My Encounter with the Dark Goddess

Emotions are like dirty little secrets – best kept to ourselves – but why?
Why should we be ashamed of how and what we feel?

In October I travelled to the Gold Coast to take part in the Australian Goddess Conference, where the theme was “Earth Alchemy”, and we were encouraged to “... follow the journeys of Inanna and Persephone to meet the Crone and seek Her wisdom1 …”. Little did I realise that that journey would be experienced with both utter delight and wonderment coupled with grief and a sense of loss.

In sharing my experiences of this conference I could list some of the numerous activities and workshops I attended, or talk about some of the truly amazing and powerful women I had the privilege to meet. I could even name drop that I rubbed shoulders with Lucy Cavendish, did ritual with Glenys Livingstone, and sang along with Julie Walton and Anique Radiant Heart – but what would that really achieve? An elevation of “importance” in someone’s eyes perhaps? (ego speaking).

No, what I feel drawn to write about is the grief that I ended up feeling, not only for myself but for Mother Earth. But there is no real surprise that I found myself sitting on the banks of the canal howling uncontrollably Sunday afternoon – we have been inviting the Great Mother since Friday morning, we had been calling to Her, wooing Her, and even challenging Her to make an appearance.

Too often I find we do not allow ourselves to openly express how we really feel – we are more concerned about the frailties of others or what they may think of us should we allow a minute sign of what our society classifies as a “weakness” to show. We label certain emotions as “negative” and hide them away, deep in the subconscious hoping that in denial they will simply disappear ... as if by magick. But they don’t. They lurk there, abiding their time until we less expect it.

Of course, in writing such a personal account I realise that I am exposing a part of me that otherwise would not be exposed ... but you know what? I really do not care. I do not mean to be flippant about it but what happened to me is now in the past. It was self healing that needed to be done. It happened, I survived and now have moved on with a much clearer direction and greater sense of purpose. In sharing such a personal account, maybe it will encourage others to embrace their own truth.

So here goes …

All Friday and even during Saturday I buzzed about oblivious of what was starting to happen. Every talk, every workshop, every dance and song that was undertaken, we were calling up the Great Mother, Gaia. She who danced everything into creation. She was lurking. She was there and when I remarked, “Oh yes, I have worked with the Dark Goddess, I am not afraid of Her” …. Her ears must have pricked up and with an all-knowing smile creeping across Her face, little did I realise that I was about to reacquaint myself with Her in a way never experienced before.

The mist started slowly swirling and as I walked the Labyrinth path Saturday night, returning back to the source, back to the Great Mother, She reached up and grabbed hold of me, dragging me down, down, down, into the bowels of Underworld. At first it was a subtle pull. It always is. She lures you in with sweet delicate offerings and promises.

The more we connected and honoured Gaia, the deeper I fell into the pit of despair, all the while seemingly oblivious to what was actually happening. Faster and faster the vortex spun dragging me downward until during the biodynamic dance on Sunday I could not hold the fear, the grief back any longer.

Before I realised it, old “friends” were embracing me, “friends” who I thought I would never meet again – “Self Doubt”, “Woo is me” and “I’m not worthy”. They surrounded me, telling me just how inadequate I was being surrounded by all these strong, talented, dedicated women. Just who did I think I was walking alongside with such women? What have I done for the Great Mother? After all, I had failed in my attempt of creating a sacred space for Her.

On the banks of the canal I found myself wallowing in self-pity, crying uncontrollably for only the second time of my entire life. My “friends”, encouraging this self obsession, were joined by that little girl I had left behind a long time ago. The one who was never quite good enough, the one no one noticed as she faded into the background due to shyness. And when she studied and read widely to compensate the aloneness, they disliked her because she became knowledgeable. How could one become knowledgeable without going to University? Surely her knowledge was false for after all she didn’t have any pieces of paper of justify them.

I was spiralling out of control and could not stop. I felt as if the Great Mother was dragging me down deeper and deeper. Had I wasted the last 20 years of my life trying to establish some fantasy based on a novel2?

Then I realised the pain that was tearing away at me was no longer just my own. It belonged to every other woman whose talents only resulted in envy from others. For every other woman whose ability to take the chances the Goddess presented her echoed resentment from those who could not or would not take advantage of their own opportunities. And I grieved for Mother Earth who continuously gives so much of Herself, asking so little in return – and how most of us are not even prepared to make such a little change in our own self-absorbed lives to give back to Her. We dilly dally around commercial reasons while Her gift to this country, our life blood, the River Murray, slow dies before our eyes. We look sidewards and talk about economic growth while She is being raped and abused over and over again. We cut down Her lungs because they inconveniently fill our gutters without giving much thought to what else shares Her bounty.

I was Her. I was Mother Earth, Gaia – She was me. My pain was Her pain. I felt it in every cell of my body. My unworthiness was unjustified for I was a part of Her and even if I could reach out and touch just one person, then I was just as worthy as those whose company I was in.

I struggled to breathe and to calm myself. But I could not be calm. It would be a long, long time before I would be at complete peace again. A Warrior from Anna Franklin’s “Sacred Circle” deck came to me, and she was impatiently tapping her foot. Nearby was the Holy Book of Justice and Truth.

I heard the words - Are you quite finished? There is work to be done. Not everything is about you and not everyone is at the same stage on their spiritual journey. Believe in yourself. Walk in your truth – not anyone else’s.

The signs of confirmation were all around me. After all, I had met someone from not only my homeland but the same area, as well as another whom we shared a mutual friend. And when I arrived back in Adelaide and booked myself in for some long overdue healing, I noticed two exquisite irises in full bloom in my garden.

Now I sit. The weekend seems half a life time away. I am learning to embrace the stillness, and to heal and balance myself again. I returned with, amongst other things, a gift from the Earth and from an extremely wise woman. The others know where I am – when they are ready or if they share my vision.

Through grief comes understanding and healing – alchemy at work, which after all, was the theme for this year’s conference.


From the first time I read “Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley at the age of 19, I longed for such a community and dreamed of being Morgan le Faye.


My deep heart thanks to the many strong, powerful, talented and beautiful women I had the privileged to meet at the conference to allowing me to experience a vision I have in manifestation.

Blessings – Frances

Copyrighted 2008 Frances Billinghurst:
phone: Frances 0401 788 790

Temple of the Dark Moon
PO Box 2451

MY Temple