Why is the dark so scary? I’m serious, many of us might love a good horror movie, some might be enchanted by the mysterious and macabre. But are any of us going into that dark unknown crawl space without a flash light? As children, many of us have been encouraged by those famous words, “Don’t be afraid of the dark.” And, for every time we heard that line, how many of us had a nightlight, a hall light, or a bathroom light left on? Children in the western world have been happily marketed a “comforting glow.” I’ll date myself for my readers; I had a Glo Worm because the dark of night terrified me!
Fear not; there is hope for the children. Plato is quoted as saying, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”1 Interestingly, I think many have no problem stepping into the light. Because in the Western world the “light” has come to symbolize all things “goodly.” We live in a world peppered with symbolic language, such as “love and light,” “step into the positivity and radiate,” or “illuminate brightly from the heart.”
Stepping out of the darkness and into the light is apotheosis for most faith praxis. It is the ultimate culmination of what being saved means to the Christian faith, after-all Jesus allegedly proclaims himself “the way, the truth, and the light.”2 For some Pagans and Heathens, the death of the Horned God at Samhain’s darkest hour foreshadows his triumphant return with the blaze of the sun at Beltane, and it is glorious. Even the Feri tradition’s Light Bringer, with “the law that shall fashion, the love you must no longer hide,” is deliverance.3 So we encounter ‘saving light,’ the ‘blazing light.’ or a ‘delivering light,’ all of which reminds us that the light offers us something good.
And yet even as humankind continues a love affair with the light, nature offers reset as brilliance fades into darkness each year. But are we ready?
Autumnal equinox is the time of year when the Earth begins to turn within Herself. Some of us experience this as a seasonal shift. We may see it as the changing colors of the leaves or as the climate moves from warmer to colder, and we may also experience it within our bodies. As dawn breaks over the horizon and the Morning Star greets us, his rise is later each morning. And, the moon shines her beam upon us earlier each evening.
Climate change has radically impacted this time of year, as fires rage and the summer heat eclipses the seasonal changes. Yet darkness is still inevitable. Myth, lore, and legend remain in our collective wheelhouse and invite this season as a time of change. Whether it is the God preparing himself as sacrifice or Demeter making her descent toward Hades to be with Persephone, and thus completing the Eleusinian mysteries, we fold into darkness. We harvest and call this Mabon.
Mabon is to me the completion of the Imbolc’s maiden-like manifestation and Midsummer‘s generative promise leading into a prelude of darkness. In Paradise Lost, Milton describes the descent of darkness:
“Into this wild Abyss
The womb of Nature, and perhaps her grave–
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight…”4
For me that is Mabon – a wild abyss that is the womb of nature, a prelude to the darkness. This is the beckoning that invites us to look within to reflect on the self. Here, at this time of year, there is a lucid dream like state, which invites us toward an inner slumber. Like a child with a magic Glowworm in hand, the darkness flows in, among, and around us. While “stars hide your fires, let not light see my black and deep desires” said Shakespeare’s Macbeth.5 Mabon is unwaveringly the desire to will, to know, and to dare. Mabon is the crone who doesn’t seek permission, but instead is stillness in an assured knowing. It is a knowing that is familiar, as familiar as the darkness when we give ourselves permission to step into it.
What might it look like to truly allowed the darkness in our life?
We recently found ourselves at the end of a Venus in Retrograde. Part of the work that I chose to undertake was exploring the darkness of my karmic love patterns, which I had allowed to burrow. Twenty months prior, in another Venus in Retrograde, I had found myself newly single. And twenty months prior to that, I was questioning why I feeling deep pain from a love lost, only to be cusping on entering back into a potentially tumultuous relationship with another person. That’s right, two Venus’ in retrogrades and at least one Venus in retrograde to be truly alone, awesome and complete within myself. Mary Oliver once said, “Someone I loved once handed me a box full of darkness, It took me years to realize it too was a gift.”6
It was a gift because, in being in the darkness of my most sacred heartbreak, I came to realize that I had the capacity to love someone more than words wield matter; more than I had ever known possible; more than the maiden’s inspiration or the generative mother. Because it was in the ache of darkness that I discovered the wisdom of the crone. When I stepped into the darkness of my heartache, I came to know what Nietzsche described, “I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”7 This is Mabon. This is a prelude to …
From light there will always be the dark, and it is a gift. Mabon comes every year and welcomes us with tidings to step into deep unknowing consciousness to welcome the ultimate gift. There is even, in the deepest recesses, a glowing ember that radiates unwavering like the child, ever present, beckoning us into the enchanted forest at the corners of our minds. Into the abyss within our hearts where desire lay, where the permission to dare leads to an empowered surrender, there is manifold witness. Mabon is for me the prelude to darkness. The season of the Crone.
- Hamilton, Edith (1961, 2005), The Collected Dialogues of Plato: Including the Letters (Bollingen Series LXXI), Princeton University, New Jersey
- John 14:6
- Anderson, Victor H. (2005), Light Bringer, Lilith’s Garden, Acord Guild Press, San Francisco, CA.
- Milton, John (2001) Paradise Lost, The Norton Critical Edition: 3rd Revised Edition, W.W. Norton & Company. New York, NY.
- Shakespeare, William (1998) The Tragedy Macbeth, The Folger Folio; 4th Edition, edited by Harold Bloom, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.
- Oliver, Mary (1998) Collected Poems of Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, Boston MA
- Nietzsche, Friedrich (2000) Basic Writings of Nietzsche, Modern Library, New York, NY.