I have long been fascinated with the mythos around the fertile darkness, the dark feminine. For many many years, I have felt that our culture has been too light focused (we are developmentally stuck in an endless "summer" in how we approach the world as consumers and in the way we work). The cycles of going within, letting fallow have been harmfully ignored and this is where the truly fertile soul work and wisdom-making takes place. We can gain spiritual insight from the light, but the dark turns that insight into body-and-soul-level wisdom. And I think that part of reclaiming our relationship to the darkness is dismantling the pejorative we have assigned to the dark and dense as "bad/evil/wounded" which frankly is also a root of racism and spiritual bypassing.
I especially love the myths that share our ancestor's understanding of these cycles. There is a good book "the descent to the goddess" that talks about the Inanna myth as a guide for "initiation" (as into greater soul mastery) for women especially, which has similarities to persephone's descent to the underworld. And recently I learned that there are even myths where RA, the Egyptian sun god, descends to the underworld and merges with Osiris, the ruler of the underworld. In my own experience with the masculine principle of the fae there is a chthonic (dark/underworld) aspect and a solar aspect that dance with each other throughout the cycle of the solar year.
Just recently I was spending time with the myth about Gwyn Ap Nudd, the welsh faerie king, god of the wild, and keeper of the underworld who battles with Gwythyr, who is a solar deity, over the hand of the maiden Creiddylad who is the embodiment of sovereignty. Gwyn wins, interestingly - it is not the solar that wins. What has come in my meditations on this myth is that sovereignty is the equivalent to the sacred void and that both the dark aspects and light aspects vie for her attention, but she has a special affinity for the dark. This makes me think of the taoist principles of the emptiness that can flow through nature if unimpeded. When the dark and light forces are in right relationship with the void, the state of nature's sovereignty, then order is restored. It also makes sense that the dark and the void are associated with each other (thus Gwyn winning), because they both are void of light. Also with scientific principles of entropy... energy eventually dissipates (unless there is a new injection of energy). I think that some have interpreted this as "renewal always comes from above, the solar" but in the Innanna myth there is a map for how renewal can come from below, in the darkness. Chinese medicine also recognizes this and the work of Lorie Eve Dechar is especially powerful in showing that the lighter energies (Shen) are not the only sources for renewal, but it can come from the denser energies (the Po and Zhi)... and in some ways the work that is initiated from the dark/ground/dense up causes more foundational shifts than the more solar inputs. In the celtic wheel of the year the cycle of creation really is initiated at Imbolc (Feb 1st) and from a tantric astrology perspective this is the root of the root where the energy is at its deepest descent and then rises again through the chakras (peaking at Lammas in August).
I find it interesting that the new cycle of creation doesn’t start at the solstice, that there are 6 weeks of laying fallow - of deep rest - after the longest night of the year before the new cycle is initiated. That speaks to us about the nature of our own creativity in that when we enter what feels like darkness, we are actually just beginning a longer period of stillness before regeneration can take place.
Overall in my mind we need to better honor the dark, the chthonic, the underworld, as it is just as important part of the creative life force on this planet as the light, but we also need to come into deeper relationship with the void, which gets even less attention than sacred darkness (or gets mixed up and confused with darkness). I will also share that my own experience with bipolar - if I get too light or high vibe focused there is an equally dark polarity that forms in the world of my psyche that must be integrated. If I stay oriented more towards the void, a place of neutrality that favors neither light nor dark, I can interact with anything from the full ray of the spectrum from a place of equanimity. It just feels better to my mind, body and soul.
This is really why I felt called to offer "Wyrd" at the first new moon in January - as a way to tune into the deeper nature of reality and forces of sovereignty, the sacred void, in a way that is not tied to any particular tradition, but rather explores it as a mystic would, through first-hand experience. Learn more.
We are in Sagittarius season. Sagittarius is a fire sign and it marks the start of the alchemical cycle of the zodiac where the elements are taking an “elder” aspect of the element and “becoming” that element - as in Sagittarius has “become” fire, spirit, that thing that creatively moves through all life in an eagerness to explore and become… heart becoming more heart in a deep and creatively explosive way. It is fitting that we have eruptions on Mauna Loa and in Indonesia at this time. Aries, another fire sign, is the youthful, playful experimentation of the embodiment of fire and Leo’ fire is about developing a more masterful way of operating skillfully with the element, but Sagittarius is the wise embodiment of the element that an elder would show. I see sagittarius as the spiritual fire that enlivens us even when we are surrounded by darkness, even when everything else is stripped away. This would have been the time of the year where people huddled around their fires and told stories or the shaman would take mushrooms and journey to inner landscapes and outer realms. Sagittarius has this journeying quality to it. It gives me a sense of spiritual fire as something that is curious and seeks new insight that has meaning and depth - insight that in and of itself contributes something to the world. I recently attended a herbal workshop by Seán Pádraig O'Donoghue where he talked about the “fire in the head” as a way of expressing times where we get profound spiritual insight and sometimes find ourselves experiencing different layers of reality. I mentioned mushrooms, but according to Seán other herbs like yarrow and mugwort (a moon herb) can also bring on these states. I’ve also been shown that this is a time when the solar aspect of reality has descended into the underworld or Otherworld and that with this descent is an enormous fertility/vitality that will re-emerge in the spring. This is the last push of inner activity before a period of lying fallow from the solstice to imbolc, when the next creative cycle activates on a quantum level. It may seem like the natural world sleeps at this time, but there is a lot working behind the scenes.
And then there is the Gemini full moon. Gemini has a similar explorative quality, but it is with the airy mind, not the fiery spirit. As an adolescent element, Gemini brings a playful quality to its explorations - trying out one idea and then disposing it for another or holding paradoxical ideas with ease. What if it is all true? What if none of it is true? Gemini holds these questions with a curious fascination and creativity. Sagittarius, on the other hand, is a little more serious, like life and death, about the Truth (with a capital “T”) it seeks, perhaps because this is a season where death is so close. There is a shared curiosity, but where Gemini is a bit more flippant, Sagittarius brings a gravitas to their explorations. What I have been surprised to learn is that the truest expression of an undistorted Gemini energy plays with these paradoxes from a deep sense of devotion, a heart and mind that is open to the world with a profound desire to touch the ineffable. At the heart of the matter is a dedication to the possibility that existence holds.
For this full moon, you may need to nourish yourself with some deeply embodying activities, because these fire and air energies can be ungrounding. Now is the time to soak in a hot bath or have some nourishing soup. But you can also move with the energies by journaling, dancing, making art that is explorative or meaningful. What piques your curiosity or calls to you for deeper exploration? What thoughts can be tended by the wisdom of your spiritual heart? Enjoy the openness to new mental and spiritual paradigms that this time can bring.
My thoughts on the path of deep animist relationship