How To Tell If You’re On An Underworld Journey

by Emily Prentice

There is an underworld inside all of us. It’s in the foods we eat, in the stories we carry, in the cycles we honor, in the fluctuations we feel. Underworlds are a natural part of life. Think of seasons, soil, moon phases, mycelium networks! If we’re connected to the rest of our ecosystem, then we are inherently connected to all sorts of underworlds. That means that in some stages and seasons, we will all make a journey below. 

Sometimes, it feels pretty easy to identify an underworld journey. Have you had a dark night of the soul? Gotten lost in a labyrinth of your thoughts? Faced the heaviness of grief or sickness or fear? Those can all be underworldly treks, deep and lonely and burdened.

Many underworld journeys, though, happen in small ways. You touch the underworld when you put your coffee grounds in the compost bin. When you clear your closet of itchy sweaters. When you slip into a dream and you wake up someone new. 

The important thing here is to recognize it when it happens. Underworld energy is potent; it’s the stuff of birth and death, flower and decay, generation and destruction. When we’re on a journey, we’re building a relationship to the underworlds all around us – a grounded, supportive, nourishing, overwhelming, burrowing, burying, rotting, rooting CONNECTION to that which we come from and will return. 

When we’re tapped into the underworld, it’s easier for us to shed our old skins. We can access streams of thought outside of hierarchy or linear patterns. The gnarliest of stones suddenly seem ready to turn over. Imagine yourself as a hero, brandishing a lantern in the mouth of a cave, or as a carrot growing in your best friend’s garden. Imagine yourself missing out on all of these swirling multiplicities simply by blinking and missing it. (That’s why we made this list!)

While being in an underworld looks differently for everyone, we wanted to share some clues that you might be heading underground. They come solely from our own experience with journeying below. In the spirit of the Underworld, please take what you like and leave the rest. 

Signs You Might Be on an Underworld Journey

  1. You’re tired, groggy, or needing more sleep than usual.

Journeying is hard work! When you’re on an underworld journey, you may need more bodily rest than you usually do. Think about the energy of the new moon, of the deep winter, or of a just-planted seed. Let yourself rest! Sleeping may also be the easiest way to access your underworld. Pay attention to any dreams that come to you or any symbols/ideas you wake up with.

  1. You feel like the human equivalent of the Tower card.

We’ve all been there. If it feels like your whole life is falling apart, it may simply be decaying to make way for what’s coming next.

  1. Similarly, you’re in a stage of minimizing, shedding, downsizing, or upcycling. 

    If old things are passing out of your life (whether it’s clearing out your hall closet or saying goodbye to a toxic job), then you’re likely in an underworld. 

  1. You’re more acutely aware of repeating cycles.

    The Underworld is ruled by the seasons, and we often find ourselves running on a similar loop. When on an underworld journey, you may notice the subtle shifts and infinite repeats that make up your life. What keeps happening again and again? Where do you need to honor your cycles? Where do you need to break them?

  1. You’re in a liminal season.

    Either personally, or you know, calendarly. In spring and in fall (especially in Taurus and Scorpio seasons), the Underworld feels as close to the surface as it ever gets. You may slip into an underworld simply because the door is wide open.

  1. You feel like you’re becoming “yourself” again.

    One major facet of the Underworld is shedding what no longer serves you. You may feel the need to “go back to basics” or let go of identities that don’t quite fit any more. You can’t take it all with you, either energetically or physically. The Underworld provides clarity about what you truly need, what you actually believe, and who you really are.

  1. You feel like a gooey gross butterfly stuck in its chrysalis.

Ah, yes, the deeply terrifying realization that you have to become a literal sack of goo before you can emerge into your final form. If you = goo, the underworld = your chrysalis.

  1. You feel creatively or emotionally blocked.

    Does the idea of letting go feel hard right now? You may be halting an underworld journey that needs to happen! The Underworld is inherently uncontrollable. Winter comes whether we want it to or not. If you notice your feelings bottling up or your art practice leaning towards perfectionism, it might be time to LET THAT SHIT OUT (if it feels safe and accessible for you). A trip to the Underworld can help.

  1. Your pockets are full of rocks.

    Or maybe you get really into gardening. Or maybe you start a Pinterest board about your favorite beetles. Any sudden fascination with plants, seeds, bugs, fungi, or rocks may mean that you’re seeking out the underworlds that are all around you.

  1. You’re currently a human being alive on this planet. (Seriously.)

    The Underworld has been deeply accessible to most of us in the face of widespread sickness, death, and isolation over the past few years. If you’re not sure whether you’re in an underworld right now, know that if you found yourself here, the answer is almost certainly yes. There is a comfort to be found there, even if it’s hard: you don’t have to go to the Underworld alone. 

In honor of our new workshop Underworld Overviews: Hearth + Home, Lex & I have been writing a lot about the world below. You can find more blogs in this series by clicking the links below:

–What is an Underworld Journey?

-Lex’s Underworld Journey

-Emily’s Underworld Journey

Are you ready to journey below? We’ve got a workshop for that! We’re excited to announce our FIRST workshop in a new series: Underworld Overviews: Hearth + Home. We’ll be meeting on February 19th to make connections, make magic, and make art together in a space dedicated solely to examining how the Underworld intersects with home and with each of us. Find out more here. 

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