In the Midwestern region of the United States, deep winter has arrived and settled in. Two blankets of snow are hugging the land and much of nature has slowed to a crawl or fallen silent. In the period between Yule and Imbolc, I often notice myself reflecting broadly on the gods and spirits whose influence recedes at this point in the wheel’s turning and those thoughts necessarily draw my mind to the gods and spirits in my own practice who have fallen silent. The stillness of this season seems to amplify pauses and silences in communications. The relationships that we had, have, and wish we had come into full relief in the cold stillness of winter and we feel the challenges within those relationships a little more deeply than we might in the hustle and bustle of busier seasons.Some gods and spirits grow quiet because of nature’s seasons, but others grow silent as the wheels of our own being turn and our personal seasons change. Our turning personal seasons can be mental, physical, spiritual, or of another kind all together. Navigating the silences in our deity and spirit relationships and coming to terms with them is challenging.
Within religious and spiritual communities, the dark night of the soul is readily discussed. It is often characterized by a deep sense of disconnection from divinity, meaning, purpose, and sometimes self. But the radio silence between us and deity does not usually reach that level. In my experience there is a milder but still distressing state. I have experienced it several times in my work with a number of gods and spirits. At the moment, Hekate is far from me. The radio silence between us is so profound that it’s deafening. She and I are in a period of twilight. Communications are down but we are not disconnected in the profound sense captured by the dark night of the soul. The spiritual abyss is not looming between us. In this twilight I know that morning will come again. I can feel the promise of that morning even while I mourn the loss of her. Before Hekate, I experienced twilight with Mercurius as well.
Hekate and Mercurius have both been with me from the beginning of my journey into devotional polytheism. My first twilight period with each of them gave way to a dark night. It took time and experience to learn that there would be a natural ebb and flow in our relationships. As a mystic, that ebb and flow was distressing at first, but now that rising and falling in our relationships deepens my devotional work and mystical practices.
I experience twilight periods with other deities who have joined my walk: Odin, Freyja, Dionysos, and many others. Some twilight periods are long, others are short, but all have similar characteristics. First, I feel anxious and confused when I notice the change in communication. The voice in my mind falls silent. Divinations dissolve into nonsense. Devotional activities become more difficult to feel and resonate with. I imagine that I neglected a promised votive offering or selected an offensive bottle of wine or missed an important festival observance. Surely there must be a reason that — rooted in my own fault — the lines of communication have come tumbling down.
Then a period of frenetic activity begins as I attempt to ascertain the exact cause of the problem and make amends. I redouble my efforts. I pray but it feels like it’s falling on un-hearing ears. I make offerings but they sit, their essence unaccepted. I perform divination that continues to spout nonsense, or at best I just read the signs incorrectly. I engage in meditative practices but I feel like I’m talking to the walls.
Then begin the special and usually elaborate offerings. Cakes made from a recipe in an old Roman cookbook accompanied by expensive wine. Obscure ancient hymns remixed in an attempt to capture her attention. Divination attempts with three more tools that I know less well than the two reliable ones that I used previously. Still, you guessed it, nothing. Twilight settles in and I glimpse the dark night coming.
Spirituality is a vital part of my being. I fear disconnection from the deities and spirits because they are a big beautiful part of all that exists, in addition to us, plants, animals, and all the beings that reside on this blue marble hurtling through space. I suspect many of us have a similar fear. I know that I can never be truly separated from all that exists because I believe that everything is interconnected (whether it wants to be or not) but naturally shifting relationships with deities and spirits tap into that larger fear for me.At this point in my spiritual practice I recognize twilight much more quickly than I used to and I know how to manage it, but early on in my practice before I knew what twilight looked like and felt like, I thought I’d failed and incurred the wrath of the gods and spirits. I thought I was being left adrift in the vast emptiness. I thought the dark night of the soul was all there was. After some deep breaths and life experience I figured out that in reality, suns set and rise again. The waters of connection ebb and flow. Relationships change. Of course this knowledge does not halt the grief that accompanies such changes. I still feel the distance. I miss Hekate even though I know that we will reunite.
The gods and spirits are autonomous beings. We do not own or possess them. They are free to come and go. In my devotional practice, during periods of true twilight, I am still aware of the gods and spirits and they are still aware of me but communication between us is on hiatus. When it happens, it’s not punishment or an indication that our relationship is on the rocks or in danger.
I have come to see twilight as an opportunity to work on projects that may have fallen to the wayside, or projects that I wanted to pursue but didn’t have the time or energy because I was preoccupied with other aspects of my divine relationships. It’s taken me awhile to realize that I only have so much bandwidth and so much energy, so often something has to give way in order for other things to happen. I am sure that twilight serves a purpose for the gods and spirits themselves as well. For me, it’s an opportunity to reallocate spiritual and mental resources.
This particular period of seasonal change between winter solstice and Imbolc is the perfect time for that. Especially in places where it is brutally cold and weather conditions are dicey, we have time to personally regroup, sort out our spiritual and mental resources, and decide when and where to most effectively use them while also having some built in time to recharge our batteries.
At various points, deity and spirit radio silence has allowed me to complete spiritual and religious research, lead workshops or teach about the holy powers, or participate in a religious festival. These are projects that I pursue when the gods and spirits are close and present and talkative, but there are times when I need the distance in order to fully immerse myself in the actual hands-on work. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it has proven true in my practice with certain key projects multiple times.
At other times when the radio goes silent, bandwidth is freed up for other broadcasts. New relationships with gods and spirits have time to bloom. At still other times twilight grants me the opportunity to reconnect with my own spirit and remember myself. I am useless if I am not taking care of myself. I can do that while having robust and wonderful conversations with the gods and spirits, but there is also deep and beautiful value and worth in me time. That time is no less valuable to the gods and no less sacred.
Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
– Kahlil Gibran
It was a long time before I understood the wisdom of the above quote in spiritual relationships as well as human in ones. In my time bathing in the low light of twilight I grieve the dimming of the light, but I also love the gods and spirits more deeply. Gratitude washes over me in a new way, and anticipation for our reunion fills me up.
In the spaces between us I remember the value and worth of our togetherness. There is beauty and sacredness in the ebb and flow of the light. Twilight periods in our relationships with the gods and spirits are challenging but also rewarding. They bring valuable and meaningful changes in us and in our relationships with the powers. For that I’ll always be grateful.
May the stillness of the season bring you remembering, gratitude, and perspective in all of your relationships.
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