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The Deepening Dark and the Gabbleratchet: a Peculiar Advent Calendar

My continued exploration of homeliness*  must also embrace this season of lengthening dark. At Mother Grove Goddess Temple this morning, the priestess led us in an exploration of this dark time and the importance of sitting in it, being in it, learning from it. In the guided meditation, I saw the remaining days in this intense agricultural year stretch before me like a long hallway. Or better—one of those collapsible spy-glasses that grew more dense as it stretched toward the Solstice.

 In my spiritual tradition, we cheerfully refer to the months after the Green (Summer) Solstice as the Time of the Long Dying, and particular attention is paid to the few weeks after Samhain, the final Harvest. These are the weeks, the hours of the deepening dark, when messages from the unseen people are lessening in frequency but more potent, more desperate for a hearing.

Breathing into the meditation, with the dark spy-glass clattering ahead into the shadowed future, a distant sound spun into my mind’s ear. Dim, closer, close—as in nature, they wing their way northward past my window. The Gabbbleratchet passed through and over and around me. Flying free, high above the black river of Samhaintide descending.

I am counting down the darkening days now, watching every sunset, one eye on the clock. Earlier, earlier—the rose fingers of cloud and expectation caress the western mountains, spotlighting the edge of the horizon and the silhouette of the silver birchtree. And the night rises up on all the other sides, flowing in to fill the void of the lost day.

This is our world now, in these last days of the old agricultural year. There is an invitation in this early exchange of light and shadow, and in the long nights. Surely part of that invitation is for each of us to sleep more deeply, to rest more fully, to practice radical self-care as well as healing.  But the other part of that invitation is the opportunity (and possibly the requirement) to sit with the shadow, and in the shadows, and to acknowledge our connection, our profound debt to these shadows.

If we are to step forward with more courage and less fear, if we are to feel empowered and also know the uses of power—we must sit in this uncomfortable and dangerous darkness. We must come into relationship with the shadow and welcome the wisdom that resides in—that rules—this endarkenment.

Do you hear them now, as you peer into your own spy-glass? As the fierce cry of the Gabbleratchet explodes in our hearts, we are called to wing our own way into the dark, the shadow, the end that always—always!—signals the inevitable beginning.

*In Praise of Homeliness (from my personal blog)

homely—simple, but cozy and comfortable, as in one’s own home; simple and unpretentious (Oxford Dictionary),   plain or ordinary, but pleasant

I have returned home from nearly a week away, not entirely unpacked, looking forward to routine reasserting itself in the morning. The satisfying click of the electric kettle means there will soon be a cuppa nettle tea, and a shortbread cookie. The thought of sleeping in my own bed tonight holds me in thrall as I mark the hours until bedtime.

My mail—yes, we still get mail hereabouts—held two cards from friends, a book that was expected and a small sturdy box that holds black drawing salve from a colleague in Missouri.

Sometimes I feign confusion on complicated social or political issues by stating flatly—I’m a simple country woman. I am going to spend some time reveling in that as Winter spreads Her wings over us and the dear land. I will do some sampling of new things as I return to old neglected favorites like spinning, canning, learning Gaeilge, playing the fiddle badly, painting with watercolor paints

I am going to live and celebrate quite a homely life for these few weeks. A life simply and joyfully lived. 


Here are some words I am considering, in addition to “homely”:

Sturdy. Simple. Comfortable. Nibble.

A book to consider reading is Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge. Call your local bookshop and surprise them by ordering it. Also, A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. They’ll have that one in stock for the holidays.






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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


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