I have been travelling a very long time – but my gait wasn’t always so laboured, my strength so forced. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve come to be here, but the story is sketchy, parts distinguished only by those who I happened to be travelling and who helped or hindered me along the way. It’s not a love story, it’s not a parable, it’s an account from my extremely subjective point of view.
It is about how I wound up, walking through their Inferno.
“Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge!” – Robert G. Ingersoll, The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. Iii
Every Eve has an Adam- not necessarily her first but her genesis into a new story. Adam didn’t want me at first. Story of every girl’s life, there was another. But I befriended him and drew him in and eventually he was mine. Or so I thought. You see, Adam had a few issues. It could have been his one-rib-less inadequacy but Adam would blow hot and cold. I became his everything and with that, my behaviour was dictated to me, our ever-lasting planned. I put up with it, I mean my experience with men was minimal, him being the only one on Earth and everything, so I figured this overbearing nature was normal. But I always wondered what lay beyond the garden… surely there was more to my life than a luxurious episode of Survivor.
I went for a walk, near the edge of garden. I hadn’t travelled so far before but what I saw amazed me. So many paths were available to me, that diverged and intertwined and separated again. Paths that were far from the nicely laid out walkways that I was used to. The path abruptly ended, leading me towards a large tree. It was so massive, I couldn’t see around it. The branches too high, I didn’t dare climb it.
The wind rustled and shook the branches. I watched a gloriously red, shiny apple drop down from the bough. It hit the grass with a gentle thud and rolled away, around the roots of the tree, until I could just see it on the other side. I’d never seen anything like it, it was destined for me. I had to tell him. I ran back to the gardens. Adam sat languidly, admiring his surrounds. His life had not been changed like mine. After much coaxing, I took him back to the tree and tried to show him where the fruit had fallen.
At first he insisted that he could not see it, but after my insistence he began to feign interest. That was when I told him that I wanted to walk around the tree – leave the path, pick up the fruit and try it. Adam thought me made- how could I leave the comfort of my home for the unknown. I was ungrateful, I traitor. I assured him that it wasn’t like that, that I had to see for myself if there was a better life out there than in here. His hazel eyes were hurt, as he acquiesced to by desire for adventure. Then he suggested that he come with me to see too. I could tell he didn’t want to, that he saw it as an obligation. But that was not why I recoiled and took a step back. This was my apple, I had found it. It was my desire to see the world not his. How dare he think he could share what was so sacredly mine? I realised then that there was no space on my journey for a companion. That day I left the garden, I picked up the fruit but chose not to eat it. Carrying it proudly against my body. I felt naked, but never more alive.
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”
The sign made me chuckle as I walked passed it. It was so sensational. You cannot lose hope from entering the unknown. I was in fact invigorated, hopeful that I was about to learn everything to my hearts desire and live through experiences never before felt. I revelled in my new found freedom for a while, enjoying my social isolation and surrounding myself with all things beautiful and wonderful.
One night I wandered beneath a full moon- the fragrance are jasmine drugged me and I felt powerful and more like a woman than ever before. As I walked amongst the blooms, I came across a woman picking a stem and smelling with such a radiant look of ecstasy. It was such an intimate act I looked away blushing. I couldn’t help looking back and my eyes met piercing dark brown ones. They looked amused, intense and curiosity. She was so strong, so confident and sure. I’d never seen another woman, a person, the likes of her before. Silently, she offered me her hand and we danced, and danced underneath the moonshine, in a field of jasmine and sharing curious glances.
Her name was Persephone, and she was my guide into the underworld. The sign I had dismissed marked the entrance into hell- into a world unknown, into a cosmos of adventure and mystery. She called me Artemis, even though I told her that was not my name. She said it didn’t matter, that no one here was who they seemed, but who we wanted to be. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just different. Artemis, I found out, meant that I was strong, that I couldn’t be touched without permission and that I embraced womanhood and power. I liked that, those were ideals that seemed wise to embrace. From a wanderer I became a warrior, championing crusades with Persephone guiding me all the way. She awakened my thoughts, my questions and drew out within me, my anger at the world, at my confinement and my desire to be free. We met fellow thought leaders, Socrates and Homer, Cicero and Ceasar. I felt welcomed, I belonged to something greater than myself. I had purpose.
Oh she was amazing- so wonderful that I showed her the apple I had been carrying from the beginning. She marvelled at it, as if it was a prize, with such cautious desire. I offered her a bite. She took it. And then she shared it with me. The taste was heavenly. I’d been transported, I ascended over 6 feet – out of body and out of mind.
