I am not a poet.
I am not a playwright.
The story and the poems that go with it are very simply, the truth. This happened.
And I want to tell you the truth because the truth needs to be heard. Perhaps to prevent this experience from ever happening to you. Perhaps to help you free yourself if it is happening to you now. Perhaps to help you free someone else. Perhaps to teach you to have a sympathetic ear if you know someone who has been through a similar experience. Perhaps to prove that life is hard, but not impossible; bittersweet, not bitter.
My parents named me Rebecca, and God himself has named me Rachel, which in Hebrew means “Ewe”, the female sheep.
And how is it that I can say that God has named me? Think of how Native American children are named: an adult meditates until the child’s name suggests itself by some sign. And when the child is raised to adulthood, he or she chooses a name, or it chooses itself based on that new adult’s personality. In Celtic tradition the name comes to the newly initiated adult during the initiation, from deep meditation. And in the Biblical tradition, God has renamed many of his chosen: Jacob, whom God named Israel… Simon, whom Jesus named Peter: “You are Peter, and upon this rock shall I build my church…”
And while I was writing the poems in this cycle, I was brought again and again to Rachel, until finally, in fitful sleep one night, after writing twelve of the fifteen in a blind and senseless frenzy, I dreamed that I was singing the “Agnus Dei”, which in Latin is the prayer to the “Lamb of God”, and woke up in tears in the middle of the night.
I think I have been Rachel for a long time. But that is another story.
In all cultures, through all times, there is a myth which describes a descent into hell (by whatever name) as experienced by the hero (by whatever name).
Hell itself has many names and many descriptions, many moods, all of them dark. One common element runs through all of these hells: humanity. It is part of us, as necessary to our growth as the light of hope and heaven is. It generally involves the facing of one’s own potential for evil.
Something else these mythical stories of hell have in common: redemption.
The darkness is not total.
As we begin with hope, so can we end with hope; perhaps more hope than when we started this journey, for with the ascent out of hell comes awareness of our own strength, and clearer vision of our destiny. We face our own evil, and embrace it; aware of it, we turn it to good if we can.
For me, and many others — dare I include myself in the same company as Jesus himself? — the ascent out of hell has also meant a constant reminder of some kind of divine presence.
If this talk of redemption and the divine makes you uncomfortable, call it whatever you need in your own mind. If you do not believe in the divine at all, may I suggest looking at a sunrise?
But I do not wish to proselytize, but to tell you a modern tale of hell and damnation.
And although these words came from my pen, the hand that moved the pen was never in my control. Call it inspiration, call it divine intervention, call a creative flood… these words were not always mine.