Healing with Hades
This article has taken me a while to translate from ideas to words. Partly because the topic is deeply personal, and partly because death, depression, and the Underworld are not always easy to write about in any case. Hades is one of those deities I feel is well known, yet vastly underappreciated. Like many goddesses over the years, Hades has had his share of slander and misinformation, much of it stemming from the translations of his own mythos. The Hades I have experienced is far from the predator he’s made out to be, and the incident I want to talk about is a good example of that.
When walls crumble...
This past June, my husband’s grandmother passed away. Five children, twenty grandchildren, forty-eight great grandchildren. She made each of them feel like an important member of the family. Blood or marriage didn’t make a difference to her. While her passing was not entirely unexpected given her health, it still was very sudden. With it came a flood of feeling that I had not anticipated.
I lost many dear family members within a relatively short time span during my formative years. I went to so many funerals I no longer cried. I no longer truly felt. I knew I should feel sad. I should cry. I should feel something. But I was numb. This continued on into adulthood. I felt very little in the face of death. I had built walls around that part of myself and they were tall and strong indeed. The ironic thing is that I’m also an empath. Going to funerals became an excruciating experience not because of my own grief, but because of the tsunami of emotions I could sense from everyone else. I learned to make my excuses whenever possible to get out of going to them.
In the case of this grandmother’s death, my walls broke without any warning and certainly without my consent. I felt guilty at under-appreciating her, at not taking more time to keep in contact, at the many years of isolation that I had self-imposed during my depression. I was not prepared to deal with any of this. I was crumbling and it scared me. How would I deal with the funeral without my defenses?
In the old myths, it’s mentioned that those wanting to be sure Hades took notice of their actions would hit the ground beneath their feet. A webcomic I enjoy picked that little detail up and turned it into part of his calling card. I had worked with Hades as my patron for sometime, though our dealings are infrequent compared to my work with Hekate and Persephone. In this moment, I could think of no one else more fitting to turn to than the god of the Underworld. So, I sat at my altar and lit my candles. I cleansed, inscribed, and anointed a candle for our departed grandmother. And I hit the floor twice with the palms of my hands.
I sensed the change in energy almost instantly. There was a sudden heaviness in the air around me, so heavy I didn’t even feel I could straighten all the way. But I was not frightened. The weight was like a comforting blanket wrapping around my shoulders. I felt held, consoled, understood. I felt utterly safe. As I confided to Hades my grief and guilt, the gentle, but firm message given in return was, “All souls are guided to where they belong.” That was all he said. The rest of the time he was simply present with me, helping me acknowledge my emotions in such a way that they no longer overwhelmed me. I was so grateful. It was an incredibly bonding experience. I feel… freer, somehow. Less fractured.
I read an article once that discussed the concept that our own little “Underworlds”–our depression, anxiety, and other struggles with mental health–are all in the realm of Hades. His reach would therefore extend beyond the realm of departed souls, and into helping us learn to navigate the little deaths we all experience in our lives. Emotional energy generated by shadow emotions like guilt and sorrow can destroy us or create the change we need in our lives. The choice is ours on which that will be. Hades can help with such things. He knows the shadow well. His are the quiet victories, our choices to rise again the next day instead of giving into defeat. His are the patient hands that unlock the chains around our hearts and teach us new ways to express ourselves.
The thing is, when we are in an underworld moment, sometimes the best option isn’t to struggle, kicking and screaming, for the light. Sometimes what we really need, is an understanding companion in the dark.
“Hail the Traveler,” by Aine Foraois
Hail the Traveler: I commit you back from where you came
to the arms of your ancestors
may there be peace where there was anger
may there be healing where there was hurt.
Go quickly to the place
that your old ones called home.
For those who grieve for your passing;
let there be healing
For those who grieve for who you were;
let there be healing
For those who grieve for what you could have been;
let there be healing
Hail the Traveler