaningful.
This is very beautiful.