Guest Post: Mabon’s Prelude to Darkness

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[Today, guest writer Erick DuPree concludes his three-part seasonal celebration series here at The Wild Hunt. DuPree is the author of Alone in Her Presence: Meditations on the Goddess and editor of Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral. He teaches heart-centered practices that unite breath to heart, inviting a holistic relationship with the Goddess. His writing can be found on his own website as well as on his new blog at Patheos Pagan Channel called “Alone in her Presence.”]

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!

©2015 Norm Halm Photographmaker and

©2015 Norm Halm Photographmaker and

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.”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.

©2015 Norm Halm Photographmaker and

©2015 Norm Halm Photographmaker and

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?


©2015 Norm Halm Photographmaker and

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.”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.

Works Cited:

  1. Hamilton, Edith (1961, 2005), The Collected Dialogues of Plato: Including the Letters (Bollingen Series LXXI), Princeton University, New Jersey
  2. John 14:6
  3. Anderson, Victor H. (2005), Light Bringer, Lilith’s Garden, Acord Guild Press, San Francisco, CA.
  4. Milton, John (2001) Paradise Lost, The Norton Critical Edition: 3rd Revised Edition, W.W. Norton & Company. New York, NY.
  5. Shakespeare, William (1998) The Tragedy Macbeth, The Folger Folio; 4th Edition, edited by Harold Bloom, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.
  6. Oliver, Mary (1998) Collected Poems of Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, Boston MA
  7. Nietzsche, Friedrich (2000) Basic Writings of Nietzsche, Modern Library, New York, NY.

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13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Mabon’s Prelude to Darkness

  1. Thank you. There is a “hymn” in the UU tradition that speaks of the wisdom of allowing the darkness to have its time. One line says “The darkness takes courage, the darkness takes time. Living in the darkness brings a different state of mind….” It is one of my favourite songs. I appreciate your allowing the darkness to arrive in its own time, and stay until it has taught us to abide and listen.

    • Yes, I know and love that song, The Darkness, by Mary Grigolia! It is so powerful when we allow the spacious expanse of darkness; we can truly heal. That song is part of the deeply transformative and healing curricula, Rise Up and Call Her Name, that Unitarian Universalist women (and all women actually) have used to step into the personal power of the darkness and expansiveness of reclaiming transformation! Thanks for your comment!

  2. Once one is friends with the darkness one can respect one’s intuition behind the onset of fear of a particular patch of darkness.

    • EXACTLY!!! I think that “friend” is the true teacher that Mary Oliver is ultimately referring to in her poem. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  3. Great article/column: please write more!

    I don’t like crawl spaces in buildings, but not because of the dark. In my case, it’s combined with a slight claustrophobia, dislike of crunching critters, breaking spiderwebs. In the house I was married in, I couldn’t even open the attic door: doing so felt like a Very Bad Idea, so I didn’t.

    I could have taken the “sensory dome” at SF’s Exploratorium more easily if it had not been BOTH tight and pitch dark. A first timer, I didn’t know what lay ahead. A few feet in, I realized I should get out, but there were already 2-3 folk behind me. I gritted my mental teeth, and forged on. At one point, I had to be pushed from behind because I couldn’t get enough of a hold to move upward.

    Others went through 2-5 times, but I just shuddered at the thought. I’m also not a caver! My husband would love to have time in what used to be called a sensory deprivation tank. I don’t want my senses, when there is no pain, deprived.

    I actually like the dark–outside especially so that I can see the display above, especially in the longer nights of winter. I might like to be in a small cave, but going through extreme level changes, or being deep within the earth, is not for me. I’ve slept in closets (and bathroom floors) trying to escape my husband’s snoring while travelling, without mental discomfort.

    While I deal with SAD, mostly after a string of gloomy days, my HappiLite takes care of that. It’s not the long dark, it’s the inadequate light, or light of the wrong point in the spectrum. The HappiLite is also helpful in a house with inadequate exterior natural light. I just need an hour or so–but I’m interested in spending a few days within the Arctic Circle some winter, and some summer.

    I can find the darkness comforting–away from prying eyes, peaceful (well, usually), quieter, allowing me to relax. If I’ve got a migraine, I have a sac of lavendar & millet (I think that’s what’s in it) in a long panné velvet sleeve that goes over my eyes (even when lying on my side, it’ll stay on). It helps settle me, and takes away the painful light.

    While Hecate, to Whom I look, lights the crossroads, she also is found in shallow caves, and I envision Her there at dusk, as light is fading: it seems to be Her time of day.

    I was happy to move from the outskirts of LA to the Bay Area, so that I could have greater seasonal variation. I need heat to appreciate the cool, and vice versa. On a dark rainy autumn day, the street trees of gingko with their bright yellow leaves make their own light, and I love the contrast–I love autumn for the intense colors.

    As to my own darkness, I am a “weak” bipolar: NOS or cyclothymic, but the treatment is the same for the mood swings and for the depressions. Been through enough dark nights of the soul to last me the rest of my life: I know my fears, and some of them are useful. With the help of a trained therapist, I can examine the darker corners without necessarily seeing them as bad. Annoying maybe, but not necessarily bad. Besides, were it not for my own depressions, I’d be ill-prepared to be a good shoulder or resource for those in the mist of one.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your truth here and being part of this journey into the darkness. I think that the darkness can also be a luxury too, like the velvet, the deep chocolate, the things that comfort us in richness. To me when we give ourselves permission to sometimes swaddle ourselves within the secluded space (which isn’t the same as the reclusive space) it allow us to grow.

      I am honored you have a support system and have stepped into your power and priesting to know exactly what you need. I think when we can examine the self, and articulate our needs, it shows agency. I look forward to more comments and shared experiences. And I need to check out this HappiLite!
      As I too, am prone to more melancholy moods when the light of spring wanes. 🙂