Captain Flint from Black Sails...
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Captain Flint from Black Sails...
Lately, I have been having a hard time listening to the news, as I’m sure many of you understand. It feels like darkness is winning, not just in the seasonal sense, but socially, politically, and personally, as well. But last night, when I was fiddling with my handheld device rather than winding down, I had an epiphany. I have Kris Waldherr’s Goddess Inspiration Oracle Ap downloaded, and I regularly click into it for a goddess to think about in the evening. Yesterday, I pulled Amaterasu.
I know the story of the golden throne mother of Japan pretty well: the primary deity in Shintoism once locked herself into a cave in anger at the destruction her chaotic brother had been causing. The world was deprived of light, and, predictably, things began to die. All the gods and goddesses gathered outside the cave to persuade Amaterasu to bring her light back into the world, but she remained where she was. Until, that is, the goddess Uzume kicked up her heels and performed a sexual, ribald, ridiculous dance for the gods. They laughed and hooted, and Amaterasu was curious. She peeked out of her cave, and, as Waldherr notes, “balance was restored when Amaterasu was lured out by laughter.” There’s a similar tale in the myth of Demeter, that laughter was one of the first things that broke her all-encompassing, all-punishing grief.
The solstice season is upon us, and it’s only a couple of weeks before the longest night of the year here in the northern hemisphere. It’s a season of darkness and cold, where we are given the opportunity to find the gifts that darkness brings. It can be hard, when the rest of the world seems to be doing their best to stave off their fear with bright lights, noise and extended shopping hours, but if we are able to push beyond that we can see the sacredness of this holy time, and the exquisite power that it brings.
I am mostly a diurnal creature myself. I prefer to go to bed early and rise early, rather than staying up late. However, at this time of year the darkness catches up with me, and by 4pm it is pitch black out there. My usual sunshine nature turns inwards, and time for reflection and contemplation kick in. But that is not all there is to the darkness that pervades my life at this time of year. The sweet relief of darkness beckons me to release into its embrace, when edges are abandoned and we are allowed to float free in space and time.
Though we've moved beyond the longest night, the winter prevails upon us a time for darkness and reflection.
Since mid-November, when the air filled with the scent of wood smoke and the days were growing ever shorter, the darkness has been heavy on me. I worked hard to celebrate the light's return at Solstice and made many children smile from homemade gifts and books, which was delightful for me...
Winter in Britain – it’s dark and it’s wet. Not very cold, compared to what I grew up with in Canada, but the damp just seaps into your bones. It’s a different kind of winter, one that I still sometimes have trouble getting to grips with.
The darkness is the first thing that my body has difficulty coping with. If it’s dark outside, my body wants to sleep. I’m very much a daytime person. Here in the UK, at a latitude of 52.0594° N (where I grew up it was 45.9500° N) it gets dark a lot earlier than what I’m used to, and it’s not light outside much before 8.30 or 9am in the darkest part of the year. Hibernation mode kicks in. I struggle to get out of bed even though I’ve had a great sleep if it’s still dim out. Come summer, and it’s light at 3.30am, I can get out and greet the sunrise no problem.
The darkness has a real thick, heavy quality to it sometimes, with overcast skies and damp air all around you, sounds hushed in the shadows. Like a blanket, it can completely cover you and, if you like your head above the covers, can seem stifling. I’ve had to learn to work with the darkness, to enjoy it, to see its beauty.
The still centre.
Outside, in the dark, the air is finally still. Like rich swathes of fabric, the darkness hangs around me, enfolding me, wrapping me in its exquisite embrace. I sit, breathing in the night air, the smell of cedar and dew wet grass filling me with pure awen. The last of the crickets are singing in the remnant of summer’s growth, owls hooting softly in the distance and underneath the beech tree near Caia’s grave I let the songs of the night wash over me in waves of indigo and black.
The quiet is shattered by the call of a stag just on the other side of the hedge. Calling to the does, he is in full rut, looking for the ladies in the shelter of the night. He is maybe four feet away, and his bark and rumbles excite me with the power that he is emanating in following his soul’s truth. I can hear the slight shuffle of leaves and grass beneath his hooves as he paces up the track and then back down towards the nature reserve and farmer’s fields.