It is a cold, dark day here in California’s Central Valley, fairly typical for December. We’ve had a bit more rain than normal, so soon the yearly fog will drop down, blanketing the valley in endless murky gray. It is the kind of day when I want to do nothing more than grab my favorite afghan, curl up in my recliner with a cup of peppermint tea and binge watch Netflix. However, the witch in me sees this as a time to embrace the darkness, immerse myself in it, feel it wrap around me like cozy sweater. As the winter winds and rains send me inside, the lure of the dark is overwhelming. It is this season when I let the dark guide me, giving me the clues for what I need to know or do in the upcoming year. It is the time when I let the darkness show me how to find the light.
Our ancestors knew a thing or two about the darkness, of flowing with the seasons. Winters could be very harsh and cruel for them. Forced inside for days, even weeks, at a time they learned how to cope with this time of darkness and many would even spiritually thrive. The dark was the time to tell our stories, to teach the children our traditions, a time to perfect skills such as weaving, knitting, and sewing. While the wind blew and the snow fell, we rested, conserving our energies in order to conserve our resources. The dark was a time to petition and commune with the Gods, asking that the food last until planting time and that the fire never go out. Frigid temperatures, fear of starvation and waning light has a way of humbling even the haughtiest of souls.
While the majority of us never have the fear of freezing to death or running out of food, the dark of winter can still be a frightening time. The cold and early darkness brings us inside – not just into our homes, but into our psyche, our souls as well. We may find ourselves gazing out the window at the rain or snow, contemplating life as it is, life as it was, or life as it should be. We search for warmth, not only of the hearth and easy chair, but the warmth of friends, family, our chosen deities, anything to dispel the darkness invading our lives. The dark draws us towards introspection, the examination of our lives, thought processes, our spirituality. It is now that all inner work – meditation, trance work, divination – calls to us, implores us, to go inside ourselves and listen.
Use this dark time of year to rest, rejuvenate, become. Follow the dark into the light by finding your authentic self again. Create and refine the you that you wish to be in the coming year. Learn new skills and relearn old ways. Spend time speaking to your soul and even more time listening to it. Give yourself breaks during the hectic days of the holidays for some “you” time. Allow others to do for you instead of you always doing for others. Shrink your circles, keep those you love close – you can expand again as the light expands.
The dark is here for a reason, to allow you to slumber, to withdraw into rest as the earth also sleeps. Yet the dark also calls for action. Your shadows are no longer visible in the dark. Instead, they are the dark and as such demand that you acknowledge them, see them for what they are, learn from them, and then release them before the light again casts them onto the path before you. Deal with what you have ignored, pushed aside. You have time during these long, quiet nights. Push aside the fear. It has no place here. This darkness is your companion, your partner, your friend.
As you journey through the dark toward the light, a lantern, a road map, can assist you in finding the right path in the waning light. Illuminate your way by creating a list of the things you wish to accomplish during the year, use it to guide you towards those things that will let your mind, spirit and heart grow, blossom and thrive. What do you want for yourself? Your family? What will add to your happiness? What would allow you to feel fulfilled, useful, creative? What would make you glow with love, hope and joy? Place these points on your map and then plot a course to reach them.
As the light gains strength outside, so shall the light within wax and grow stronger. The dark, once embraced, becomes our ally, not our nemesis. Darkness becomes the fertile soil where we plant our dreams and ideas for the future, ready to let the light bring them into being. The gloom and gray which chases us indoors gives us the same opportunity it gave to our ancestors, the opportunity to share, to grow, to speak to our Gods, to be thankful for the life we have and to plan for the future.
It’s okay to plant ourselves on our couch and our comfy chairs and dream as the winter surrounds us. Just remember to cultivate the seeds we’ve planted in the dark soils of the winter season, give them the energy and light of your attention. As you gaze into your hearth fires or watch as the candles flicker beside you, remember that it is only through the dark that the light shines the brightest. Enter into the darkness and let it show you the promise it holds. Allow the darkness to show you the light, moving you forward on the journey that is you.