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Piercing the Veil: Following the Dark Goddess’s Descent with “THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE”

Friday, October 6, 2023 | Piercing the Veil


This month, PIERCING THE VEIL pays homage to the Dark Goddess through our shared obsession – horror. The Dark Goddess isn’t everything we’ve been led to believe. After all, there is no light without dark. She comes to us with many faces, through many signs, symbols and synchronicities. She arrives during those dark nights of the soul – during those times that we, knowingly or unknowingly, call out to her. She hears the screams emanating through the slits in our hearts, and she responds. And she empowers. And she walks with us, first carrying the torch, then thrusting it into our hands. She knows we’re ready to hold it, even if we don’t – especially when we don’t.

First, I’d like to explore the breadth and reach of years of persecution, eons of pain and lasting reverberations of the supernatural flex of a woman scorned. And tortured. And burned. And imprisoned. And how she decides to deal with her persecutors… because there is satisfaction in revenge, especially when that revenge comes in the form of reclamation and retribution.

In André Øvredal (Trollhunter, Last Voyage of the Demeter) 2016’s supernatural stinger, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, police respond to a puzzling scene – a family savagely murdered, yet there is no sign of forced entry. No evidence of a robbery. All of the evidence suggests that the brutalized family was trying to break their way out. Oh, and there is one more piece of evidence –a macabre surprise – there’s a corpse in the basement of a young woman with an alabaster glow, seemingly emerging from the dirt floor. 

A Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly). A nameless ghost of a woman, cast out and buried. It’s a mystery that Sheriff Sheldon Burke (Michael McElhatton) decides that the coroners at the local mortuary and crematorium, Tommy Tilden, (Brian Cox) and his son, Austin (Emile Hirsch), need to solve by the end of the night. And thus begins Tommy and Austin’s descent into the ultimate dark night of the soul. Not unlike a certain goddess who begins her descent into the underworld during this time of year, a journey she did not begin willingly, but one she learned to not only own, but in which to reign supreme.

I’m talking, of course, about the Greek goddess, Persephone. As one of the many (and varied) myths go, she is taken, very much against her will, by Hades into his underworld realm. There, she was forced to become his bride, reigning alongside the proverbial king of hell. In order to do this, she had to shed layers of herself to transform in the dark. She had to summon incredible strength to exist on this subterranean plane, embracing her captor and learning to rule an alien place that was now intertwined with her. Embedded within her.

She also had to learn to make it work for her.

Just like Persephone, Jane Doe shed her layers. Or rather, her layers were peeled back, marked and mutilated. It was a forced imprisonment, just like Persephone. Her ankles and wrists were shattered. Her tongue, removed in such a manner that would suggest it was a long, agonizing process. Her heart appeared to be cut. Scar tissue appeared where it ought not. Her lungs appear to be covered in third-degree burns. A piece of jimson weed is extracted from her body cavity, a plant native to the Northeastern United States, known for its use as a powerful paralytic. A small cloth pouch resembling a piece of an old shroud featuring Roman numerals – 1693 – and the word and numbers, Leviticus 20:27, is removed from her intestine, and when opened, contains a single molar. And for the final reveal, when her skin is fully peeled away from her body, the father and son find ritualistic markings tattooed where it should be impossible for these markings to exist.

Leviticus 20:27 – “Any man or woman who consults the spirits of the dead shall be stoned to death; any of you that do this are responsible for your own death.”

And then, the lights go out. Or rather, are taken away. The light is literally stolen. Darkness prevails, and she begins to flex those otherworldly muscles she’s been building for centuries. And the corpses stored within that mortuary, well…those bodies respond in kind, bending to the will of their new leader – their fierce new queen.

Like the queen of the underworld, Jane Doe finds her power in the blackness. When the Tildens tried to burn her to stop her unholy nightmare from unfolding, she became her own torch, igniting the air, and yet, she wasn’t consumed by it. She couldn’t be consumed by it because she was the fire. She is the fire. And she lights the way forward for herself and all who have experienced the excruciating pain of betrayal and persecution. No matter who, no matter why, their pain will mirror her own. Their agony, mental and physical, will pale in comparison to hers. Still, they will suffer.

“This is her revenge. This is her ritual.”

Like the Dark Goddess, she heals herself. She regenerates. She learns the powers of above and below and merges them, making herself whole. Persephone descends in the waning light of the autumn months, only to emerge with the waxing sunshine of the spring. She is both light and dark. She is both fierce and soft. She has mastered the realms, fluidly existing between and betwixt. She is the supreme hedge rider, and she has so, so much to teach us.

Curious about meeting the dark goddess within? Visit to book a DARK GODDESS SPEAKS reading. Send the code RUEMORGUE through the contact page to receive 20% off!


Jillian Kristina
Jillian Kristina blends her love of horror and magic to facilitate healing from the real horrors in the world. Stephen King's movies and books raised her; magic and the occult molded and healed her. Find her on Instagram @root_down, on Twitter @RootDownTarot, and through her website