For much time I stayed with Persephone. However the sense of adventure waned and I begun to feel like I had stayed too long. We made each other so unhappy. She couldn’t leave the limbo we had found ourselves in, and I didn’t know if I could dedicate my life to being stuck in an in-between. Actually I did know, and the answer was that I couldn’t. So I left.
“Curiosity is the lust of the mind” – Thomas Hobbes
I should admit that I had an indiscretion. As I said, purgatory was not for me. During an argument with Persephone, I ran away.
He introduced himself to me as Amun. Amun was strong and funny, full of life with many consorts. He thought himself king of his world and many women agreed. To me he was “the hidden one” who didn’t necessarily provide me answers to what I was seeking, but gave me more questions. He was a friend, and then he was more and he had the power to make me overlook my morals and explore a darkness that I had not thought about before. With a presence that could be described as lion-like, I felt bewitched within his harem. I was a fool for what he could show me, a fool to my body, to touches, to desire. I had joined the harem of Cleopatra and Helen.
But with my actions came with consequences. Persephone discovered that I had entered the second circle and her fury and mistrust came down upon me like a tornado. All the we attempted to mend our relationship, it never reclaimed that wonderful experience that was. My relationship with Amun was never meant to be anything more – we both recognised that. Eventually we became friends, until he felt that ascended to greater things than I. But he will always remain an important reminder of my flaws.
“Curiosity is gluttony. To see is to devour.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
After leaving purgatory, for what I’d decided was the last time, I continued on my travels. The questions that Amun had point in my mind needed answers and for that to happen I had to explore my own darkness and my own ideas of sin.
And when you are open to that, Dionysus will find you. Oh he was everything, everything that was opposite to what I needed. He brought humour to my serious world, boldness to my inhibition. We feasted on selfishness and worldly pleasures. Our gluttonous acts sated my curiosity again and again. It was a wild party everyday with women and men coming together to in a common goal of self-servitude. We ate until we could eat no more and then ordered seconds. Life was a buffet for our enjoyment and taking. My apple was less shiny but there were those who I wished for them to enjoy in my discovery. Apple pies, toffee apples, sorbet and appletinis – what a feast!
“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” – Erich Fromm
I alternated often between the banquet and another new discovery of a treasure trove. Here Pluto entertained me. We lived lavish lives where those we met were for our entertainment. Even when I thought I was satisfied, it became amusing to make a mockery of those who accidently joined our parties. It was all in jest – there was no guilt. But the addiction of needing constant entertainment weighed on us and I found myself pushing further and further the limits that were hardly set in stone in the first place. Lust was mistaken for lust. Enemies were mistaken for friends. But in this whirlpool of false pleasure, it is easy to be mistaken and stray from the path.
Which is what happened. And I will never make that mistake again.
“Now pierced is her virgin zone;
She feels the foe within it.
She hears a broken amorous groan,
The panting lover’s fainting moan,
Just in the happy minute.” – John Wilmot
I knew him as Hades, he was often spoken about with disdain and no good will. Hades was pleasant to me, not a friend but hardly an enemy either. One night after a banquet, he offered to transport me across the river Styx. In that moment I recognised Hades for what he was, the Devil, Lucifer.
In that rickety wooden boat he took every sinful desire I had been celebrating and used them against me. With greed, lust and gluttony and a certain new anger he took it all away from me- my ability to explore, my curiosity and my hope. There were so many bodies around but no one could or would hear my screams… all inebriated or sated by their hedonistic lifestyles. When I was throne off the boat, I battled to rise. I dragged myself along the embankment, not quite sure of what to do next, what I was looking for or needed.
“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” – Voltaire, The Age of Louis XIV
I fell. I was lost, and I had travelled so far from comfort and from what I knew. No one would believe me if I spoke on what had happened in the 5th circle. I was a heretic – how could a hedonist possibly be telling the truth. There were flames everywhere, licking at my body as kept falling through the darkened tomb.
I committed violent acts to myself, destroying all forms of my identity and relationships in the process.
I met Poseidon and he helped me up and travelled with me for a while. I told him my story and he made me promises about exploring the sea together. But like the change in tide, Poseidon wasn’t there to stay long – betrayal never stops hurting.
Apollo swoops in and out of my life but he is honest about where he is at and how he wants to explore and discover greatness on his own.
I’m not sure why I felt I needed to put down my journey… maybe its because I’ve travelled so far, the only way to turn is back. Maybe it’s because I’m not sure which pathway I’m supposed to take next. Or maybe it’s because it’s time to rest for a while. I’m tired…so tired…
I shall not fear no man but God, though I walk through the valley of death, I shed so many tears (if I should die before I wake), please God walk with me.